A European Union investigation into Ireland’s ability to monitor catches of small pelagic fish species is continuing.
The probe, which is also looking at the lack of control of bluefin tuna catches by recreational fishing boats, resulted from E.U. concerns over underreporting of pelagic catches by some Irish fishing companies. But the Irish fishing industry has disputed the weighing system introduced by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), claiming it also weighed a certain amount of water.
“The investigation you refer to is ongoing and therefore we cannot comment at this stage,” the E.U. Commission said in a statement to SeafoodSource. “The commission is responsible for controlling and evaluating the application of the rules of the common fisheries policy, including the fisheries control system put in place by the member states.”
The SFPA, initially set up in response to pressure from the E.U. to monitor Irish catches and also responsible for monitoring hygiene in Irish seafood catches, did not provide SeafoodSource with additional information on the state of the investigation.
“At present, we don’t have a further update on the E.U. Commission investigation,” a spokesperson told SeafoodSource.
As for a legal case being taken by fishery firms against the SFPA over a proposed new weighing system, the SFPA told SeafoodSource it’s “aware that some representatives of industry have lodged proceedings in relation to the SFPA's plans to introduce limited weighing on landing in accordance with E.U. requirements, but as yet they have not served any further details.”
The investigation centers around what the commission termed “severe and significant weaknesses” detected in the Irish control system during a 2018 audit carried out by the commission in Ireland.
“Principally, the commission identified shortcomings related to the effective control of the weighing of catches of small pelagic species, issues related to underreporting of catches of these species, the inadequate and ineffective sanctioning system for offenses committed by operators, and the lack of control and enforcement of bluefin tuna catches by recreational vessels,” according to the audit.
In 2018, Ireland was initially given three months to conduct an inquiry into the issues raised by the audit.
“The administrative inquiry should focus on the collection of information on these specific findings to enable the commission to further evaluate Ireland's capacity to apply the rules of the common fisheries policy and to assess the potential consequences of any failure to do so,” the commission stated.
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