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"A Sure Catch" The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority ("SFPA") Three Year Strategy

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Ireland

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority ("SFPA") is committed to the effective and fair regulation of the seafishing and seafood sectors within Ireland's 200-mile limit coastline. 

The SFPA has recently launched its new three year strategy, which comprises key objectives and a programme of work it will undertake over the coming three years. 
The new strategy envisages continued collaboration with stakeholders across the sector, to include for example the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara ("BIM"). The strategy reflects the extent of the SFPA's remit across the industry. It also envisages a complete organisational change programme across the regulatory environment in which it operates. 

The SFPA is responsible for the regulation of all fishing vessels operating within Ireland's 200-mile limit coastline, including approximately 2030 Irish registered fishing vessels and the seafood production sector. 

Mr Tim Donovan, a member of the three-person executive that leads the SFPA commenting on the launch of the strategic plan said that "the organisation has grown and evolved in the past number of years, in response to many factors, not least a rapidly evolving regulatory environment with substantial changes to EU Fisheries and Seafood Safety Law." 

Brexit is identified as an area which has resulted in an increased workload and an ongoing requirement for significant resourcing within the organisation. Brexit is impacting the catch and health certification of Irish fish exports as well as import controls. 

Mr Donovan described the new strategy to be a "pathway forward" and represents SFPA's ambition and commitment to the industry to ensure the future sustainability of the sector. 

European Court of Justice Ruling

Most recently, in a separate development, the SFPA have welcomed the ruling by the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") that the SFPA can submit data other than fishermen's declarations of their catches to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and the European Commission. 

The case arose following an assessment by SFPA of a mismatch between time spent in different areas and the proportion of catches logged. 

The ECJ ruling endorses a decision by the High Court that the SFPA can use reasonable, scientifically valid methods and data to certify data logged by fishermen so as to achieve more accurate catch figures, when they consider fishermen’s declarations unreliable.

This decision was well received by the SFPA as it coincides with one of the key objectives of the new three year strategy. Information technology and data analytics were identified as areas for further development and expansion. This ECJ decision promotes such use of information and data going forward. 

Written by: Danielle Sumner and Eimear Burke

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