Consultation opens on fishing inside 6nm

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. launched an important public consultation this week on trawling inside the 6 nautical mile limit and the baselines in Irish waters.

The measures proposed will rectify the imbalance in access to fish stocks experienced by the inshore fleet, and help manage the uncontrolled exploitation of forage fish, particularly sprat, which are a vital trophic link between zooplankton and marine mammals, birds, and predatory fish.

Sea-fishing boats over 18m were banned from fishing inside 6nm five years ago after a campaign which had widespread support from coastal communities, inshore fishers and environmental NGOs; however following a legal challenge the ban was overturned on narrow grounds. Minister McConalogue had promised to revisit the issue and it was included in the Programme for Government in 2020, which set out a commitment to “ensure that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and recreational fishers and that pair trawling will be prohibited inside the six-mile limit”.

Four options are proposed: business as usual; exclude all pair trawling; exclude all trawling by vessels greater than 15m length; and exclude all trawling by vessels greater than 18m length. Other suggestions as may arise as part of the consultation will also be considered before a decision is reached. The consultation document prepared by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine contains a detailed analysis of the complex and interlocking issues and refers to reports by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute which support the analysis.

The IWDG will be consulting widely on this before making our own submission, and will attempt to balance the conservation issues with the pressures experienced by the various fishing sectors. This consultation is long-awaited, but Deputy McConalogue has stated that he wants the process concluded by autumn of this year. We look forward to its conclusion and to the improved management of our inshore waters. All interested parties are encouraged to make a submission to the public consultation.

The closing date for submissions is 12 April 2024 and relevant documentation and details of how to make a submission are available at: