The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has sent out an open letter to Irish fishermen and others involved in the Irish fishing industry, asking them to pledge money to assist in paying for a judicial review currently underway in relation to the EU Penalty point system in Ireland, reports Pauric Gallagher.

The significance of the judicial review has been compounded by the recent actions of a Danish pelagic vessel, which was detected fishing illegally in the Celtic sea. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority notified the Danish control authorities and requested that penalty points be assigned to the vessel. The Danish Authorities are refusing to apply the points, knowing that the vessel had no quota for a particular species it had fished when detected.

In its letter, the IFPO stated: “It is the view of the IFPO board that no one individual or number of individuals should be saddled with such a financial burden, considering that the EU penalty point system affects the entire Irish fishing industry.

“The EU penalty point system is now being implemented by the SFPA as a number of vessels have been issued with penalty points in both the pelagic and demersal sectors. All of the four Irish Fish Producer Organisations have protested at the way in which the system is being deployed in Ireland. We have articulated in depth our reasons as to why we believe the system, in its current format, is flawed and extremely unfair. One must also consider that a consultation process was undertaken by DAFM earlier this year, which could result in penalty points being assigned to the master of a vessel. Currently penalty points can only be applied to the licence holder and capacity of the vessel. This may change shortly. Critically, penalty points remain with the vessel capacity and licence holder even if the High Court finds that the vessel in question has no case to answer.

“The Irish fishing industry is at a major economic disadvantage as a result of the EU penalty point system. The field is so uneven at this point that I believe we need to act in unison. Ireland was also the first member state to introduce the ERS system.

“We were advised that this would be a harmonised system, fair to all. We still have pelagic and demersal vessels fishing in our exclusive economic zone and the SFPA does not know what quota they have, or should have, while there. Two of the most punitive EU control systems are being applied to the Irish fishing industry in our waters, while a significant number of vessels from other member states can avoid or circumvent the system. The system is grossly unfair.

“The Irish fishing industry is set to go through significant change as the landing obligation is introduced in the demersal whitefish fishery, beginning in January 2016. This will put more of you at risk of falling foul of the penalty point system in its current format. We need the system to be fair and, most of all, it needs to be applied equally to all vessels regardless of nationality.”

After the issuing of the letter, Francis O’Donnell, CEO of the IFPO told Fishing News: “The board of the IFPO and I are seeking financial assistance from the industry to pay for a judicial review currently under way in relation to the penalty point system. Ireland is always a first mover in terms of implementing EU fisheries legislation. This is pointless if Irish vessels are subjected to different control rules to other vessels in our own waters. The system is open to widespread abuse, and is being abused.”