The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered an aircraft for monitoring and surveillance over Irish waters, reports Lorna Siggins.
The aircraft, and a European Maritime Safety Agency drone, represent a new departure in air-sea fisheries control and inspection, EFCA said.
EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele outlined how the agency’s air and sea assets have recently increased for the Western Waters Joint Deployment Plan at a briefing in Cork harbour.
She was speaking onboard the EFCA-chartered patrol vessel Lundy Sentinel, where she met representatives of Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).
EFCA said the objectives of the mission include ‘control and inspection activities and contributing to compliance and the effective implementation of risk treatment measures’.
“This patrol mission in Irish waters also supports the ongoing fishery protection services work undertaken by the SFPA in collaboration with the Naval Service and Air Corps,” said the agency.
The agency will increase its chartered patrol vessels to three in the coming months.
In tandem with the patrol ship Lundy Sentinel, live aerial patrol footage will be transmitted to the EFCA centre in Vigo and the Fisheries Monitoring Centre in Haulbowline, Cork.
“This is a valuable aspect to the patrol, where inspectors from different member states work together to deliver harmonised fisheries control, with the support of EFCA liaison onboard and the EFCA co-ordination centre in Vigo,” said Dr Steele.
Ireland’s Naval Service has been under pressure to meet targets due to crew shortages, and in 2021 the SFPA requested and received the support of EFCA in patrolling Irish waters on four occasions between January and March.
This was considered necessary because ‘the Naval Service could not commit to increase its patrol days at sea under a joint-EU initiative co-ordinated at EU level by EFCA’, according to an assessment from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to Ireland’s Commission on the Defence Forces.
SFPA chairman Paschal Hayes said: “Protecting the long-term viability and health of our marine ecosystems and ensuring long-term sustainability for our fishing industries and communities is an issue of significance not only here in Ireland but across Europe.
“Our work with the EFCA is a critical element in supporting the overall remit of the SFPA to ensure the sustainability and future viability of Ireland’s sea-fisheries and marine resources, an industry that supports over 16,500 jobs in coastal communities across Ireland.”
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