This enforcement work is crucial to ensuring compliance with fisheries regulations so that fish stocks are exploited in a sustainable way to assist the long-term economic survival of the fishing industry and to protect a valuable natural food resource.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) conduct investigations and take appropriate enforcement action (including prosecution) when breaches of the regulations are identified.
The enforcement programme includes the inspection of fishing vessels at sea and in port, inspections of fishing industry premises, fish markets and other locations by British Sea Fishery Officers employed by the Department.
Inspections at sea are carried out by the Department’s patrol vessels, the FPV Banrion Uladh, fast response 8 metre RIB and the Royal Navy's Fishery Protection Squadron within the Northern Zone and beyond. A 7 metre RIB is dedicated to inspection work within Strangford Lough. Occasional aerial surveillance is conducted by Directflight Ltd.
DARD operates a satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) from its fisheries monitoring centre in Belfast to support the monitoring, control and surveillance operations.
The VMS is used to track the positions of fishing vessels exceeding 12 metres in length.
Fisheries measures that are enforced include the following:
- access rules for foreign fishing vessels in British fishery limits
- total allowable catches and quotas for fish stocks
- technical conservation measures for juvenile and spawning fish, such as minimum fish sizes, mesh sizes for nets and closed areas
- special stock recovery measures for at risk fish stocks
- control measures for monitoring and inspecting fishing vessels and their catches, such as fishing logbooks and landing declarations
- effort limitation measures limiting the days vessels may fish
- NI legislation covering inshore prohibitions, closures and curfew hours