Inshore fisheries policy

Northern Ireland's inshore fisheries are managed by the Inshore and Environment Branch. This branch also has responsibility for regulation of fisheries within marine Natura 2000 sites, such as Strangford Lough, and is the sponsoring branch of the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA).

Inshore fisheries management

The management of Northern Ireland's inshore fisheries comprises  fishing vessels that target mostly shellfish such as brown crab, velvet crab, lobster, palaemon  prawn and nephrops by potting. Responsibility also extends to scallop and queen scallop fisheries within the inshore region. 

The Inshore and Environment Branch are also responsible for the regulation of fisheries within marine Natura 2000 sites, representing DARD Fisheries interests in respect of the designation of Marine Conservation Zones and in offshore renewable energy proposals and is the sponsoring branch of the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority.

Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries - Delivering a Sustainable Future

In March 2014, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) published a report on the 2013 consultation on inshore fisheries management.

The consultation was undertaken to inform the Department of stakeholder’s opinions on policy development over a five-year period and covered subjects such as the key challenges facing the inshore sector; fisheries management; monitoring and enforcement; data collection; sustainability; and, diversification.

Based on the consultation findings, DARD has produced an inshore fisheries strategy (“Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries: Delivering a Sustainable Future”) that provides a strategic focus for the inshore sector over the next five years.

Key proposals

The key proposals within the strategy are:

  • the formation of an Inshore Fisheries Partnership Group to increase stakeholder participation in management decisions and their involvement in promoting the long-term sustainability of inshore fisheries
  • greater use of technology to allow better mapping of fishing activities and areas, improved monitoring and control
  • addressing data gaps on key inshore stocks and species

Strategy for delivering a sustainable future

The strategy proposes to address the challenges facing the inshore sector through a number of key themes and work streams, namely

  • governance through partnership
  • data for decision making
  • effective compliance
  • improving information, communication and technology
  • enhancing economic returns
  • safer fisheries

View the inshore strategy report

You can view DARD's response to the consultation, Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries: Delivering a Sustainable Future.

Recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland

As part of DARD's work in progressing an inshore fisheries strategy, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) launched an online survey seeking stakeholder opinion on recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland.  

The survey focused on the fishing habits of recreational sea anglers, the locations fished and species targeted.  

report on the survey was produced by AFBI Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Branch for DARD Fisheries and Environment Division.

Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough is one of Northern Ireland's Natura 2000 sites, along with other sites such as Rathlin Island. As such, responsibility for regulation of fisheries falls to the Inshore Environment Branch.

The Strangford Lough (Sea Fishing Exclusion Zones) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Strangford Lough (Sea Fishing Exclusion Zones) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 came into operation on 8 January 2013.

These regulations, which revoke and replace the earlier regulations implemented in 2011, offer total protection to communities of Horse Mussel (Modiolus Modiolus) from sea fishing.  No sea fishing by any sea fishing boat within two specified zones is permitted below a depth of 10 meter chart datum. These restrictions do not prevent fishing by rod and line.  

The Strangford Lough Fisheries Partnership Group

The Strangford Lough Fisheries Partnership (SLFP) was established in 2014 to develop a collaborative approach on the management of commercial fishing within Strangford Lough between the Department, fishing stakeholders and scientists.

SLFP provides a forum through which issues affecting the commercial fishing fleet can be discussed, and through which policy can be influenced. Agreed minutes and other papers are available to the public.

Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA) sponsorship

The Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority is a statutory body established in 1973 under the Harbours Act (Northern Ireland) 1970 and the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority Order (Northern Ireland) 1973.

It is a relatively small non - departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, employing 23 people at the harbours and at its head office in Downpatrick.

The role and objectives of NIFHA

The primary functions of the Authority are

  • to manage, maintain and improve the harbours and harbour estate of the three fishery harbours at Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie
  • to operate such facilities as may be provided at these harbours
  • to dredge and maintain the harbour channels and entrances
  • to lease, dispose of, or develop land vested in the Authority
  • to make bye-laws to control the day-to-day running of the harbours

NIFHA is the key service provider to its principle customer groups, namely fishing vessel owners/skippers and the tenants of the three harbour estates.

The 5 key areas of operation

  • provision of safe harbour and berthing facilities ( including dredger operation)
  • provision, operation and management of hygienic fishmarket facilities;
  • the provision of ice supplies
  • provision of vessel slipway facilities
  • estate management and development

Triennial Review of NIFHA

In 2014, DARD commissioned DFP's Business Consultancy Services (BCS) to undertake a triennial review of NIFHA in order to assess NIFHA's corporate governance arrangements, as well as its performance against objectives and its relationship with stakeholders.  The review team recommended that NIFHA remained the most appropriate body to manage, maintain and improve the fishing harbous at Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie.

Further information is available on the NIFHA website.

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