The DCAL policy proposals were as follows:
- The introduction of powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for inland fisheries offences;
- The transfer of power to issue permits under Section 7A of the 1966 Act;
- The removal of JP authorisation for a Fish Dealers Licence;
- Improved protection and free passage of fish
Notification of the consultation was sent to more than 1800 individuals and organisations including all registered fish dealers. DCAL also arranged advertising in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and Newsletter and the consultation was published on the DCAL and DARD websites.
57 written responses to the consultation were received, although some of these concentrated on issues for which DARD has responsibility.
Following analysis of responses received, the DCAL proposals to be taken forward were as follows:
- remove the need for an application for a fish dealer's licence to be accompanied by a certificate from a Justice of the Peace;
- to extend protection of spawn or fry of salmon, trout or eels to include lakes as well as rivers;
- to extend the requirement of dam owners to provide and maintain fish passage for salmon, trout and eels to also include lamprey and to empower DCAL to remove dams which are a barrier to fish passage where an owner cannot be identified and the construction of a fish passage is not considered appropriate;
- to require anyone taking water from a river to fit a grill of not more than 10mm at the entrance and exit of watercourses to protect the entry of small fish into these watercourses;
- provide powers to introduce fixed penalty notices for minor inland fisheries offences.
Following Executive approval, the Fisheries Bill was introduced to the Assembly by Minister O'Neill on Monday 7th December 2015. As part of the scrutiny process, the Bill passed to the DARD and DCAL Committees for consideration. Both these Committees agreed that there was insufficient time (within the current mandate) to fully consider the issues and report on the detailed provisions. As a result Minister O'Neill has tabled notice of her intention not to support any of the clauses except for clause 6 (Enforcement of EU Rules) which may have infraction implications for DARD if not brought forward.
Progress on the DCAL provisions will now have to wait until the next Assembly mandate. The timetable for this will very much depend on the resourcing and legislative priorities of the new Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, which will have responsibility for inland fishery functions in the next Assembly.