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A quick guide to the law and food safety for recreational fishers..

Recreational fishing continues to be a popular activity around the coast and during the summer months, thanks to the plentiful supply of species such as crab, lobster, mackerel, cockles and razor clams amongst others.

It’s also a time when many people of all ages take up fishing for the first time. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the sea-fisheries regulator, is asking the public, especially recreational fishers and parents of young fishers, to familiarise themselves with the regulations they must comply with. They also offer some important food safety tips and precautions to ensure they enjoy their catch safely.

The Regulations

There are regulations in place regarding what can and cannot be caught, as part of a range of conservation measures to support the sustainability of Ireland’s inshore fisheries. They also help to ensure the viability of the commercial in-shore fishing industry upon which the economy of many coastal communities depends.

These include:

  • Only fish for lobster and crab from 1st May to 30th September every year.
  • Fish up to six pots, and retain five crabs and one lobster daily.
  • Do not store crabs or lobsters at sea, or sell or offer for sale any of your catches (a special licence is needed to sell fish)
  • Only catch shellfish above the minimum size. This is 130mm for brown crabs caught in Irish waters, while lobsters must measure between 87mm and 127mm along their carapace, the largest segment of a lobster.
  • If you catch a crab or lobster outside these sizes, you must return it to sea alive.
  • Lobsters that have been V-notched or have mutilated tails must not be retained on board either. 
  • Catching shellfish by means of skin-diving is also prohibited, including using apparatus of any kind, which enables a person to breathe under water.

Dr Susan Steele, Chair of SFPA, said: “We have some of the best seafood in the world on our shores.  We want people to fish sustainably and also to enjoy their catch safely. We urge all recreational and occasional fishers, especially the parents of young fishers, to take proper precautions when handling their catch.”

Seafood Safety Tips

The SFPA offers the following tips for the catching and safe handling of fish:

  • If fishing for shellfish, always check the Marine Institute’s website first to ensure that the area is listed as being open for harvesting or fishing. The SFPA implements the National Marine Biotoxin Monitoring programme in collaboration with the Marine Institute.  Phytoplankton, upon which the shellfish feed, are occasionally blighted by blooms of species that produce toxins. These naturally occurring toxins do not harm the shellfish but they can cause human illness where intoxicated or contaminated shellfish are subsequently eaten.
  • Do not leave fish exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight for any longer than absolutely necessary.
  • Bring ice and clean (preferably insulated) containers with you to chill your catch immediately. Cooler boxes or bags are ideal.
  • Handle your fish as little as possible. Bruised or damaged fish will deteriorate faster
  • Gut the fish swiftly and neatly, taking care to avoid damage to the fish flesh. Rinse under cold running water
  • Place your fish into refrigerated storage at a temperature of 5º or less as soon as possible. Store it at the bottom of the fridge and eat as soon as possible.

    Further information and advice is available at SFPA.ie