SFPA urges industry to know the regulations
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is urging the fishing community, and particularly those with UK (including Northern Ireland) registered vessels or food business operators who customarily deal with these vessels, to familiarise themselves with the EU fisheries and food safety controls that apply to them from 1st January 2021. These controls arise from UK’s new status as a Third Country and include using specifically designated ports and submitting additional documentation. Food business operators meanwhile must ensure that the product they are purchasing has entered the EU legally.
While the movement of fish and fishery products is largely unrestricted within the EU, imports of fish and fishery products from outside the EU are strictly regulated. Under current illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries legislation, a landing by UK (including NI registered) vessels to Irish ports are regarded as direct landings by Third Country vessels, and as a consequence, can only take place in ports designated specifically for this purpose. Under NEAFC Port State Control (PSC) and IUU regimes, Ireland has seven designated ports – Killybegs and Castletownbere plus Burtonport, Greencastle, Rathmullan, Howth and Ros a Mhil, which have been recently designated for landings of NI registered vessels in certain limited scenarios. Full details are available at www.SFPA.ie
Physical inspections of landings to verify the quantities and species declared by the vessels are also possible. EU IUU regulations specify several cases where fishing vessels registered to a Third Country must always be inspected. Furthermore, the SFPA reminds vessel owners that prior to the importation of landed fish into an EU port from such a vessel, a catch certificate validated by the fisheries authorities of their flag state (for example, the UK) must be submitted for the catch.
Dr Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA, stated: “As an EU Member State, UK vessels including many registered in Northern Ireland, have landed into up to 22 Irish ports in recent years so the regulations that apply to them now as a Third Country represent a significant change. However, by leaving the EU, the entry of UK goods to the EU is subject to international agreements and new requirements apply for all trade – including fisheries – between the EU and the UK from 1st January.
“We encourage all vessels owners and food business operators to familiarise themselves with the regulations and Northern Ireland registered fishing vessels, in particular, should clarify their obligations with their Flag State Fishery Authority to minimise any potential disruption arising from the changes. There are certain exemptions for Northern Ireland registered vessels in relation to food safety requirements when landing to Irish ports, but otherwise they are treated as UK vessels and everyone involved should be aware of this,” said Dr Steele. “Briefly, those vessels need to consider four broad additions to their obligations when landing to Irish ports: firstly, they must go to designated ports; secondly, they must provide advance notification together with various completed mandatory documents; thirdly, they must await authorisation from Irish authorities before entering port or discharging fish, and finally they should expect inspection from time to time.”
Unlike vessels registered in other parts of the UK, Northern Ireland registered vessels can land frozen product into the four designated Irish ports once they comply with NEAFC and IUU requirements – Howth, Ros a Mhil, Killybegs and Castletownbere. Prior notification of 72 hours is required for such landings. As these are not Border Control Posts, food regulations would generally preclude landings of frozen fish by Third Country vessels.
Full details of fisheries controls are available on the SFPA website. The SFPA also encourage any Irish registered vessel owner and business operator with a query regarding sea-fisheries regulations to contact their local SFPA port office.