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Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority Launches Annual Inshore Patrol Programme - Major focus on unlicenced & unregistered activity in 2024

Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority Launches Annual Inshore Patrol Programme - Major focus on unlicenced & unregistered activity in 2024

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority’s (SFPA) has launched its annual inshore fisheries patrol programme as part of conservation measures to help protect Ireland’s valuable shellfish and crustacean fisheries including crab, lobster, crayfish, and whelk.

The SFPA’s campaign will focus on unlicensed and unregistered fishing vessels along the south and west coasts. The SFPA will also monitor compliance by members of the public to ensure their fishing activities are within limits for lobster and crab fishing. The SFPA is advising that anyone found to be non-compliant with sea-fisheries or seafood safety regulations can expect to face prosecution.  Regulations are in place for all commercial and casual/recreational fishers, regarding the minimum size that can be caught to ensure shellfish and crustacean species such as lobster and crab can reach maturity and reproduce to safeguard the future of stocks.  The SFPA’s inshore patrols will operate throughout the summer into autumn with the support of the Irish Naval Service, Air Corps, and Inland Fisheries Ireland.

In 2023, following a similar patrol programme, the SFPA’s Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) completed 39 inshore patrols around the coastline as part of a nationwide inshore fisheries patrol programme. 150 registered fishing vessels and numerous storage boxes were inspected resulting in:

  • Non-compliances detected included the retention of undersize and v-notched* lobster in storage boxes, which the SFPA seized and released.
  • Several vessels fishing with expired licences were also observed and instructed to cease fishing and investigations continued into the activity of these vessels.
  • Inspections were also undertaken on recreational vessels to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.
  • Further administrative checks were undertaken on commercial vessels inspected to check that accurate sales records were maintained to ensure traceability of product.

This year, the SPFA will deploy its 7.5 Metre RIBs with the capacity to winch lift and inspect lobster pots and keeps (used for holding live crustaceans prior to sale) to facilitate detailed inspections. The inshore monitoring programme also includes vehicle patrols to small local ports and landing places so Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs) can identify and monitor unlicensed and unregistered vessels which may be deployed during the summer months. These vessels will be targeted for inspection at sea during the subsequent patrols in that area. 

Paschal Hayes, Executive Chairperson of the SFPA said: “Illegal fishing is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish sustainably and within regulations, as it jeopardises the future of this valuable industry. The SFPA, along with our control partners the Irish Naval Service and the Air Corps, is committed to creating a level playing field. Our targeted inshore compliance strategy aims to support the sustainable management of these fisheries and will help to safeguard their future for the benefit of consumers, producers and, importantly, our coastal communities.

The RIB patrols are important to ensure the long-term viability of an industry on which many coastal communities rely on for a living. Illegal fishing also poses a risk to public health as the seafood may not be stored or handled in accordance with food safety regulations and could potentially damage the excellent reputation Irish seafood enjoys both at home and abroad.

As we commence our inshore patrols programme over the next few months, we would ask anyone who has questions or would like our Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers to focus on particular issues or areas to contact your local SFPA port office or use our Confidential Line Channels.”

Consumer trust in the quality, provenance and safety of Ireland’s seafood produce underpins the reputation and success of the sector on which many coastal economies rely. If you have any concerns regarding fisheries control, seafood fraud and/ or seafood safety please contact the SFPA through our Confidential Line channels. Call our Confidential Line on 1800 76 76 76. Send us an email to Alternatively, complete our Confidential Report form.




Further Information
*A key conservation element is the v-notch scheme where a small mark is cut into the tail of any female lobster found - once marked in this way, it is illegal to land, possess or sell such a lobster. A certain percentage of the population is therefore protected for breeding, thus boosting egg production and in turn recruitment to the stock.

Photo Caption
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has launched its annual inshore fisheries patrol programme. Pictured onboard one of the SFPA’s Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) in Kinsale harbour, are, from left to right: Adrian Hickey, Sea-Fisheries Protection Officer and Sean Murran, Senior Port Officer from the SFPA.

About the SFPA 
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is the independent statutory body responsible for the regulation of the sea-fisheries and the sea-food production sectors. It promotes compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy, sea-fisheries law and food safety law relating to fish and fish products, verifies compliance and, where necessary, enforces it. Its mandate covers all fishing vessels operating within Ireland’s 200-mile limit, over 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels wherever they operate, and all seafood produced in Ireland’s seafood processing companies. The SFPA operates through a network of regional port offices situated at Ireland’s main fishery harbours. For further information visit: