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Bill to support island-based fishing launched on Donegal island

Legislation would protect the rights of island-based fishing communities to practice traditional fishing methods

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Bill to support island-based fishing launched on Donegal island

Arranmore Island

Proposed legislation to provide for unique heritage licences for island fishers, to allow for traditional fishing practices on Ireland's offshore islands, was launched today on Arranmore

The bill is also designed to allocate a portion of the quota to island fishers specifically.

The legislation, drafted by Pearse Doherty, TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture, food and the marine, and Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD and finance spokesperson, together with Martin Ferris, TD, the party's fisheries spokesperson, was introduced in the Dáil last week.

Deputies Doherty and Kenny launched the the party’s Island Fisheries (Heritage License) Bill on Arranmore Island today, Thursday.

Deputy Doherty said the legislation attempts to provide assistance to island-based fishermen while working within the scope of the Common Fisheries Policy framework, "to better enable them to carry on the centuries-old fishing traditions of our island communities".

“Island communities have been shamefully abandoned and forgotten about by successive governments, which have failed to defend the rights of islanders to fish their own waters, something which they have done for generations," Deputy Doherty said.

He said the aim of the bill is to arrest the decline in island populations where fishing has long played a central role in island life. He called the legislation a major development, saying, "It will give recognition and support to island populations to enable them to survive and prosper."

Deputy Doherty thanked the various stakeholders and island-based groups and organizations for their help and input.

Deputy Kenny said the legislation aims to ensure that island-based fishing communities have their rights to practice long-established traditional fishing methods and practices protected and recognised in law.

“The failure of successive governments to stand up for island communities means that small island fishermen are unable to make a living, as existing CFP rules prevent them from fishing their own coastal waters," he said. He said they developed the heritage license bill with the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation.

“The bill seeks to facilitate the continuation of traditional fishing practices on our offshore islands and provide for the issuing of licences to island fishermen, which will be confined to those who are habitually resident on an island and who are engaged in small-scale coastal fishing to earn a living," Deputy Kenny said. For the purpose of the bill, this would be defined as fishing from a vessel of less than 12 metres and not using towed fishing gear. 

He said the bill "will go some way towards ensuring that small fishermen on the islands have a future, and its enactment will involve a transferable community island quota, such as has been done in other jurisdictions in the EU".