Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the Government must take a zero tolerance approach towards illegal fishing by foreign vessels in Irish waters.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, said a serious crackdown was needed following the discovery of more than a tonne of illegal shark fins aboard a Spanish vessel off the southwest coast.
Up to 5000 sharks are estimated to have been caught and stored on the vessel before it was boarded last week by inspectors off the coast of Mizen Head.
“Firstly, I want to thank and congratulate our Naval Service who detained this ship and escorted it to Castletownbere where the vessel and its crew were handed over to Gardai,” she said.
“Not only is the practice of shark finning, often while the animals are still alive, a disgustingly inhumane act that is threatening the very existence of the species, but it just goes to show the sheer contempt some vessels have for Irish waters.
“This attitude that Irish waters are a free-for-all is one that has been allowed to fester by Government inaction and indifference and the EU’s prostitution of Irish waters to any and all practices while our own indigenous industry is dying.
“Why wouldn’t foreign vessels feel emboldened to come here and act how they please when they see supertrawlers churn up our oceans, destroy local, sustainable fishing equipment and then set off back to their own countries without landing a single fish in Ireland and facing no repercussions whatsoever?
“It is my understanding that the master of the vessel in question is trying to claim that it was only certain fins that were being removed and that nothing illegal was going on. This is utter nonsense.
“In 2013 the EU moved to close any and all loopholes regarding shark finning by ruling that all sharks must be landed completely intact.
“The full weight of the law must be brought down on this vessel, not just to discourage the despicable act of shark finning but to send a message that the days of Irish waters being an international criminal’s playground at the expense of our environment and our coastal communities is over.”