New Irish Minister and Government Programme.


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6 July, 2020

Mr Barry Cowen TD (Fianna Fáil) is the new Minister for Agriculture and the Marine. Fianna Fáil is affiliated to the RENEW political group in the European Parliament.



We are committed to prioritising the development of the marine. As an island nation, Ireland has a special relationship with the ocean. Everything must be done to protect marine biodiversity and to secure a sustainable future for the fisheries sector while supporting coastal communities.

We will:

Develop a new integrated marine sustainable development plan, as a successor to Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, focusing on all aspects of the marine, with a greater focus on sustainability and stakeholder engagement and centrally co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach to be implemented over the life of the Government.
Ensure protection of the interests of the Irish Fishing industry by insisting that a Fisheries Agreement with the UK is concluded as an integral part of an overall EU Free Trade Agreement with the UK.
Recognise that the critical issue in these negotiations for the Irish industry is continued access to UK waters and quota share and the danger of displacement of the EU fleet into Irish territorial waters.
Seek EU Commission contingency supports and market disturbance funding for the fisheries sector to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit.
Ensure that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and recreational fishers and that pair trawling will be prohibited inside the six-mile limit.
Support the inshore fishing fleet in generating greater marketing and promotional capacity by facilitating the establishment of a Producer Organisation for these smaller fishing vessels, thereby providing additional opportunity for the island and coastal communities involved in the inshore sector.
Aggressively tackle the issue of waste, ghost nets and illegal dumping in the marine environment through rigorous implementation of the Port Reception Facilities Directives and by requiring all Irish fishing trawlers to participate in the Clean Oceans Initiative, ensuring that plastic fished up at sea is brought ashore.
Continue to invest in coastline communities through the Fisheries Local Area Group (FLAG) programme, providing support for innovative projects to boost economic growth and job creation.
Invest strategically in harbour infrastructure to attract increased landings into Ireland of sustainably caught fish in our waters, driving the development of the seafood processing sector and the blue economy in coastal communities.
Work to develop the aquaculture sector in a sustainable way, including shellfish aquaculture using native species, and implement the recommendations of the report of the Independent Aquaculture Licencing Review Group, to ensure that feed products for aquaculture are sourced and produced in the most sustainable manner possible.
We will progress a national policy on coastal erosion and flooding having regard to climate change.


Common Fisheries Policy

We are fully committed to the environmental objectives of the CFP, which has introduced measures aimed at sustaining fish stocks, through the ending of discards, quotas based on science and the internationally recognised concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

We will:

Actively promote setting annual quotas in line with MSY principles.
Promote the introduction of constructive technical measures that promote sustainability, decrease by-catch and protect fish stocks for the future.
Protect Ireland’s interests in the future review of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Work to eliminate illegal fishing and promote a culture of compliance by all EU vessels in our 200-mile zone, in order to protect the fish stocks on which the Irish Fishing industry depends.
Implement the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) capability review with a view to enhancing governance issues and consider any other measures that may be necessary.
Implement a fair EU points system in order to protect fish stocks and ensure the release of suspended EU funding.
Work to retain factory weighing of pelagic fish in the context of negotiations on the new EU control regulation.
Support the completion of the new Fisheries Control Regulation to increase the effectiveness of existing control measures and agree rules that will ensure a level playing field for all EU vessels. Increasing the level of transparency and access to information in regards to infringements within Irish waters will be key to measuring the effectiveness of the new system.


Marine Protection Areas

We support the principles and ambition of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and will develop comprehensive legislation for the identification, designation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish territorial waters. We will realise our outstanding target of 10% under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as soon as is practical and aim for 30% of marine protected areas by 2030. This will be done on the basis of scientific expertise and in close consultation with all stakeholders, in particular the fishing industry as well as environmental and community representatives. This consultation process will begin in the first 100 days of Government. We will examine the establishment of an offshore maritime area as Ireland’s seventh national park. This would form part of the expanded MPA’s and allow for a learning experience in the maritime environment.


Marine Planning

The Government will prioritise the passage of a balanced and Aarhus Convention compliant Marine and Planning and Development Management Bill through the Oireachtas. We will publish Ireland’s first ever marine spatial planning policy setting out a clear vision for the future development of our marine planning system. The development of this policy will involve a full public and stakeholder consultation.

Following completion of this, we will bring forward Ireland’s first ever National Marine Planning Framework. This will introduce a planning system for the development of Ireland’s maritime area in the same way that the National Planning Framework fulfils this function on land. These two documents will form the basis for Project Ireland Marine 2040, our long-term overarching strategy to manage Ireland’s seas for the benefit of all its people. A marine planning oversight delivery board on the same model as the Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board will be established to provide leadership and oversight to the implementation of these policies.


Coastal Blue Carbon

We recognise the enormous ‘blue carbon’ potential that the ocean has to offer in tackling climate change but we appreciate that further scientific research is needed to understand and develop this potential. We will task the Marine Institute with a collaborative EU wide research initiative, aimed at investigating the climate change mitigation potential of blue carbon and working towards a means of creating a validated inventory that will in the future assist the EU in meeting our climate change objectives.



We will defend the interests of Irish agriculture, fisheries, export businesses and the wider economy. The priorities in the negotiations include:

A tariff free, quota free, trade agreement with strong level playing field provisions, including robust environmental and labour standards.
Achieving the best possible deal for the Irish fishing industry in relation to access conditions, quota shares and the traditional activity of the EU fleet while insisting that fisheries issues are dealt with as part of an overall trade deal.