New paper flags challenges that continue to arise as a result of Lough Foyle dispute

A new paper has reiterated how ‘ongoing jurisdictional ambiguity’ over the Foyle is preventing the Loughs Agency from ‘discharging its legal functions’ fully.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 27th August 2021, 11:14 am
Lough Foyle
Lough Foyle

‘Lough Foyle – opportunities and challenges for cross-border marine management’ is a new report from Daryl Hughes of the Northern Ireland Assembly Research & Information Service (RaISe).

The study examines the opportunities for fisheries activities in the basin and also looks at the marine environment.

The report explains how the ownership of Lough Foyle’s foreshore, seabed and estuary have been disputed by Dublin and London since partition.

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“A rich salmon and oyster fishery, it has been claimed by both the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland since partition in 1921.

“In 1952, Stormont and Dublin created the cross-border Foyle Fisheries Commission to tackle salmon poaching. Following the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Loughs Agency was created to comprehensively regulate fisheries. However, the ongoing jurisdictional ambiguity between London and Dublin has prevented the Loughs Agency from discharging its legal functions in practice,” writes Mr. Hughes.

Dublin continues to claim that ownership of the Lough Foyle foreshore is vested in the Irish State under the State Property Act 1954, while London claims the whole of its seabed and waters right up to the Inishowen shoreline.

This is referred to by Mr. Hughes who claims that the ambiguity around ownership ‘continues to have an impact on the management of Lough Foyle and its fisheries’.

The report warns that ‘Brexit may lead to regulatory divergence on fisheries-related issues, although the NI Protocol ensures that NI remains “dynamically aligned” with many EU regulations for the purposes of moving goods’.

Mr. Hughes added: “Native oysters are harvested sustainably under licence from the Loughs Agency. Pacific oyster farming has grown drastically since 2010, yet the Agency is unable to regulate this due to the jurisdictional ambiguity.

“Blue mussel farming is currently a minor activity in the Lough, but could become more valuable. Commercial and recreational finfishing is licensed by the Agency,” the paper states.

Mr. Hughes suggests a management agreement may be necessary. “The Loughs Agency is the legal ‘aquaculture licensing authority’. However, the jurisdictional ambiguity and lack of a management agreement leaves the Agency powerless to discharge many of its functions.... A resolution will require action by the legislatures in London, Dublin and to a lesser extent, Stormont (since the foreshore is a reserved or excepted matter). It may also require the cooperation of The Crown Estate,” he writes.