Action is needed to tackle activity on Lough Foyle, says UK minister

Minister of State for the North, John Penrose, has said action is needed to tackle unregulated activity on Lough Foyle.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 9:00 pm
Updated Friday, 19th July 2019, 10:00 pm
Lough Foyle.

He promised London will work with Dublin to ensure aquaculture is properly regulated on the waterway.

Mr. Penrose made the commitments after DUP MP Gregory Campbell queried the extent of diplomatic endeavour over ongoing disputes at both Lough Foyle and Rockall.

Mr. Campbell sought clarification on criminal and regulatory jurisdiction on the Foyle, which remains the subject of a long-standing border dispute between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The UK’s claim to the lough up to the high water mark at Inishowen continues to be contested by Dublin, and the disagreement has led to regulatory blindspots in fisheries and other areas.

In May the ‘Journal’ revealed the dispute had only been discussed by phone or email by ministers over the past year-and-a-half.

Mr. Penrose said that notwithstanding this lack of face-to-face contact, action was being taken to address a lacuna in regulation that has led to an explosion from 2,500 to 50,000 in unlicensed oyster trestles in the past ten years.

Mr. Campbell asked: “On how many occasions since February 2017 have meetings been held between officials in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to conclude a management agreement which would clarify criminal and regulatory jurisdiction on Lough Foyle?”

Mr. Penrose replied: “The Government recognises the need to take action to address illegal activity on Lough Foyle and our position on Lough Foyle has not changed. The regulation of activities in Lough Foyle is the responsibility of the Loughs Agency, a cross-border body established under the Belfast Agreement of 1998. We remain fully committed to these arrangements and continue to work closely with the Irish Government over improvements to the management of the Loughs.

“British and Irish officials last met in October 2017 when a number of issues were discussed including the Loughs, and the management of aquaculture in them, and they have been in regular contact since.”

Meanwhile, junior Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan, has claimed the Rockall row was a matter for Edinburgh.

He said: “Fisheries compliance policy is a devolved competence for the Scottish Government. I have therefore not raised the matter of international fishing fleets’ access to waters around Rockall with my Irish counterpart.”

Mr. Duncan said officials “remained in contact with the Irish and Scottish Governments about this issue.”