High court decision regarding a Tuna authorisation

High Court Holds Minister wrongfully withdrew Fishing Authorisation

In a recent decision handed down by the High Court, the Court was asked to deal with the manner in which the Department had dealt with an application for a Tuna Authorisation which the Department tried to set aside. The Court held in the case that the Department cannot have the procedures that have been put in place to deal with such situations and furthermore the Court also held that it was not appropriate for the Department to try and argue that they had mistakenly sent out the Authorisation and therefore the Authorisation never had any legal standing and as such was a nullity.

The position was that the Fisherman in question had in the usual way applied for a Tuna Authorisation in 2008. As he had in previous years, the Fisherman in question had indicated that it would be another type of gear that he would be fishing with and he simply submitted his application on that basis. There had been a history between the Applicant and the Department insomuch as the Department had been attempting to deny him his application on the grounds that the other means that he was attempting to fish by, while not clearly banned, was not a method that the Department was happy for the Applicant to fish with.

Notwithstanding that some five days later a Tuna Authorisation issued and a receipt was received by the Applicant.

Subsequently some three days after that a letter was received by the Applicant from the Department asking him to return the Authorisation. The letter also went on to invite the Applicant to resubmit an application specifying a type of fishing gear that was appropriate and in their opinion, within the permissible methods of fishing.

Proceedings were then issued in the High Court by means of Judicial Review by the Fisherman’s behalf by Conways Solicitors. The process of Judicial Review is one where an individual, such as an Applicant Fisherman in this case, applies to the Court and says that he or she believes that the decision that has been taken by the Department (in this case to request the Licence back and declare it null and void) is wrong and would the Court examine this decision to see whether or not it is lawful.

The issue in question was whether or not the Department was entitled to revoke a Licence in such a casual manner, namely simply by writing a letter. I use the word casual as Section 13 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 provides a specific mechanism by which the Minister may seek to set aside or revoke a Licence issued where there are no penalties or sanctions imposed by a Court.

Section 13(13) provides for the opportunity of persons affected by proposed revocations to be heard regardless of the strength or weakness of their case.

For More information contact Dermot Conway on 021 4901000 or dermot@conways.ie