Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Method

Setting up Inshore Fisheries Forums



Context, needs, opportunity: 

Irish FLAGs have supported the development of six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFFs) and a National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) to ensure representation of the small-scale segment of the fleet in regional and national decision making.

The Irish inshore fisheries sector represents around 1 200 boats of under 12 meters, mostly active within the 6 nautical mile zone. It is a highly fragmented segment of the fleet, scattered across many coastal communities in the Republic of Ireland; and until recently had no representative structure or effective way of engaging with the State Authorities. The creation of the Inshore Fisheries Forums aimed to remedy this situation and give a voice to inshore fisheries in decision-making.

Because of the interaction of FLAGs with local communities on the one hand and their strong links with the Irish Seafood Development Agency (BIM) on the other, FLAGs where identified by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) in Ireland as an ideal vector to reach out to the inshore fleet and support the development of regional inshore forums. FLAG managers were, therefore, asked by the BIM and DAFM to help facilitate the setting up of the inshore forums.

The FLAG staff started by contacting local associations and/or fishing cooperatives when they existed, and organised meetings in local areas where no representative groups of inshore fishermen could be found. They also secured the involvement of the other users of the marine environment such as aquaculture producers, the marine leisure industry, environmental NGOs and seafood traders. Following these consultations, a proposal for future membership of the different Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums was prepared for approval by the relevant FLAG board. Indeed, as the FLAG board membership is representative of the coastal communities, its approval of the nominations gives the RIFFs the necessary legitimacy and standing in the coastal communities. At the first meeting of each Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum a Chair and Vice Chair were elected and these then acted as the representatives of each RIFF to form the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF).

Main achievements: 

There are now six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFFs) covering the whole coastline of the Irish Republic and offering a platform for inshore fisheries to engage with the State Authorities, especially DAFM, and have their voice heard in decisions taken that concern their activity. At present, each RIFF consists of no more than 12 members, of which 8 are inshore fishermen and 4 from the aquaculture, environmental, marine leisure and seafood exporting sectors. Each RIFF selects its own chair and vice-chair, both of whom act as representatives to the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF). The renewal process of the RIFFs will be independent of the FLAGs but the links with the FLAGs continue as RIFFs may nominate members from the seafood industry to be on the relevant FLAG boards.

Each RIFF can now make recommendations on inshore fisheries management/conservation to the National Inshore Fisheries Forum which in turn can make recommendations to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Several technical measures (including for velvet crabs and razor clams) have already been agreed through the process.  The RIFFs and NIFF have also worked on developing a strategy for the inshore sector which will go out for public consultation shortly and the NIFF has formed the National Inshore Fisheries Association to avail of EMFF funding.


Small-scale coastal fishermen struggle to make their voice heard in many parts of the EU. The support FLAGs have provided to the inshore fleet in Ireland is an example of how representation of that vulnerable segment of the fleet can be improved. Where they are recognised as a partner for the small-scale sector, while also ensuring involvement from other relevant sectors, FLAGs can be a valuable tool to help formalise inshore fisheries representation.


Building up trust between all stakeholders while having realistic ambitions and targets was key to ensuring the success of this initiative. The bottom-up approached used by the FLAG managers and the FLAG Boards was a particularly important success factor for the creation of the RIFFs. However, it was only possible thanks to the buy in of the relevant state agencies.



The FLAG managers’ skills were identified as vital to the successful outreach to inshore fishermen. Deep knowledge of the coastal community and the members of the inshore fleet were essential for bringing together the various stakeholders. More specifically, a capacity to listen and relate to personal issues, persuasion and reliability were considered fundamental. 

Staff resources:

The initial setting up of the RIFFs was very time consuming, involving profiling the fishing activity in the respective RIFF areas and organising meetings with many different stakeholders. Bringing the nominations to the FLAG Boards and especially getting the FLAG Boards to get involved with the process was also particularly time consuming and represented additional work for the FLAG, on top of existing tasks.

In total, one part-time person (0.5 FTEs) for a period of 4 months was necessary for the setting-up process.

Financial resources: 

The cost of running the RIFFs/NIFF is supported by BIM through its Inshore Conservation Scheme. A BIM Officer, based in the Head Office and working a 4-day week, administers and supports the work of the NIFF and the administration of the RIFFs full-time. On top of this, the FLAG coordinators typically dedicate 5 days a month, though sometimes more, to administering their respective Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums.  


Timeframe of implementation From Jun 2018
Sea Basins
Type of area


BIM West


Contact details

Organisation Contacts

BIM West
Mr. Séamus Breathnach
+353 95 32028
Publication date: 
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