To ask the Minister for Agriculture if, in view of the fact that the regulations compelling foreign fishing trawlers to fish outside a three-mile limit from the Irish Coast are continually being broken by such trawlers, to the detriment of the Irish fishing industry, and as the patrol steamer for the prevention of illegal trawling is now out of commission he will consider the advisability of utilising the Government motor launches for the enforcement of those regulations, and also the advisability of increasing the present maximum fine of £100 for the infringement of the regulations to a maximum of £500?
CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. - FOREIGN FISHING TRAWLERS.
It would seem that the Deputy is under a misapprehension as to the relation which the so-called "three mile limit" bears to the line within which steam trawling is prohibited. That line is determined by various fishery by-laws, each of which deals with a "specifically defined area." In some cases, including one off the Waterford coast, these "defined areas" extend far beyond the "three mile limit." During the past twelve months there have been twelve convictions obtained against persons contravening such by-laws, and there are four prosecutions still pending. Although the regular patrol vessel has been temporarily deflected from her normal duties, it must not be assumed that cases of illegal trawling will not be promptly dealt with. I do not, however, consider that motor launches are the most suitable craft for such work. In other countries (e.g., Norway) increased penalties are imposed for successive offences by the same person, and it is possible that with us a higher scale of fines would be desirable; but this, of course, would involve special legislation. The Justices, however, have frequently failed to inflict even the present £100 maximum fine when convictions were obtained.
I am under no misapprehension about the three-mile limit. Would the Minister, as he has control now, see that the fines are imposed and that there is confiscation of the gear in cases where it is necessary to confiscate so as to enforce the regulations?
The law is there and the fine is at the discretion of the Magistrates, and unless I went around to each Court I do not see how I could do what the Deputy asks me to do. It is a matter for the Magistrates to do their duty in each case.