I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Committee on Finance. - Maritime Jurisdiction Bill, 1959—Second Stage.
Before the Minister begins, may I ask him did he, by any chance, ask anyone to prepare a map? It is very hard to understand this Bill without a map.
I am afraid a map would take some time to prepare. This Bill has, primarily, a threefold purpose:— (1) to clarify the present position regarding the exercise of jurisdiction in the territorial seas; (2) to enable the system of straight baselines to be applied to the Irish coast thus resulting in a substantial increase in the area in which this country has exclusive fishing rights; and (3) to empower the Government to extend the exclusive fishery limits of the State by order subject to approval by both Houses.
It is an accepted principle of international law that the sovereignty of a State extends beyond its land territory and its internal waters to a belt of the sea adjacent to the coast. That belt is described as the territorial sea. This principle was recognised in our Constitution of 1937 which, in Article 2, states that the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas. Within that belt the coastal State is, subject to certain rules of international law, entitled to exercise sovereign rights—one of which is to reserve for its own nationals the exclusive right of fishing. The breadth of the territorial seas has not, under Irish law, been defined, but exclusive fishery jurisdiction has in practice been exercised in the sea areas lying within three miles of the coast.
For many years, Deputies will be aware, the work of fishery protection, which the Naval Service has carried out with such efficiency, has been hampered by uncertainties, the precise legal position has sometimes appeared obscure; prosecutions for fishery infringements have given rise to many legal complexities. It is to be hoped that this Bill will resolve these difficulties.
For centuries, the law of the sea has been perhaps the most complex of the subjects that fall to be classed as international law. It has, undoubtedly, been one of the most fruitful sources of dissension and difference between otherwise friendly States. Following on the work of some ten years of the International Law Commission in this field the United Nations General Assembly convened a conference on the subject in the Spring of 1958. Generally speaking, that conference which met in Geneva, has been regarded as a failure because agreement was not reached on the most important topics, namely, the breadth of the territorial sea and exclusive fishery limits. It was far from being a failure, however, and in fact an extraordinary degree of agreement was achieved resulting in the formulation of almost the whole law of the sea in four concise Conventions, namely: (1) The Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone; (2) The Convention on the High Seas; (3) The Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas; and (4) The Convention on the Continental Shelf. I am glad to say that Ireland has signed each of these Conventions.
The failure of some 86 States to agree on the very fundamental issue of the breadth of the territorial sea was not surprising. One of the main factors which inspired the convoking of the Conference was the increasing trend to extend unilaterally the territorial sea on one or other of the usual grounds, namely, those of defence or economics. Many States considered that the three mile limit was the general rule of international law; many others contended that States were entitled to extend their territorial sea up to twelve miles from the coast; some, indeed, had gone so far as to claim jurisdiction in a 200 mile belt. The International Law Commission had given up the struggle to achieve uniformity on this issue, eventually recommending that the matter should be settled by an international conference.
The surprise, therefore, was not the failure of the Geneva Conference to solve this acute problem but rather that sufficient agreement was arrived at to enable one proposal—made by the United States—to come within a few votes of achieving the necessary two-thirds majority. The very considerable degree of agreement reached on this, and other subjects, was not achieved without a great amount of sacrifice on the part of some of the States concerned. That such a spirit was manifest in Geneva in 1958 augurs well for the success of the second Conference on the Law of the Sea which is due to be held in the Spring of 1960.
Broadly speaking, the differences which existed before and at Geneva may be said to find their roots in the divergent interests on the one hand of the great maritime States with large merchant fleets, naval forces and distant water fishing fleets and, on the other, of States generally small, perhaps newly emerged, whose principal interest lay in the fishing problem around their coast. As a result of a Canadian proposal, it became clear at an early stage of the conference that a successful effort might be made to divorce the concept of exclusive fishing jurisdiction from that of the territorial sea, thereby separating the broadly economic from the other issues.
I should explain that while the coastal State's sovereignty extends to the outer limits of the territorial sea subject only to rights of other States such as that of innocent passage— which itself may be modified in certain circumstances—the jurisdiction the coastal State exercises over exclusive fishery limits is merely that of excluding non-nationals from fishing. While an extension of the territorial sea attracts great implications for strategy and for commercial shipping and air services, a similar extension of exclusive fishery limits has no corresponding ramifications.
Since Ireland's main interest in this great problem lay in the fishing aspect, it was possible to support the Canadian proposal—and later the United States proposal—both of which would have permitted a narrow belt of territorial sea together with an exclusive fishing zone extending up to 12 miles from the coast. The main difference between these two proposals was that the United States proposal conceded historic rights of fishing in the outer six miles of the Zone, while the Canadian proposal did not.
Apart from strategic problems, however, it will be obvious that the clash between the economies of the countries which for many years have fished off the shores of the coastal State and those of the coastal State which enjoys productive fishing grounds in its vicinity is almost inevitable. Some form of agreement is clearly necessary or a situation may result in which you have some States fishing virtually where they please while others appropriate great slices of the high seas as part of their exclusive fishery areas. International cooperation is not aided by such a situation. It is to be hoped that the second Conference in the Spring of next year will bring agreement to the nations on this vexed subject. For our part, it is our present intention to support any reasonable proposal which safeguards the interests of the coastal State; we are not blind, however, to the fact that the welfare of the international community as a whole — or even that of friendly regional groupings—should not be ignored.
The Bill provides that the territorial seas shall be measured from the low-water mark on the coast or, where straight baselines are drawn, from such baselines. The former method has, as the House is aware, been the customary one employed in this country. The system of straight baselines received its greatest fillip in the decision of the International Court of Justice in the fisheries dispute between Britain and Norway which was decided in Nor-way's favour in 1951.
The principles of law enunciated by the International Court of Justice in that case have now been incorporated in Article 4 of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone. That Article reads:
1. In localities where the coast line is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, the method of straight baselines joining appropriate points may be employed in drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
2. The drawing of such baselines must not depart to any appreciable extent from the general direction of the coast, and the sea areas lying within the lines must be sufficiently closely linked to the land domain to be subject to the régime of internal waters.
3. Baselines shall not be drawn to and from low-tide elevations, unless lighthouses or similar installations which are permanently above sea level have been built on them.
4. Where the method of straight baselines is applicable under the provisions of paragraph 1, account may be taken, in determining particular baselines, of economic interests peculiar to the region concerned, the reality and the importance of which are clearly evidenced by a long usage.
5. The system of straight baselines may not be applied by a State in such a manner as to cut off from the high seas the territorial sea of another State.
6. The coastal State must clearly indicate straight baselines on charts, to which due publicity must be given.
The Geneva Convention of 1958 has not yet been ratified but it may justly be said to express the present position under international law.
Having regard to the principles enunciated by the Court and now accepted internationally, and considering the nature of the Irish coast, it is the intention of the Government to prescribe straight baselines from a point in Donegal in an anti-clockwise direction along the north-west, west and south coasts to an appropriate point on the Wexford mainland.
It will be noted that one result of applying the straight baseline system is that areas of sea on the landward side of the baselines which formerly had been considered part of the territorial seas—or perhaps of the high seas—will now be regarded as the internal waters of the State. In accordance with Article 5 of the Convention referred to, a right of innocent passage for foreign ships has been preserved through these areas.
Provision has been made for the measurement of the territorial seas as three nautical miles from the baseline, whether it be the coast or a straight baseline. Our choice of a three-mile limit does not imply any preference for or against the three-mile limit as being the present rule of law. Interesting as this topic is, it is now largely academic; the fact is that a great majority of States do not enforce a three mile limit. Our choice of this distance may be said to have two basic reasons:— (1) We consider that a narrow breadth of territorial sea—as distinct from exclusive fishery limits—is in our own interests; and (2) We do not wish in any way to anticipate the conclusions of the pending Conference on this subject and I have repeatedly stated that our preference is that any extension should come by way of international agreement. Accordingly, pending the result of the Conference next Spring, the breadth of our territorial seas will under the Bill remain as always save that in the parts of the coast where straight baselines are applied it will be measured in a different manner.
I wish to make it quite clear, however, that while we confidently expect and hope for success at the Conference, our position will be open should the Conference fail.
The Bill contains a very important provision whereby the Government may, by order, extend the exclusive fishery limits of the State. Such an order would require resolutions of approval by both Houses. As I have already stated the expressed preference of this country has been for a separation of the concepts of territorial sea and exclusive fishery limits and we trust that the trend towards such a separation which was manifest in Geneva in 1958 will attract the maximum support at the pending Conference. While we cannot claim to be in the same category as some European countries whose economies are overwhelmingly dependent on fishing, nonetheless our fishing industry is an important and expanding one and it is only natural that in conformity with the general international trend we should have under consideration the extension of the area over which we may exercise the exclusive right of fishing. Representations have been made from time to time about extending our exclusive fishery limits; both the Minister for Lands and I are mindful of the interests of the fishing community in this respect. I wish to repeat, however, what I have already said, namely, that we would desire, if possible, to have international approval for any extension contemplated by us. Accordingly, we do not propose to make an order extending the exclusive fishery limits pending the outcome of the 1960 Conference. After that Conference, we will review the position.
The Bill contains a provision whereby the Government may take conservation action in areas of the high seas adjacent to the territorial seas. This is a new departure in the international field and is based on Article 7 of the 1958 Geneva Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas. This Convention has not, of course, been ratified and is not in force, and action under Article 7 is not contemplated in the immediate future. Before measures of conservation are taken unilaterally, there would have to be negotiations with the other States concerned and evidence must be forthcoming of the following:—
(a) That there is a need for urgent application of conservation measures in the light of the existing knowledge of the fishery;
(b) That the measures adopted are based on appropriate scientific findings; and
(c) That such measures do not discriminate in form or in fact against foreign fishermen.
Nevertheless, it is thought advisable to make provision in the Bill for the taking of conservation measures when such action becomes feasible.
Power is taken in the Bill for the Minister for Lands to issue a permit authorising fishing within the exclusive fishery limits for experimental purposes by a foreign sea fishing boat. Such a permit would only be issued in exceptional circumstances, for example to allow study of a particular unfamiliar method of fishing. The Minister is empowered to attach various restrictive conditions to the permit.
Section 10 of the Bill deals with offences in the territorial seas and internal waters. Such offences are offences within the jurisdiction of the State. However, although we claim such jurisdiction, it would only be exercised in suitable instances. It is recognised that under international law offences on board ship in the territorial seas are subject in the first place to the law of the ship's flag and the coastal State has concurrent jurisdiction only; furthermore, the jurisdiction of the coastal State is exercised only in certain well defined instances which are set out in Article 19 of the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone. As a further safeguard for the rights of aliens, Section 11 of the Bill provides that proceedings against an alien for an alleged offence in the territorial seas on board or by means of a foreign ship, shall not be instituted without a certificate from the Minister for External Affairs that the proceedings are expedient.
Provision has been made for the prescribing of charts which will be received in evidence. Advantage has also been taken to repeal the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act, 1878, and also some old enactments relating to fishing. In the absence of adaptation or by reason of implied repeal, it is doubtful if these statutes could be said to be in force at all, but they will be now repealed in so far as they are or ever were in force.
Finally, the Bill is designed to come into operation on 1st October, 1959, the day on which the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, which is now law, also comes into operation.
The Minister, as I understand, in this Bill defines our territorial waters as "that portion of the sea which lies between the baseline and the outer limit of the territorial seas" and the outer limit of our territorial seas is defined in Section 3 as, "the line every point of which is at a distance of three nautical miles from the nearest point of the baseline." The baseline is then defined in Section 4:
(1) Save as otherwise provided, the baseline is low-water mark—
(a) on the coast of the mainland or of any island, or
(b) on any low-tide elevation situated wholly or partly at a distance not exceeding three nautical miles from the mainland or an island.
I shall go on to the second subsection in a moment.
I thought that the Minister spoke of some Convention which provided that any low-tide elevation situated wholly or partly at a distance not exceeding three nautical miles from the mainland or an island had to be an elevation on which some permanent structure was erected.
May I explain? That is for the straight baseline system— whenever the new straight baseline comes in.
You can use it only for the purpose of the straight baseline, if there is a permanent structure?
That is right.
Now we come to the definition in subsection (2) of how the Government shall prescribe straight baselines, and I take it that this is an alternative to what is provided in subsection (1):
(2) The Government may by order prescribe straight baselines in relation to any part of the national territory and the closing line of any bay or mouth of a river, and any line so prescribed shall be taken as the baseline.
There is a provision further on in the Bill which requires the Government to make available charts, which will be available to all for inspection, showing the baseline prescribed by the Government under subsection (2) of Section 4. I find it very difficult to discuss this Bill at all in the absence of that chart or of some sample of what the chart is likely to show if and when the Government has prescribed its straight baseline under subsection (2) of Section 4. I shall give the Minister an indication of my difficulty. If you take that part of the coastline which lies between Connemara, on the one hand and Loop Head, on the other, one asks oneself is it permissible to draw a straight baseline from Slyne Head to Loop Head, or would our jurisdiction for the purpose of drawing a baseline be confined to drawing it from Barna to Lahinch? I take it that it is manifest that our right to draw a baseline would extend from the Mullet of Belmullet to the outer shore of Achill Island. I am not clear whether that baseline would then have to go back to follow the coastline or whether we would be permitted to extend the baseline from the westernmost tip of Achill Island down to a point north of Clifden.
I assume that the Minister's reference to "islands adjacent to the shore" would include a group of islands such as the Aran Islands, but I am not clear as to how the baseline would be drawn in relation to the mainland. Of course, if it emerged that the concept of the baseline permitted us to draw a baseline from Slyne Head to Loop Head, that would include the Aran Islands but if we were permitted only to draw the baseline, say, from Barna to Lahinch, then the special position of the group of islands such as the Aran Islands would at once arise. I cannot help wondering what is going to become of Tory Island.
I notice that the Minister announced the Government decision to start drawing its baseline somewhere in the vicinity of Lough Swilly and to stop somewhere in the vicinity of Arklow. I do not blame the Government for taking that decision in the special circumstances in which we are, but I should like to speculate with interest on the tears Deputy P.J. Burke would shed, if we were the Government and he were in Opposition, over our scandalous abandonment of Six Counties of our national territory, to the grave detriment of the fishermen of Balbriggan. Do I misrepresent the Deputy?
You never did.
No, but it grieves me to think that we have been given a lachrymose opportunity to dry his tears. His eyes will be as dry as the sands of Brittas or Skerries because the Minister is introducing this Bill and approaching this whole problem of territorial jurisdiction on a very factual and practical basis. Perhaps Deputy P.J. Burke, just to keep us in good humour, would tell us what he would have said if he had been in Opposition and the Bill was brought in.
Do. The plain truth is that, as the Minister say, this is all a very difficult situation, very largely dependent on agreement amongst nations, which is extremely difficult to get. The bigger the country, the more indifferent you can appear to be to the feelings of other countries. I think the Russians at one time claimed jurisdiction over 20 miles, whereas the Minister himself had said that certain nations claim jurisdiction over 12 miles. Although I ought not to be making the Minister's case, I was handling this problem for so long myself that I cannot help saying, with some of the extra-enthusiastic advocates of extreme caution, that when you are pressing the Irish Government to extend our maritime jurisdiction to 12 miles, 6 miles, and so on, it may be well for those who have these thoughts in mind to look at the situation into which Iceland has manipulated itself. They have got out on the end of a limb by climbing a 12-miles jurisdiction. Now they have the British Fleet cruising up and down inside waters which they claim to be their territorial waters. Two nations and two peoples who have been bound together by centuries of intimate relations and most cordial goodwill now find themselves in daily danger of some clash which could result in a deplorable situation which I have not the slightest doubt both communities most earnestly desire to avoid. That situation need not ever have arisen if a unilateral assertion of rights had not been made which the other party was under no circumstances prepared to concede.
I think if we were in office and introduced this Bill, every member of the Fianna Fáil Party would be roaring like the Bull of Bashan to extend our territorial waters to 6 miles, 12 miles and indeed maybe 20 miles—and they would make a lot of capital out of it. I do not think it is any harm to remember what happened in Iceland as a result of certain elements there who adopted that course and helped to create the situation which at present exists there. There is a long story behind all that difficulty into which it is not expedient for us to go here. I am sure the Minister will give it to anybody who wants it, if he asks him. Its only interest for us ought to be a warning of how, in the desire to do too much at one stroke, you can in fact fail to achieve what is truly desirable.
I think the Government are wise at this stage to proceed cautiously and to express, as the Minister has expressed, our desire in so far as is humanly possible to proceed by agreement with other countries legitimately sharing our interest in the fishery part of the whole question of coastal waters. I think the Minister is right again and that our Government are right in saying they welcome the Canadian suggestion that in so far as it is practicable, the fishery interest and the economic interest of territorial waters should be separated from strategic and other considerations which arise. We ought all be able to find common ground in the purely economic sphere, whereas it is manifest that common ground in the strategic sphere and in a variety of other considerations relating to the sea might not so easily be attainable.
I wonder if it would be unreasonable to ask the Minister whether, if the principle of this Bill were agreed to today on the Second Stage, before the Committee Stage, some kind of an outline map could be furnished which would give some indication of what baselines will look like, if and when the Government exercise the powers they seek under subsection (2) of Section 4. I do not think any Deputy would expect the Government to bind themselves by any such broad indication, but the Minister will find that on a previous occasion when I was dealing with this question in another context, I was trying to explain to the House the general location of the fish and I furnished the House with an outline map showing the approximate position of the Continental Shelf and comparing that with the approximate position of the Continental Shelf off the Scandinavian shore and a variety of other information of that kind which did not purport to be scientifically accurate but gave Deputies a broad indication of the nature of the problem.
It would facilitate intelligent discussion of this Bill if we had some such general indication from the Minister of what the situation will be like after the Government, as at present advised, have exercised the powers they seek under subsection (2) of Section 4. I appreciate what the Minister has said in regard to jurisdiction under Sections 10 and 11 but I take it that subsection (2) of Section 11 effectively preserves the right to prosecute a trespassing trawler in our waters.
It is perhaps necessary to emphasise a little more that Sections 10 and 11 are primarily designed to provide that, if one sailor murders another on a foreign ship, ordinarily the person charged with such a crime will be surrendered to the Government of the country whose flag the ship is flying at the time of the commission of the crime, even though the crime is committed within our territorial waters. Does that apply to a ship at anchor in a port?
I could not say.
I do not know either. Perhaps, at some stage, the Minister might tell us that. I should be grateful if he would also confirm what I think is true, namely, that Sections 10 and 11 do not in any way alter our present procedure in holding up a trespassing trawler and bringing its master into the port and imposing whatever penalties a court of competent jurisdiction in Ireland may apply.
That is quite clear.
I have nothing to add except one note of regret that the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, will be amended before it comes into operation. I do not suppose it is ever possible finally to consolidate the law. It is rather that, having laboured for seven years to bring within the compass of one Act the entire fishery law, on the day this consolidation Act comes into operation, Section 219 will materially be amended. I am obliged to confess that I recognise that that is inevitable. We can only hope that the consolidation Act will continue to enshrine the total fishery law, with that minor exception, for a long time ahead. Many people will be somewhat disappointed by the provisions of this Bill but I am not prepared to say it would be reasonable at this stage to press the Government to go further than they see their way to go. However, I reserve the right to query the user of this Bill, unless and until I have had an opportunity of seeing some indication of how the Government intend to prescribe straight baselines under subsection (2) of Section 4.
I should like to welcome this Bill which is necessary for the protection of our fishery interests. Nevertheless, I cannot help but think back to an occasion some five or six months ago when in this House, by way of a Parliamentary Question, certain Deputies sought information as to whether or not there was need for such a Bill as this. I remember the Minister who was speaking on an Adjournment Debate on questions raised by Deputy Corish and Deputy Esmonde from Wexford, denying that there was any reason for doubt as to whether we had a fixed baseline and assuring the House that our maritime defence forces had all the information and all the legislative support necessary to enforce the law under the legislation at that time. The mere fact that this Bill is being introduced is an indication to me and to any normal person that that was not so, that the Minister was wrong in that statement, that he now admits that and is seeking to rectify the position.
Like Deputy Dillon, I congratulate the Minister on the very sane, practical way in which this Bill has been drawn up. We have no sweeping claim to wide stretches of water adjoining our coast which we cannot in fact enforce. All of us in this little country must realise that any extended fishing right beyond the normal three-mile limit which is now recognised in international law must be achieved by way of agreement between the various countries which fish in our waters. It is reasonable that the Minister should suggest waiting until the Conference of 1960 has taken place before we decide on what limits shall be prescribed by the Government. While leaving himself room to do that, the Minister has not taken up a stupid position in somewhat the same manner as Iceland did. Whatever the moral right of the case might be, if we were unable to enforce the law, it would be ridiculous for our country to have taken up a similar position and to find our enactments being flagrantly violated by any foreign trawlers which desired to come in because of want of the force necessary to protect our rights.
It must be clear to the Minister that for the limited extent of seas we claim at present, protection is not adequate at all. During the season from December to February, we had along the coast of my constituency all types of foreign boats coming within the three-mile limit and we were unable to supply a sufficient number of boats to protect the fishing interests of the Irish fleet.
I should be keenly interested in having an outline of the proposed fixed baselines on the south coast between Waterford and Wexford. It is a well-known herring fishing ground and during the herring fishing season, it is very much in the headlines in regard to foreign trawlers poaching within territorial waters. During last season, there was a prosecution which was subject to appeal in our courts on the question as to whether a fixed baseline existed or not. I should like to know from the Minister, prior to this Bill being enacted, whether a line between Hook Head and Mine Head would be considered as a baseline on the southern coast. The fishing interests in that area believe it is absolutely essential to give that protection. I do not know what are the views of the Minister or of his officials on that, but I suggest that if that line is taken, the Minister should, as well as declaring the baseline, endeavour to see that when it is declared, adequate protection will be given against infringements by outside interests.
I appeal to the House to pass this legislation quickly so that the protection which was not there last year will be available for our fishing interests when the season opens on 1st October this year.
I welcome this Bill and congratulate the Minister on introducing it. It will be of great assistance to our inshore fishermen and while the Minister in his own diplomatic way has considered all the international implications of the Bill, he has gone a good way towards meeting the requirements of our inshore fishermen. He has also succeeded in upholding our international status and not causing any ill-will. It is a very difficult position and any Deputy representing an east coast area is up against this problem from time to time. Our inshore fishermen have been clamouring for protection from foreign trawlers. I hope when this baseline comes into operation under this Bill it will remove the causes for complaint in certain areas.
Deputy Burke has referred to the fact that this Bill would be of considerable help to the inshore fishermen. I agree with the observations of Deputy Kyne that this is a Bill to which the support of the House should be given so that it may be passed with the least possible delay. If there is any matter which has given a good deal of trouble over the years, it is the question of our fishery rights and the limit and the extent of our territorial waters. Since the establishment of native Government no serious effort was made by any Government to have this matter clarified. All down through the years the problem arose and became more difficult.
Deputy Kyne made reference to the appalling state of affairs which existed on the borders of his constituency last year when there was unprecedented poaching by foreign trawlers. Naturally enough, as the Minister for External Affairs correctly pointed out in opening his remarks on this Bill, our fishing industry must be ranked as one of the best and highest when we consider the number of families engaged in it and its value to the country. Any Government cannot turn the blind eye or give the deaf ear to anything that will further the interests of such an important branch of our economy.
I am glad this legislation came before the House because I feel that at least in the years to come the problems and the difficulties we have had with regard to our territorial waters will at least be defined. I should like to join with other Deputies in asking the Minister for External Affairs to prepare a suitable map giving us in detail the outline of the proposed fixed baselines. It is necessary. As a matter of fact, I expected that, when this Bill was being circulated, the Minister for External Affairs would have facilitated Deputies by letting them have suitable maps, particularly a map giving them the proposed fixed baselines. I would ask the Minister, for the information of Deputies and the country which is interested in this legislation, to have such a map prepared and circulated to members of the House with the least possible delay.
I am glad to see that the Government acted with great caution with regard to the question of the extension of our fishery limits. Our fishery organisations and the organised groups of fishermen around our coast have made repeated requests for the extension of our fishery limits. Those requests were always made with sincerity. There were always good grounds for such an appeal and such a request.
Assuming for a moment that we decided to extend our fishery limits from, say, the three miles, as it is at present, to six, ten or twelve miles, what advantage would that be to us unless it was generally recognised? Therefore, I feel that the Government acted wisely and cautiously in this matter. They are right to leave it to the International Convention so as to ensure that whatever extension we give to our fishery limits, whether it be five, six, ten or twelve miles, will be respected by all other nations. Unless our fishery limits are respected by all other nations, there is little use in our declaring it for ourselves because of the difficulty of protecting the fishery limits.
The Minister for External Affairs and every member in this House know that at the present time with our three mile fishery limits we have been more than put to the pin of our collars to provide suitable protection for our fisheries within that limit. As a matter of fact, the existing limit cannot be properly protected by the protection services we have. I can imagine the endless difficulties which would exist if we had to endeavour to protect ten miles of a fishery limit on the existing fishery protection services we have. I am glad it is to be left to international agreement. Whatever decision is taken after the Spring of 1960, I would recommend to the Government that the representatives of the Irish Government at that Convention will be quite satisfied that whatever limit is taken it will be with the entire approval and agreement of the conference and that no difficulties will arise after that.
Section 8 (1) of the Bill says:—
Whenever the Minister for Lands so thinks proper, for experimental purposes in connection with sea-fishing, the Minister may issue a permit authorising fishing by means of a specified foreign sea-fishing boat (as defined by section 219 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959) within the exclusive fishery limits of the State or any defined area or areas thereof.
Perhaps, it may be necessary to have such a section in this Bill but I feel that, unless it was for the purpose of experimenting entirely, it would be wrong if a foreign trawler were allowed to dump fish, say, in this country. I think this House ought not to give the Minister for Lands or any Minister for Fisheries in this State authority or approval——
That matter does not arise on this Bill.
However, I am glad to see that Section 9 is entirely for experimental purposes only. Section 10 of the Bill deals with jurisdiction in the case of offences in respect of those who may be guilty of trespass on our territorial waters. Whilst we could not at any time interfere with the law as it stands, I have always felt that there should have been some form of defined punishment for the offenders.
We had numerous occasions upon which Spanish trawlers and even French fishing vessels were guilty of repeated offences and despite the fact that their gear was confiscated and that the catch might be confiscated, they always saw fit, because of the great value of our fishing grounds, to return again. I feel that in legislation such as this some suitable sections should be provided, if necessary, for the confiscation of the entire vessel.
That may be rather drastic. However, an occasion can arise when some of those trawlers may be forced into our coast because of weather conditions. A sympathetic view must be taken of entry which is due to bad weather conditions, illness of the crew or to the need for urgent repairs to the vessel or ship. On the other hand, when we see that our fisheries are being deliberately trespassed upon, that the trespass is continually taking place and that, despite the full rigour of our laws, many of the offenders still return and repeat the offences, I think that in the interests of protecting our fisheries and, having regard to the importance of the lives of our fishermen, the law should provide for the maximum amount of punishment for such continual offenders.
The question of penalties would seem to be a matter for another Minister.
Since we were dealing with our fishery limits and the question of the proposed fixed baselines, I thought this might be an opportunity at least to air that grievance and direct the attention of the Government or whatever Minister is responsible to the fact that some suitable legislation is necessary in order to deal with continual offenders.
I would again appeal to the Minister to provide a suitable map for the guidance of all those interested. The extension of our fishery limits is something which has been pressed forward very much by the fishermen along our coasts and I trust that when the time comes a suitable extension will be granted, at the same time bearing in mind that it will be entirely with the approval and agreement of all other countries taking part in the international conference.
I take it that it will be possible for the Minister to provide the map for which Deputy Dillon asked but in dealing with the Bill at this stage I wonder is the Minister in a position to give some information to the House. In order to define the outer limits of the territorial seas, certain straight baselines have to be drawn and the Minister indicated that one end of that operation would stretch to some part of the coast of Wexford. There has been a certain amount of difficulty in that area of Waterford and Wexford recently and there are certain well defined points that might very well figure in the drawing of a straight baseline in that area. Would the Minister be in a position, in regard to the drawing of base lines towards the end of the south-eastern end of his planning, to use say, the Metal Man Point and Brown's Head Point at Tramore, Hook Head, Kilmore Quay, Carnsore Point and Cahore Point? The baselines will be drawn at certain well-defined points and it seems to me that these points are bound to be the bases of the line that will be drawn. In relation to Kilmore Quay there is the question of the Saltee Islands which are straight opposite it. I wonder if the Minister would be in a position to say how the baseline will stretch from point to point at these points?
First of all I should like to thank the Deputies for the manner in which they spoke on this Bill and for the manner in which they received it. I want to say that I am altogether in sympathy with their desire to have a look at this map. If I could, I would have circulated it before circulating the Bill or I would have circulated it with the Bill. However, there were difficulties in that the map is not yet completed to the satisfaction of the officials dealing with it. All I can say is that if the leaders of Fine Gael and the leaders of the Labour Party want to have a look at it and get in touch with me I shall give them a glance at it, at what is the first shot at drawing the lines.
The Minister will allow us to look at it?
In the Library here or in the Minister's Office?
The fact is that we cannot publish it but if Deputy Mulcahy, Deputy Dillon or Deputy Kyne get in touch with me I shall have the map and I shall give them a glance at it. We do not want to let it out because when names of various points are mentioned there is always the difficulty that you may have to change them.
Would it be possible for the Minister to have the map brought to his office in Leinster House while the Dáil is sitting?
Yes, that is what I intend to do. To-morrow perhaps we can have it there. The House can rely of course on our taking full advantage of the law in regard to the drawing of these baselines so as to give us an extension of our exclusive fishery rights as quickly as possible. Under the international law as it stands, wherever the straight baselines can be justified there is no objection to extending the exclusive fishery rights in accordance with these lines. There is no objection to that and we are going to take as much advantage as we can of the international law as it stands.
Deputies have alluded to the fact that our fishermen are keen to extend our exclusive fishery limits as quickly as possible. So am I, but I need not repeat what I said in my opening remarks that we should do it and do it only when an International Convention has been signed by all the countries agreeing to the extension of the exclusive fishery limits. Our team at Geneva last year did very good work in helping to get a draft resolution which almost got through. There were only a few votes short of the two-thirds required to get agreement upon the resolution on the exclusive fishery limits. We are very hopeful that next year, in the Spring of 1960, we shall finally arrive at an agreement accepted by at least two-thirds if not the full membership of the conference.
There is very little more I have to say. The Bill is short and it is reasonably clear and if Deputies get in touch with me to-morrow I shall try to have the map and give them a glance at it, showing them in a general way how the straight base lines operate.
Could we have it to-morrow?
In view of the fact that we should like to have a look at this map would the Minister leave it until next Thursday when he could have all the remaining Stages?
Let us put it down for Thursday, without prejudice.