Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Jul 1961

Committee on Finance - Vote 41 — Fisheries.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £210,800 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, for Salaries and Expenses in connection with Sea and Inland Fisheries, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

The net total of £315,800 required for Fisheries is much the same as that voted last year and there is little variation under any of the usual subheads. Some token provisions have been eliminated and, in accordance with the standard practice in this year's Estimates, the subheads for travelling, telephones and incidental expenses have been amalgamated. Slight increases under subheads A and B reflect a strengthening of the staff of the Fisheries Division. There are two new subheads — E.2 and G.4a — which cancel out and have no net effect on the Estimate but I shall have occasion to refer to them later.

As I have declared on a number of occasions, the policy of the present Government in relation to fisheries is an expansionist one and a planned programme of development has been undertaken for the implementation of this policy. The reports published half-yearly on the Programme for Economic Expansion indicate that a fair measure of progress has already been achieved. I must confess, however, that I had hoped for a more accelerated rate of advance in the field of sea fisheries. In the final analysis, the objective is to secure a very substantial increase in the volume of landings by our fishermen. Assuming that the seas around our coast are capable of yielding a much greater harvest of fish—and all the available data support this assumption — the problem may be reduced to one of providing the most suitable types of boats and gear in sufficient numbers and, more vital still, attracting and training the necessary personnel to use these boats to the best advantage. Before dealing more fully with these aspects of the problem, perhaps I should give some statistical and general information.

There were 1,764 fishermen and 532 motor vessels solely engaged in sea fishing in 1960; of these vessels, 189 were classed as 25 tons gross and over. During the year ended 31st March, 1961, 15 new boats, including nine of over 25 tons gross — five 56-footers and four 50-footers — were issued by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to hire purchasers.

Landings of all varieties of sea fish —including shellfish but excluding salmon—were valued at £1,612,000 in 1960, representing a slight increase on the 1959 figure which itself was a record one. The increase was achieved despite an unexpected drop of over £60,000 in the value of shellfish landings, due largely to unfavourable fishing conditions for lobsters and craw-fish. Landings of pelagic fish increased by 120,000 cwt. to 455,000 cwt. and their value rose by almost £50,000 to £453,000. The quantity of herrings alone constituted over 90 per cent. of the pelagic varieties and 60 per cent. of all varieties of wet fish. At the beginning of 1961, however, herring fishing came to an end earlier than usual. The value of demersal landings increased slightly in 1960 to £819,000, despite, I regret to record, a drop of 24,000 cwt. or almost 10 per cent. in the quantity. As in 1959, the most important varieties in order of value were whiting, plaice, cod, ray or skate, and haddock, but, in order of quantity, cod took second place to whiting, followed by ray or skate, plaice and haddock. A reduction in the catch of whiting in 1960 has persisted in the early months of 1961.

The value of exports of fish — excluding salmon and freshwater fish — increased by £78,000, or almost eight per cent. over that for 1959, to the record total of £1,107,000 in 1960. Herrings accounted for more than half of that total. For the opening months of 1961, however, the early termination of herring fishing has been reflected in reduced exports.

The extent to which processing of fish is undertaken depends primarily on the volume of landings and, while I cannot report any significant increase in processing activities in 1960, I would like to underline the importance of this arm of our fishing industry by mentioning that in 1960 processed fish valued at over £300,000 constituted more than a quarter of our total exports of sea fish and shellfish products. Given increased landings, this valuable trade is capable of considerable expansion. It is encouraging to note that some of our larger fish processing firms have sufficient confidence in the future to go ahead with plans for the enlargement and modernisation of their undertakings where fish will be handled and processed in wider variety and with greater efficiency according to the best hygienic standards.

While on the subject of processing I should like to refer to the fishmeal factory at Killybegs. The closing of this factory last year threatened a serious setback to the development of our sea-fishing industry. Fortunately it has since been found possible to complete arrangements for the re-opening of the factory by a Danish firm of international standing in the fishmeal industry. The present lessee is confident that, with the co-operation of Irish fishermen, he will be in a position to operate the plant successfully. Substantial supplies of fish are, of course, essential for that purpose. In the absence of a guarantee that such supplies would be forthcoming from the local fleet, there was no alternative but to grant limited facilities for the operation of Danish boats here. I would like to take this opportunity of repeating my recent assurance to Irish fishermen that the concessions granted in this case are of a temporary nature and are intended to provide essential requirements of raw material to supplement supplies coming to the factory from home landings.

Turning to subheads of the Estimate I may say that, while the provision at Subhead C.1 shows a reduction, scientific investigations will in fact be on a larger scale because, with the commissioning of the first exploratory fishing vessel last year, some of the services and materials formerly paid for from this subhead can now be provided by the Cú Feasa. Subheads C.2 and C.3 provide for contributions to two international bodies on the usual scale and travelling expenses of delegates to meetings of those bodies.

The fact that the provision at Subhead C.4 for the operation of the exploratory fishing vessel Cú Feasa shows a slight decrease on the figure for last year does not mean that the operation of the vessel will be curtailed in any way. This year's provision is based on experience of operating the vessel and is therefore more realistic: indeed it is about £1,000 higher than the actual expenditure incurred last year.

The acquisition of the Cú Feasa has made it possible to undertake investigations which should prove of great value in the development of our sea fisheries. With the aid of the vessel, research work on the Dunmore East herring fishery has been extended to a study of conditions in the open sea. Investigations into stocks of Dublin Bay prawns in the Irish Sea have also been carried out and a pamphlet outlining the results has been circulated to fishermen, buyers and other interested parties. A large amount of scientific data on whiting in the Irish Sea and off the south coast has been collected and is being examined. The vessel is at present operating off the west coast. Many of the investigations being undertaken by the Cú Feasa are of a long term nature and cannot be expected to show immediate results: data must be assembled over a period before useful conclusions can be drawn. Any helpful information obtained will, of course, be made available to fishermen without delay. Some difficulty has been experienced in the recruitment of staff for the scientific work.

As I announced some months ago, a new fisheries research station will be built at Galway. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Galway Harbour Commissioners for placing a site at my disposal. About half of the staff of the Fisheries Division will be transferred to the new building for which plans are being prepared. Having long favoured a policy of decentralisation, I am glad to point to this start in my own Department. Galway will also become a base for the Cú Feasa and data assembled by the vessel will be studied there. It is hoped to enlist the full co-operation of the universities in some aspects of the fisheries investigations to be undertaken.

The first essential in the success of any industry is to provide the men with the technical "know how" to do the job. I am convinced that one of the reasons why the fishing industry is not progressing as it should is the fact that we have not sufficient trained and skilled personnel. The schemes for training experienced fishermen as skippers and boys as fishermen were inaugurated to remedy this situation. Quite frankly, I am very disappointed with the response to these schemes. If we are to make real progress on the catching side, much greater numbers of young men must undergo the training offered.

The conditions of the scheme for training fishermen as skippers were made more attractive some months ago: higher payments were authorised and the training period was shortened and rearranged for the spring and summer months for the greater convenience of applicants. While there was a slightly better response when the scheme was subsequently re-advertised, it is still most disappointing in the light of the attractive terms offered. Seven trainees are at present completing the theoretical course at Galway and will shortly sit for examination. Only thirteen fishermen have so far secured certificates of competency under the Merchant Shipping Acts after completing courses under the scheme.

I appeal to Deputies to use their good offices in encouraging fishermen to come forward for training. Applicants, who must have at least three years' experience of sea fishing, are paid at the rate of £7 per week and, in addition, are eligible for allowances up to £6 per week for dependants. I am sure Deputies will agree that these payments are generous and that the training facilities offer a great opportunity of betterment to ambitious young fishermen, particularly bearing in mind the attractive terms available for the purchase of new boats. I might mention that in future An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will not issue a boat of 50 feet or over on hire purchase, unless the hirer has satisfactorily completed training under this scheme or produces other evidence showing that he is fully competent to handle such craft.

Under the scheme for training boys as fishermen, youths over 16 years of age without previous experience of sea fishing are paid up to £4 a week. Of the total of 46 boys assigned for training so far, five have graduated— in the sense that they are now receiving shares of the net earnings of the boats on which they are employed— and 22 are still undergoing training. This scheme was again widely advertised last month but the response has been poor. Eligible applicants will shortly be interviewed at convenient centres. Although the closing date announced has already passed, late applications will be accepted up to completion of the interviews early next month.

The future of the fishing industry depends on the recruits now being attracted to the catching side. To my mind this scheme for training boys should play a very important role in the expansion of the industry. I have sought the assistance of the Minister for Education and his Department in encouraging pupils towards a sea fishing career. It is my earnest hope that many more boys will come forward and, when they are experienced fishermen, go on for further training to secure certificates of competency as skippers.

I must again record my appreciation of the co-operation of the skippers and crews of fishing boats taking part in the training scheme. With the continued expansion of the scheme I look to other skippers to provide berths on their boats with the same measure of co-operation as their colleagues have been giving.

Both the scheme for training fishermen as skippers and that for training boys as fishermen are advertised in the press from time to time but anybody interested may, without waiting for an advertisement, ask at any time to have his name recorded in the Fisheries Division. I look forward to the time when it will become necessary to increase the provision under Subhead C.5 because of greater interest in these training schemes.

Subhead E.1 provides the annual grant-in-aid of administration expenses, such as salaries, fees and travelling expenses, and development projects undertaken by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. In addition to the grant-in-aid of £160,000 which is the same as that provided last year, repayable advances up to a total of £220,000 have been authorised for the current year; these advances are in the main used to provide boats and gear for fishermen. The grant-in-aid also includes provision for new boats— 15 per cent of the cost and the subvention necessary to meet the difference between the interest paid by the Board and that charged to purchasers at the reduced rate of 4 per cent. I may also mention that I am considering what further incentives might be introduced to give the hire-purchasers a new deal and encourage them to better efforts to meet their commitments.

Up to the present, boats of about 56 feet in length have been the biggest built by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. A boat is now being designed by the Board which would be about 65 feet in length, just short of 50 tons gross tonnage, have an engine of up to 250 h.p. and be capable of fishing at considerable distances off our coasts. Such a boat would, I am told, cost something in the region of £20,000 and should be within the capacity of competent fishermen to purchase. The acquisition of boats of this size would strengthen the position of owner-fishermen who have a very important part to play in this country's fishing industry. Indeed a few fishermen have already acquired boats of this or even greater size.

I have been examining a number of the activities of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. I find that there are strong differences of opinion as to whether the Board should continue to market fish or leave this field entirely in the hands of private enterprise. In any event I am not at all satisfied that our present marketing arrangements are the best that can be devised. Before proposing any changes, I will, of course, consult with the various interests concerned. Any decision on this or any other issue must be considered in relation to its effect on the industry as a whole rather than on any one sector.

I now turn to the two new subheads — E.2 and G.4a — showing substantial figures of £186,000 which, as I said at the outset, cancel out and have no net effect on the Estimate. The object is to seek approval of the House for the writing off of a deficit in respect of advances made to the former Sea Fisheries Association for the provision of boats and gear. Advances totalling £408,500 were made to the Association for that purpose in the period of more than 20 years up to its dissolution in 1952. These advances were made from the Fisheries Vote and were repayable by annuities, the amount repaid each year being appropriated in aid of the Vote, as, for instance, at Subhead G.4 for the current year. In contrast, perhaps I should mention that advances to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara do not pass through the Vote, but are made from the Central Fund and appear "below the line" in the Exchequer Account published regularly in Iris Oifigiúil.

Neither the Association nor its successor, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, has been able to recover all payments due for boats issued to hire-purchasers, some of whom, unfortunately, have utterly failed to meet their commitments. In the worst cases, it has been necessary to resume possession of the boats and re-issue them at a loss. In this way, losses have been accumulating over the years and the annuities due to the Fisheries Vote have been falling into arrears. Had the liability to the Vote been reduced as each loss occurred, the total amount written off would be much smaller than the figure of £186,000 which is inflated by the inclusion of interest that has been accruing over the years. At long last, however, consideration of the matter has reached the stage at which this deficit can be formally wiped out. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will, of course, continue to repay to the Vote advances made to the Association in so far as they correspond to the value placed on assets still remaining.

Technical assistance projects of the type financed from Subhead F have included visits abroad and advice from foreign experts. Deputies will recall the publication of two reports in recent months. One of these is the specially commissioned F.A.O. review of the sea fishing industry which is based on a study made by a Canadian economist. Various suggestions in this report are being considered, along with comments received from persons and associations interested in the industry. Comments from Deputies will, of course, be also welcome.

The second report to which I have referred is that of the Swedish consultant on fishery harbours. After consideration of that report, I had the pleasure of announcing the Government's scheme for the development of five major fishery harbours — at Killybegs, Castletownbere, Passage East, Howth and Galway — at a cost of some £1,200,000. The full programme of construction works will take a few years to complete and, while I appreciate the problems confronting the Commissioners of Public Works, I can assure the House that I am constantly pressing them to proceed with these works as quickly as possible. No doubt some Deputies here will pursue the same line in the course of this debate. Perhaps I should add that the development of these major harbours does not mean that smaller landing places will be neglected: proposals for improvement of several of them are also being considered.

On the question of extension of exclusive fishery limits, progress towards international agreement is regrettably slow. We are keeping in close touch with other countries in this matter and have taken part in some informal talks. We are anxiously seeking every possibility of establishing an international rule of law on the issue. As Deputies know, we support the United States/Canadian proposal for 12-mile exclusive fishery limits.

On the inland fisheries side, there is a good deal of work in hand which we expect to lead to increased production of many kinds in our inland waters, but it is not a case merely of bringing increased fishing power to bear; one must patiently work out measures of improvement which may take five to ten years or more to show results.

Salmon fishing, which is the most important item on the inland side, runs in cycles of productivity dependent on weather, particularly rainfall, on temperature trends in distant waters, and on a number of other imponderable factors. It will therefore be appreciated that any view of productivity must necessarily be long-term. In recent years, salmon fishing has been passing through a trough of low catch returns: the total catch by all methods, which over the ten years to 1957 was returned at an average of over 16,300 cwts., was down to roughly 15,000 cwts. in 1958 and 14,500 cwts. in 1959; in 1960, it fell to just over 11,000 cwts. —the lowest figure on record since 1945. This very low return was due to a combination of circumstances. The run of spring fish was a poor one in most rivers as also were the runs of large or early summer fish. The main grilse run was late and came with continuous rain which gave high water conditions unsuitable in the early stages for netting and later in the season for angling also.

While we can do nothing to speed the return of more favourable conditions in the distant feeding grounds of the salmon, we must continue to work for the better protection of the spawning stock and for the improvement of our rivers in a variety of ways calculated to provide the requisite conditions for increased production.

A lot of useful ground work is being done and there are some activities which are already showing promising returns. As a result of the brown trout and coarse fish development work being carried out by the Inland Fisheries Trust in collaboration with Bord Fáilte Éireann, a record number of 39,000 angling visitors came here in 1960 as against some 29,000 in the previous year. This record represents the spending of more than £1,000,000 in 1960.

Another example of progress is the increase in the value of eel exports which rose to some £41,000 in 1960 as against £37,000 in 1959 and £32,000 in 1958. These are encouraging results from the revival of eel fishing which has become possible since certain statutory restrictions on the operation of eel weirs were removed in 1958.

The amount provided for inland fisheries in Subheads D.1 to D.10 shows an increase of less than £1,000 this year — £88,760 as compared with £87,775. Perhaps I should deal briefly with the principal matters arising under these subheads.

The major item at Subhead D.1 makes provision for statutory payments to local authorities in compensation for the loss to their funds due to exemption of fisheries for local authority rating. A slight increase maintains the trend of a number of years past which reflects the rising level of local rates.

Noteworthy among the payments to be made to boards of conservators out of Subhead D.1 is a payment of £500 to the Ballyshannon Board of Conservators to enable it to contribute to the cost of protection in the Erne system. The cost of this scheme continues to be shared with the Electricity Supply Board and the Ministry of Commerce, Belfast, who are partners with my Department in these measures for the welfare of the salmon stocks in this river system.

I referred last year to the scheme of regulated fishing in the Erne estuary which was being instituted on an experimental basis for the three years 1960, 1961 and 1962. I am happy to say that the run of salmon in this river last season was rather better than the average for the preceding three years, and it was found possible to declare the fishery open to fishing by commercial methods from 29th June; up to that date a total prohibition on fishing had secured the passage up-stream of some 3,000 fish. This was the pre-arranged escapement figure which, taken together with escapement at week-ends and so on, is regarded for the time being as providing an adequate spawning stock. Unfortunately, the run of fish has not been quite so good this season and the escapement has not yet reached the 3,000 mark. I may say that the fishermen have quite willingly accepted this unusual system of regulating the fishing season which they recognise as being designed to help in the rehabilitation of salmon stocks in the River Erne, while at the same time permitting a gradual return to a normal level of exploitation.

An increase under Subhead D.3 for management of State fisheries arises mainly from higher wages and fishery rates on the Owenea fishery, which is managed by my Department in conjunction with the hatchery at Glenties. This subhead also provides funds for the management by Fisheries Division of fisheries held by the Land Commission and Forestry Division. Receipts from the letting of these State fisheries are brought to credit under Subhead G.3.

The sum of £4,200 provided at Subhead D.4 for scientific and technical investigations shows an increase of £500. This modest sum by no means reflects fully the importance of the work being tackled by the biologists and engineers. It will be spent on building up equipment and in defraying the incidental expenses of various operations of investigation and development. A few of these call for special mention.

Much has been learned in recent years of the extent of predation to which salmon, sea trout and brown trout are subject. The predators include pike, pollack and fish-eating birds. Investigations are being pursued in greater detail and the results will be published for the information of conservancy authorities and anglers' associations.

The biologists are making a study of how fish life is affected by arterial drainage work. A section of the Moy system is being examined according as drainage work proceeds and the effect on fish food and spawning grounds can be observed. The engineers are engaged in working out means of employing fish counting devices under varying conditions.

The revival of eel fishing which I mentioned earlier will be helped by investigations into the stocks of a number of rivers and the efficiency of the existing methods of capture. Experimental work will also be done with modern methods of capture used in other countries. Experience gained abroad in methods of holding, transporting and processing eels will also be passed on to the industry by practical demonstrations.

The promotion of fish farming has given rise to a number of problems which are being tackled. Feeding trials have been initiated with the object of ascertaining the tolerance of rainbow trout to a diet of fish food pellets — a convenient form of food which has been developed to solve some of the problems of food supply for fish pond culture. Experimental work on the rearing of rainbow trout in brackish water using sea organisms as food will also be undertaken.

These, of course, are merely some of the more unusual features of a comprehensive programme of scientific and experimental work.

Subhead D.5 provides for compensation for the statutory suppression of freshwater netting rights and for miscellaneous expenses in that connection. The delay in completing these payments is due to difficulties experienced by claimants in proving title.

The grant-in-aid of £33,500 which is being provided in Subhead D.6 for the Inland Fisheries Trust compares with £30,000 paid last year and £25,000 in the preceding year. The Trust will, of course, also receive during the year a contribution from Bord Fáilte Éireann in respect of the final year of the present joint five-year angling development plan.

I do not need to go in detail into the nature of the work being done so well by the Trust in the development of sport fishing for brown trout and coarse fish, and also of sea angling. These activities are fully described in the Trust's annual reports and their merit is widely acknowledged. I must, once again, pay tribute to the indispensable co-operation which the Trust and Bord Fáilte have received from angling associations and development groups throughout the country. The spirit of self-help and of goodwill which has been engendered in the relations between these bodies has manifestly contributed to the success of their efforts. I appeal to all concerned to maintain this spirit and also to be jealous of the reputation they have earned of fair dealing with the visitors who have come in such numbers to enjoy the excellent fishing facilities now offered.

The grant-in-aid under subhead D. 7 to the Salmon Research Trust amounts to one third of the running expenses subject to a maximum of £1,000, the balance being contributed by Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. (Dublin) Ltd. Since it was set up in 1955, the Trust has been studying the problems connected with the management of salmon fisheries and a good deal of useful information has been assembled. I have been informed that a progress report will shortly be published.

I regret that it has not yet been found possible to put into effect the agreement reached whereby the Trust is to investigate the effects of effluent from bog workings on fish, fish food and spawning. The hold up is due to difficulty in the recruitment of scientific staff but this obstacle will, I believe be overcome in the near future and the work can then begin. A sum of £1,000 is provided under Subheads A and F towards the cost of the work which is expected to amount to some £3,000 a year at the outset. The balance will be contributed by Bord na Móna and Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. (Dublin) Ltd.

The two fish farm demonstration units set up under subhead D.8 last year at the Glen of Aherlow and at Blackwater, near Enniscorthy, have been operated successfully and the farmers concerned have found a ready sale for the rainbow trout according as they reached marketable size. It is right to emphasise that the two farmers who are running these demonstrations have been fortunate in being able to secure attractive prices for their output which one cannot count on being maintained in conditions of more plentiful supply. The results will be reviewed in a few months' time when the entire produce of the first stocking with fry has reached marketable size. However, even allowing for a certain settling down of the price, it seems safe to assume that such ventures can be quite profitable. In any event it has been established that the production of rainbow trout in ponds for table use is a practical proposition for the small farmer who can quickly acquire the know-how and, without undue expenditure of labour, bring in a worthwhile addition to his farm income.

Funds are being provided this year for setting up some further demonstration units — one has already been constructed at Raford, near Loughrea, County Galway, and another at Ballymote, County Sligo, and plans are being prepared for a site near Mullingar. I am content to let the verdict for or against small scale fish culture depend on the results achieved by these demonstration units.

Fish farming is, of course, conducted on a large scale at Roscrea and Woodenbridge. There are also proposals by Danish interests to set up fish farms in County Kerry. While the expansion of production and the building up of a substantial export trade in rainbow trout are beset with many difficulties, the establishment of such projects is to be welcomed and I need hardly say that my Department will co-operate fully in advising private interests.

The sum of £16,000 at subhead D.9 for contributions to the Salmon Conservancy Fund stands as it was last year, but it will be allocated in a different manner. The amount ear-marked for grants to boards of conservators to supplement their revenues from fishery rates and licence duties has been increased to £9,000. This increase has been rendered necessary by the shortfall of receipts into the Fund last year from the salmon export levy. The total paid into the Fund from the levy and from excess licence duties fell just short of £10,000 because of the poor fishing season and the consequential decline in salmon exports, whereas in a good year such payments should be around £15,000.

There is a further allocation of £2,000 for minor works for the improvement of salmon rivers. The greater part of the Exchequer contribution towards the cost of two major works — the fish passes on the River Inagh at Ennistymon and the fish hatchery and rearing station at Cong —has already been paid into the Salmon Conservancy Fund and only a balance of £5,000 is to be provided this year towards these projects. A contract has been placed by the Limerick Board of Conservators for the work at Ennistymon which should shortly commence. The work at Cong is to be undertaken by direct labour and arrangements to that end are being made by the Galway Board. Conservators have in general been quick to take advantage of the scheme for minor improvements; there are in hands many works for the improvement of spawning facilities or the easing of obstructions to the passage of fish to the spawning grounds and these must in time contribute in increasing measure to improving the salmon stocks.

Subhead D.10 relates to the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission which held its inaugural meeting in Dublin in April of last year. The Commission appointed an Executive Committee which is responsible for carrying through the programme of work set down for execution by the time of the next meeting in April, 1962. The provision of £100 this year is to meet expenses of participation by the Irish representative who is Chairman of the Commission and of the executive Committee.

The work of reviewing the law following on enactment of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, is now well advanced and the drafting of a first instalment of amending legislation is almost completed. This Bill, which will soon be ready to bring before the Dáil, will incorporate proposals to deal with the more pressing problems. Among these I would mention the need for more effective measures to deal with offences like the poisoning of a river which can be so far-reaching in doing lasting damage to the fish stocks.

Draft legislation has also been prepared to amend the Foyle Fisheries Act so as to make similar provision in regard to poisoning offences and also to strengthen the powers of the Foyle Fisheries Commission in the light of experience.

The development of our fisheries— both sea and inland — is a major aim of Government policy. I am glad to say that a real start has been made but I am very conscious that much remains to be done and I am determined to do it. In recommending this Estimate I may say that, when more money can be effectively devoted to the development of our fisheries, it will be a pleasure for me to come to the House for additional funds.

I move:

"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration."

I reserve the right to speak later.

I listened to the Minister moving the Estimates for Lands and Forestry and to a great deal of the debate during which the Minister and his officers were the recipients of congratulations from speakers on both sides of the House for the manner in which they conducted their affairs. I have no compliments to pay either the Minister or his officers on the policy of the Fisheries Branch. They had their minds made up that when they made a blunder the only way they could get out of it was to keep on blundering. Their mistakes have been so many that I do not know where to start. The last few words of the Minister's statement reads:

In recommending this Estimate I may say that, when more money can be effectively devoted to the development of our fisheries, it will be a pleasure for me to come to the House for additional funds.

The squandermania and stupid waste which has taken place in relation to fisheries for the past four or five years is astounding. I wish to quote from a statement made by a man who would know but who might not be consulted by the Department and to whom I have not spoken about this. He happens to be a man in the fish trade and the Sunday Independent of June 12th, 1960, refers as follows to a statement he made at a vocational education congress in Bundoran, Co. Donegal:

Mr. S. Clayton of Dun Laoghaire, declared that employment for 50,000 men could be provided and exports could be increased tenfold if the maritime industry were put on a proper footing.

That is good but he was speaking in a very dangerous place, in Donegal, as far as sea fisheries are concerned.

They are most hospitable people in Donegal.

To be hospitable is a very nice thing and to be hospitable to people who are bringing you concessions worth £200,000 is no miracle. I am sure that if you went into the fastnesses of the Congo with £200,000 you would be received with open arms. Let me come back to Donegal and give you an idea as to how the Fisheries Branch keep on making mistakes. The first big blunder I came across when I came into this House was the purchase of the three famous deep sea trawlers. I was for years trying to find out about these deep sea trawlers. I even had to bring the Minister in here on the adjournment one night, which I regretted because it was a very late sitting, to endeavour to get the information I wanted. The total amount of fish landed by the three trawlers was £355,000 but it cost £288,000 to land that quantity of fish with these three wonderful trawlers. Losses amounted to £52,000; the average loss per vessel per year was £2,177 and the total amount for depreciation and operational allowances was £125,000.

I wanted to know but was never told who surveyed these three vessels for the Department. A certificate must have been supplied to the Department as to the condition of these vessels. I should like to know who gave it. We must judge by results. I understand that it was an epic voyage when these boats were being brought from Germany to Killybegs. They got there and were tied up for a very long time. I do not want anybody telling me who did this or who did that. It does not matter who did it; it was done on the advice of the Department of Fisheries. These boats were tied up in Killybegs; they did not go to sea and it was discovered after some time that the engines were not working. In the case of one vessel, the engine fell out.

What I complain of is that there was no efficiency in the Department that bought these vessels. The certificate must not be a very strict one. The examination must not have been sufficiently careful. The vessels were not seaworthy; they were three old rusty buckets.

We asked questions about them and the Minister gave us too much credit. He gave us credit for being in possession of a secret weapon that the President of the United States of America or the man in the Kremlin would be interested in. The Minister said, as reported at Column 2065 of the Dáil Debates of 20th July, 1960:

An elaborate, persistent and continuous attack has been made down through the years by the Deputy's Party in relation to these boats. If one thing is clear, it is clear now, at any rate to an impartial observer, that these boats failed. Two of them undoubtedly did. That failure was due to the deliberate slander campaign conducted against these boats in this House ...

I have known boats to be sunk by torpedoes, aerial torpedoes and magnetic mines but this was a new way of smashing up boats, namely, to slander a boat in Dáil Éireann. That, it would appear, was the cause of the engine falling out of the boat and of their not being able to go to sea. Will the Minister find out who certified these boats and make sure that that person or persons will not have anything to do with the examination of boats for the Minister's Department in future? That is a reasonable thing to do.

I could say a lot more about these boats. If the amount of money lost on these boats were spent in places where fish were caught the Minister would have a better record to give to the House of his Department. Listening to the Minister's speech, one would come to the conclusion that there is no future for Irish sea fisheries.

That is what the Deputy thinks.

That is what this Deputy does not think. I wish the Deputy would not interrupt. I listened to a whole lot of clap-trap from Fianna Fáil speakers for the past few days and did not interrupt any of them. There is a future for Irish sea fisheries but there can be no future for them as long as whoever is responsible for the Fisheries Branch is allowed to carry out the fixed policy they seem to have, that is, to ignore the east and south coast and to continue pouring money into the western and northern ports.

That is the proper attitude.

We shall see if it is he proper attitude. Of course, when you speak Irish down there it must be an enormous advantage in attracting the fish. It must put a good flavour on the fish. The Minister says here:

The value of exports of fish — excluding salmon and freshwater fish — increased by £78,000, or almost 8 per cent. over that for 1959, to the record total of £1,107,000 in 1960. Herrings accounted for more than half of that total. For the opening months of 1961, however, the early termination of herring fishing has been reflected in reduced exports.

I would point out that the policy of the Minister's Department from 1948 onwards, when they gave out an armada of fishing boats, meant for my constituency, one boat in Dunmore East up to the end of 1957. I thought, in my innocence, that perhaps the people in Dunmore East were not looking for boats. I discovered that the people there had had so many disappointments about boats that they would not even bother to apply for one. One of them said to me: "Of course, we do not speak Irish down here." Ring is an outstanding Gaeltacht and there is a port in Ring. That is in my constituency, Helvick. I went to Helvick and discovered that they had never got a boat in it.

Perhaps they did not apply.

There were a few rusty applications in the Department. Eventually I went to the Minister in charge of Fisheries at the time and stormed so much that a boat, the Ardmore, was sent to Helvick — a boat. Now I might be asked why should Helvick or Dunmore East get a preference over any other of these places, these wonderful western and northern ports? My answer is a reply by the Minister. I discovered that while they were catching 15,000 cwt. of fish at Schull where they have a new installation and while they were catching 27,000 cwt. of fish in Galway, and roughly 100,000 cwt. in Killybegs, they caught in Dunmore East 296,000 cwt.

I thought the Killybegs men caught those.

They had to come down from Killybegs to look for fish and they had to run away from the wonderful Killybegs factory, but I will come to that. Mind you, I am on concrete here but there is no concrete in Dunmore pier. There are holes in that. Now what do we find? We find that other Departments of State seem to be in a line up with Fisheries against Dunmore. I had been in Dunmore one evening at the height of the fishing season last year and saw this enormous catch of fish being brought in there. At the same time, on the one o'clock news on the radio on the 8th December, 1960, it was announced that 2,000 cran of herring had been landed at Killybegs. They finished the news broadcast by saying that there had also been a large catch at Dunmore East. At 6.30 I listened to the news again and Killybegs was again headlined with its 2,000 cran while Dunmore was washed up. On the 10.15 news there was talk again of this marvellous catch.

A good journalist.

Wait; I am a dangerous man to interrupt. Do not be too impetuous, I say to the Parliamentary Secretary. I went to the journalist and asked what he was doing and he showed me his copy. He had sent it. I wrote to the broadcasting authorities to know whether I could get a copy of the news script and I was told that it was not made available. I have had occasion to write to our friends in Northern Ireland and it was made available — not to me as a Deputy but as an ordinary outlander, a southerner, who wrote to the Belfast men and they sent it to me. I put down a question and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in his own inimitable fashion of answering, like the Minister for Transport and Power, said he had no function in the matter and there it was. I want to put on the records of the House that on the day that broadcast was going on, 7,000 cran were landed at Dunmore, 7,000 the next day, and 7,000 the following day when they had to stop fishing because they were out of ice.

I come now to the next one from the Department of Fisheries. The Department have ice plants established all round the coast. Some have been built in places where they need no ice at all, barring they get into the ice cream business or people come in summer for mackerel fishing, angling or something like that. I put down a question asking what was being handled by these ice factories and discovered that they are all losing money. The one they built at Dunmore is losing money and I want to tell something about this magnificent factory we have built at Dunmore. It did not rest with me to come in here today and talk about fishing at Dunmore. Even on the 8th May, 1957, when Deputy Ryan, the Minister for Finance, was introducing his Budget I could see him looking across at me, as much as to say: "This will shut your mouth". He said as reported at Column 944 of the Dáil Debates:

I propose to make available for the benefit of the sea and inland fisheries an additional sum of approximately £50,000. Of this sum, £45,000 will be used to erect an ice plant at Dunmore East.

He looked straight across at me.

I heard that broadcast from Radio Éireann and I had to suffer some little ribbing from some friends I have left in the Government Party. As I mentioned that was the 8th May, 1957. These policy makers in the Department of Fisheries, in the words of the hurler "were not bet yet." They were going to have another "go". Deputy Childers, the then Minister for Fisheries, had moved the Vote for Fisheries and was closing it. I had asked a question about this fish factory and ice plant to be started at Dunmore. If you will note, Sir, it is a matter of only a few days afterwards. I had to intervene when he was closing and I said as reported at Column 1069 on June, 19th 1957:

I wish to remind the Minister that I asked a question about the £45,000 and the £5,000 mentioned in the Budget speech of the Minister for Finance in regard to Dunmore East. The Minister was not in the House last night when I was speaking.

The Report goes on:

Mr. Childers: There was an error in the report. The Minister for Finance gave a total grant of £50,000 comprising a sum towards exploration, money for additional boats and a grant towards the construction of an ice plant in Dunmore. Owing to an error in the publication, which is not my responsibility, it appeared as if Dunmore was getting all but £5,000 of the whole of the extra grant. However Dunmore is getting the ice plant.

You could have knocked me down with a feather — not that Dunmore was getting the ice plant but because it was too good to be true, that £50,000 could be allotted to Dunmore East. They would not have enough sense in the Department of Fisheries to put an ice plant where it was wanted. They did put up an ice plant and I discovered that the cost was £18,000. It is an inadequate ice plant but, in spite of the fact that it is inadequate, it sells more ice than all the other ice plants the Department have. Only for Messrs. Henry Denny & Sons, Bacon Curers, and their fine ice plant in Waterford city, they would not be able to fish at Dunmore because when they would bring in their enormous catches they would be out of town as far as ice was concerned and would have nothing but stinking fish.

Just to show the continuing policy of the Fisheries Branch towards the ports into which the catches of fish are brought and where the biggest landings are made, I put down a Parliamentary Question as far back as 16th April, 1959, asking the Minister for Finance to state, "the amounts expended in the case of harbour works by grants from his Department on each of the following ports since 1945: — Howth, Arklow, Dunmore East, Baltimore, Dingle, Galway, Helvick, Kilmore, Killybegs." In reply I was told that the amount expended on Howth, a good port, was £49,649; Arklow, £15,751; Dunmore East, £21,191; Baltimore, £646; Dingle, £7,607; Helvick, £3,669; Kilmore, £1,581; and Killybegs, £28,109. Since then £50,000 was spent on Killybegs and £50,000 on Greencastle. I wanted to know where Greencastle is and I asked the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Being a Donegal man he was able to tell me it is in Donegal.

On the day that was made known to me I put down a question asking how much was caught in Greencastle from 1st January, 1959, to 30th April, 1960. I was told 2,454 cwts, of fish were caught. I thought I would be told it was something like 70,000 or 80,000 cwts. Greencastle was the fastest thing on the draw I ever saw. That was pulled out of the hat and 50,000 smackers shoved into it. This matter came up on the Vote for the Office of Public Works. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary, who is now present in the House, about it on his Vote and he told me I should not give him the credit for the work being done in Killybegs and Greencastle but that it was the recommendation and the policy of the Fisheries Branch. I was hunting for that information for a long time. I had been told: "That is not the function of my Department," or "That is the function of my Department." I did not know until then that it was a function of the Fisheries Branch.

During that same debate I first heard of the report of the Swedish expert. The Parliamentary Secretary made a mistake. He thought it had been circulated but it had not been circulated at that time. I am not making any issue out of that. He did put me a little off my stride when he said that the report of the Swedish expert had been supplied to every Deputy, because I take such an interest in fisheries, especially in regard to my own constituency, that when I get a new report on fisheries, if I cannot deal with it immediately, I file it away. This report is by Carl G. Bjuke. Not having a fáinne for the Swedish language I do not know how to pronounce that name.

He mentioned Dunmore East and said he thought the harbour was inadequate. At page 45 of the Report he says:

Present facilities should, however, be improved to an extent to meet some of the requirements of a modern fishery fleet.

He points out in another part of the Report that Dunmore East can accommodate in crowded conditions up to 30 boats. The Report goes on:

... the detailed survey has shown that the provision of adequate depth and sea room in addition to greater protection of the harbour and approaches would be most difficult. It would involve the construction of extremely costly breakwaters and extensive underwater rock excavation.

Further on he says:

It is recommended that any large scale developments to suit the requirements of a major fishing port on this section of the coast should be centred on nearby Passage East, which has many attractive features to offer.

Here we have the bible, and here is a report that says we should go to Passage like copyboys. I am not finding fault with this expert's Report. Passage East is a great anchorage and a safe anchorage, and in time of great storm or great stress ships run there for shelter.

This is the report on Passage East:

The harbour is small and shallow and siltation in the base is a serious problem. The approaches are deep and well protected. Frequently, boats land their catches at Dunmore East and move to Passage East for shelter in difficult conditions.

Of Dunmore East the Report says:

Dunmore East is a resort centre with a permanent population of about 500. It has good accommodation facilities and there are good road connections to Waterford City. There are 30 active fishermen and 9 boats over 10 tons. Landings amount to more than 80,000 cwts., virtually all pelagic fish.

Since this gentleman was here we have landed 300,000 cwts.

The Report continues:

Dunmore East is a State-owned harbour administered and maintained by the Office of Public Works. A resident Harbour Master and staff control harbour traffic here. Up to 40 vessels have tied up at Dunmore East at the same time, but with a great degree of congestion. The harbour is open to the seas from the South to South East and makes such congestion extremely dangerous. Fuel and water are available at the pier, and a small ice plant has recently been constructed and there are plans for the early erection of a second plant.

All the white elephants around the coast should be taken down and a second plant put where it would be most useful.

Replying to a question put down by Deputy O'Donnell about the exploratory vessel and what it was doing the Minister, as reported at Column 75 of Volume 184 on the 26th October 1960, said that the "Cú Feasa" was down at Dunmore East exploring the herring fisheries off the south-east coast and conveying the results to Irish boats in the area. The Official Report continues:

Mr. O'Donnell: Could the Minister inform the House if the vessel has been on research work on the west or north west coasts of the country yet?

Mr. Moran: No. As I understand it, she has been where I have indicated, off the south-east coast.

Mr. O'Donnell: But surely everybody knows there are herrings there at the moment?

There was only herring by the 7,000 cran to be got in Dunmore East.

Mr. Moran: If the Deputy has misunderstood me, by protection I mean the conservancy of Dunmore East fishery which is the most important one on our coasts.

Mark, the Minister of Fisheries himself said it. Now the Department of Fisheries are going to have another "go" as the saying is.

There were some gentlemen in my area who were inclined to put up a fish factory about four or five years ago. There was substantial local support for this in Dunmore East. I attended a few meetings and I thought everything was going well but the next thing I heard was that they were going to build a factory at Killybegs. The factory went up at Killybegs and on the 30th November 1960 Deputy O'Donnell asked the Minister for Lands, as reported at Col. 350, Vol. 185:

if in view of the glut of herrings on the Donegal coast he will ask Atlantic Fisheries to reopen their fish meal plant at Killybegs, or, alternatively, arrange for Bord Iascaigh Mhara to take over the plant.

The Minister said he was keeping the matter under review.

The report continues:

Mr. T. Lynch: Is it a fact that Atlantic Fisheries lost over £150,000 in the last twelve months?

Mr. Moran: That is a private company and I have no information as to the state of its finances.

There we are. I did not know where we were going then. It was a private company. On Saturday, 4th February, 1961, The Kerryman published an article with the heading “The Killybegs Fish Surplus That Never Was,”“Cost of three months' employment of 30 people to process it was £2,333 a head!” The article stated:

It had to happen — and it has happened. The Killybegs fishmeal factory, built in 1957 at a cost of £132,000 and often a subject for comment on this page, is to be sold this month.

This was a private enterprise but I am informed, and I have checked it and it is right, that a Government grant of £70,000 was put into that factory. We had to have a lot of old window dressing about this factory when it was put up and of course it became a sacred bull with the Irish Press. We had triumphant headlines in that paper on January 29th, 1960, which read “160-mile coast to coast ‘herring lift’ under way.” They had to bring the herrings over from Clogherhead to Killybegs. That was not clever. That cost us a packet of money. Not only did this factory lose that amount of money but I was informed by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara that they put up a substantial amount of money for boats for this factory and that had to be written off. That went down with the ship.

Now we have discovered that the Minister bought it and that we have Danes in there. They are under licence, having made a gentleman's agreement with the Minister to bring in deep-sea trawlers — and fish in opposition to the inshore fishermen. I say "in opposition" because they will get into the waters in which the inshore fishermen should be fishing. Why does the Department of Fisheries insist on squandering money at such a rate on ventures that are obviously a dead loss? They will keep on doing it.

I have a report here from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara for the 31st March, 1959. They did not mention Dunmore East at all but they mentioned the other places. I do not know whether this is the most up-to-date report from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara but they state that Killybegs Ice Plant lost £14,000, Galway lost £6,000 and Schull, nearly £1,000, making a total of £21,000. They never mentioned what happened at Dunmore East. Another matter mentioned in the Report is this writing-off of money. The Minister mentioned it here himself. On page 9 of his speech, he mentions that the deficit for boats and gear was £186,000 which was written off. I think we should have more details and get more information. Have these men been allowed to keep these boats? That is a question I want the Minister to answer. If a man did not pay for his boat was he allowed to keep his boat and was the money written off?

Very often he is entitled to another chance.

I suppose it all depends on his colour or on the language he speaks. There is not much chance for the people where I come from. It is a frightful state of affairs for them, year after year, to see the sea moving with herring and to think that they cannot get a boat.

They probably do not apply.

They got tired of it. They came to the conclusion that the officials of the Department had forgotten they existed.

You will find that if a good fisherman applies for a boat he gets one.

That has the whole bearing on what I want to put over here — the neglect of Waterford Estuary. This fine harbour is a combination of Passage, Dunmore and even Duncannon. The fishermen come into it from Kilmore and Helvick. Here is the place where the most fish was caught, landed and sold in the years gone by. Some people say: "Oh, but the herring might go away." I hope they are not making novenas in the Fisheries Branch that the herring will go away and justify their policy. It is time a change were made in the policy. It is time there was a change in the approach of the Department so that, when contemplating putting up works or improving harbours, they will look to the place where the most fish is caught.

Recently I put down a Parliamentary Question asking what was being done and how much money had been allotted for expenditure on Passage East this year. No money has been allotted for expenditure on Passage East. All there will be are trial borings, and so on, and so on. I heard of this report a year ago on the debate on the Estimate for the Office of Public Works. A deputation saw the Minister. The whole business was welcomed. Some people even said to me: "Maybe this is a change of heart." Evidently it is not a change of heart. It looks as if nothing will be done at Passage East for a long time.

Tenders are invited for the boring contract.

Boring is right. We are bored to death with it.

Hear, hear.

That is all I ever get from that Deputy over there. One is not supposed to come in here and talk of one's constituents or constituency. It is a pity Helvick was not brought into that portion of Deputy Loughman's constituency.

We shall look after that. I know more about them than the Deputy who is blathering there for the past three-quarters of an hour.

I was about to finish but now I am in no hurry at all.

We might call for a House.

Yes, and call in some of the sleep-walkers to sit beside Deputy Loughman. Let me put this to the Minister. I know now that it is the Fisheries Branch that will give the direction as to where the money is to be spent for the development of fishing harbours. I know now that it is the Fisheries Branch and the Minister in charge of it and his officials who will make the decision as to what harbour shall get pride of place. I say that the harbour at Passage East should get pride of place, not because it is in my constituency but because they catch more fish there. It is the best proposition.

What is your white fishing like?

We do not know. The very minute the "Cú Feasa" comes down about the white fishing it is taken away again. With all the roaring about the white fishing, this has been developed and developed and developed. Now we are to have another thing in Galway. I suppose it is just as well to put it up there and have it alongside that fish factory they have there that was never used. That is some more of the good policy. This policy cannot and could not be defended. A fish factory was put up in Galway. It was opened with the greatest flourish of trumpets and headlines one can imagine.

The then Minister for Fisheries, Deputy Childers, went down there and they had the most wonderful party. I do not know what it would not do. They ran a few boxes of fish which they had brought down with them through the factory and it has never been used since. It was only used as a customs station when an American liner came into Galway. Now, following their old form, the Minister says today:

As I announced some months ago, a new fisheries research station will be built in Galway. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Galway Harbour Commissioners for placing a site at my disposal. About half of the staff of the Fisheries Division will be transferred to the new building for which plans are being prepared.

I hope they will be able to get fish for their dinners on a Friday.

That station should be at Killybegs, really.

You are able to catch only one-third of the amount of fish we catch but you get four times as much money as we get and you look like getting it in the future. That is what I am protesting about.

I want to come back to Atlantic Fish Industries, Limited, Killybegs. They got a loan of £38,350, apart from the grant of £70,000 to assist the company in the purchase of two fishing vessels. I understand that a grant of £4,350 was made in respect of one of the vessels which was new and that the loan agreement executed by the company in each case is supported by a first mortgage on the vessel and the personal guarantees of four of the directors. I am further informed that the vessels have been surrendered to An Bórd Iascaigh Mhara and offered for sale through a firm of shipbrokers.

How much do we lose by the transaction? As far as I can see, the Minister had to step in and buy the fish factory. He had to step in probably and take over these boats too. I would like to know how much had to be written off in the process. I will be pardoned, I am sure, or maybe I should not ask anybody's pardon, for saying that I am jealous of all this money. I would not be so jealous of it if it were being spent to good account, but we have had hundreds of thousands of pounds being lost on our three trawlers, on the Atlantic Fisheries, on building ice plants where they were not needed, on putting up fish processing factories where there was no fish to be processed, and additional hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on fishing piers that are not being used.

This great progress of the Department of Fisheries should come to an end, and as the Minister himself has said, and I would compliment him on it, to Deputy O'Donnell:

If the Deputy has misunderstood me, by protection I mean the conservancy of Dunmore East fishery which is the most important one on our coasts.

Mr. O'Donnell: The herring fishery?

Mr. Moran: Yes.

I compliment the Minister on that, and it is the only compliment I have to pay him. He said it on the 26th October, 1960, as reported at Column 77 of the Dáil Debates for that day.

I again exhort the Minister to go into this Department and before we dissolve to lay down a policy or give a direction to stop the rake's progress I was talking about when he came in, and to endeavour to direct the Department of Fisheries and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to spend their money on improvements in harbours where fish are caught and where fish can be sold.

I do not intend to delay this Vote, but I was interested to hear the Minister's statement in regard to fish farming. I would like to put to the Minister and his Department the wonderful and abundant facilities that are available in and around Galway City for development in that line. With the least possible expenditure I believe we could have a wonderful development along these lines. There is an immense number of anglers coming from across the Channel to the West, and there are great opportunities if the Department would only direct their attention to them and see what they could do.

In 1930 An Bord Iascaigh Mhara came to Galway City and got the facility of securing premises on a six month basis. That agreement was drawn up but the Department are not inclined to keep to it. In the meantime, as Deputy Lynch has said, we have opened up one of the finest fish freezing plants in this country. I will not go into the pros and cons as to whether it is right or wrong, but the fact that it is there is one step. The question of providing fish is another which I will deal with again. Deputy Childers came there and promised great things. We have had these promises, and we also have the old premises which belong to a firm which has asked for their return.

It is a public disgrace to hold those premises when this firm wants to develop them and give employment, while the premises are only used for harbouring junk. That is a disgrace, that we should be wasting money and at the same time preventing employment. It is a disgrace to deprive those people of their right to develop their business and use their premises in a better way, seeing that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara have gone to the expenditure of £65,000 on the new premises. It is about time that the Board woke up and stopped holding up progress in that area. I had a look at the premises the day before yesterday and could see weeds about four foot high. Are they breeding weeds around the premises? It is the cause of very unfavourable comment. I would suggest to the Board that they should at least cut the weeds and let the people see the factory.

When I was a young lad a good while ago I recall the famous Claddagh fishing fleet lined up three deep, but at the present day we have not one solitary boat. The Department of Fisheries were going to do the devil knows what when they came down there, but we see a a lot of these young Claddagh men now in the British merchant fleet or in England, and quite forgotten.

The Minister has appealed to Deputies to help him in the recruiting of trainees for the fishing industry. I can only say, as a member of Galway Vocational Education Committee, that he has got every help from the Committee and will get the same in the future, but when one hears the Minister appealing to the House for assistance to encourage young men to take up fishing I would say that there is something wrong with the Department's policy when he has to send out such an S.O.S. There is something wrong when the youth are not inclined to take up that line, and the Minister should examine his conscience in that regard.

All I would say is that what I can deduce from the Minister's statement is that there is a complete lack of policy from his Department in the development of the fishing industry. In proof of that I would say that the Minister has handed over to a Danish firm the running of the fish processing plant in Donegal. It is not right to read a long-winded statement and at the end of it see no hope for the future. I have heard statements made by Ministers, especially at the opening of this plant by the then Minister, Deputy Childers, that the fish were going to hand themselves up.

They would want to.

I shall comment no further on it. I do not want to take from the fish plant that we have. I hope we will see it in full production and, as I said before, as far as the Vocational Education Committee in Galway City can help the Minister, they will co-operate with him in every way.

If I deal with the contribution of the last Deputy first, let me say that the first I heard about the matter to which he refers, concerning a private firm in Galway requiring the repossession of their premises which they evidently have leased to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, is this very moment. I understand that Deputy Coogan approached or handed a letter to the Secretary of my Department in the House only today. I cannot, naturally, comment on that matter without having it examined, and all I can say now is that it will be examined, but there has been no opportunity for me or my Department to check on the rights or wrongs of the story related by the Deputy in this House today.

Generally speaking, I share the view of the previous speaker in regard to seeing the plant at Galway in full production. In this business, as I said on more than one occasion, the fatal weakness is on the catching side. Until the catching side of the industry is built up, we cannot hope to make the progress that is naturally desirable. We are at the moment building for the future, irrespective of what has happened in the past.

It is essential for us to attract young men into the industry and to attract trained skippers and trained fishermen to man the boats that will be produced in the future by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Indeed, the way that matter was administered, giving valuable boats to possibly inexperienced fishermen, was not a good way. It is essential, in order to build up the catching side of the industry, that we get these trainees, and that we will have these skippers and fishermen experienced in their trade to man the new boats, that will be produced, to man the old boats and the new.

While it is true that, on the question of policy, the Government have decided to construct these new fishery harbours with all the facilities of modern fishery harbours, it is equally true to say that by the time these harbour facilities are ready, we must have boats and fishermen to utilise them. It is there that the vital weak link in the whole chain of business lies. It is in that connection that I appeal to Deputies to encourage young people to take advantage of what, to my mind, are the very generous terms provided for trainees, under the new schemes.

These young boys will be paid, as I have said, £4 per week while they are trainees and will ultimately qualify for boats under An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. That is the aim and just as we had to build up our training service in forestry, I consider it is essential in this business that we build up our own training service here, so that we will be turning out experienced and skilled young men to man the boats in order to increase the landings of our fish.

I agree with whatever has been said here to the effect that much more must be done to rehabilitate this industry. It is a competitive industry but it has great rewards. Some of our present fishermen have benefited by their returns. It can be, financially, a very rewarding life and give very profitable results. At all events, it is quite apparent that as in every other field of development, the people must be skilled and trained for the business. The successful skipper is invariably the man who is not only prepared to work hard but who knows his line of country and knows his business.

It is for that reason, in addition to building up these ports and providing at these ports every modern facility provided in fishing ports abroad, that we hope it will be the foundation of the new Irish fishing industry and the basis of its expansion. We have been studying the most suitable type of craft for our waters. While things have changed in other types of business, so also have they changed in the fishing industry.

The day is gone, if we are to make national progress in this field, when we should think in terms of the way fishermen thought 20 or 50 years ago. The day is gone when we can expect the same methods to work and the same craft to work as worked years ago. It has become more and more of a specialised business. The waters around our coast are being exploited by people from other lands who are possibly better geared than our people are and who are certainly more skilled.

I am satisfied that this industry can be rapidly expanded provided we have the harbours, proper craft and skilled men to man these craft, which, in my opinion, goes to the very root of the building up and expanding of our industry.

I shall not go over the ground in relation to these three trawlers which have occupied the time of this House for so long. Indeed, we have been listening to stories about these trawlers for a good number of years. I dealt with that on another occasion. I understand that Deputy T. Lynch devoted a considerable part of his speech to these three trawlers.

I said before, and I repeat now, that a main contributing factor to the failure of these three trawlers was the fact that in this House they were made a political football, which was kicked around for years, with the result that it was ultimately impossible to get a crew to sail in some of them. They were not in operation for the first couple of months since I came to this Department. Whatever was the original decision about the purchase of these trawlers, the fact remains, in my view, that they did not get a fair chance to prove or to disprove themselves due to the fact that they became the subject of debate week in, week out and year in, year out, in this House and even up to the present day.

The Minister will agree that the three never fished together. There was always one out for repair.

Since I came to this Department, there was one tied up practically all the time for lack of crew because the impression was created in this House over many debates that it was unsafe to go out in any of them. No fisherman was prepared evidently to sign articles on at least one or two of them. That was part of the torpedoing, as Deputy Lynch put it, of these trawlers that occurred in the many debates in this House.

Neither will I comment this evening on the reasons for the fact that the Galway plant has not been in full production. Everybody knows that a fish processing plant cannot operate without supplies. Unfortunately, there was a change of Government and a change of policy, and boats that were to be allocated to Galway Bay were scattered everywhere around the coast. The result was that a sufficient number of boats were not fishing into Galway Bay to keep this plant in full production. I hope, as I have already said, that we will see this plant in full production and that the catches off the western coast — now that the emphasis is on Galway in my new fishery plan— will consistently increase.

Is it not a fact that the Galway Bay trawlers will not supply the plant because of the prices offered?

That complaint was never made to me.

I am making it now.

No such complaint was made to me. The fact of the matter is that sufficient fish are not being caught and the boats that were to go to Galway and Aran were diverted to other parts of the coast.

Deputy Coogan suggested there was some lack of policy, or something queer, in leasing the factory in Donegal to Danish interests. That, whether it is due to misunderstanding or whether it is deliberate misrepresentation; is indicative of some of the woolly thinking that goes on about these matters. The factory in Donegal was owned by private interests. It was like any other factory started by private interests in any part of the country. That factory failed. It is not for me to speculate as to the reasons for its failure but it was a purely private concern.

In that factory was some of the most modern machinery of any fish-processing plant in the whole of Western Europe. When the factory went into liquidation and was being sold by the liquidator, I was anxious that not alone should the factory not close down but that the valuable machinery in it should not be bought for scrap and exported. I authorised Bord Iascaigh Mhara to come into the market and endeavour to purchase that factory in the interests of the fishing industry as a whole. That was done by the Board, but it was done on express instructions from me that they were not to operate the plant themselves. I wanted to get private interests to take a lease of that factory and run it in the interests of the fishing industry as a whole. That has been done. If I had not done that and if the Government had not moved to hold that factory in the interests of the industry, I should like to know what would have been said here by some people, people like Deputy O'Donnell, who realises what a tremendous advantage that factory can be to the fishermen in County Donegal.

The plant has, I am glad to say, been leased to a firm with international experience and know-how. They have been allowed to take in a couple of boats to supplement the landings of the local fishermen, and they on their part, have promised to make available to my Department the experience they gain in fishing around our coast. They would be fully satisfied to leave their boats at home if they could be assured of a sufficient output from the local fishermen to keep the plant going. I have no doubt that not alone the Donegal fishermen but the entire industry will benefit from the exploratory fishing they will have to carry out in waters not usually fished by our own fishermen. That is the type of development I welcome. Developments of this kind, which give our people the know-how of gear with which they are unfamiliar and which entail the exploration of deep-sea waters, will doubtless be of tremendous benefit to us in realising our aim of building up an expanding and successful national fishing industry.

Deputy T. Lynch complained about the writing off of losses incurred on boats and asked if the men who did not meet their commitments were allowed to keep their boats. The answer is "no." There are always losses when boats are resumed, and that is the main reason for the write-off. The depreciation, when the boat is resumed because a skipper is in arrears with his instalments, is very considerable. These boats have to be given to other people and, in some cases, sold at a loss.

It is unfortunate that some of these people have been so much in arrears with their hire purchase payments that the boats and gear had to be resumed. Going through the different cases, I find it difficult to generalise. I have found that fishing out of the same port, you have one man making an excellent profit and another doing very badly. It is the same, I suppose, as in any other field of endeavour. You get a good man and a bad man on the job, and it is the good man who invariably succeeds. At all events, I am convinced it was bad policy to give these boats to people who had not the requisite training now considered essential to successful operation. We hope, with the build-up of our training scheme and the provision of additional fishery services, to cure that fundamental weakness in the whole structure of the business.

I have given the House the particulars about fish farms and the experience we have gained in that field. There is no doubt that fish farming can be successfully carried on here, and has been and is being successfully carried on here. There are many parts of our coast eminently suitable for this work. One of the problems in time will be the marketing of the end product. As Deputies know, the home market is very limited. For that reason, I welcome the recent development in Kerry where outside interests have started a business.

One of the main attractions of such a development is that such people, in addition to know-how, have established markets with established selling organisations across the world. It has been proved that we can efficiently and successfully produce what we might call artificial fish, those produced on fish farms. It is another matter to sell successfully the output of these farms and that is why I said in my opening statement that there might be a difficulty in marketing and that we must be careful of the extent to which this new business is being developed. We must ensure that markets will be there for the fish farms that we have.

As regards development of the major fishery harbours to which I have referred, I have said that I have been pressing those responsible to get on with the job as quickly as possible. The money is provided for the work. I should like Deputies to appreciate that in a number of these major jobs, borings have to be made and in some cases models have to be built. When you deal with questions of tides, shifting sands and so on, this is necessary before the actual work commences. I want to assure the House that everything possible is being done to expedite this work.

One matter we came up against was the fact that the Board of Works was not geared for this work. There was a grave shortage of people skilled in engineering and a number of them had to be recruited. From the latest inquiries, I understand that substantial progress has been made towards building up the staff necessary for the essential preliminary work. So far as the Department concerned is responsible for going ahead with the job, I have been assured, as the Minister in charge of Fisheries, that they will do everything in their power, immediately they have themselves geared for the work, to make rapid progress.

Every aspect of the fishing industry is under examination by me and the Fisheries Division. We know our aim and we are examining the position of the industry from the marketing side to the catching side and we are satisfied that long before these harbours are ready, we can and will have the fishing policy understood by all and we expect to have the help of all in developing the industry to the extent to which I am convinced it can be developed.

I shall not waste time dealing with what happened under the old Sea Fisheries Association, predecessors of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. It is true that if mistakes were made here, many mistakes were made elsewhere also. I am more inclined to set out to build anew, so as to get the country to take a new interest in the expansion of this industry. We have the advantage that we can learn now not alone from the mistakes made here but from the mistakes made abroad. We can learn from the new techniques that have been evolved abroad, particularly by countries engaged to a very great extent in fishing as part of their economy. Starting out as we are now doing from what I might call the ground floor, it may well be that it will prove profitable in the rapid expansion of the industry in the long run. I shall expect the co-operation of Deputies, and I believe I shall get it, in expanding the Irish fishing industry to the extent to which every good Irishman would wish so that it will probably be one of our greatest industries, next to agriculture.

May I ask the Minister two questions? I am anxious to know if the Minister has any statement to make in connection with the boat-building industry. He made no reference to it in his speech, although the Board have boat-building yards at Baltimore, Meevagh and Killybegs. I should like to know what orders the boatyards have on hands; whether there is a shortage of work; whether they are working to full capacity; or what is the position of the boat-building industry generally. Secondly, I should like to know if it is part of Government policy to provide grants to enable fishermen to purchase boats?

Would the Minister comment on the figures referred to in his speech which showed that there was a reduction in the number of men engaged in inshore fishing in 1960, compared with 1959, while at the same time, there was an increase of 22 in the number of boats?

The boat building industry operated by the State is getting geared to build a different type of boat from those regularly provided by the Board in recent times. Some of the boat-building yards have found that there was not the same demand for the type and size of boat they were formerly turning out. We hope to have them geared to turn out what has now been recommended to me by the technical men as being the more suitable type that I referred to in my opening speech. The ordinary schemes for providing what I call lobster boats and the smaller type of craft are still being carried on in these yards as hitherto. My information is that the Board's boatyards are fully occupied but that they have considerable difficulty in getting and retaining staff. There are grants, of course, of 15 per cent. already available. These are being continued but the whole question of grants and the question of financing the industry is under review by me at the moment.

No decision has been reached?

Depending on certain matters, I have reached a decision and I shall announce it to the House in due course.

Would the Minister explain why the number of motor vessels has increased while the number of fishermen in these vessels has fallen? The Minister refers to it on page 2.

One answer to the Deputy is that smaller crews are now being employed. That would probably account for the difference in the figures.

Question: "That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration" put and declared lost.
Vote put and agreed to.
Top
Share