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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 Oct 1962

Vol. 197 No. 2

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1962— Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Last night, I was dealing with the necessity for every possible measure to be taken by boards of fishery conservators to ensure proper protection for our fisheries. I take this opportunity of referring to the Salmon Conservancy Fund under which a levy was imposed on salmon for export. This levy was an unnecessary and considerable burden on those who derive their livelihood from salmon fishing. I clearly recall the Parliamentary Secretary stating that this fund was to be entirely devoted to the efforts of boards of fishing conservators to provide greater protective services, to ensure that there was a greater degree of protection for our fisheries and higher standards of pay and conditions for water keepers and others engaged in the protection of fisheries. However, it has been revealed, and is in fact common knowledge, that this levy has not been devoted to the improvement of the fishery protection system. It has been used to relieve the Exchequer.

In the first place, I submit that this levy in itself was an unnecessary and penal tax imposed on those who derive their livelihood from salmon fishing and there should be a section in this Bill providing for its removal. It is not too late yet to have this unwarranted tax completely dropped. It was a tax on honest, hard-working fishermen. It was but an effort by the Government to rake in money unjustly from hard-working honest people. Therefore the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary when introducing the levy that the revenue therefrom would be devoted to improved protection methods was nothing but a sham.

I am glad that steps are being taken in this measure to modernise the election of members of boards of conservators. This Bill makes an effort to regularise the position. I would draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to Section 27 which prohibits the buying of salmon or trout unless the purchaser is the holder of a dealer's or an exporter's licence. This section goes too far because it means that a person will be prohibited from buying fish which he intends to give as a gift to somebody else. In future, if such a gift is given, it will be a breach of this Act and this kind of provision is not therefore likely to command a very high degree of public support.

Section 28 contains a new power enabling the Minister to prohibit, restrict or otherwise control fishing for salmon at sea and the landings of salmon so caught in case any excessive development of such fishing should endanger our salmon stocks. I fear this may limit the income of certain people who have been engaged in this type of activity. We must here consider the case of the salmon fishermen who have no other income whatever and we must assume that their livelihoods will be very seriously affected by this system of control and restriction. I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will provide for some safeguard or compensation for such people whose incomes may be reduced through the operation of this section. There are quite a number of people engaged in salmon fishing who have no other means of livelihood, and under this section their livelihood will be taken from them for a considerable period—until such time as the Parliamentary Secretary sees fit to restore it, and he is satisfied that the stocks cannot be diminished to such an extent that it will endanger the fishery. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what compensation it is proposed to provide for such people.

It is also noted that under this section, and under Section 34, the Minister may prohibit, restrict or otherwise control by order only. I should like to hear that very clearly explained by the Parliamentary Secretary. Orders are not usually laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I cannot understand why the Minister will not make regulations in relation to the various matters prescribed under the sections to which I have referred. Regulations are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas but ministerial orders need not be, and I cannot understand why the Minister cannot make regulations in regard to these matters, bearing in mind that regulations are reviewable by the Oireachtas but that orders by the Minister are not. On an issue such as this, I feel the House should be given an opportunity of reviewing the special circumstances which are likely to arise as a result of the implementation of these sections.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I very strongly recommend that the Parliamentary Secretary should reconsider this question of orders and that, instead of orders, regulations should be made which would enable the Houses of the Oireachtas to provide a greater degree of safeguard for those engaged in the industry.

Section 31 increases the fines which may be imposed under the Principal Act. The general scheme seems to be to increase the fines of £5 to £10 to £25, and fines of £10 and upwards to £50. I certainly cannot see where we could offer any criticism of these increases because, as I have said on many occasions in regard to serious fishery offences, it has been considered in the past that district justices and others were rather lenient in dealing with offenders. For that reason, I feel that the new section may bring at least some ordered condition in relation to the high degree of poaching which is taking place in our important fisheries.

In regard to our fisheries in general, we welcome any move made in this Bill or, indeed, in any other reasonable measure presented to the House, which will safeguard them, bearing in mind that we have something to offer our tourists as a result of the wonderful developments which have been made by the Inland Fisheries Trust which was founded, established and set up by Deputy Dillon when he was in charge of fisheries. Probably if Deputy Dillon had not been in charge of fisheries during those years, the Inland Fisheries Trust would not have been established.

While we of the inter-Party Government seldom speak loudly enough about our achievements—and we have many achievements to our credit—one of the fine achievements of which we can proudly boast is the establishment of the Inland Fisheries Trust which has been responsible for giving us the wonderful fisheries which are so well developed today and which have gained world-wide recognition. The evidence is very clear from the number of tourists who come here year after year to take part in the well-organised competitions which reflect great credit on our fisheries abroad. We welcome any steps the Government propose to take which will improve our fisheries and make it known to the world that we have here what we consider to be, and what are considered by experts who come here from abroad to engage in fishing, the finest and best fisheries in the world, due to the work of the Inland Fisheries Trust.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us a clear explanation on the points which I have raised, particularly in relation to Section 28.

Like Deputy Flanagan, there are many sections in the Bill which I welcome but for many reasons I do not propose either to criticise or praise them at this stage. There is one section which worries me very much indeed, that is, Section 28. I represent a maritime constituency, where we have a class of fishermen which is peculiar to the county of Donegal. I refer to the deep sea drift net fishermen. There are approximately 150 of these fishermen in my county, manning approximately 30 boats. The boats are based on four ports: Downings, Gweedore, Bunbeg and Burtonport.

Those fishermen catch their fish outside the territorial limits and we, as the legislature, have no control whatsoever over the location in which they catch their fish, and I do not think we should. It is possibly the most precarious livelihood any fisherman could adopt. Those drift nets fish in the traffic lanes of the coastal steamers around these islands. No season passes without a tragedy when some boat is either lost at sea or is cut down by a passing tramp ship.

We should encourage these fishermen. Their season is short. It begins the first week in June and ends in or about mid-July. The maximum number of fish these men would catch in any one season would be 30,000— 30,000 fish caught outside territorial limits as compared with, say, 100,000 fish taken out of the River Foyle alone. Under this section to which I have referred, Section 28, the Minister may make an order prohibiting these fishermen from landing the fish caught outside territorial limits.

Subsection (2) of Section 28 deals with that.

Yes. "The Minister may except from the provisions of an order . . . ." If the Minister gives me that guarantee I shall be satisfied. That is the guarantee I seek——

The Deputy has it there in the section.

——that this order will not apply to drift net fishermen outside territorial limits.

I said that last night. The Deputy has that guarantee.

Let me go further. The Minister is increasing the penalties for fishing. There is a weekly close season in this country, and rightly so, during which nets are prohibited but we go further and prohibit in the weekly close season these fishermen from landing the fish which they caught outside territorial limits. That is true. If they land fish in this State during the weekly close season, irrespective of where they are caught—and the fishermen for whom I make a plea here today catch their fish outside territorial limits—not only are they prosecuted for landing the fish but their gear is subject to forfeiture and so is their boat. The Parliamentary Secretary tells me that is not true. I am a solicitor to a board of conservators and it has been my unpleasant duty to prosecute these unfortunate fishermen for landing fish in this State, fish which are caught outside territorial limits during the weekly close season. If the Minister is not prepared to amend the Bill to give exemption to these deep sea drift net fishermen, what will happen is that a trawler will remain outside the three-mile limit with frigidaire equipment aboard, all the fish which are now being landed in the State will be taken by that trawler and during the week landed in some of the ports of England, and we shall get no credit whatever for the 30,000 fish which is annually being landed at the three ports I have mentioned, Downings, Bunbeg and Burtonport.

Our fishermen are becoming fewer and fewer every year. Thank goodness, our fisheries are improving. The method of fishing for this drift net salmon is a very primitive one, as it has to be. A big boat cannot be used; if a big boat is used, the nets cannot be hauled up because the salmon will drop out. The small half-decker has to be used and these fishermen have to go to sea a distance of at least five miles. I appeal to the Minister to give these fishermen a chance to land whatever fish they catch during the weekly close season and make it a bona fide defence for them that the fish were caught outside the three-mile limit.

The season is a short one of six weeks. At the moment they are permitted to fish only five nights per week. Very often during that period, they are lucky if they can get to sea on three nights per week. Two factors militate against such fishing: the calmness of the sea and the roughness of the sea. It it is too rough, they cannot go out and if it is too calm, they might as well stay ashore. Very often, the weekend nights are the ideal nights on which they can go to sea. I appeal to the Minister to look into this matter. This deep sea drift net fishing does not apply to any other part of Ireland. I know there may be drift nets off the Boyne, off South Donegal, Mayo and other parts but it is only the fishermen from these three ports on the rugged coast of West Donegal who go outside the three-mile limit. If the Minister does that, he will be doing something to retain these 150 fishermen on our coast and giving them an opportunity to continue to earn the livelihood which their fathers and their forefathers eked out down through the years.

I should like to join with Deputy Flanagan in congratulating the Inland Fisheries Trust on the magnificent work it is doing. The Minister for Transport and Power paid tribute in this House to Deputy Dillon for initiating this scheme whereby the Inland Fisheries Trust was established. I am glad the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are following in the footsteps of Deputy Dillon and continuing the wonderful work he initiated. I know the Parliamentary Secretary has a particular interest in it and I should like to congratulate him on his initiative on following up this scheme. It should be remembered, however, that our inland fisheries belong to the Irish people and no matter how anxious we are to attract tourists here, particularly angling tourists——

To how many of the Irish people do the inland fisheries belong?

That is what I am getting at. We should not forget that the Irish people come first. We should not preserve these fisheries solely for our angling tourists because if we do, we are going to drive the Irish peasant, if I may use the expression with great respect, back to where he was when fisheries were owned by the landlords, namely, back to the poaching period. I know a very valuable fishery in Donegal, the Owenea. The Irish Land Commission now own that river and it was the custom prior to 1948-49 to lease that river to persons who are not Irish citizens. I do not know what figure they paid for the lease of that fishery but I do know that when Deputy Dillon was Minister in charge of fisheries, I approached him and requested him—a request to which he acceded—to lease that fishery to the local Glenties Anglers Association and he did lease it at what I considered then an exorbitant figure, £400 per year.

That was the charge made by the Minister for an annual lease of the Owenea River. When Deputy Dillon had gone out of office, that annual charge was increased to £800 a year which put it beyond the reach of the local anglers association completely. The Minister now leases it out on a daily licence rate, or a weekly or seasonal rate, but if you want to take out an annual licence now to fish on the Owenea River in Glenties, even though you are a riparian owner on the land adjoining the river, you have to pay the Minister £25 for the privilege of fishing, plus the licence duty which you pay to the board of conservators.

I do not think that is right. The right to angle on these Irish rivers should not be as expensive for the native Irish as for the angling tourist. It is a bad thing and it is something the Parliamentary Secretary should look into. Should we have to subsidise the Irish citizen who wishes to angle, at the expense of the tourist angler, we should do so and thus encourage our Irish people to fish legitimately.

Is the Deputy serious?

That we should subsidise the company director who can come and spend some of his illgotten gains fishing in competition with the foreign tourist?

No. The people I mean are the farmers living on the banks of the river, the farm labourer, the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper's assistant, the draper and the draper's assistant. These are the people who fish in my county. These are what I call the native anglers in my county. These are the people I believe should be subsidised at the expense of the colonel who comes from across the water for a fortnight's or three weeks' angling. I know what I am talking about. Within a radius of ten miles of the town in which I reside, we have 100 lakes, some holding sea trout, all of them holding brown trout and a good many of them holding salmon. That fishing is free and it is not the gentleman to whom Deputy McQuillan refers who angles there; it is the local farmer, the farm labourer, the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper's assistant. These are the people who angle on these rivers and we would be very sorry if we found that the Department of Lands took over that fishing, even for the purpose of re-stocking and gave a lease of it to some retired colonel who might come across for the purpose of having two or three weeks' angling there. Let us not overlook that fact. It is a very good thing and I am glad the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are encouraging anglers to come here but remember we must first get it for our own Irish anglers and, should we have to subsidise them at the expense of the tourist angler, let us do so.

Like other members of the Fine Gael Party I accept this Bill because I believe it is a step in the right direction. Deputy O'Donnell and Deputy Flanagan have dealt with the points with which I, too, would be concerned. There remains one section to which I should like to refer, that is, Section 16, dealing with deleterious or poisonous matter. I should like to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that flax water could be related closely to this. While representing a fishing constituency, I also represent an agricultural constituency where flax was a highly profitable produce some time ago. It could be that flax could come back again on the market as a very highly profitable produce and if this were so, the farmer would be liable to a £100 fine, or six months in jail, or both, for allowing this water to spill into the river, even if this happened as a result of the river flooding and breaking the dams closeby. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this very seriously. The linen industry in Northern Ireland is big business and, from what we hear nowadays about our entry into the Common Market, Donegal could well be very closely associated with the linen industry in Northern Ireland. If so, flax would again be a very good proposition.

I should like also to refer to the levy on salmon. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, now that he has visited Donegal in his official capacity, may be more familiar with the fishing on the River Foyle. I believe this levy is shown up on the River Foyle more than anywhere else in the Republic. You have people from Tyrone and Derry paying the same licence, fishing under the same conditions as fishermen from Donegal, participating in the same fishing in the same water and using the same boats and nets. The Derry and Tyrone fishermen do not have to pay a levy while the Donegal man must. The Parliamentary Secretary, if he cannot abolish the levy altogether, should abolish it in Donegal because it has given rise to a ridiculous situation. I should like to take this opportunity of complimenting the Parliamentary Secretary on his interest in fisheries and I hope, as an elected representative for a constituency where there are many fishermen, my co-operation will help him in his duties.

I want to say a word about this levy. The levy on salmon exports is a disreputable and scandalous imposition and we all know that. It was put on for the relief of the Exchequer under false misrepresentations to the House that it was designed to make an added contribution to the funds of boards of conservators. The fact is that, whatever the supplement, the ordinary revenue of the board of conservators was made available through the Fisheries Vote year after year after year. The sum fluctuated; sometimes it was greater and sometimes it was less. Then Deputy Childers was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Fisheries. He was responsible for introducing this disreputable and scandalous levy. We are now in this ridiculous position: if an Irish fisherman catches salmon and exports it, he must pay a levy of 2d. per 1b. on his exports; but if a German or a Greek or a Chinaman comes to Ireland and manufactures fish boxes and exports the fish boxes, he is exempt from income tax and corporation profits tax on these exports because he exports. But the man who puts the fish in the boxes must pay 2d. per 1b. for every fish he sends out.

That is a ridiculous anachronism which is utterly wrong. It operates solely to deprive the Exchequer of a relatively trifling sum. Yet from the point of view of people earning their living by fishing, it is quite a substantial impost. What disgusts me about it particularly is that it is a grotesque violation of every decent standard of taxation. There is no justification whatever for saying that an industrialist who manufactures for export is not only free from any import tax on the raw material he uses but is exempt from income tax or corporation profits tax in respect of anything he exports, while a salmon fisherman must pay a levy of 2d. per 1b. on whatever he exports.

It is wrong to allow these anachronisms to survive because they give rise to legitimate grievances. They are indefensible and in time contribute to an accumulation of grievances which explodes into a violent demonstration of bitter feeling. The sad thing is that when we reach that stage, they are usually put right. I would much sooner have them put right through our own goodwill and our own acceptance of their inequitable character, so that subsequently, if somebody starts kicking up a row and breaking windows, we will be standing on firm, solid ground and will be in a position to say: "The Legislature and the Government have no intention of changing their mind as a result of violence because they have done what is equitable, just and fair." I do not think we are in that position now. The sooner we remove that legitimate cause of grievance and complaint the better.

I want to refer now to a matter which causes me very considerable anxiety. In Section 28 and Section 34 of this Bill the Minister proposes to proceed, not by way of regulation, but by way of order. That injects an entirely new procedural principle into the powers he seeks under these two sections. All this Bill and other Fisheries Acts, as far as I know, are controlled by an over-riding section in the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959—I think it is Section 4—which requires that whenever the Minister makes a regulation under the Fisheries Acts, that regulation must be laid upon the Table of the House, and unless it is annulled within 21 days, it takes effect and continues to have effect; but if no measure is introduced by anybody to annul it, it becomes statute law without further ado.

Under the procedure proposed in Sections 28 and 34 of this Bill, the Minister does not make a regulation; he makes an order. If I read the Bill correctly, that exempts him from the obligation to lay the statutory instrument on the Table of the House. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, it is very rare that a statutory instrument laid on the Table of the House is called up for review. It is called up for review only if some Deputy feels there is something serious in it which requires to be examined by the House. I remember Deputy Harte on one occasion seeking to call up an order in connection with the Foyle Fisheries. There was some question as to whether he had the right to bring it up, but a procedural device was provided which enabled him to discuss what he wanted to discuss. In my experience as Minister for Fisheries, and I think Deputy Flanagan, who was Parliamentary Secretary, will confirm that in all the time we were there, I do not think any regulation we made under the Fisheries Acts was called up for review in the Dáil.

Nevertheless, the fact that that power exists is a very useful check on any arbitrary use of the regulations in respect of the powers conferred in this and other Acts. Section 28, as Deputies will have heard, deals with the whole question of fishing for salmon at sea. Section 34 relates to implementing international agreements for the conservation of fish stocks. I cannot imagine any situation arising which would cause the Executive any embarrassment if they were asked to proceed in these two matters by way of regulation or by accepting the obligation that any order made would be laid on the Table of the House and, unless annulled within 21 days, would continue to have statutory effect.

If the Parliamentary Secretary can meet me on that, then Draconian as many of the proposals are in this Bill, I think they are justified. It is necessary we should strengthen the hands of the authorities, who are simply seeking to preserve the inland fisheries for the benefit of our own people primarily against the ravages of poachers, poisoners and the people who I think are often as bad or worse: the hotel keepers and shopkeepers who buy what they know to be poached fish from poachers. The fact is that if there were no market for poached fish, very few fish would ever be poached. It is the receiver who keeps the burglar in business. It is the purchaser of illegally-caught fish who provides the poacher's market. I am glad Dáil Eireann is being asked to tighten the precautions and to increase the penalties for persons who consciously and deliberately break the fishery laws.

I would like to say one last word on a matter raised by Deputy O'Donnell. I share the sentiments, which I suspect are shared by everybody in this House, Deputy O'Donnell voiced in respect of private fishing. The ideal system is the system obtaining in the United States of America. When I lived in America, certainly in the State of Wisconsin— and I believe also in Colorado—the law was that if you had a fishing river passing through your land, every person had a right of way to the river bank if he had a fishing licence. At first glance that would seem to suggest that there would be so much fishing that the rivers would all be rapidly exhausted but it does not work that way because the fishery laws in America are extremely stringent and they enforce them quite arbitrarily. They fix a minimum length of fish and if you are found with a fish of less than that size on your person, there is no defence to a charge of illegal fishing and you are liable to imprisonment. It is not a defence to say that when you took the fish off the hook he was killed in the process; your duty is to put the fish back into the water. The law provides you may not have him on your person or under your control, and it seems to work, but it does create a situation in which all citizens of the United States are on a basis of strict equality and, so far as I am aware, there is no private fishing water at all.

That is a very desirable state of affairs and when I became Minister, the first thing I asked my colleagues in the Department was: "Why cannot we do that here?" They said: "You can, Minister, the Fisheries Acts give you full power to do so but unfortunately it would cost £x million." When you come to examine the whole problem, the fact is that we have power to take over all private fisheries in Ireland, provided we pay for them. We cannot, by legislation, expropriate people who bought fisheries and provided money for them, but if anybody wants to provide money for that purpose, there is nothing to stop us doing so.

Heretofore we took the view when in office — I assume the present Government do likewise — that there are other prior charges on the available capital before the necessary sum is put up to buy out all riparian owners who have fisheries. People sometimes forget how valuable these things are. If you own a length of a river like the Slaney, the Barrow or Nore, quite a modest length of riparian rights there can be rented to a series of tenants for up to £2,000 or £3,000 a year. If you want to buy that out, it will cost about £50,000. If you apply that to every river and lake in Ireland in private ownership, it runs into money. We must also face the fact that if and when we do adopt the American system, the cost of licences will go very much higher because somebody must pay the interest on the capital sum laid out to purchase the fisheries. Secondly, restrictions on fishing will have to be very much more rigorous than at present. With all these considerations in mind, I would not urge the Government to buy out all private fisheries in Ireland, much as I should like to see them in private ownership. If the problems associated with that purchase can be solved, I should be glad to see the American system working here.

We are what we are and we should realise that. We are not Americans; we are not Wisconsin people. I wonder if you arrested a fellow here for having a trout less than six inches in his bag and gave him six months in jail, what would the neighbours say? I think they would raise their eyebrows and say: "He is a very respectable widow's son and you cannot send a boy like that to jail for six months for taking a trout less than six inches." Unless you enforce rigid regulations of that kind, free fishing will not last ten years for the simple reason that the rivers will be swept clean.

I should like to make this reservation. A good many fisheries are in the hands of the Land Commission and some are owned by the Department itself. I know how difficult it is to avoid the charge of improper influence or something of that kind when you deliberately prefer a tender of a local angling association to a higher tender from a private fisherman from abroad. I took that risk when I was Minister and said quite deliberately that I preferred the tender of the local angling association, provided that association's membership was open to everybody who was prepared to conform to reasonable membership terms.

If the angling association provided that membership should involve payment of 100 guineas per head per rod, then I would have treated it simply as a rich man's preserve. Where the angling association was open to any man who paid a £1 or £2 or whatever seemed to be a reasonable annual subscription, and where that applied to every resident of the district, I was prepared to say, if they would pay any reasonable figure to rent a fishery, that they ought to get it in preference to a stranger who was prepared to pay substantially higher. I think I was right. I think that is a sound principle. I would have sympathetically considered submitting to the obligation of either laying an annual statement on the Table of the House or providing it in the annual report as to how these fisheries had been set —in fact, I think we had that obligation. That was something I was quite prepared to defend but it is something that must be watched. It does give rise to bitter resentment in the country if a local angling association makes a reasonable offer and is turned down in favour of another.

Angling associations do not consist exclusively of archangels and once the principle I have enunciated is generally known, the next thing that happens is that you are offered 3/9 by the local angling association for the rent of a fishery worth £1,000 a year. I should tell that angling association to have a running jump at itself. Then, gradually you will find the gap narrowing until you are offered £400 a year when you know that the fishery has been set for £800 a year to private owners. Then it becomes a matter of degree about which it is very hard to make up your mind. I am inclined to say: "You are offering £400; we can get £800 but we will split it with you. If you do not want that and if you want to get tough and write letters to the papers, then I will not let it at all rather than submit to a kind of blackmail and give it away for half nothing." That is to put it quite crudely. But if an angling association will act fairly and reasonably, they ought to get a preference and the more angling associations become the tenants of these fisheries, the better it will be from every point of view.

I am not altogether as enthusiastic as Deputy Harte is about the Parliamentary Secretary's andrewmartens throughout the country. We sometimes criticise poor Deputy Dr. Browne for getting bitten by a dog in order to get a bit of personal publicity. The Ministers' Parliamentary Secretaries do not bring around Alsatian dogs with photographers to get their publicity but really I get weary of it sometimes with their Government Information Bureau and the Irish Press and Telefís Eireann. I declare, the Parliamentary Secretary cannot blow his nose at a tea party without some organ of publicity being rushed to the scene— Telefís Éireann or Radio Éireann or the Irish Press or the Government Information Bureau—and hot on his heels, wherever he opens his beak, the Minister is after him to show that there are two people in that Department and the Minister for Lands is the top dog.

These little internal dissensions are matters on which I do not wish unduly to dwell but publicity becomes a little tedious when it grows excessive. I sympathise with a young man on his way up. If he does not blow his own bugle, I suppose he cannot expect his boss to blow it for him and I sometimes suspect that when his superior in that Department blows his bugle for him, he blows it with a most uncertain note and, therefore, when he blows his bugle energetically, I have no serious reason to complain but if I were Deputy Harte, I would not allow it to dazzle me. All these bugles are not blown exclusively in the service of the fishing public of Ireland. Some of them are introduced in order to drown the trumpet of a colleague who sometimes appears to desire to minimise the energy and intelligence of his Parliamentary Secretary. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will bear in affectionate recollection Deputy Harte's tribute to his energy and the next time his Minister is being awkward, he can produce that certificate from the noble-hearted member of the opposition to rebut the Minister's denigration of his activities.

This Bill certainly goes some part of the way to cure the evils or ills that beset this valuable industry. However, from what I see in my constituency, there is still a very long way to go before we can work out the perfect system of control and development of our fisheries. I am always rather suspicious of all the publicity given to fisheries for the benefit of tourists. It is peculiar that the first people to get the most out of any scheme worked out for the benefit of salmon fisheries are the big fishery companies that control the lower stretches of the mouth of a river.

I can never understand why these big companies are not made to pay a good proportion of the cost of running the board of conservators. As accurately as I can estimate, in my area the anglers, who have the right to elect only three conservators, pay about £900 in fishery licences whereas the total paid by the net fishermen is about £500 of which, strangely enough, our estuary fishermen, pay about £360. As near as I can estimate, the big company in my area that can capture and export about 75 to 80 per cent. of the fish that come through that river pay approximately £140 to £150 in rates and licence fees. It does seem unreasonable that rod fishermen, who contribute £900, should have only a very small part of the total and have the least say in the direction and control of the board.

It is also the case that every attempt to improve fishery legislation seems to be framed in such a way as adversely to affect or squeeze out estuary fishermen and sea fishermen. Deputy O'Donnell raised a very important point when he asked that due consideration be given to the deep sea, driftnet fishermen. We have not that type of fishermen in my area. We have estuary fishermen, men who fish in small boats off the shore, eight to ten miles from the mouth of the rivers Maine and Laune in Killorglin. There are 60 of those boats to-day and, roughly, 100 to 120 families depending on them for a livelihood. They are placed under the same restrictions as the men on the river. In other words, they can fish only five days in the week. If the early part of the week is stormy and unsuitable, they cannot take their boats or nets out on Saturday. This restriction is fallacious because the regulations should be framed to help those fishermen. They are an important part of the community, an important part of our national effort. They are suffering from a legacy of other days when the Ascendancy controlled practically the entire fisheries of the country and every attempt was made to prevent the people from earning the livelihood which, by virtue of their environment, is a God-given right.

The controls exercised by the board of conservators are also designed to make things more difficult for those people. Recently there was a case where two or three estuary fishermen bought factory nets in order to take fish, nets that were supposed to have a four inch mesh. Having been in the water for some short while, the nets expanded. They were on drying ramps which are open to the public. The waterkeepers measured the nets and found them to be a shade beyond the regulation standard and the nets were confiscated and the men were fined. These are men who have wives and families. They had paid £40 or £50, which they could ill afford, for the nets. Most of the estuary fishermen are in receipt of unemployment assistance during the winter months. The nets were taken from them under the regulations. The regulations are there. Nothing can be done about it. The Government should devise some means of helping these people, who deserve first consideration. They are entitled to earn their living. Legislation should be designed to help them to do so. They will not make any great inroads on fishing off the shore. They will catch only the stray fish that will come inshore on its way up the river. Their chances of catching any great numbers are very slim but they could, with a little help, make a comfortable living, or at least enough to maintain themselves and their families.

The next most serious aspect to me is this practice of the taking of stretches of rivers for fishing by individuals, by foreigners. That has happened on the rivers in my own area. The best stretches are taken by these people. There should be some form of control. The individual should be required to pay extra rates on the stretch of the river he holds exclusively for himself. We have some very good angling clubs. In my own town, there is an angling club with a membership fee of £3 per year. Any outsider coming in, from England, or America, or any part of the Continent, is accepted as a member of that club on payment of the £3 fee. Unfortunately, the club does not hold the best stretches of the river. Seven or eight individuals have taken the very best pool in the river. Some form of taxation should be devised to prevent these people taking these valuable stretches. In many cases, the stretches are left idle and are never fished at all. These stretches would be a valuable asset to fishing clubs. I believe they should be made available generally. Some scheme could be devised to remedy the present unsatisfactory situation.

The whole industry, judging by our experience in our part of the country, is very valuable from the point of view of tourists and from the point of view of our fishermen. It is unfortunate that these valuable stretches should be channelled into the hands of the few, held by the big fishery companies. English gentlemen, or some kind of millionaire who comes in here and takes the best stretches. Any natural resources should be available to our people in general. I suggest to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that they should at some stage bring in further regulations, or devise some scheme which will work to the benefit of all, thereby helping out this very valuable industry.

I should be very interested to know— it is a pity that some statement has not been made by the Fisheries Branch— the reason for the phenomenal run of salmon in the latter half of this year. Are our salmon fisheries on the way back? Is that due to the system of protection? There must be some reason for it. I was amazed on Monday when one of our mussel fishermen informed me that, fishing in the estuary at Castlemaine harbour, the salmon waiting to get up the river, what we normally call the black fish, were like shoals of mackerel. He said there were colossal numbers of fish in the estuary waiting to go up the river. A statement from the Fisheries Branch, if they know the reason for the plentiful run, would be helpful. There must be some reason for the improvement this year as compared with earlier years, when the fish were scarce. If the reason were known, everybody could help in future to conserve or help out in some direction.

In conclusion, I should like to impress again on the Parliamentary Secretary and his Minister the importance of devising ways and means whereby fisheries in general can be made to serve the greatest possible number of people. They should take them out of the control of individuals. Fisheries are a very valuable asset. They are important to our fishermen, who make their living out of them, and they are also important from the point of view of our tourist trade.

It is not so much what is in this Bill that I am interested in as what is not in it. I cannot for the life of me see why the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department wasted their time bringing in this type of measure to the House. I do not know what purpose it will serve. I do not know what worthwhile changes are made in the measure. It seems to me to relate mainly to punishing adequately fishery offences. We do not note anything in the Bill about the repeal of old statutes, statutes I was hopeful would be either repealed or revised in this measure.

Again and again I have pleaded in this House that there is no justification whatsoever for the continuance of the reserved fishery system in the country. I believe that system to be both unfair and unjust. I have asserted here before, and I assert it again now, that until such time as that system is done away with, we cannot hope to have respect for our fishery laws. It is not a matter of a month since we had fresh evidence brought to our notice in regard to this iniquitous system. In a county in this country, a fishery was sold for the handsome price of £65,000. It was a reserved fishery. What was its origin? According to an announcement in the Cork Examiner, it was given under a charter of Queen Elizabeth I. This reserved fishery in Southern Ireland, given under a charter of Queen Elizabeth I, is still going on the market and the latest price it fetched was £65,000 last month.

The Parliamentary Secretary is hopeful that he will have respect for the fishery laws. How can he hope to have respect for them when such a position obtains? When I raised this matter here on a previous occasion, the Minister for Transport and Power was in charge of fisheries and he got quite heated about the matter—overheated, in my opinion. He said these were private property, the same as any other property owned by private individuals in the State, and that he was not going to interfere; that these people, mainly titled people, were entitled to continue to hold these properties. What I had in mind was that if the Minister felt that the present owners were legally entitled to these reserved fisheries in the same way as those who originally got them under charter, then he should acquire the fisheries compulsorily and compensate the owners.

Why could the Minister not step in last month when this reserved fishery was for sale? Why could he not introduce legislation to enable him to acquire the fishery by compulsory methods, giving reasonable compensation? It is a very peculiar situation that the landowners adjoining these rivers have no rights whatsoever to interfere with the rivers or their fishing potential, simply because they are not the owners of the fishery rights; others, mainly of the titled class, are the exclusive owners.

This House is expending money and helping to safeguard their fishery rights. I was hoping that when a young man like Deputy Lenihan took over the control of the Fishery Branch, he would address himself to this question. Surely it should have been possible to draw up legislation which would be fair to all concerned? First of all, it should be fair in giving the Irish people, who have licences, the right to fish in any river or lake in Ireland. Secondly, if a number of the owners of private fisheries have expended money on development there or have bought them or have got them to purchase, they should be given some fair measure of compensation. Sooner or later, this must be done.

A number of stretches of rivers and lakes are reserved for private people. They are reserved under charters given by English kings and queens hundreds of years ago. Charles I of England was another man who granted a number of these charters to certain people who were followers of his. So far as my information goes, these fisheries were given mainly by Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I and Charles II and by possibly a few other of the reigning monarchs of England.

The laws that were in force 400 years ago should surely be repealed now. There is no justification for a continuance of this system or for acknowledging the private ownership of these reserved rivers and lakes. If the Parliamentary Secretary feels the same about these fisheries as Deputy Childers did—Deputy Childers was not anxious to disturb the system—then pay these people compensation. I would support any legislation the Parliatary Secretary would bring before the House with a view to compensating these people fairly and adequately. I am asking him to discontinue that system.

There is not much to be said on this measure. From my reading of it, the Bill is mainly confined to increasing punishment for fishery offences. That could be said to be desirable but I do not think that in this country you will get the proper respect for the fishery laws as you get for other laws until such time as we do away with this system. When that system is done away with, you will have greater respect for the fishery laws and there will be no need to mention in any Act such items as are in this Bill about the use of explosives for the taking of fish from the rivers. Undoubtedly, there is no excuse for such wanton damage to fisheries caused by the use of explosives.

The people who use these explosives feel they are not committing any crime either against the State or the Church. Their religious convictions would not lead them to believe that they are committing a crime. They feel they have a right to do so even in relation to the extreme type of poaching which I and every person condemn as completely out of place and the other minor forms of illegal fishing. That is the frame of mind of the ordinary person in this country.

I cannot see why these people should have these exclusive rights. Our Parliament has now been in existence for more than 40 years and I cannot see why successive Governments did not take some measures to wipe that stain off the record. I make the same plea to the Parliamentary Secretary as I made to Deputy Childers, Deputy Flanagan, when he was Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Bartley when he was in charge of fisheries some years ago. I appeal to him to take measures to revise the statutes under which these private fisheries are held.

By all means, let us me fair to the present owners. It may be true, as Deputy Childers said, that they bought these fisheries but I have not a whole lot of sympathy for the people who cashed in with the £65,000 for the fisheries in Southern Ireland last month. We should have legislation to ensure that the rivers and lakes will be open to fishing to all our people. If that cannot be done, why not allow a farmer, through whose land a river flows, the right to determine whether he should admit any people to the fisheries or not? Why not give him the exclusive right as well as giving it to Lord So-and-so? Could the ordinary farmer who has a mile of river flowing through his land not make a case for the exclusive rights of that river just as well as some lord or earl?

The Minister must take note of that fact. There is strong public feeling in this country about the reservation of fisheries. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to enact legislation in the not too distant future or put it before the Government to revise these ancient statutes and charters, as they were once termed, which gave these reserved fishery rights unfairly to the people who got them.

I shall be brief. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to confirm or deny the rumour that the proposed fishery harbour in Galway is to be abandoned. The rumour is floating about in our town that the Minister made a statement in his own constituency that he proposed to take the fishery harbour and put it in his own area. I think that is a great laugh if there is any truth in it, which I hope there is not. I see the Parliamentary Secretary is laughing, too. I hope I am right because I do not think there is a currach fishing off the west coast of Mayo. To put a harbour there would be the height of folly.

There is another matter to which I should like to direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention. It concerns the store at Galway docks for equipment for An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. It is about time that store was handed over. I would call it a waste of public money——

Surely this is administration and not legislation?

I have got my point in anyway. It is an important matter and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of it. Another matter relates to the safeguarding of the livelihood of the oyster fishermen of Galway. One sees the oysters being brought from Kerry and placed in the beds off Galway. I think the purpose of that is merely to get them baptised as Galway oysters. Feeling is running high there. There are a lot of men who have been getting a fair livelihood out of this industry which they built up themselves. The industry is now world-famous. This is a matter to which the Parliamentary Secretary should direct his attention.

The Parliamentary Secretary should expedite the provision of lobster boats for the men off the west coast of Ireland. If it pays the Frenchmen to come there and collect these lobsters, it should pay the men who are forced to migrate across channel. If the Parliamentary Secretary would do something to expediate the provision of these boats, it would help to reduce the number of those who leave the west. He has had several applications—some six months—and they complain they have not even got an acknowledgment. That is a sad state of affairs in an area with so much emigration and migration. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to direct his attention to that point.

I should like to see a little more co-operation between the Department and the rod fishermen on the Corrib in Galway. There is a very good voluntary association known as Bráithre na gCoirb which has the interests of fishing at heart. Fishing on the Corrib is a very important addition to our tourist business. It is worthy of great assistance from the Department. These people will give every co-operation. In fact, I think they were there ahead of the Department in developing the Corrib. The Parliamentary Secretary should do something to assist these people in the great work they have undertaken.

It was with dismay and disappointment that we saw this Bill. We expected that when the Parliamentary Secretary was bringing in a Bill to amend the fishery laws, he would have regard to the real issues at stake. We have got something which is nothing more or less than a puny measure relating to the amendment of the system of election of boards of conservators and a few other minor details.

When we consider that fisheries in this country could and should be one of our greatest national assets, that our rivers and seas abound with a rich harvest of fish, that it could provide secure and lucrative employment for at least ten times more people than are at present employed in it— a miserable 1,600 persons are said to be employed directly in fisheries in this country—we must see that the Parliamentary Secretary was very lax, when preparing this measure, that he did not tackle the real issues involved.

When speaking on the Estimate earlier, I questioned the manner of election of the boards of conservators. I questioned seriously who they were; whether they were ex officio officers; how many of them are alien as against Irish. We were concerned that, by and large, the boards of conservators, with which this Bill is primarily concerned, were a vested interest and had lost the respect of the ordinary salmon anglers and trout anglers.

I expressed the hope that those who comprise the boards of conservators under the new Bill would be Irish men and women and would represent all that is best and all that is hoped for by the ordinary anglers. We see a situation where more and more of the best waters are falling into the hands of foreigners. We see more and more signs "Trespassers will be Prosecuted", "Keep Off", and so on. The mere Irish angler is relegated to the backwaters.

We thought in 1922, when we won partial freedom for this country, that it would involve at least the right of the Irish people to fish in their own waters. The old Elizabethan laws still stand between them and those fishing waters. As Deputy M.P. Murphy, speaking before me, said, the Elizabethan laws still pertain. Private property is regarded as sacrosanct in that regard and the mere Irish are shut out altogether.

There was one hopeful aspect but many of us have been sorely disappointed. Where the Land Commission, in particular, took over land and water rights, we hoped they would retain these water rights for the nation. We had a point in question when the Land Commission took over the Charteris Estate in Cahir in my constituency. They took with it a valuable stretch of water which was regarded as an exceptionally good stretch of fishing water for trout and salmon. Many of the local angling clubs hoped it might be possible to acquire these waters, which they so badly needed, at a reasonable price from this State body.

It is becoming more and more difficult for angling associations to find the necessary money to acquire additional water, having regard to the exorbitant prices which are being charged. Only the land barons at home and abroad can afford to buy it, and they usually get it. We were sorely disappointed when the Land Commission put that fine stretch of water up for sale separately, as distinct from the mansion and the land, and it has gone to the highest bidder.

The policy of keeping our best waters for the land barons is being perpetuated and we all regret it. We want to see to it that Irish men and women can walk unhindered to the fishing places of this country and fish there—of course, in accordance with the rules and regulations laid down by the Fisheries Branch and by the fishing clubs.

When I deplored the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary had not grappled with the more important aspects of our fishing industry, I had in mind a matter to which I also referred in my last contribution on this subject, namely the overall desirability of extending our territorial water limits. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Lands and the Minister for External Affairs to take their courage in their hands and to do as the Icelandic people did. I urge them to expand the territorial waters of this country to upwards of six miles, thereby giving added protection to our fishing fleet. It is lamentable that there is no sign of progress in that regard in this measure. It has not been referred to in any shape or form. Obviously we do not have the courage and the daring of the Icelandic fishermen to pursue this vigorously. They have now won for themselves extra mileage in territorial limits, of which we are all very proud.

Again, and I harp on this, when can we look to the day when an Irish Government or an Irish Minister or Parliamentary Secretary will tackle this problem with the same courage and enthusiasm, daring and success as the Icelandic people? If we are sincere in our efforts to secure better conditions for our fishermen, we must help them to co-ordinate their efforts, to gain for themselves a lucrative livelihood from the seas. They expect that much from us.

I had also hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary would have taken steps to ensure that inspectors and waterkeepers who have the responsibility of supervising our rivers, would have been made permanent and pensionable servants in this measure. We expected that, since they are so closely tied up with the boards of conservators. People have deplored public suggestions that these inspectors, who have an arduous, difficult and dangerous job to perform, have not been deemed permanent and pensionable. They are directly responsible to boards of conservators and at the present time they are sadly lacking in that sense of security which they so badly require in order to discharge their duties with a full sense of responsibility.

When one considers the atmosphere in which they work, one will appreciate that they do need, above all else, a sense of security, of permanency, and of being paid adequately for a job well done. There are great temptations and dangers involved. They have not merely to safeguard the Department against poaching, but they are also subjected to threats, and violence has been done to them, as we all know. I would not thank the Parliamentary Secretary if he recognised better the value of these men by making them pensionable and permanent. Through the Chair, may I say to the Parliamentary Secretary: "Am I being unfair to you in that respect? Do I anticipate any hope of your doing this?"

There are difficulties in it. We are examining it, as I have made plain in several public statements.

Speaking of my own constituency, one inspector has the responsibility of looking after all the rivers in Counties Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny. I submit that it is a formidable task for any one man, if he is to do it adequately, to supervise the rivers in this large area. Obviously, more inspectors and more waterkeepers are required if the job is to be done properly. The Bill provides for the imposition of fines and I feel it is very desirable that people should be fined, and severely fined, for illegal practices in relation to fishing. I would, however, ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have regard to the damage done to our fishing potential by cormorants and sharks and other such pests and to make available greater bounties for the destruction of such ravagers of our waters.

As Deputy M.P. Murphy has said, there is unfortunately a disrespect for the fishing laws of our country as they are at present applied. We did expect when the new nation was formed and when we achieved native government, that many of the old, antiquated laws governing fishing would be so amended that the ordinary Irish people would have more easy access to fishing rights in their own country. While we have a situation where the moneyed people, the wealthy, the opulent, the rich, and especially people from abroad can come in here and enjoy the exclusive privilege of fishing the best waters of our country, it is understandable that the keen sportsman who is disappointed when shut off from the waters which he has a God-given right to enjoy will resort to other methods of catching fish. That is regrettable. As I say, we feel that where there is an opportunity for the Land Commission to take over water rights, they should avail of it so that our rivers will be held in trust for the nation and made available particularly to angling clubs.

It is wrong policy that these rich waters should be put up for public auction, because automatically it is some outside water baron who is usually able to purchase these rights and hold them for himself and his friends to fish them. I am not suggesting that visitors to our country for fishing purposes are not welcome. They most assuredly are; they will be welcome always and will be made happy and comfortable by the angling clubs; but it must be understood that they come here as visitors only. I repeat they will be welcome, and they will be invited back time and time again, but to preserve the best waters for them is absolutely unfair to our own people.

I repeat my earlier criticism of the Parliamentary Secretary for failing to grapple with the real issues at stake— to bring fishing within the means and the access of the ordinary people of Ireland, to make fish available in our shops and homes at reasonable prices, to assist fish vendors to present fish in a more attractive manner for our housewives, to bring more security into the lives of our fishermen around the coast, to bring about a worthwhile increase in the incomes of those engaged in fishing so that we can realise on the rich harvest that our waters are capable of producing for the benefit of our people. We should also keep in mind the extension of our territorial water rights. These are the things we feel are of primary importance, and we regret very much that the Parliamentary Secretary has thought fit only to tinker with what are very important subjects in this Bill.

This debate has somewhat widened from the original purpose of the measure before the House. The Bill itself has no pretensions to being anything other than a measure to introduce some important reforms in regard to administration of our inland fisheries. The last speaker embarked on a discussion of fisheries in general, which would be more appropriate, in my submission, to an Estimate debate.

I was not the only one guilty of that.

Certain misconceptions in the course of his speech should be corrected. First of all, the figure of 1,600 was given as the total number of people employed in our fisheries, sea and inland. That figure will have to be rejected here and now, because the actual figure is 10,512 people directly employed in our inland fisheries. As many people again are employed in the marketing, transport and processing of fish.

Full time?

Full time and part time.

And part time.

The figure of 1,600 mentioned by Deputy Treacy relates only to whole-time sea fishermen. In addition to them there are 4,800 people directly employed in inland fisheries and 4,081 employed in a part-time capacity in sea fisheries, so the total number of part-time and whole-time people employed in inland fisheries and sea fisheries comes to 10,512. As many again are employed part-time in the marketing, processing and transport of fish. So taking our inland and sea fisheries we come to a figure in the region of 20,000 directly and indirectly employed.

The Parliamentary Secretary is counting the maids who serve the fish.

These figures put the matter in a different perspective. In addition, I feel that certain misconceptions may arise as a result of attempts made to minimise the importance of the fishing industry, so far as the economy is concerned. So far this year, the figure in regard to salmon exports for the first eight months of the year is £700,000—quite a substantial figure. In addition, exports of sea fish are in the region of £1,200,000, and the income from our angling tourists comes to another £1,200,000 approximately, so the figure in relation to visible and invisible exports in regard to fish in round figures is in the region of £3,000,000.

You get in about £100,000 on the salmon levy.

A further misconception has arisen in that regard. I am glad that Deputy Flanagan has brought it to my notice. Both he and Deputy Dillon waxed rather eloquent about the salmon levy. The facts of the matter are that there has been a rising contribution year in and year out, in recent years, from the Exchequer towards the development and preservation of our salmon fisheries. In 1959-60, £18,000 was paid by way of grant to boards of conservators. In 1960-61, the figure was £18,700. In the current year, the figure stands at £26,000—a jump from £18,000 to £26,000 in the way of grants paid to boards of conservators by my Department. Of that figure of £26,000, £14,000 comes from the Exchequer. It must be emphasised that the figure is nearly twice as much as was paid from the Exchequer during the period when there was no levy on salmon exports. The figure paid by the Exchequer has doubled since the period about which Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Dillon talked. We have now a rising level of grants paid from the Exchequer, and there is also the grant paid from the levy out of the Salmon Conservancy Fund.

As I say, it is only right and proper that there should be this increased emphasis on the importance of preserving and developing an important asset such as salmon fisheries, and I wish to stress the fact that this levy from the Salmon Conservancy Fund goes in toto towards the actual protection and development of our salmon fisheries. The people who contribute towards that fund are, in fact, the main beneficiaries of the expenditure out of the fund. I see nothing at all inappropriate in that.

Apart from those remarks, the general tenor of the debate was constructive. In particular, I was glad to note some of the remarks made by Deputy Dillon, Deputy Flanagan and Deputy O'Donnell. Deputy Dillon dealt very well with the point made by Deputy Murphy in regard to the question of appropriating the various private fisheries throughout the country. That matter has been closely examined by this Government and previous Governments. As we are all aware this House already has the legislative authority to appropriate those fisheries, giving due compensation. The figure involved would be roughly £2 million, but that figure is only a little bit of the story. In addition, Deputy Dillon outlined some of the enormous costs that would be involved in preserving such a system throughout the country—the enormous administrative cost at present borne by private owners here and there, up and down the country.

When we consider the practical advantages I have already mentioned in regard to the salmon industry which has already this year, in the first eight months, gained £700,000 in the way of exports, an industry that is going ahead in the way of attracting tourists on the basis of the existing structure, we feel, and previous Governments felt also, that it simply is not justified to adopt the suggestion made by Deputy Murphy. It is just a matter of practical economics. I do not disagree with him in principle in the matter at all, but it comes down to a simple matter of economics and fixing your priorities in regard to expenditure. I feel that any such expenditure or any embarking by the State on such a complex administrative job as would be involved, should take second place to the much more important work in regard to the development of our fisheries on which we have placed priority.

A number of suggestions were made. Deputy Dillon and Deputy Flanagan in particular mentioned Sections 28 and 34 and the orders which will be made by the Minister under those sections. I can see that there is very real merit in the points made by the Deputies, and I shall give consideration to an amendment which will make it clear that any such orders must be laid before the House. I hope to introduce that on Committee Stage.

Deputy O'Donnell also made a point in regard to drift net fishermen, particularly in his own constituency. I shall look into the point he made concerning the importance of making it plain that it would be a bona fide defence in respect of landings by such fishermen that the fish were caught outside the territorial limits.

The other point made by Deputy O'Donnell is one on which I wish to reassure him. I made it clear last night when opening on this Stage, that Section 28 is in no way designed to— nor will it in any way—prejudice the interests of the existing traditional drift net fishermen who derive their livelihood from fishing around our coasts and particularly in Deputy O'Donnell's own constituency. It was for that very reason, indeed, that subsection (2) of Section 28 was inserted: to enable the Minister to except from the provision of any order made under the section "fishing in any particular place or by a particular method." Its purpose is to do exactly what Deputy O'Donnell spoke about: to protect the interest of our existing traditional fishermen. That will be done.

The purpose of the section as a whole, which is an enabling section, is to provide power to deal with any massive industrial drift net fishing off our coasts which would destroy, or attempt to destroy, or aim at destroying or damaging, our salmon stocks. That situation has arisen in Britain in recent times and we want to guard against any danger of its becoming a menace around our coast. Viewed in that light, the section will give protection for our existing traditional fishermen who will not be in any way prejudiced by its operation. Subsection (2) guarantees that they will not be prejudiced in any way in that respect.

Deputy Dillon also spoke about various Land Commission lettings of fishery rights and lettings from my Department. I can reassure him that we always give very real consideration to any tenders received from angling associations. On occasions when we have satisfied ourselves as to their strength and their repute we have given such rights to angling associations that have tendered a lower tender than some private person, and that policy will be followed.

Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Treacy both referred to the question of providing greater financial security for the staffs of boards of conservators. I have spoken on this matter on several occasions recently and at the moment we are examining this question in detail. It is not an easy matter going through each grade employed in each board and deciding on what would be appropriate and further deciding on what is practicable having regard to financial resources. Those difficulties have arisen in regard to our working out of such a scheme but I can assure the House that it is being very closely examined at the moment.

Apart from these aspects I feel there is nothing further that needs to be said beyond again emphasising the remarks made in my opening statement last night, that this Bill is designed as a further step in the protection of our inland fisheries. With that end in view, in particular, there is this tightening up of the protection of these fisheries by increased penalties for poaching offences, penalties for such reprehensible offences as poisoning or dynamiting fish; there is a provision to create a new offence in respect of using a boat, or any other vehicle or machinery of that nature in regard to a fishery offence and for the forfeiture of these articles on conviction; provisions tightening up the disposal of salmon or making it mandatory that dealings in salmon will be largely through salmon dealer and exporter channels; provisions, of course, enabling restaurants and hotels to be inspected with a view to ascertaining what fish may be in their possession. All these provisions are designed to tighten up on the poaching of salmon and on the illegal disposal of salmon. On another level there is an important provision which has been mentioned enabling regulations to be made tightening up the system of nomination and election to the boards of conservators.

As I made quite plain in the statement last night, these are only among some of the reforms which we are considering at the moment in regard to our inland fisheries. Deputy Treacy was critical of this aspect but I felt that, once we had certain reforms agreed on, after consultation with the various interested parties and associations throughout the country, it would be better to bring them before the House, have them discussed in legislative form and enacted. If I waited until all the reforms contemplated had been discussed, until all the matters had been debated with the various groups concerned, it would be Tibb's Eve before any progress would be made. I was merely being selective in bringing in agreed reforms. Many other reforms, some of which have been mentioned in the House, will, I hope, be the subject of legislative action in the not too distant future.

I wish to thank Deputies for the constructive manner in which this Bill was approached and to assure them that the points raised will be kept in mind in regard to the administration of fisheries, and the one or two particular points in regard to this Bill that were raised will be examined closely between now and the Committee Stage.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary confirm or deny that rumour?

It is only a rumour.

Which way is the rumour?

Your statement is a rumour.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee stage ordered for Wednesday, 7th November, 1962.