Last evening I did not have an opportunity of covering all the points raised during this very important debate.
Committee on Finance. - Vote 38: Fisheries (Resumed).
The ones that the Parliamentary Secretary covered, he covered four or five times.
Briefly, this morning, I shall cover the points outstanding.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary been given a new script?
Deputy Begley made a remark which I consider it important to contradict. He said that the Estimate for Fisheries was down this year. Of course, that is not true and I can only conclude from that remark that Deputy Begley has not read my introductory speech. If he had read that speech he would have realised that there is an increase of £250,000 on last year's requirements. This increase is an indication of the Government's confidence in the industry and we want to ensure that the confidence of those engaged in the industry will be sustained.
Deputy Begley referred, too, to the question of a conservation policy and he queried me as to what is this policy. Every fishery administration must, of necessity, have a conservation policy, the primary purpose of which is to ensure the rational exploitation of fishery stocks. These stocks are not inexhaustible. They must be managed in a proper manner if the species is to survive. Nothing can be more detrimental to fish stocks than overfishing which, while it may reap a bonanza in the short run, would certainly lead to a collapse in the long run. At present we can see the effects of overfishing for herrings in the North Sea. It was with a view to conservation of stocks that we succeeded in the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in having purse seine netting for herrings forbidden; this is a most efficient method but forbidden in the Dunmore East herring fisheries. Similarly, we have been instrumental in having salmon fishing in the high seas outside our national fishing limits banned totally in a sanctuary area round the UK and this country. No doubt Deputies are aware of the various bylaws on close seasons, weekly fishing times and so on, all of which measures are taken in the interest of conservation.
I might mention also that discussions have taken place between representatives of the fishermen, BIM and my Department as to what further conservation measures might be adopted. The results of these discussions are under consideration. It will be seen therefore, that we are not neglecting this vital task of conservation. On the contrary, we are very much alive to the problem, we are dealing with it in a positive way and shall continue to do so.
For how long have the result of the discussions been under consideration?
The question of pollution was raised by Deputies Blaney and Moore and also by one or two other Deputies. Pollution is a matter that is engaging public attention now. It is engaging our attention also. I think sometimes that there is a tendency to exaggerate the effects of pollution. The impression seems to be created that we are doing nothing to deal with the problem. Of course, we are very much aware of the problem and are taking steps to deal with it. There is a working arrangement between the IDA, the IIRS and my Department whereby applications to the IDA for grants towards the erection of new industries or the adaptation of existing ones are vetted at the outset from the point of view of pollution. Indeed, the IDA, in their grants structures make allowance for plant additions necessary to deal with possible pollution. All these applications are examined jointly by the IIRS and my Department and the necessary measures by way of licensing conditions, so as to avoid pollution or reduce it to tolerable levels, are agreed on. In addition, in the agricultural side of the Department, the officials in conjunction with the advisory services of the committees of agriculture have been advising the farming community on measures to avoid or minimise pollution from agricultural sources, including silage effluents. To help in this, the grants available under the scheme of building grants administered by the Department include provisions for anti-pollution measures such as provision of storage tanks. I might say also that the officers of my Department form part of a working group set up by the Minister for Local Government to examine all aspects of water and air pollution and to make recommendations as to future action. I hope that will help to relieve the anxiety expressed by Deputies regarding pollution. I can assure the House that the fisheries section are keeping a close watch on developments, with particular reference to industrial developments and the building of silage pits by the farming community which could be detrimental to fish life.
I shall not refer to inland fisheries in great detail because at the moment the Inland Fisheries Commission are sitting and we hope they will have some worthwhile suggestions to make. From personal contact with the commission I know they are doing important work and I look forward to their report. There was the usual mention in this House regarding nationalisation of our inland fisheries. This is a matter that has been mentioned frequently for many years. The Inland Fisheries Commission will give this matter their attention. One of the main points in their terms of reference is the tenure of inland fisheries and it is inevitable that the commission will consider this important matter. I await with interest their recommendations and I can assure the House that such recommendations will have a bearing on whatever decision the Government may take in the matter.
Reference was made to the restructuring of the boards of conservators. These bodies are in the main elected bodies and, therefore, they should be responsive to those interests for whom they speak. It may be that not all boards are free from defects of judgment, but in my experience they do a creditable job in looking after the fisheries within their districts. No doubt the entire conservancy system will be examined by the Inland Fisheries Commission and I shall be glad to consider any recommendations they may make on the matter. Therefore, I do not think it is necessary for me to comment on inland fisheries in great detail. We have a widely representative commission consisting of 22 members connected with all branches of inland fisheries and I look forward with confidence to the worthwhile suggestions I know they will make. It would not be proper for me to comment on this matter in great detail until the commission report.
There are many other matters with regard to the fishing industry I should like to mention but I do not want to detain the House unduly. If I have not covered all the points that have been raised by Deputies during the debate I would ask them to forgive me. If they consider they have not got adequate information they can come to me in my office, or write to me, or if they prefer they can put down Parliamentary Questions. I shall be only too pleased to give all the information possible at any time. I am sure Deputies will appreciate that in replying to such an important debate it is not easy to recall all the points made and deal with them all.