When the debate was adjourned I was referring to herring fisheries. This question was raised in particular by Deputy Esmonde. We all realise how valuable the herring is, that it is possibly the most valuable species of fish. I can assure Deputy Esmonde that I share his concern in regard to conservation measures necessary for the Celtic Sea area. This question was thrown up some years ago when our scientific advisers informed us it was necessary to take steps to ensure that our herring stocks would not be overfished and, consequently, we had, in conjunction with other members of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, agreed on a quota system for the herring fisheries in the Celtic Sea.
The total allowable quota to all countries entitled to fish in the Celtic Sea was 32,000 tons; our share of that quota last year was 18,000 tons; the others had 14,000 jointly. This year, unfortunately, the advice was more unfavourable in regard to conservation than in the previous year, and the Commission decided at their recent meeting to reduce the allowable quota for all countries to 25,000 tons, and of that quota we were allocated 14,000 tons. We expressed our disappointment through our representatives on the commission and we voted no on the commission's proposal. We have requested the chairman of the NEAFC to review the position if at all possible, and we hope that as a result our quota of 14,000 tons will be increased for the year commencing 1st April, 1976; we have to deal a year in advance with these matters. Therefore, I can assure Deputies that the Department are mindful of our herring fisheries position. We realise their value and are doing everything possible to ensure that other countries who have the right to fish, particularly in the Celtic Sea, will not, as indicated by Deputy Esmonde, overfish their quotas.
The Deputy was worried about how we could ascertain whether the returns we get from the Netherlands or from France or Germany are correct and factual. We have to depend on our counterparts in the Department of Fisheries of the different countries. We expect that their reports are factual and truthful, and possibly they could question whether our reports were factual and truthful. In any case, we must, as members of the Commission, accept the good faith of the other members. As far as Ireland is concerned, we always give factual returns of our herring fisheries and we in turn expect that the States reporting to us will likewise give factual and truthful information.
Deputies Geoghegan and O'Connor were worried about landing rights and public lighting particularly at small ports. This may seem a small question, but I agree it can be a source of worry to fishermen and naturally, we would like to be as helpful as possible. The lighting of such ports would be a matter for the local authorities concerned, and any recommendations we get on the desirability of providing landing rights or public lighting on a pier we shall be only too pleased to take up with the appropriate authorities and see what can be done about it.
We are taking appropriate steps in regard to research in the erection of a laboratory and two field stations. We have plans for two new research vessels. We expect to have them within the next two years.
Fish farming is being actively researched at present by the Department, BIM and commercial interests. This is a rather complex question as I am sure Deputy Gallagher appreciates. There is a possibility that it could be a valuable fishery. All the necessary steps are being taken to discover its potential. Fish farming is in its infancy and we are trying to get more comprehensive reports. As soon as the information is available to the Department and we can formulate our policy on fish farming. Deputies can be assured it will be circulated.
I appreciate the welcome extended to this Bill by Deputies from both sides of the House. BIM provide grants for the purchase of boats. The advancement of loans is possibly one of their most important functions. For some time I held views on the availability of such money to skippers for the purchase of boats. The provision of public funds carries with it obligations. These boats are used by share fishermen, the skipper getting one, two, three or four shares, so many shares for the boat and one share for each deckhand. It has come to my notice that some of the deckhands never see the returns made by certain boats. On pay night, Friday or Saturday night, they get an envelope with, say, £28.71 marked on the envelope and no information as to how that figure was arrived at. I deplore that type of system. It is not right. BIM should stipulate, when approving grants and loans, that when fishermen are fishing in a share system every man is entitled to see the documentation and returns. He is entitled to know where the fish is sold, how it was sold and particularly the returns for all fish caught. I hope it may not be necessary to refer to this question again, and that our comments today will bring such a system to an end.
We in the Department are as interested in the welfare of the ordinary deckhand as the skipper, the manager or senior executive of a processing plant. We are particularly mindful of the position of individual deckhands. Some of them are afraid to demand their rights, because possibly the making of such demands would ensure their dismissal. This should not happen in the Ireland of 1974. Again, I repeat, I hope this system will end this year.