While welcoming this Bill I must express disappointment with it. I do not agree with the previous speaker when he said this will mean a massive capital investment for our fishing industry. It will do no more than keep pace with inflation and with increased costs of materials used in the building of boats and the other works in which BIM are involved. This only allows for an average increase of about £2 million a year in the borrowing of BIM. This is subject to obtaining this money from abroad. So much money has been borrowed from abroad in recent times that I foresee difficulties in having this money available. I have to express disappointment with this Bill especially when we see in the Book of Estimates a reduction of 5 per cent in the money available for this important industry.
Many speakers referred to the progress made in the fishing industry over the years and I agree with this. I was responsible for fisheries for three years and during that time I was able to assess the progress made. While I felt that progress was reasonably satisfactory I was convinced that we were only scratching the surface as far as the fishing industry and its tremendous potential was concerned. We did not make the progress we wished for mainly because of lack of finance and it is sad to see now that the necessary finance to continue the rate of expansion is to be curtailed.
This Bill will do nothing to offset that curtailment in any way. We have a tremendous resource around the coast which is crying out for development and to be exploited to its fullest extent but this Government do not intend to continue the rate of progress we were making. We hope the demand for newer and bigger boats and for more up to date equipment will continue. We hope there will still be a need to continue the expansion of our boat yards but I fear that finance is not being made available to allow that expansion to continue.
I should like to congratulate Bord Iascaigh Mhara, its chairman, staff and members of the board and all involved in the Fisheries Division for the progress we have made even if it is limited down the years. I should like to refer to the fragmentation in our fishing industry. I should like to see the work of the board expanded because it is charged with responsibility for the promotion of the sea fishing industry and if it is to do its work satisfactorily it would require to have control of many more aspects of the industry. While the board has responsibility for operating our marine credit plan and grants for new boats and the building of those boats, it has not responsibility for the training of personnel to man those boats and this is an important part of the work. When we are building bigger and better boats with better equipment it is vital that these boats be manned by experts properly trained in their use and capable of using them to maximum advantage for their own benefit and that of the industry. The board should be involved in recruiting and training future fishermen and, having got the people to man the boats, it is necessary for the board to be involved in the development of fish landing places around the coast.
Reasonable progress has been made in this connection. We have evidence, I am glad to say, that anywhere money has been invested in this aspect of the industry it has proved to be well worth while and a sound investment but there is often long delay between the time the development is planned and the fishing port is officially opened and put into use. Frequently, so much time has passed that the work is out of date before the port is fully in operation and the need is already evident for further expansion.
Because of this experience we should have no hesitation in providing money for fish landing places. No industry here has developed as quickly as the fishing industry, especially as regards exports. If one looks at the increases that have taken place one must feel very gratified. From the export point of view no industry has given the same return as the fishing industry has given and is capable of giving in the future if it gets the necessary capital.
I should like to see the board more deeply involved in the provision of fish landing places and more consultation taking place with fishermen. My experience was that this consultation was somewhat lacking and I believe the board should have more say in this aspect of the industry because if landing places with suitable facilities are not available all the other work is of little value.
This brings me to the very important matter of processing. We should process as much fish as possible at home. This would give much-needed employment in areas where it would be very welcome and it would add considerable value to the fish being exported which would be a tremendous benefit to our economy. Our processing industry has never made the progress it should have made and one of the reasons for this is that we have never been able to keep up a constant supply of fish to the factories. They always run into difficulties for want of continuity of supply, but with the development of larger boats properly manned we should be able to get over this problem. These larger, better-equipped vessels could go to sea in the most difficult weather conditions and stay out much longer and bring back much larger catches of fish and this would help to ensure that the processing industry would make the progress we all want to see in the years ahead.
The boat building aspect of Bord Iascaigh Mhara is also very important and I should like the boat building capacity to be increased and the yards extended so that we could meet at home the demand for boats. We know that many more fishermen would buy their boats if it were possible for them to do so. There is a waiting list, or they are compelled to go abroad to make their purchases. We know from experience that this can create difficulties. It would be much better if we could cater for them at home. It would give much needed employment in areas where it is most needed.
Therefore I regret the curtailment in the amount of money being spent in this industry, that a board as important as BIM would not be able to continue at the rate of expansion, even the limited rate of expansion, we have had during the years. I do not say this for party political reasons but because of my sincere wish that the fishing industry would continue to develop.
In Waterford we have one of the major fishery harbours, Dunmore East. There are many other fish landing places along that coast which are in need of development. We have Cheek Point, Passage, Dunnabrattin, Helvick and Ardmore. Dunnabrattin is one which could be developed to the advantage of all concerned. Many new boats have been put into use there in recent times, many of them provided through Bord Iascaigh Mhara loans and grants, and it is sad to say that because of the lack of facilities proper use cannot be made of these boats. Because of the damage done by storms, particularly during this winter, the people there are unable to continue to use the bigger boats they now have and it is vital that the landing facilities be improved immediately. If that is not done the fishermen there will find themselves going backwards.
We need not be afraid to invest money in this aspect of the industry. Anywhere money was invested in this work it proved to be worthwhile expenditure and created a demand for more and more investment in improving landing facilities. Therefore I submit that money must be made available quickly, whether by way of Supplementary Estimate or otherwise, for this work. If the confidence of the industry is not to be undermined there must be massive investment as quickly as possible.
Resource development and research were mentioned. This is a very important aspect of BIM. Perhaps we have had some overlapping in this work and this should be avoided as much as possible. My point is that more money must be spent on this aspect of the industry because in order to exploit these resources around our shores we must have research and resource development.
The benefits negotiated for us on EEC entry will be coming up for review and I am sure this will take into account the use we have been making of our fisheries. I am afraid that if we are not prepared to develop them ourselves, others will do it for us, to their, not to our, advantage. Therefore we should set out a programme of developing this vital industry as quickly as possible.
Before I left the Fisheries Division I set out a programme of future expansion which would entail considerable investment. Today I regret that we are going into reverse and I do not think any Deputy in the House realises that more than the Parliamentary Secretary. He should be prepared to take into account the views of Deputies who spoke this morning from his own benches, each one seeking greater investment in the fishing industry, suggesting that development should and must take place. There was a special plea from the Parliamentary Secretary's constituency by Deputy O'Sullivan.
I appreciate keenly that if the Parliamentary Secretary found it possible he would expand the fishing industry. Therefore he must use all his influence and power to bring home to the Government the importance of the industry and the need for more investment in it. I know this is a difficult task for him but I urge him to introduce a Supplementary Estimate if necessary to get the vital funds made available for this great industry which is so vital to the parts of our country where there is no alternative employment, the western seaboard.
I should like to couple with my comments on the necessary improvement of fish landing places the difficulties in getting fish to market, the transport problems. A promotional body like BIM should interest themselves more in this side of the industry — getting the fish to market in good quality and the presentation of it in the market. The roads from many of our fishing ports are in a deplorable condition, not fit for use by the bigger lorries now necessary for fish transport. This applies to the entire country. Money is needed for the improvement of these roads if our fish catches are to be transported efficiently to markets.
Today we are agreeing to increase the borrowing powers of BIM. This will all have been done for nothing if we continue to neglect some of the areas in this industry. I make this point with particular regard to landing places and the facilities available there, the need to have sheds and storage places in which fishermen can look after their gear during bad weather conditions. Bad weather involves loss of fishing time. It is at times of bad weather that fishermen would need facilities to improve and maintain their gear. Suitable facilities for this work should be provided at landing places. Toilet facilities should also be provided. There should be efficient transport to markets. Therefore I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who has a particular interest in fishing and who is aware of the problems, to bring home to the Government the folly of neglecting this important industry.
It is essential to progress that fishermen should be properly organised. They are not so organised at the present time. In this respect An Bord Iascaigh Mhara can play a very important part. They are close to the fishermen and work with them in trying to improve their lot. We must ensure that fishermen are organised and are given every facility to organise. There must be constant consultation. I regret the slow progress in the establishment of producer organisations. I do not know the reason for it. Organisation is vital to the proper operation of the industry within the EEC. If advantage is to be taken of membership of the EEC, organisation must be achieved quickly. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House what the present position is, what steps he is taking and what progress he has made in this direction. I do not see that any progress is being made. I should like every fisherman to be in an organisation because he would then be in a better position to look after his own interests and the interests of the industry.
There should be proper distribution of fish to inland towns and villages. Those of us who live inland know the problem of getting fresh fish there. It is desirable to increase home consumption of fish but this cannot be done without regular supply so that the housewife knows that she can get good quality fish in fresh condition.
I should like to pay tribute to BIM for the wonderful part they have played in publicising the advantages of fish and the proper presentation of fish. A great deal more could be done in this direction if more money were available to BIM for this purpose. Lack of finance inhibits progress.
Fisheries protection has been referred to. This is a matter of vital importance to the industry. Reference has been made down through the years to the lack of proper protection for the industry. The money that has been invested in the industry and the money we are voting here today will count for very little if the industry is not protected. For proper protection there should be a fisheries protection vessel at each major fishing port. The protection vessels must be available on call when foreign boats are within our limits. If the boat has to travel a long distance there is the danger that radio messages will be picked up and the foreign boats can be outside our limits by the time the protection vessel arrives at the scene. Dunmore East is one harbour where a protection vessel should be based during the herring season. I can see no problem in having this arranged.
Fishery protection should come under the auspices of a Department of Fisheries and not under the Department of Defence. At least, a Department of Fisheries should have a say in the operation of the protection vessels. There is too much fragmentation with regard to this important industry. I would agree with the suggestion, which I also have made, that there should be a Ministry of Fisheries. There is great need for development of the industry and it is vital that the various elements of the industry should be brought under one umbrella. Marine works and problems of pollution could be dealt with by a Ministry of Fisheries. I do not wish to develop this point now. I make passing reference to it in the context of the fragmentation that exists in the industry. The Office of Public Works are involved in estimating harbour works and in the execution of the work. Local authorities are involved in the financing and maintenance of the work. All this leads to delay which can mean that a scheme is out of date by the time it is completed. In Killybegs boats are tied up in the harbour, sometimes five and six deep, with the result that the fishermen have lost their livelihood because of the overcrowding. If all these matters could be put under one umbrella we would do much better.
There is much duplication and overlapping of work in the fishing industry. I know the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious to do as good a job as possible for the fishing industry, not merely because it is a matter of concern to his constituents. He is doing everything possible to get the necessary finance but a separate Department is essential. A Minister has access to the Cabinet table when decisions are being made, but a Parliamentary Secretary has not this access and must depend on his Minister to speak for him. The fishing industry is too important to the economy to allow this situation to continue.
It is time to take a hard look at the industry and to see where we are going. I acknowledge that progress has been made during the years; in the circumstances it could be described as tremendous progress having regard to the finance available to the industry. I have experience of this matter and I realise we are only scratching the surface of the enormous potential of the fishing industry. However, we are now going into reverse; we are cutting the finance available and curtailing the activities of the industry. This measure will do nothing to improve the situation. There has been a cut of 5 per cent and this must be regretted. At a time of galloping inflation and with increased costs in all directions, it is obvious that this important industry has suffered a great set-back. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to do all he can to ensure that money is found so that at the very least the rate of progress will be maintained.
Our fishermen have been badly hit by the increased cost of oil. Other countries have come to the assistance of their fishermen to help them survive the present economic situation but I am afraid the Parliamentary Secretary has done nothing to help the people in the industry here. I appeal to him to help them in their desperate plight; otherwise it will take them years to recover from the present situation. We are in the EEC and we have a tremendous market advantage but we must keep up constant supplies to that market and we must develop our processing industries. Consequently a massive investment in fishing is needed to ensure that there will be a future for the industry. Instead of that we have cut back at a vital time and the people are losing heart and confidence. They are crying out for assistance but it is not forthcoming.
The Parliamentary Secretary has been in office for two years and I realise it is not easy for him to accept a curtailment in the activities of the industry for which he is responsible. Therefore I would ask him to listen to us and to Deputies on his side who have applied to him. I would ask him to do everything possible to ensure that the Government wake up to their responsibility, that they know of the injury they are inflicting on the industry. Although the industry may not have developed to the extent we would have wished, nevertheless there has been quite considerable progress during the years.
When the review clause provided for in the negotiations and in the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities is being considered it will look very bad if our fishing industry has not made the progress we claimed it would make. We based our arguments with regard to the retention of our fishing limits on the statement that this was an expanding industry and we had evidence to back up that statement. When the matter comes up for review, if it is shown we are not making progress, that we are going backwards, that the Government have no confidence in the industry and are not prepared to give it the necessary finance, I am afraid we will not be able to repeat the same argument and we will not be as successful as we were previously.
It is vital that we are seen to have made the progress we claimed we would make and that we make available the necessary investment so that the industry will survive. If we have not the finance, let the Government be honest and say so. They should seek the necessary funds from the EEC or elsewhere. What we have got from the Regional Fund will do nothing for us in this matter. It is only a paltry sum and is less than what we rejected 12 months ago. It was not enough then and it is not enough now. We must get money from some source if we are to ensure that this vital industry continues to make reasonable progress.
I appeal once more to the Parliamentary Secretary to impress on the Government the need to have money made available for this very important industry. The investment will be a sound one and there will be a good return on it. We have proved this is so down through the years. This industry was handed over to the present Government in a flourishing condition. It was perhaps not making progress at the rate at which we would like it to be, but nevertheless it was making progress. They have the responsibility to ensure that that progress will be continued.