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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Jul 1983

Vol. 344 No. 8

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1983: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main purpose of this Bill is to prevent owners of Spanish fishing vessels who have resorted to registering their vessels in the United Kingdom and have now been excluded from British waters and ports from transferring their operations to our waters and using Irish ports as bases for their activities. Prior to the extension of the fishing limits of EEC member states in 1977, several hundred Spanish vessels fished extensively in the waters around Ireland, Britain and France. Since then the activities of Spanish vessels have been greatly curtailed under an EEC-Spanish fishing agreement and at present only about 100 Spanish vessels are permitted to fish in the fishery limits of member states. Spanish fishing in Irish waters can only take place outside a box the limits of which are at least 50 miles from the Irish coast.

In an attempt to find a way around the EEC-Spanish agreement a number of Spanish companies transferred the registration of some 60 vessels to Britain through the setting up of British companies. Once registered in Britain those vessels enjoyed the same fishing rights as other UK fishing vessels and were at liberty to fish in our waters to the same extent as UK boats — mainly up to 12 miles from our shores. In order to stop the practice of transferring registration the British Government enacted legislation whereby British registered vessels could not fish within British limits or land catches in the UK unless their crews consisted of at least 75 per cent of EEC nationals.

As a result, the operators of the vessels in question have indicated their intention of transferring their fishing activities to Irish waters and using Irish ports as bases from which their vessels' catches would be transported to Spain. Deputies will no doubt be aware of the recent controversy over the activities of one such operator in County Clare and the hostile reaction from the fishing industry here. As Minister for Fisheries I cannot tolerate a situation where a fishing fleet which uses the device of re-registering in another Community member state to circumvent EEC regulations should be able to fish in Irish waters while it is not allowed to fish in the waters of the nominal flag state. Apart from considerations of principle, the increased concentration of fishing effort in our waters by such a fleet would undoubtedly harm stocks of fish on which we ourselves would hope to expand our own fishing in the future. Claims have been made that landings by such vessels in Ireland would make a significant contribution to the economy in general and to the local economy in the vicinity of the ports concerned in particular but the experience with their operations from ports in Britain in the past few years does not bear out such claims.

The Government, therefore, are promoting the present Bill to enable me to make regulations which would debar vessels registered in an EEC member state which are not in my view bona fide from fishing, landing or trans-shipping in Irish waters in the same way that the ex-Spanish vessels re-registered in the UK have been excluded from British waters. At present I would envisage the test of the bona fide status of other member states' vessels to be the nationality of their crews which has been adopted as the criterion in the recent UK measures but the Bill affords me a certain latitude in framing regulations to take account of other developments that may occur in the future.

In order to ensure that the measures just referred to are not in their turn circumvented by attempts to re-register large numbers of ex-Spanish vessels here, it is proposed to strengthen and extend the present system of licensing of fishing vessels which qualify as Irish fishing vessels and to make the holding of such a licence a prior condition for registration of fishing vessels as Irish registered for the future. Powers are also being taken to enable the Minister for Transport to revoke the registration of a fishing vessels in respect of which I withhold or cancel a fishing licence and to enable the Government to exclude fishing vessels from the reciprocal registration arrangements currently being operated with a number of countries including the UK. All of those measures that I have just outlined will of course also enable the Government to reserve the benefits of EEC quotas allocated to Ireland under the Common Fisheries Policy to bona fide Irish fishermen and prevent wholesale re-registration here by other member state vessels merely to take advantage of our quotas.

The opportunity is being taken of this Bill being before the House to introduce a specific provision which will enable me to copperfasten under our law the access arrangements agreed under the common fisheries policy in January last. The present position is that the six-and 12-mile limits around our coast provided for under those arrangements are in operation under existing legislative provisions but the Government consider it prudent to spell out more clearly their powers of enforcement and the not inconsiderable penalties for non-compliance with the limits laid down.

Furthermore, the present wording in the Fisheries Acts which enables me to adopt conservation measures in respect of fisheries is considered unduly restrictive in that it limits such conservation measures to measures of conservation which are also measures of rational exploitation of fisheries. I am, therefore, proposing a more flexible form of wording in this Bill.

There is an internationally agreed ban on fishing for salmon beyond the 12-mile limit and there is some doubt at present as to whether we can implement this under our own legislation and whether sea-fisheries protection officers are empowered to enforce it. I am, therefore, proposing to replace the existing wording in the relevant part of the legislation with a more flexible working which will enable me to provide by order for this. This new wording will also enable me to apply controls to boats connected with the fishing industry such as transporters and vessels which carry out processing operations on board. The need for such controls has become evident from recent experience with the expanded mackerel fishery where much of the processing has taken place in floating factories.

I am sure that Deputies on all sides will share my desire to have the measures outlined enacted into law with all speed and I recommend this Bill to the House.

The Bill before the House today has been promised for some time and, apart entirely from the recent controversy which has been raging in regard to landing of catches throughout the country, boats and the threat from the Spanish fleet which has been operating in the south west, there has been concern generally and widespread anxiety in the industry about some of the developments within the Community especially in recent times. It would appear now that the legislation may well be overtaken by events in the Community and may be a little too late to deal with the situation developing within the Community. I want to highlight the recent efforts by the Community to bargain away fish from our waters to the Norwegians. This is a total capitulation on the Common Fisheries Policy; and the agreement on that policy which took so long to reach at such enormous expense of time and energy seems to be broken before the ink on it is dry. That is a very retrograde step, a fraud for the Community to be interfering already with the agreement on the CFP by granting or attempting to grant rights in our waters to states outside the Community, rights which they never had. I appeal to the Minister to be vigilant. He will be assured of our support if he stands up to the Community in any efforts which may be made to water down the Common Fisheries Policy agreement which was signed so recently.

We have said at the outset that we will support the Government in legislation which will consolidate the Irish fishing industry, but this legislation has some objectionable features on which we need clarification if we are to give it our total support. Generally speaking, I find the measure vague, riddled with loopholes and not very specific in a number of key areas. In all probability quite a few of the big fish will escape unless the sections can be tightened up and made more specific in relation to what form of regulation the Minister proposes to introduce. In many ways this legislation gives the Minister power to do anything or, indeed, to do nothing. It would be desirable that many of the regulations which the Minister intends to make — and I have no doubt of his sincerity when he says that he will make these regulations — should be written clearly into the Bill, otherwise the firm basis and firm time limits should be specified within the Bill to ensure that these regulations will be brought in within a specified period or a certain time.

We have an explanatory memorandum now which we did not have until today, but the Bill can be seen as a complicated measure involving a number of Acts and sections of various Acts which are already in existence. Section 2 appears to give the Minister authority to license all Irish boats except perhaps the smaller boats. I would like the Minister to identify clearly in his reply how he proposes to classify these and if, for instance, under this legislation it would be necessary to license a boat which might be used by deep sea anglers in angling competitions. I am also concerned at the amount of bureaucracy and red tape likely to be generated as a result of this legislation and the regulations, classifications and whatever may be introduced. Further complications may arise in that licences may be subject to time limits and must be renewed. Certain boats can apply for exemptions. For instance, will there be exemptions for small fishing curraghs such as are used by traditional salmon fisherman? Must they be licensed under this? Will rowing boats which are used by bigger boats as an accessory to the activities of the bigger boats be exempt?

Further, I would object if I felt that there was any suggestion in this new licensing arrangement that the measure would be used as a vehicle for the collection of further revenue for the State. We would want some assurance from the Minister that it would not be used for that purpose. If any licence fees are to be attached to the issue of these licences for fishing boats we would require that these would be merely nominal and certainly not used as a method of raising further finances. The fishing industry is going through pretty difficult times at present with enormous problems in meeting loan repayments and so on and imposition of licence duties would be a further hardship on an already hard hit industry.

It appears to me that section 3 covers all the boats of every member state and what is causing most concern is the provision whereby the Minister is seeking the power to establish regulations which will govern the operations of these boats, including the Spanish boats. Anyone who looks at this section will see that it is clearly wide open and dependent entirely on what regulations the Minister makes. The Minister's recent statement indicated that the legislation itself would specify very clearly the percentage of crew members, who would have to be EEC nationals operating on these fishing boats. This is not indicated in the Bill. The Minister may well say that the UK brought in legislation similar to this and in that UK legislation something like 75 per cent of the crews of these boats had to be EEC nationals. There is nothing in the Bill before the House which says that 75 per cent of the crews in our situation must be EEC nationals. It is important to be specific here. The legislation on its own will do nothing to avoid the situation which has been developing and which is being highlighted. The threat from the Norwegian boats which is now emerging and perhaps a further threat of a Danish invasion of the north west mackerel stock leaves us in a very vulnerable position and our industry at risk. The situation must be amended and strengthened here and at least the regulations should be drafted and introduced with the legislation and shown to us here if the Minister is serious about the situation. While the Minister's intentions are good, in strict terms the Bill before us at present will do nothing to deal with the situation. It is important that the regulations be introduced so as to give us an indication of what the Minister has in mind. If he is not in a position to do that now, at least early on Committee Stage we should get an indication from the Minister that he has a firm date in mind for the introduction of the regulations. I believe the British regulations were brought in immediately after the passage of the Bill.

The fine of £100,000 is inadequate. It should be at least £200,000 and there should be power to order the forfeiture of the boat, the final decision as to how the boat should be disposed of resting with the Minister.

Section 4 refers to various sections of other Acts and would appear to cover the question of freezer ships. Would it be possible to license the freezers and will boats which are trans-shipping fish to unlicensed freezers be subject to penalties or apprehension?

The authority of the Naval Service in relation to salmon protection outside the 12-mile zone is very important and it is useful that the Minister is availing of this opportunity to clear up any doubts which may have arisen on this matter.

I have always been concerned about the level of fishing activity for salmon, especially in the Faroes by the Norwegians. These are Irish salmon which are being taken and conservation measures are needed to deal with escalation of fishing activity in that general area. The Faroese are now engaging in salmon fishing to a far greater extent than heretofore. I know that conservation measures have been introduced but I am not satisfied that a sufficient effort is being made to ensure that these measures are being adequately enforced. What evidence has the Minister of the efforts being made to check on the fishing activities of the Norwegians and the Faroese? Our stocks are being seriously damaged. There has been criticism that our own industry is damaging stocks by the use of illegal nets off the west coast generally, but untold damage is being done by the Norwegians and the Faroese.

Successive Ministers worked out detailed measures in the Community to control the activities of the Faroese but it is not clear that the regulations are being enforced or how they could be enforced to minimise damage. This is an area which needs close observation and monitoring and I am not satisfied that we can rely totally on the protection services and on the records from other member states to be sure that stocks are not being further damaged and threatened. We should demand action in regard to the activities of the Norwegians and the Faroese who are now taking Irish salmon and causing further depletion of our stocks, in spite of the fact that they have no traditional rights in that area. This must be resisted within the Community and, if necessary, taken up outside the Community.

Section 6 covers the activities of fishing boats from member states of the Community within the six to 12 mile band. The Minister appears to be empowered to regulate the activities of member states who have traditional rights in this area. I endeavoured when Minister to negotiate with the French Government to get them to withdraw or at least freeze their rights in the six to 12 mile band, especially in the Galway Bay area. I was disappointed that the present Minister did not hold out against the French in the days leading to the agreement on a Common Fisheries Policy. I know that the Minister and his officials would have done so and would have been prepared to take a very firm stand against the French authorities had they got the full and wholehearted backing of the Taoiseach and the Government when the policy was being finalised. Anyone who was following the events during the final days of the discussions on the CFP knows that pressure was put on the Minister to agree to the draft which was before the Council of Ministers. Secret messages were passing from Ministers of member states to the Government here over the head of our own Minister and unnecessary pressure was put on him. Had he been left to himself, the Minister would have succeeded in getting the French out of Galway Bay or at least in freezing the French rights there.

I was particularly interested in freezing the prawn fishing by the French off the Aran Islands. This is a valuable prawn fishing area and the French recognise the fact. This is the reason they were so adamant in holding on to their rights and establishing them under the CFP. While the opportunity has been lost of getting the French out of Galway Bay under the CFP, nevertheless if the Norwegians can insist on a quota for blue whiting we can equally insist on getting the French out of the Galway Bay area. We will certainly support any efforts by the Minister to achieve this. I know the French have traditional rights and that they are entitled under various conventions and agreements to retain these rights, but if people who have no rights are getting Community backing to establish such rights we can argue for Community support in freezing or minimising activity within our six to 12 mile band.

I have always been more interested in the prevention of illegal fishing activities rather than the imposition of fines. Imposing fines after the damage has been done is not a solution. In relation to foreign trawlers, fines are certainly not a deterrent because they have a pool to pay the fines so that there is no special hardship on individual boats. This should be watched carefully by the Minister and he should investigate whether this pool system is in operation with the support of governments' financial backing which would enable third country boats to fish illegally knowing that the fines will be paid for them. We should investigate whether this pool system is being contributed to by the fleets. If there is any suggestion that third country governments might financially back up such a pool system it should be raised at the highest level in the Community.

Applying higher penalties in these cases is realistic. However, I do not think fines are sufficiently high. I should like to know whether forfeiture of boats provided for in this Bill will apply to all boats of all member countries, including Irish boats. If it applies to Irish boats the Minister should look carefully to make provision for exemptions to ensure that he will have the final say in forfeiture proceedings:

They are some of the objections we have to this measure. It is no use passing the Bill today or tomorrow unless essential regulations are made. When the British Government brought in their legislation they made their regulations the next day. In relation to the regulations proposed here, we would need information from the Minister about how soon the regulations will be brought into effect. Under this section I think the Eirenova operation in Castletownbere will now be illegal. What are the Minister's intentions in relation to that? Is it his intention to close down that operation? Will the regulations allow the setting up of joint ventures or will the regulations be phased in over a period? Although we may make provision to cover the situation in Castletownbere, there may be a loophole to allow similar situations to develop elsewhere. We need to be quite clear and specific about this so that we will not have any doubts about it and that we will not be back here in a few weeks to tighten the situation further because it may have begun to get out of control.

There are some general comments I should like to make about the industry and particularly about salmon, which is covered in the Bill. No volume of legislation or imposition of penalties in an effort to conserve stocks will be of any use unless there is goodwill and co-operation between the fishermen and the Government and the conservation services. Conservation measures are an essential part of the future of our salmon fishing, but in relation to recent events and the clashes that have taken place between fishermen and the inspection service, no useful purpose can be served by that type of confrontation. Order and goodwill must be restored. I appeal to those involved in the recent clashes on the south-west and north-west coasts to stand back from this type of confrontation and try to work for conservation of stocks in the interests of the fishermen themselves. This should be done by consultation and communication. The fishermen have responsibilities but equally the conservation staff must be sensitive to the pressures surrounding the fishermen and ensure there will be co-operation and dialogue.

In relation to the Common Fisheries Policy, the Community are at a crossroads because a Common Fisheries Policy will be the cornerstone of future fishery development in the Community as well as of our fishery development. However, the actions which the Community have already engaged in are making the Common Fisheries Policy into a Phil the Fluther's Ball over there, with the herring dancing in the middle. If the Community continue with the stance they are now adopting, becoming involved in trading and bargaining before the Common Fisheries Policy has been given an opportunity to become established, the whole Community policy in relation to fishing will collapse around the Community's ears. If that trend is to be allowed to continue we here must be ready with our own national fisheries development plan and if necessary to back that up with our own national measures.

For many years we have been making speeches here, the Government have backed up the industry financially and otherwise, but now we need clearly defined policy to enable the industry to expand. We need to link the fish catching sector with the processors and those involved in marketing and selling. We need to do this fairly soon. We need investment to enable that development to occur. Overall fisheries development can make an enormous contribution to the national economy. We have got tired of repeating this, we have said it so many times. The Government must provide the financial support, but I do not see any evidence of Government commitment yet. As I said, if the Community are not prepared to accept their responsibility we must be prepared to go ahead with our own national policy to safeguard our position and to enable our own industry to expand and develop. I should like to see more specific information before us from the Minister rather than having this loophole measure which can be implemented only if the regulations are there.

I will confine myself to specific points because many other Deputies are anxious to contribute and many Deputies have remained here on this lovely morning to hear the debate. I welcome the Bill, but it is a guarded welcome. As Deputy Daly has pointed out, there is too much emphasis on regulations rather than legislation. We would like to see hard and fast rules written into the Bill so that they will be there for all to see, and if anybody dares to challenge them, on their heads be it. I thank the Minister for listening to Deputies who raised this on the Order of Business and by way of Private Notice Questions and I am glad the Government had the courage to introduce this Bill. I certainly think it was check for Deputy Daly to criticise the Taoiseach's Common Fisheries Policy when he must know that it was Deputy Brian Lenihan who got rid of our 50-mile limit which Deputy Garret FitzGerald secured as Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is cheek on the part of Deputy Daly to come in now and express reservations about the alleged failures of the Taoiseach when the failures lie squarely at the feet of Deputy Lenihan.

I am disappointed with the Bill on some points. First, I am disappointed that all United Kingdom registered Spanish vessels are not excluded. I thought that would be copperfastened in this Bill. Secondly, I hoped that no new registrations would be permitted. Thirdly, I hoped Irish registered Spanish vessels would be allowed a phasing out period. There is a very serious lacuna in the Bill which could perhaps be remedied on Committee Stage. I refer to the fact that there is no provision that 75 per cent of the crew should be of the EEC. I realise that could be counter-productive. We could have 75 per cent of the crew Greeks. Everyone knows they would work for £70 a month and that could defeat the argument. At the same time something like that should be included in the Bill.

This is a national issue. It is not a parochial issue and I would hate anyone to think that, because of the reservations I have, I am against any part of the country. In view of the fact that Spanish boats were going to use certain ports, such as Caherciveen, Castletownbere, Cappagh, County Clare, and possibly some ports in Donegal, I hope my comments will not be taken as my being against the Bill.

We have a national fish stock. We are the country in the EEC with the finest fish stock and it should be the intention of every Member to preserve that fish stock for Irish fishermen. If the fish are caught outside it does not matter under what flag they are caught. They cannot come in if they are caught outside because they are running a limited amount of fish there. The issue I am really concerned about is that of the Spanish involvement. Who is behind these new companies? Is it the Spanish Government? Are they subsidising them? Is it not well known that Spain has applied for membership of the EEC and the minute she gets in her biggest asset will be her fishing fleet? She has the biggest fishing fleet of all the EEC countries. If they can get a substantial quota now of fish caught in Irish waters they can demand that same quota. They can demand even more. Who will suffer? The Irish fisherman. He will be deprived of his bread and butter. That is why this issue is so very sensitive. I am wondering about the forces behind this operation and I hope the Minister will carry out a thorough investigation into how those companies are set up and from whence comes the share capital. Is it from the Westminster Bank, a Swiss Bank or a Spanish Bank?

I am convinced it is in Spain's national interest to use these flags of convenience. They were kicked out of British waters. The House of Commons sat until 4 o'clock in the morning to get the legislation through because they got wind of what was happening. They "copped on". I have another reservation with regard to the extra powers the Minister intends to give to some fishery interests. I told the Minister he is now deciding whether Irish fishermen will survive. Over 70 Spanish boats flying the British flag of convenience were kicked out of Cork. It is well known now that those 70 trawlers are fishing 70 and 80 miles out off our coast. It is also well known that these boats are now heading for Spain with their catches. That is being monitored as fish caught in Irish territorial waters. These are the tonnages — paper tonnages perhaps — the Spanish Government will present when their membership is being finalised in Brussels.

Why are those Spanish trawlers allowed to fish at will 70 and 80 miles out off our coast? Is it because our corvettes are too busy watching Irish fishermen catching a few salmon here and there? Is it because the Spaniards know the corvettes are only three or four miles out? Is that the reason these Spaniards have a licence to fish? By the time the corvette goes out they are gone out of range. It was very significant last week that in a surprise run by one of the corvettes three Spanish trawlers were caught 90 miles out. How many more were further out? Our fishermen will tell you that 12 and 14 miles out they can pick up the Spaniards on their radios and those radios have a range of only 80 or 90 miles which means that those they are picking up are within our territorial waters. It is disappointing that the Irish Naval Service or the Department of Fisheries do not concentrate as much as they should on those poachers. The fish these people are after are monk fish and if one looks at the catches of monk fish and hake over the last three years one finds the amount caught by Irish fishermen has doubled. Even if we did not reach our quota and the British did not reach their quota in the last two or three years, it is only a matter of time before Irish fishermen will have a quota of monk fish and hake. The other fish are not there. When we had a 50-mile zone in 1975 and 1976 Irish catches of white, prime fish rose out of all proportion, sole, black sole, plaice and so on. The moment the 50-mile limit was abolished that fish became rarer and rarer.

I would appeal to the Minister with all the sincerity I can command that the extra powers he seeks for fishery officers be defined in this Bill. I would subscribe to the sentiments expressed by Deputy Daly — nobody wants a war between Irish fishermen and the Irish navy. I would take this opportunity of appealing to the fishermen. I have no time for fishermen who go to the water with guns. I condemn that unreservedly. It is not good enough. There is only one law in this land, that is the law of the land and that covers everything. At the same time I would ask the Minister to be somewhat compassionate in so far as some of these fishermen are concerned. Any of us who plays football or hurling knows that if one gets a belt on a field one waits for one's chance to give a belt back. That is the Irish tradition, one does not turn the other cheek; one waits for one's chance to put the boot in and hopes one is not seen. That is the reality of the situation. I am advocating some common sense, guidance, some counselling. Neither do I think it good enough for officers of the corvettes to give the thumbs-up sign to the fishermen because that amounts to agitation. That is not good enough. It is provocative.

There is much talk at present about illegal nets. That is why I want the Minister to define for me the extra powers he is seeking in this Bill for fishery officers. Those illegal nets are for sale all over the country; they can be bought in any shop. Those nets are not banned at all in other countries. One might well make the point: why are not they banned in Scotland, in Norway, in France or in Spain? Have we an Irish solution to an Irish problem? I would appeal to the Minister to examine the order he made about those nets, take a close, hard look at it and have the same standard here as obtains in the rest of the EEC countries. There is no point in our undertaking all the conservation if suction trawlers can suck in the salmon in the Faroes, if the Norwegians can come in and take them off the Donegal coast. They do not even use nets; they have suction trawlers. If we are to have conservation let it apply right across the board. The fishermen are not criminals, far from it. Furthermore I hate to see it presented in the media that these fishermen are earning £80,000 a week. I would love to meet a fisherman who earned £80,000 a week because I know there is no way that they earn that amount. I do not know from where this mythical figure emanated. These fishermen have a tough life, out to sea at 5 o'clock in the morning and perhaps not returning until 10 o'clock at night. Most will have mortgages on their houses and repayments on their boats. Now, because of the means test for eligibility for the dole, the few shillings they received in bad weather is no longer forthcoming. They are subjected to tremendous pressures.

I would appeal to the Minister to take a close, hard look at what is happening around the south west and Donegal coasts. I am sure that every Member of this House who has spoken on behalf of our fishermen knows what he is talking about. Probably they will have known their fathers and mothers. None of them is a criminal. It should be remembered that 200 years ago an Irishman was hanged if he took a salmon from the landlord's pool. Is it to go on record now that the Irish navy will shoot an Irishman for catching the same salmon? That is why I am worried about the extra powers being conferred under the provisions of this Bill for the Navy.

Let us examine the history of the Navy. Their history so far as the gun is concerned has not been too good since 1959. They appear to have been trigger-happy. They shot at fishermen in Kerry, in Galway, in Donegal and in Mayo. If those serious incidents happened on land, if there were 30 or 303 tracer bullets flying into houses there would be an outcry, and rightly so, by all right-thinking people. At the same time I want to make it quite clear that I have no time for fishermen breaking the law, going out with slash hooks, putting things over their faces, producing rifles and firing shots in the air. I detest this and I have told them so. I have told them that I will not stand for violence on their part under any circumstances. However, a balance must be struck. The Minister is the person who could arrange meetings between the genuine fishermen and the Department of Fisheries. He could sit down, have a chat with them and tell them the kind of nets they should use. The Minister made the order banning those micro-film nets at the beginning of the season. That is what we are led to believe. The fishermen had no time to get the other type of nets. Some of them had no time to buy the proper nets. They had not the money to make the repayments. I notice that Deputy Daly is laughing but his contribution was fairly weak on certain aspects. However, I shall not go into that. I would appeal to the Minister to have a uniform net used, as is used in every other EEC country.

I would appeal to the Minister to abolish the regulation and rather have it included in the provisions of this Bill. I might reiterate the four points I wanted to make. First, that all United Kingdom registered Spanish vessels should be eliminated immediately. Secondly, no new registrations should be permitted. The Irish registered Spanish vessels there already should be phased out over a period and the Minister should be very cautious in conferring extra powers on fishery officers. I am not too sure whether the naval officers have the requisite training if a confrontation situation arose. The Garda Síochána have always been cool under provocation. I am not too sure that the naval officers would be and I do not think the bullet is the answer. The situation should not be allowed to continue until there is a death when everybody will ask why was the situation allowed to reach that stage. I appeal to the Minister to use his good offices to convene meetings in different parts of the country, from Kerry to Donegal, with the fishermen, with the boards of conservators, with the Garda Síochána, establish uniform rules, so that anybody who breaks them will know then what is involved.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille agus tá súil agam go mbeidh toradh sásúil le teacht as nuair a rithfear é.

I am disappointed that the Minister did not avail of this opportunity to outline for us the future of the fishing industry, as he sees it. We have had too few opportunities to discuss this important industry. In fact, it is debated only when a controversy arises. Over the years we should have spent more time discussing policy in relation to the future of the industry. When the Estimate for the Department is moved the time allotted to Members to put forward their views is limited. We have tremendous resources along our coast and very valuable fishing areas but our approach to the development of the industry has been slipshod. We are all aware of the necessity to introduce stringent regulations to protect our valuable stocks. Too many continental companies are adopting back door methods to get in on the act of fishing inside our waters. I am glad the Minister is taking steps to ensure that the efforts of such fishermen are frustrated so that we do not have a repeat of what occurred in Castletownbere and was tried in the Clare area.

The licensing of vessels would be of benefit to the fishing industry. It is a matter which should be taken up by all EEC countries so that it will be possible for the Minister and the Department to know exactly the number of boats from member states fishing in our waters and to check on the amount of their catch. I am aware that a similar scheme works very effectively in Iceland. In that country all fishing craft are licensed and outsiders can fish in those waters only under licence. The regulations are applied very stringently and under them the Icelandic fishing authorities have the right to protect their industry. For instance, a German trawler licensed to fish in those waters may be allowed in for 24 or 48 hours but if it remains for one hour over that limit it is dealt with. The boat is not brought in or the skipper brought before a court but the licence is suspended or withdrawn entirely. It is because the regulations are applied so stringently that all boats fishing under licence keep strictly to the terms of the licence.

I agree with Deputies Begley and Daly in regard to the future of the industry. I am worried that the quotas and the existing system in relation to member states and their rights will mean that our fish stocks will be cleaned out eventually. I am not satisfied, as a result of replies to questions in the House, that we are in a position to carry out a check on the amount of fish being taken out of our waters by other member states. Deputy Begley's question in relation to Spanish trawlers is a valid one. We do not seem to be applying the rules to ensure that our waters inside the 200-mile limit are not over-fished. We engaged the services of a spotter plane some years ago to keep a closer watch around our coast and I hope the Minister will tell the House how effective the operation has been, how often checks were carried out and what has been happening since the Army were given the task of carrying out those checks on illegal fishing.

Fishermen are experiencing difficult times and the fishing industry is in jeopardy. Those close to the industry recognise that. In recent weeks we have heard of fishermen being accused of all types of illegal activities. We must admit that they are no angels when it comes to getting extra fish for themselves but because of the difficult season they are frustrated. We must accept that fish is being dumped at present. Fish is landed, coloured, sprayed and thrown back into the water. Nobody can be happy about that situation. It is morally wrong to dump a valuable food but what is happening supports my views in regard to the whole structure of the industry. The prices offered to fishermen for the most popular fish are very low when compared with the prices paid at the markets. The marketing structures are wrong and nothing worthwhile has been done over the years to improve the industry. I must stress that the co-operatives have been doing a tremendous job in providing assistance for fishermen. I accept that the Minister, following his tour around the coast, is familiar with what is happening in regard to the co-operatives. He should assist them in every way. The Minister has control over two Departments and he should remember that the Department of the Gaeltacht can in many instances assist co-operatives. He should help them in the area of marketing.

We may get glossy reports annually from Bord Iascaigh Mhara in regard to this question and on reading them one would imagine that wonders were being worked in this area. However, fishermen can produce receipts showing that the price for their catch five or ten years ago has not been changed. They are being paid the same amount although their overheads have increased tremendously. The cost of diesel has gone up as also has the cost of gear and maintenance but the market price has not.

At EEC level we must be tough in defending the rights of our fishermen and ensuring that we do not give away anything. There has been a lot of controversy over the years about the 50-mile limit. I have a lot to say about it. Everybody is aware of what happened before we joined the EEC. The member states had already decided on the question of equal access and nothing could be done to guard against that. It was a terrible ploy by them before we entered the EEC to ensure that they would give themselves rights inside our territorial waters which they did not already have. It was a dear price for us to pay but we have to make the best use of what is available to us now and try to ensure that the interests of our fishermen are properly guarded.

It is only by being tough in the EEC that we will get those rights for our fishermen. It is annoying, as Deputy Begley said, to see the Norwegians, who refused to join the EEC because they could not get guarantees in relation to their industry, now trying to come in and claim rights inside our territorial waters. We have to guard against all those things and our fishermen have to be protected.

I want to go back again to marketing. Stocks of fish from third countries are constantly being landed in the EEC countries. This is detrimental to marketing for our fishermen. We all know that it does not matter what industry you are talking about, if the producer is not able to get the price for his product he goes out of business. This is a serious situation as far as our fishing industry is concerned. We have to regulate it also inside our territorial waters. We have to protect the inshore part-time fishermen. We have the experience of some of the people who have got 120-foot trawlers scraping along the rocks the same as they did when they had smaller boats. This is not giving a chance to the small inshore fishermen. We should compel some of those fishermen to fish outside the three-mile limit. It is not easy for the Minister to regulate this but those matters have to be looked at in relation to the future of the industry, the protection of stocks and the protection of the whole industry.

Part-time fishermen are traditional fishermen who depend on the income they get for a few months of the year to sustain them. They give good employment. They have availed of grants from BIM to buy small boats. They go to the expense of getting gear. It is not fair that they should be crowded out by some of the larger boats which can well afford to get out and go into areas where they will have an opportunity to get large stocks of fish and will not interfere with the smaller inshore fishermen.

I impress on the Minister the importance of trying to ensure that there is not any illegal fishing by any EEC member states, that our quotas and stocks are protected and that the Minister uses every possible means available to him to guard against overfishing by EEC member states. The Minister is handicapped at the moment because adequate machinery is not available to him or to the Department to find out exactly what EEC member states are taking out. I believe the structures can be provided within the EEC to ensure that something positive is done to guard against overfishing. If there is overfishing our industry collapses and there is no point talking about spending more money or expanding the industry. I warmly accept the Bill before the House. I hope the Minister will have the necessary regulations introduced as quickly as possible to guard against the illegalities we are witnessing at the moment.

As a Member from one of the maritime constituencies, I welcome the Bill. I believe it is a step in the right direction and one long overdue. It is not this week, this year or this decade that we have had this injustice to our fishing stocks. It is well known that for the past 30 years the Spanish fishing fleet have been operating actively off our coasts. It is also well known that on any night during the fishing season from the Fastnet to the Bull Rock any person living on the seafront along that coastline can see hundreds of foreign vessels marauding our fishing stocks. The Spanish boats are ably assisted by the Norwegians, the Danes, the Japanese, the Russians and the Koreans. Their fishing boats are accompanied by their factory ships and their hospital ships. They have a very upgraded fleet all marauding the livelihood of our fishermen.

This Bill should have been brought in a long time ago. There is a lot of talk about our salmon fishermen overfishing our salmon stocks. The truth is far from that. Our salmon stocks are swept up by those giant trawlers further out to sea than our corvettes operate. The real culprits are the Faroe Islanders, the Danes and the Greenland fishermen who are actually catching most of our salmon stocks. It is well known fact that salmon which are bred in our rivers emigrate to Greenland and the Faroes. En route off the Hebrides they are intercepted and hundreds of thousands of them are caught.

I am amazed that our salmon fishermen are not given an opportunity to earn a living. What other community making a living would put up with this surveillance over their livelihood? Surely we need a good common policy between the Department of Fisheries and our fishermen. I know that Deputy O'Toole in his ministerial capacity has brought a new vision, a new life, to fishermen, but I will not be happy until the Minister has proper dialogue with fishermen to ensure that they are given a chance to make a livelihood during the fishing season. There is no need for corvettes to trail our unfortunate fishermen. There is no need for the water bailiffs to hound them. The real culprits lie abroad. They clear up our available fishing stock while the corvettes are watching Irish fishermen. Why do the corvettes not board the Russian, the Danish, the Korean and the Japanese factory ships? I have failed to see a Russian trawler prosecuted here. There is far too much surveillance of Irish fishermen, men who are the salt of the earth. Their stocks are being marauded and their fishing grounds raped by foreign trawlers.

I see no reason why narrow filament nets cannot be used by inshore salmon fishermen. It is well known that these nets are used by every other country. It costs a fisherman about £1,500 to put a quantity of nets on the water. The nylon nets allowed will only last half the season whereas the narrow filment nets would last the whole season. Because of this ban on narrow filament nets it will now cost a fisherman £3,000 to outfit himself for the salmon season. It is a matter of survival for the small salmon fishermen and on pure economics he must use narrow filament nets. The Minister should bear that in mind when making further laws in relation to the conservation of fish stocks. Surely, to have Irishmen being threatened by other Irishmen with guns, pitch forks and slashers is not the way to handle the industry. There must be something wrong when fishermen are driven to that extremity.

The fishing grounds along the west coast are abounding with fish. Almost 80 per cent of our catch is caught within the 12-mile limit leaving fish such as blue whiting and hake reasonably untouched by Irish fishing vessels. If there is to be a future for our fishing industry the 12-mile limit must be held sacrosanct for Irish fishermen and we must fight for a 50-mile limit around our coast. We have been told that third country boats are not allowed to fish within the 50-mile limit. It is well known that that law has been broken several times. Our corvettes have failed to intercept and bring back those boats to port to face charges.

The Irish nation faces a number of daunting challenges over the next decade. In the year 2000 our population will have increased by at least another million. Up to 75 per cent of the population will live in the urban areas and 40 per cent of the total will live in the eastern region. What will we do with our western seaboard? Will this Government and subsequent Governments make it possible for native people to make a decent living along that coastline? Will they be able to exist where their forefathers existed for generations? Will we see our youth drifting into the cities where life is neither healthy nor wholesome? Can the people along the western seaboard live on fresh air and cold water?

The Government will tax that soon.

We must have proper planning in the fishing industry to ensure that the people living along the western seaboard can make a living. Surely it is not beyond the bounds of reality to build up the fishing industry. I hope we will not see this area fade into a wilderness frequented only by wild birds. We need proper planning for the future of the industry and this Bill is a step in the right direction.

Like Deputy Begley I cannot agree with Deputy Daly's suggestion that the blame lies with the Coalition Government for not having taken steps to conserve our stocks.

I never said that.

What the Deputy said leant towards that.

I do not think the Deputy has read the Bill. He has not listened to what I said anyway.

Successive Governments have treated the fishing industry as a Cinderella industry. It is well known that a former Minister for Fisheries, Deputy Brian Lenihan, did not care two hoots about the fishing industry and did not even care if the Spanish fishing boats operated up to the bridge of Athlone. We should have made these laws 20 years ago to preserve our stocks. Had adequate steps been taken then our industry would be tenfold greater today.

I dislike the back door approach initiated by the Spanish Government a few years ago when they opened up an industry called Eirenova in my constituency in Castletownbere. They told Irish fishermen on that occasion——

Does the Deputy want to see it closed down?

No, I want to see it run properly for the benefit of the people in the area. It is all right for Deputy Gallagher to talk about closing down a factory when the factories in Killybegs are operating satisfactorily. Does the Deputy want to see all the fish in Castletownbere shipped to Killybegs to be processed there? I think he does. That was the policy of the previous Government. There should be proper control over the industry in Castletownbere to ensure maximum employment for Irish people. We do not want a white elephant at Castletownbere to boost the landing catches of the Spanish fishing fleet when they apply for EEC membership in a few months. Then they will go cap in hand to the EEC authorities and will talk about their catches which have been boosted by the fish landed in Castletownbere, that is packed in refrigerated containers and transported to Spain.

The people who made the agreement with that company should be criticised for not ensuring that the fish would be processed on Irish soil. When the industry was started in Castletownbere we were told that by now they would be employing 200 people but at the moment they employ approximately 20 people. In fact, they are letting people go already but at the same time they are landing additional catches. This has been our experience of the Spanish excursion into our fishing industry. This is what we have experienced in south-east Cork. I warn Deputies in Clare not to be misled by the rosy promises of some Spanish industrialists. There is not one ounce of sincerity behind all their promises and I know that for far too long.

It is the job of our Minister to ensure proper inspection of the industry and to ensure that it fulfils the purpose for which it was established, namely, to give employment to people in the area. There is only one Irish fisherman aboard the Spanish vessels. They were supposed to operate west of the 12º zone but they are operating much nearer the shore. Our fishermen in that area are very annoyed at the hospitality shown by previous Governments to these foreign fishermen. If a deal was made it should be brought out into the open. I was away on other business when the factory was opened but I read in the press what the then Minister for Fisheries said about the benefits it would bring to the area. To date there has been no sign of any benefit. I ask the Minister to take a trip to Castletownbere and the surrounding area. He can be assured of a good reception from the fishermen; in fact, he may be taken out for a day's fishing to see how they have to eke out a livelihood. It is time we faced reality. Irish fishermen must get an opportunity to make a decent living. Their rights must be preserved and they should not be sold out in any EEC agreement.

Our Minister should insist that proper conservation measures be taken to ensure the preservation of fishing stocks. Fishing trawls should be designed to enable young fish to pass through and escape capture. For years our vessels have operated trawls that brought in the small stock as well as the larger fish. That small stock was dumped off the gunwales of the ships at the piers and harbours. It was a disgrace. If the young stock is killed, in time our entire stock will be eliminated. In addition, there should be certain conservation measures to protect the shellfish industry. For many years I saw crayfish and lobster in spawn packed in tanks and exported to France. Any fisherman who did that was sticking a knife in his own back so far as the industry was concerned. Fish that have not spawned should get the opportunity to spawn and they should be conserved. There are many other points I should like to raise but time will not permit because other Members wish to speak. There should be a complete revamping and reappraisal of the plans that are needed to ensure that our fishing industry will be of considerable benefit to the economy.

The proposed amendment to section 4 will allow the Minister the option of making orders in relation to the conservation of fish stocks and the rational exploitation of fisheries. It will also enable him to apply such orders to different classes of boats not necessarily fishing boats, for example freezer vessels and to various forms of fishing such as salmon fishing at sea. Do I take it the Minister has ideas about banning salmon fishing at sea? This industry has enabled many small, part-time farmers along the western seaboard to survive during the years. These people kept the economy of their area going because if they did not live in the area the small shopkeeper or the publican could not survive. The western seaboard is not blessed with any industrial development other than the fishing industry.

I should like the Minister to allay my fears with regard to bringing in measures which will inhibit salmon fishermen from making a living. When the season is over I hope the Minister will meet the fishermen who are so enraged at having been apprehended. If anyone told the Minister he should not do this, that or the other, I am sure he would not be dictated to. Our fishermen should not be dictated to either. The Minister would not tell the farmers to milk their cows only five days of the week and only once a day. Factory workers will not be dictated to or there would soon be a strike and perhaps they would picket the gates of Leinster House. The poor salmon fishermen have no leverage. As soon as they pull into the pier the bailiff is breathing down their necks. One would imagine they were gun runners. I am amazed at the treatment meted out ot our fishermen. They are so enraged they will hardly speak to any Deputy in their area because they are stopped from making a living.

I thought the Deputy invited me to Castletownbere.

The salmon fishing season will be over then and perhaps a flag of truce will be raised. The fishermen are only asking for justice. They are not damaging the salmon fishing industry. This year a 30 pound salmon was caught; surely that fish was an old timer? That size fish does not appear overnight and it proves they are not extinct. They are still swimming from the mouths of our rivers up to Greenland and the Faroes but the culprits up there are far more clever than our fishermen. They are trapping our stocks and are responsible for the trouble between the Department of Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Defence.

I appeal to the Minister, as a gesture of goodwill, to allow the fishermen to use the monofilament nets. If they were allowed to use these there would be no illegal nets on board. They should also have a certain length of net and, if they exceed that length they deserve to be caught. The 30 mesh net is useless; it is like a silk stocking floating on top of the water. The tide is so strong from Mizen Head to the Dursey that it is impossible for any fisherman using a 30 mesh net to make a living or even to pay for the oil to run the boat for his day's fishing. Fishermen should not be branded as criminals for trying to operate a net which will catch a few salmon. They are prepared to come to terms with the Minister and even to agree to a four-day week provided they get an opportunity of fishing a 60 mesh net in that area.

No salmon fisherman operating at the mouth of a river will use a 60 mesh net because it is not necessary and, furthermore, it is completely out of the question to do so. In the Bull Rock and Mizen Head area where the tide flows very strongly, there is no point in fishing unless they have the 60 mesh net. I know the Minister is a rational man who will not refuse to talk with the fishermen involved. I am sure an amicable agreement can be reached whereby, instead of corvettes following our fishermen into the little inlets along the western seaboard, they would be allowed to board the Russian, Japanese, Korean and Norwegian factory ships. They are the people who are scooping up all our fishing stock and who are doing all the harm to our industry. The corvettes should also have the special apparatus needed to go into their fishing holds to examine their stock. Then we would have hard evidence of who is ravaging our fishing industry and trying to exterminate the finest industry we have. We are not blessed with any great industrial developments along the western seaboard. Next to agriculture, fisheries is our most important industry.

The Dutch have caught our herrings, marinated them, put them into jars and exported them all over the world. They are displayed in supermarkets in one and two-pound jars. Proper development of the industry on shore is also needed. It is no good introducing this Bill unless it is followed by action. For far too long we have only paid lip service to the fishing industry. It has a vast potential as far as employment is concerned. It has been almost untapped for decades except for what the foreigners got away with. I appeal to the Minister to adopt a new approach that will put the industry back on its feet. Our industry is as old as Brian Boru and it was lack of planning and foresight by various Ministers which is responsible for the situation that exists today. The Minister should set a headline and start anew. He should encourage a new spirit in the industry which will yield the accumulation of wealth which is there.

Our only true fears are for our soil and our seas. Our climate is the best and the worst in the world. It is the best in the world for agriculture and fisheries but fisheries need direction. That direction must come from our Fisheries Minister, Deputy O'Toole, and his Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy. I have no doubt that that team will tackle the problem and will be seen from this day forward to show leadership as far as the fishing industry is concerned. They will be responsible for giving Irish fishermen an opportunity of making a living along the western seaboard and will see that our fishing stocks will not be ravaged by the factory ships and huge fishing boats of other countries. They will give leadership to the rest of the European nations so that Ireland can benefit enormously from a viable fishing industry. All that is needed is direction from the top and co-operation and dialogue from the fishermen, the men who know the job. On-the-spot knowledge can be gained by our Minister for Fisheries when he goes out in one of the boats during his summer vacation. Through the years our fisheries have been under the leadership of TDs who did not know the stem from the stern of a boat. On a visit to Rossaveal in Galway on a summer vacation one of them saw lobsters and cray fish being packed into cases and asked the fishermen "What is this fellow with the long horns?". Surely to heaven if the industry must depend on a Minister for Fisheries who cannot tell a lobster from a crayfish, a mackerel from a bass or a herring from a squid no wonder it is where it is today.

I compliment the Minister. This is an extremely clever Bill in that he states that it is introduced to curb the activities of Spanish fishing vessels which are being registered in the UK and which eventually, if we do not introduce legislation, will register here. However, a study of the Bill will reveal that very little of it is devoted to the Spanish problem. All of section 2 refers to the registration of Irish boats. Some time ago we on this side of the House said that we would give full co-operation to this legislation and we pressurised the Government to ensure that it would be introduced as early as possible. In effect we said that we would give this Bill a speedy passage through the House provided it referred to the Spanish boats and to various problems within the industry. It is regrettable that the Bill has more reference to Irish boats than to Spanish boats. It is to be hoped that the Minister in his reply will indicate the size of the Irish boats which are obliged to register.

I said at the debate on the Estimates how important the question of conservation was. Despite the events of the recent past I insist still that conservation is vital. The fishing industry is based on renewable resources. We are fortunate in that we have these renewable resources in the country and we must be certain that we conserve them. Urgent action must be taken, but it must be the correct action. The Bill is not unlike what I had expected, another piece of patchy legislation on top of various other patches of legislation. I believe that as a result of pressure exerted on the Government by the Opposition Party and by various interests in the industry this was introduced rather too hastily and it is only a stop-gap which might make the situation even worse than it is.

The House will be aware that the enforcement of a sea fisheries policy is contained in sections 222, 223 and 224 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959. Even present legislation regarding these sections is slightly muddled and we should consider new legislation that would be simple and concise. All of this legislation, going back to the Merchantile Act, 1894, through the decades to 1981 is not as concise as it should be. The legislation before the House, which we were told was to curb the influx of Spanish boats into our waters, is based on ten Acts which we have already. If this is legislation introduced to curb the influx of these boats, then in the next session we should look at legislation in relation to sea fisheries generally and have discussions if necessary in an all-party committee to study legislation in relation to fisheries.

Our sea fisheries are one of our most prized assets after our land. The law must be simple, clear and concise. We must know exactly how we stand. There is far too much ambiguity in relation to fishery laws. A naval commander of a fisheries protection vessel must know exactly where he stands. From the Minister's contribution today we are not certain what the position is in relation to waters inside and outside the 12-mile limit. There should be no shady area; it should be either black or white. The skippers and crews of trawlers also must know exactly where they stand. At the moment they are at the disadvantage of not knowing where they stand. Above all, the courts do not know where they stand in relation to all of this legislation. It should be a guideline and we must be more specific. The Minister may — no doubt he will — say that this legislation is only a temporary measure to meet an existing need. We should not allow the Minister or the Government to put any further legislation on the long finger as a result of this stop-gap operation today. I fully support the conservation measures required because of the importance of this fishery and the fact that it is a renewable resource.

My contributions in relation to the salmon industry could have been misread but at all times I stressed the importance of conservation. If the fishermen do not adhere to the rules and regulations there is not future for them or their children. If we take only sufficient salmon each year the fishery can be sustained for centuries. There is a problem because of friction between the Department and the fishermen and it may well be that the fishermen are not abiding by the regulations. However, the Minister must admit that some of the regulations are antiquated and must be updated. I suggest that at the end of the salmon season the Minister should invite representatives from the organisation representing inshore fishermen to discuss the problems with them. Unfortunately they are not as well organised as the Irish Fishermen's Organisation who deal with the larger boats. However, they could advise the Minister of the reasons for fishing during the day. We are all aware of the tragedies which have occurred off our coasts and the incidence of such tragedies can be reduced by using a net which can only be used during the day.

We could also reach agreement with the fishermen that they would stick strictly to a five-day week and would not fish at weekends, as has been the practice for many years. There is a general consensus among fishermen that if they were to adhere to a five-day week and use an acceptable length of gear the problem would be solved. Before the monofilament net was introduced fishermen did operate at weekends and this resulted in poor quality fish in the market place. The Irish salmon was inferior to the Scottish salmon and the Irish processor and smoker had so much difficulty in selling fish that our salmon were labelled as Scottish salmon, this being the only way to sell them. This was as a result of fishing during closed periods.

I appeal to the Minister to consider meeting these people without any prior commitment and allowing them to put their case. Natural conservation takes place during very good weather such as we are enjoying today because fishermen cannot use their nets without some breeze. During extremely poor weather they are also unable to fish. While we have legislation such as this there will be further battles at sea. There is an old saying that nothing good comes from fighting at sea and this has been true in past centuries.

There is no guarantee that salmon fishing by foreign boats is not taking place outside our 12-mile limit. The Minister says that it is internationally accepted that salmon fishing does not take place beyond the 12-mile limit, but if we implement a 12-mile ban on salmon fishing by our own fishermen, we have no guarantee that foreign boats will not be fishing 50 or 60 miles offshore. It would be fruitless for fishermen to depend on fish caught within 12 miles because a very small percentage of our fish are caught within that band. The enforcement of such a ban would put an end to salmon fishing. Last year salmon was worth £3.4 million and this gave a tremendous boost to the Exchequer. The income from salmon comes back to small parishes along the west coast to people who are entirely dependent on it for their livelihood. The Minister of State suggests that they should take advantage of other types of fishing. Boats which traditionally fished for salmon cannot be used for any other type of fishing but lobster.

The Minister suggested that we could take advantage of the Common Fisheries Policy under the heading "Structures", that we could avail of assistance for the reconstruction and modernisation of fishing vessels. It was suggested that that would be an advantage to fishermen, but the condition is that the vessels be between 39 ft. and 100 ft. The type of boats being used in this instance will not be eligible to take advantage of this aid. In addition, unless this regulation is changed, I understand the minimum conversion cost must be 65,000 ECUs, something like £45,000.

It would be impossible for these boats to be converted from one type of fishing to another. The Minister of State mentioned cray fishing. There are many parts of the country where crayfish cannot be found, particularly parts of Donegal. Tory was a traditional cray fishing area. To suggest that lobster and cray fishing are a substitute for salmon fishing——

They are a substitute.

The Minister should be aware that salmon and lobster fishing seasons are not two different seasons, that they largely overlap. I should like to refer generally to other aspects of the industry because we did not have time to discuss them during the debate on the Estimate. The general conservation programme must be employed to the fullest, particularly in regard to mackerel and herring. Quotas must be uniformly enforced and monitored by the EEC. All boats from here and other countries should have observers aboard to monitor all catches to ensure that quotas of mackerel and herring will not be exceeded.

These observers could serve a very useful purpose by making available a bank of scientific knowledge, such as the type of gear being used, water temperatures, the plankton content. They could detect species of rare fish and I refer specifically to blue whiting. Blue whiting stocks could be developed, particularly since mackerel stocks began to decline. If stocks of blue whiting could be developed our fishermen could rely on that fish.

Our mackerel stocks declined despite recommendations from scientists that there were sufficient mackerel off our west coast. It was not our fishermen who were to blame for the decline in mackerel fishing, because the Department and the scientists told us there were sufficient stocks of the fish, and of herring, off the coast of Mayo without any need for controls. It is not so many years since thousands of cran of herrings were being landed but now none is available off that coast.

We should do as much research as possible, as I have said, in relation to blue whiting. It will be too late to do marketing research when we begin to land blue whiting. Now is the time to do it.

We should not make any concessions to Norway along the north west coast or to provide them with what would be an open door. I have been told that they have been offered a quota of 3,000 tonnes, but once they come in it will be difficult to monitor precisely what they would take unless we have observers on board.

I am afraid the blue whiting has been used as a red herring to cover up problems in relation to mackerel. We will be giving away only 3,000 tonnes but, as I have said, the catches should be monitored strictly.

On the question of mackerel quotas, I was pleased to note that the proposal by the Commission to reduce our quota from 82,000 tonnes to 55,000 tonnes was rejected by the Minister. This proposal is not acceptable to our fishermen, our processors and exporters. The reduction could have serious consequences for employment in the industry. I do not think Ireland should have to pay for the sins of the other countries which have been over-fishing. It has been proposed that the quota throughout the EEC of 275,000 tonnes should be reduced by 25 per cent. That reduction should be across the board because the countries responsible for over-fishing should be penalised for their sins.

Ireland are not taking the amount of mackerel that would seriously affect our stocks. Our fishermen could possibly take more than the 82,000 tonnes without affecting stocks and I hope that at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers our Minister will insist on this, pointing out that we depend largely on fishing and that therefore we must obtain some preferential treatment, particularly on the west coast. The Irish are not causing any damage to stocks and if our quota has to be reduced by roughly 25,000 tonnes, that should be deducted from the quotas of other countries because we are a coastal State with many under-developed regions along the west and north-west coasts.

Debate adjourned.