This section defines the terms which are of general application throughout the Bill.
Estimates, 1983. - Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1983: Committee and Final Stages.
I propose that amendments Nos. 1 and 4 be taken together. I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, lines 1 to 13, to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute the following paragraphs:—
"(a) a fishing boat within the meaning of Part IV of the Act of 1894 and which—
(i) is entered in the fishing boat register, or
(ii) is required by section 373, as amended by the Act of 1983, of the Act of 1894 to be so entered, or
(iii) but for the passing of the Act of 1983 would, by the said section 373, be required to be so entered,
(b) a ship which—
(i) is registered under the Act of 1955, or
(ii) is required by section 18, as amended by the Act of 1983, of the Act of 1955 to be so registered, or
(iii) but for section 8 (1) of the Act of 1983 would be required to be or might be so registered, or
(iv) may be so registered.".
These are purely drafting amendments which do not affect the substance of the section. They are put in purely for the purpose of clarification.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 3, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following paragraph:—
"(d) Any licence granted for the purpose of this section shall not be subject to duties, licence fees or other charges for the purpose of raising money for the Exchequer.".
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that any licences granted under this section will not be subject to licence duties or fees or in any way be used for the purpose of raising money for the Exchequer. We are naturally aware that it is probably difficult to make this kind of amendment to the section in view of the fact that there may well be a system whereby any licences which may be granted by the Minister will at least have to cover registration costs or something else and there may be difficulty in showing that a licence granted by the Minister would not have some charge or duty levied on the issue of it. We fear there will be a certain amount of bureaucracy here and there may be need for people to apply for licences which may eventually be granted. As this provision in section 3 covers Irish registered boats generally we feel that a section which does not provide that there will be no charges or licence duties and especially as we have no indication of what the nature of those licence fees or duties may be, we feel we cannot agree to it.
I am sure the Minister recognises that the fishing industry generally has gone through a very bad patch over the last few years and they have had the enormous difficulties of rising interest charges, poor fishing, poor fish prices and many other things. As this is something which is really meant to regulate events and keep an accurate record of what the situation will be, we feel it is undesirable to have this provision here unless the Minister can give some indication that the section will not be used to impose any charges except nominal ones.
Could I allay the fears of the Deputy and the industry by saying that it is not the intention to make a charge for licences. As there is no specific provision in the Bill for making such a charge it cannot be made. We would have to provide for the raising of a charge in the Bill in order to do so. The fact that there is no provision in the Bill for that purpose means that it cannot be done. I assure the Deputy of that. I am sure that assurance will be sufficient for the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.
If I can be satisfied that in one of the other Acts which are covered under this Bill there is not a provision which could be applied to this section, I am completely satisfied to withdraw the amendment. Is it not a fact that in some of the other Acts which are covered under the Bill there is provision for a licence duty or fee?
I understand that there is no such provision and that the Deputy is quite safe in withdrawing the amendment in the knowledge that a charge cannot be applied because there is no provision made for it in the Bill. I suggest that the amendment is unnecessary.
Could the Minister define the difference between the words "may not" and "cannot"? I fully appreciate what the Minister says, that as far as he is concerned we can rest assured that there will not be any licence fee or duty. We also have to accept the fact that this Minister will not always be Minister for Fisheries. Although an assurance from him is accepted in good faith, can he confirm that no future Minister can do this?
I assure the Deputy, as far as I am concerned, that I am speaking in good faith. I am speaking from a purely legal position in relation to what I have said, that because there is no provision there I cannot provide for a charge. So far as speaking for the Deputy is concerned, if he found himself over here I do not know what he might do to get around the legal position. That is his business.
Now that we have established that there is no fee for the licence, could we now establish that there will not be an application charge?
That again would be regarded as a fee and to me or anybody else involved in this, that would be seen as the collection of a fee through some back door method. There is a legal barrier there that prevents me or prevents any Minister from providing for the raising of a fee or a charge unless a Minister decides to amend the Act specifically for that purpose. Sin ceist eile. I have no intention of doing so.
In view of the assurance from the Minister I withdraw the amendment.
Can amendments Nos. 3 and 6 be taken together?
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 4, line 16, after "condition", to add "provided always that the proportion of members of any such crew who are nationals of a Member State of the European Community shall not be less than seventy-five per cent. of such (crew) membership,".
I would like to get some explanation from the Minister, in relation to the provision in subsection (5) (b) (ii), of the reason why that provision has been included in this section. It states:
require that for so long as the licence is in force the members of the crew of such boat, or of any proportion of such members specified in the condition, shall be of a nationality specified in the condition.
Can the Deputy tell me the subsection he is referring to?
It is paragraph (b) (2) on page 4.
Are we taking amendment No. 6 with amendment No. 3?
There is an agreement that we take amendments Nos. 3 and 6 together. Amendment No. 3 has been moved.
While it is the intention to prescribe 75 per cent as the minimum level of crewing in the regulations it would be unwise to restrict the Minister. If for any reason 75 per cent was unworkable or inadequate and if it were in the Bill we would have to amend the Bill and as Deputies know that would take some time. The idea of introducing this provision by regulation is to enable us to act swiftly at any given time. This seems to be the more sensible and expeditious way of dealing with problems that might arise. We can amend by regulation with 24 hours if necessary whereas if we were trying to plug a hole through this House, as Deputies well know, a lot of water would have gone down before we could provide a plug. The 75 per cent would be written into the regulation as a minimum requirement although it would not be in the Bill.
My understanding of section 2 was that it referred only to Irish boats. Therefore I am anxious to know why we need that paragraph in that section when what we are concerned about is the question of boats from third countries and member states of the Community. We would be adamant about boats from third countries in relation to the 75 per cent issue and that is why we are not anxious to move the amendments on the other sections now. We thought this section was to deal with the registration of Irish boats and we felt that this type of situation would not arise in that case.
Of course it will not arise in the case of Irish boats. At the moment, as the Deputy knows, nine ex-Spanish boats are registered here and Irish boats flying the Irish flag could also take on third country crews. There is also no reason to believe that because an Irish boat is Irish they would not indulge in this kind of activity if it suited them to do so. The nine ex-Spanish boats registered here flying the Irish flag but not having the requisite proportion of Irish crew membership are dealt with under this section, which is there for that sort of situation.
It is very important.
Will the Minister clarify this section? If the proviso is necessary, is it necessary to write it into the Bill at this stage? Could it not be introduced by regulation at a later stage if it is found necessary?
We have a de facto situation at the moment in which we have Irish boats not falling within the ambit of this provision when it is made a regulation. This approach is sure to solve that problem. In the future we do not know what might happen in relation to Irish boats. They could carry on a certain type of fishing activity that traditional crewmen might not participate in because of the size of the boat, the length of time at sea or for some other reason, and these boats might resort to third country crewmen who would be prepared to work under different conditions. The bottom line in all this is that in drafting the Bill the Minister gets expert advice from the relevant person who in this case is the Attorney General and he strongly advised that this provision should be included in the Bill.
I appreciate the concern of Deputies Daly and Gallagher but the kernel of the problem is that we are looking for 75 per cent control of the crew level in relation to EEC nationals and others but the companies who bring in these boats are more important than the boats and they seem to be getting off scot-free. These companies are just fronts for the Spanish Government. I would like to know if the Spanish Government have made representations to the Minister in the distant past about the activities of these Spanish trawlers off the west coast, whether they are flying a flag of convenience or a Spanish flag. This is a much more serious matter. The boats would not exist if the companies were not there and in this legislation we are letting the companies off scot-free. Perhaps the Minister would comment on that. I appreciate the concern of Deputy Daly and Deputy Gallagher but I see a situation where perhaps 75 per cent of the crew could be Greeks and there could be an Irish skipper and then we would all be caught out. It would be better to have this covered by regulation so that the Minister could move in to close off a loophole that might arise. The omission here is that the companies and the Spanish Government are getting off scot-free.
I do not believe that Greeks are members of the European Community.
That is the point I am making.
Deputy Begley said that probably in most cases a fronting situation arises here. Authorities elsewhere are sending those people in here and providing the boats. There are companies and boats. You can have any companies you like at the end of the day but when this Bill is passed the boats will not be able to come in. You cannot have boats without companies.
In relation to representations from the Spanish authorities recently, representations have also been made in the past at regular intervals, I am quite sure. The sources from which I heard utterances in relation to a case being made for fishing activity by the Spanish fleet in our waters were not at all enamoured of the recent proposals for the west of Ireland because they felt that they were being exploited by entrepreneurs who had nothing to do with the authentic fishing industry in Spain except to use our fish and their market to make money.
Apart from all that, the implementation of a regulation arising from this Bill will put an end to exploitation of our stocks be it by authentic Spanish interests or other interests.
We have flushed out the Spanish principle of improving their catches before they join the EEC. That is the main exercise. They will have reached a certain quota of fish caught off the west of Ireland and when Spain joins the EEC they can put their cards on the table and say that they caught so much when they were not in the EEC and now surely they can improve their position when they are in the EEC. At what level were those representations made? Were they made from the Spanish Government to the Irish Government or at ambassador level?
It would not be appropriate for me to say. Representations were made to me from people in high authority or whom I assumed to be in high authority who were annoyed by the exploitation by others of their position. That did not sway me one iota in favour of the case being made. The point being made by the Deputy in relation to the Spaniards building up catch quotas for themselves is acceptable to me as a reason for what they are doing and it is self-evident. Nobody can deny that and they, I am sure, would not be so naive as to deny it, but they, or any third country, will not do that at our expense. That is what this Bill is trying to avoid.
In the event of this being withdrawn and accepting what the Minister says, how would he propose to introduce it or what yardstick would he use in order to decide on a percentage? Would this percentage in general pertain to that country or to that size of boat or could there be a different percentage for each boat?
The advantage of having restrictions introduced in the form of regulation is that you can change to suit the occasion. We were told in reply to inquiries made by us that the 75 per cent ratio or proportion of a crew operating in the UK is working very effectively. At present I have no reason to believe that it would work any less effectively for us, but examples can be given of circumstances where it might not be sufficient. That is the advantage of applying a regulation approach rather than having it written into the Bill itself. You can act quickly and home in on a problem by regulation. If you do it through the Bill you must amend the Bill by amending legislation in this House with all the attendant delays entailed.
We are prepared to accept the situation as outlined by the Minister in relation to section 2 and that is why I was anxious not to move the other amendment to section 3 because I fear that under the conditions there we cannot leave it loose as it is at present. I understand the Minister's dilemma; nevertheless our fears would be that in this type of situation where you have regulations that can be changed and brought in gradually or phased in or not brought in at all, once efforts are made, communication is established and landings take place, then perhaps a right is not established but some claim is made by these people.
I am thinking of the boat which came in recently to Cappagh and unloaded a huge consignment of fish there. At a later stage these people could claim the type of privilege that would be available under this section to, say, the operations at present in Castletownbere. If we go ahead with regulations under section 2 the operation at Castletownbere would be illegal. Is that the case? The views expressed here from both sides of the House have been that they should not be closed down, in other words some provision for phasing in the operation at Castletownbere must be provided for under the legislation, and if that is the case other operations of a similar nature will claim a similar privilege. While we could accept the situation in relation to section 2 and recognise that, where you want to initiate joint ventures or to expand and experiment in new areas, you might need this type of provision which would enable a loose arrangement which you could regulate by regulation. We cannot accept this in relation to the operations which have been planned for here. Certain operations are established here. We may not be too happy about them but at least they are there and nobody wants to close them down. We must provide for them in some way by phasing in the regulations under the legislation here and because of that something similar could be claimed by others who are now trying to establish rights here.
The Deputy is aware from his experience as Minister for Fisheries and Forestry and his dealings at EEC level that the establishment of rights and so on is not as easy as he would seem to indicate. There is no need for any woolly thinking or confusion here. There is a strict differentiation. Demarcation lines are there. This Bill applies not only to fishing but to landing and trans-shipment. This section applies immediately to fishing boats other than Irish registered fishing boats. I think we are all agreed that the axe should not fall tomorrow morning on the operation at Castletownbere. It was put there, it was grant-aided, and expectations which have not been realised to the full were raised on the basis of its being put there. There is high investment there and they should be given a chance. Yesterday evening when this matter was raised I said that I felt that the 12-month period would be reasonable and sufficient for them to come within the provisions of the Bill if they so wished. At the end of 12 months if they had not done so for some reason — it might be a very good reason — it will be unfortunate that they will find themselves outside the law. We must hope that this will ensure that they will apply so that they will be within the regulations. Twelve months is a fair time. Questions have been asked about other people. There are only two sorts, Irish registered boats and third country boats. We were talking about the Castletownbere operation. That is in the Irish boat sector and there should not be any confusion.
I do not want to be misunderstood about the Castletownbere operation. I should like to see it far more extensive and effective with far more people employed. We are hoping that the fact that the Bill will be phased in may mean that in the interim others will gain access.
We can be very definitive about the number of boats which operate here and who will find themselves, in the interim, outside the law. We can count them now: there are nine such boats.
What about the boat in Cappagh?
I do not know the kind of boat that landed in Cappagh but the law will apply. Not alone can such a boat not land in Cappagh but she cannot trans-ship from Cappagh.
How will the Minister enforce this regulation? Will he insist that those people will have work permits and that inspectors can go aboard and get the names and addresses of the crews? The Department of Labour never bothered to find out whether such people have work permits.
The Deputy asked how I would enforce the regulation. Yesterday he waxed eloquent about how effective our protection service is in other areas. It can be just as effective in tracking down those people and implementing the regulations.
The Minister did not answer my question. He must be aware that the Spaniards landing on the south west coast do not have work permits. What kind of survey did the Department carry out?
Under this section having a work permit will not arise. They will not be asked for work permits because it will not make any difference if they have two work permits each because they will be outside the law.
I should like to share the Minister's optimism.
How, in practice, does the Minister visualise the licensing of boats? Will the licences be issued on an annual basis? Will they hold for a certain period? Suppose a fisherman or a skipper says that he has been fishing in Irish waters for 20 years and he would not bother to get a licence. How will the licences be issued? Perhaps this thing has not been worked out and I am therefore not tying the Minister down for an answer, but fishermen are asking such questions as these and answers must be forthcoming quickly. What will be the conditions when the Department or the Minister find it necessary to revoke a licence? What will the Minister consider to be an illegality in relation to revocation? These questions are all being asked.
My officers are working out the best and the simplest system. We are not creating a complicated bureaucracy which would be applied to fishermen. The licensing provision is not directed at fishermen for any subtle or furtive reason. It is in the interests of the fishermen, and all the Irish fishermen will have to do is to fill in a form annually. It will be simple once we get a register built up. Of course, there will not be a charge. If there is a change of ownership it will be worked out like the situation in relation to cars. There will not be a charge.
Not yet, but the Minister for Finance might be looking at it as a source of income.
Sin ceist eile. As far as I am concerned, there are no provisions in the section for the imposition of charges. The form will be simple. If a fisherman on the west coast says he has been fishing for 20 years and that he had never filled a document in his life and that he will not sign one now, my answer is that I am not too clear about it, but the thing will be so simple that it would be ludicrous for a fisherman, in his own interests, to refuse to fill in a form. We are trying to ensure that the people who fish will be licence holders so that we will not have people fishing who should not be fishing and so that we will not have people coming in the back door.
Would the Minister visualise the establishment of a licensing authority outside the Department, say a recognised fishing co-operative?
Ultimately accountability for the smooth running of the system rests here. No matter what circuitous route a licence takes on its way to me or to my Department, we must have some system of checking back to ensure that X is not Y and Y is not Z. We have fishery officers around the coast. We have a system on the ground. For the simple reason that we are collecting no fee on this, the Deputy can take it there will not be any big bureaucracy built up. It will be done in a simple way, in the most efficient way possible, causing the least trouble to the fishermen.
On a point of order, are we just discussing this amendment or is it being taken in conjunction with discussion of the section?
I would prefer if we could dispose of amendment No. 3 and then move to amendment No. 4 in section 2 as well. There are amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to section 2.
No. 4 has been disposed of.
We have to formally put the question.
On the question of the 75 per cent, I have a hypothetical situation to put to the Minister. If an Irish skipper bought an Irish boat, registered in Ireland and wished to have an all-third-country crew what would be the situation?
He could not do that and fish within our jurisdiction.
If it was an Irish boat with an Irish skipper who needed the expertise of all of these people for a particular length of time — I am thinking or research and development in particular — does that come under this section?
This is being introduced by way of regulation. If there was a certain case of, let us say, a research vessel manned by experts from God knows where — it is very hypothetical — I am sure a regulation exempting that particular type of boat could be introduced.
Will each specific boat be taken or will it be a particular size of boat? Will the regulation be to cover boats A, B and C or will it be a regulation to cover boats in the size range 50 to 65-foot or 65 to 80-foot?
There are categories at the moment. There are the 75-foot plus to which special provisions apply and under 75-foot to which these provisions do not apply. I would see it applying to all boats except for exempted classes of boats — very small boats and boats used for specific purposes. We could have a regulation for boats over 50 foot but we would need to make sure that whatever minimum size we set we would get the people we wished to be caught in the net. That is the important thing here. There is no point in applying a size regulation through which the very people we are trying to prevent coming can.
I would support the Minister in this. If we tie his hands on size they might get around it and come in with smaller boats. There is a lot of merit in what the Minister has said. The Minister seemed to think that an Irish skipper would not get a non-EEC crew in this country at present. I would think twice about that with the movement of young people in the world today. It would be no problem for a skipper in Dingle at the moment to get three Americans and two Norwegians.
I would hate to think that Kerrymen are losing their initiative.
I was thinking of research and development and I think the Minister accepted that. I would not be pressing it in relation to boats coming here to fish in the ordinary way.
The exemption provision is there.
No doubt the Minister will, in the next few weeks, introduce a regulation. If he finds that there is a particular skipper who applies, maybe as part of a joint venture, will he be tied to the 75 per cent or can he reduce it or increase it in the case of that specific application?
Whatever we do we must be seen to be consistent. The Deputy is saying that he would treat each case on its merits.
I am not saying. I am asking the Minister.
The Deputy is implying that the regulation should allow for that. I am saying that it should not. There would be absolute chaos if there was one regulation for one applicant and a different regulation for another. We must apply a uniform provision across the board. I am saying that if you find it is not sufficient, you scrap the 75 per cent or whatever and you apply a new regulation. That can be done overnight, without waiting for the resumption of this House.
We are satisfied with the explanation we have got from the Minister in relation to this problem. In regard to the navy and the protection services and their ability to effectively protect our interests, we are quite satisfied that the navy now have the ability and the capacity to deal very effectively with foreign boats. Anyone who has been studying events recently will see how successful they have been in apprehending some of these. While I was Minister I had occasion to go on the fishery protection vessels, the Aisling, the Emer and the surveillance plane, the Beechcraft, when I was most impressed by their level of expertise and the knowledge and experience they had of dealing with this very complex situation which relates to a number of countries with different rights and different zones for different species of fish. Indeed it was an education for me to see their level of expertise and their handling of the situation. But the more we hear from the Minister of the details of the Bill the more fishy it becomes. While we are prepared to withdraw this amendment to section 2 we must be worried about section 3 and we will talk about that when we come to that stage.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 4, between lines 48 and 49, to insert the following definition:—
"‘the Act of 1983' means the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1983;".
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 4, lines 49 and 50, to delete "a majority of the shares are beneficially owned" and substitute "all of the shares are beneficially owned, or the body is otherwise controlled,".
This is purely a drafting amendment.
I have a few questions about the methods which will be used by the Minister for determining classification. We raised yesterday on the Second Stage debate the issue of whether or not a fairly sizeable boat — which would be used, say, for angling competitions, deep sea fishing competitions, that type of activity — would come under the provisions of section 2. We raised the question of whether the requirements in relation to those boats would have to be fulfilled under this section.
I did not catch the question — in relation to classification of?
——of the boats. Under the section the Minister must differentiate between small and large boats. I am sure the Minister would not expect rowing boats, punts and small salmon fishing boats——
No, that was never meant.
While it may not be meant, under the provisions of the section the Minister can do so.
A Minister can, but the Deputy can take it that any Minister would have a bit of common sense and be practical about this. For example, there would be no point in applying this to currachs, rowing boats, that kind of craft.
The Minister indicated earlier that possibly the regulation would stipulate 75 per cent of the crew being Irish. In that classification area can he give us some indication of the size of boat which must apply for a licence before it can commence?
No, because this is something we must discuss in the next week. We have to correlate our information on what kinds of boats are likely to intrude in our waters. within our jurisdiction, and ensure that whatever length is set that that particular class of boat would be caught by the registration. I could give the Deputy a figure now that may or may not turn out to be the figure that would do the job we expect it to do. I would ask the Deputy to leave it with me. He can be assured that I am as concerned as he to ensure that the people we want to keep out are kept out and that that figure will be pegged at that level.
I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that there are many small fishing boats around our coasts and perhaps he would consider exempting them. Indeed it is unfortunate that we are not discussing this Bill next week, when the Minister would then be in a position to correlate all of this. But we are passing a Bill here today when even the Minister himself is not fully au fait with all that is necessary. He must wait until the Bill is passed and then next week he will decide after he has correlated all of this. It is unfortunate that we do not have some indication at this point.
I would ask the Minister to consider all of the traditional boats which fish along our coast, that is from the 65ft. downwards. Perhaps he would consider exempting those boats together with all of the boats which are involved in angling and indeed the smaller type boats, the punts or currachs which do not necessarily have to be registered unless one is applying for a grant for a punt from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, when I understand that is the only time they need be registered.
We want to know precisely what we are talking about with regard to the licence. For example, will there be any restrictions attached thereto? The example I would have in mind is that if there is a quota in a particular area, such as the Celtic Sea, or a quota of 5,180 tonnes, then it is not practical for all of the boats around the coast to go in there overnight and ensure that they take out only that quantity. My fear is that the licence might not be a clearcut one. We would request the Minister not to restrict it in any way. Can the Minister give the House that assurance, that there will be no restriction on the licence?
The idea of restricting a licence to a quota in the Celtic Sea, that kind of example, is just not practical when one looks at the quotas applicable in the Celtic Sea, for example, in 1981, in 1982, when it was closed and in 1983. One just could not see ahead at the beginning of a year because the quotas in different species change. There are non-quota and quota species of fish under our common fisheries policy within the EEC and that kind of thing would not be practical. There is a fear expressed, possibly justifiably, about the kind of licence that might emanate from my Department.
Under the provisions of this Bill the Minister has powers to provide for certain conditions or indeed any conditions he wishes for that matter, in a regulation. The Deputy will have to rely on the common sense of any Minister, no matter from what side of the House he comes, to provide for freedom to give a licence and to ensure that he allows the industry operate in its natural way.
Is the Minister saying that one of the conditions of a licence would be that a boat would be obliged to maintain a certain quota of fish, that a quota system is applied under these conditions? Is the Minister saying that?
No, I was just pointing out the impracticality of applying something like a quota to a particular licence or a boat. One just could not, because quotas change, as the Deputy knows from his time as Minister, from year to year. One just could not apply that kind of condition.
If, in an attempt to control the over-fishing of any particular species, for instance, mackerel, it was decided to apply a quota under those conditions to a particular boat, if the boat was to exceed that quota and it was known to the Department or the licensing authority, whoever that might be, that the boat had exceeded its quota in that year, would it be possible for the Minister the following year to refuse the licence?
A completely different mechanism would be used. The Deputy is aware of restrictions being applied in the Celtic Sea in the case of herring fishing——
The Deputy put them in jail.
I am not implying that. When there were no licensing requirements the Deputy had to use a certain mechanism. I am not saying that same mechanism would apply elsewhere if the situation was repeated but there is a mechanism that would apply above and beyond the licensing requirement in relation to a species being overfished or where fisheries were closed for certain periods. The Deputy operated at a time when this requirement was not in existence and he used a certain approach.
It could be used as a mechanism——
It is possible but I do not think it would be practicable.
Deputy Daly is trying to mend his fences.
I am quite clear about what happened in the Celtic Sea. The restrictions were not imposed by me but by the Deputy's Minister.
From what we have heard it appears that the situation is not as clear-cut as appeared from the Bill. Perhaps it was wrong of me to use the word "quota" because that could be used as a red herring. Is there not a stock management control within the Department? We hope the Minister will be in a position next week to bring back a quota of 80,000 tonnes plus. At the moment there is a condition where boats of a certain size can land only a certain tonnage each week: boats of 90 feet plus can land only 500 tonnes. I am worried that the 500 tonnes may be related to a quota of 55,000 tonnes. There is no doubt that with a much higher quota there will be a pro rata increase in the landings per boat per week. In the event of substantial quantities of cod being available, would the Minister consider attaching a condition to a licence stating that boats must fish for cod only?
I think there is a certain amount of confusion here. I said the Minister of the day has power to apply conditions to the licence we are talking about. At the moment there is a licensing scheme in operation for mackerel but the same figure was used last year without any mention of a licence. What we are talking about here is the drawing up of a register of boats. There are other mechanisms such as those applied by the Deputy in the case of herring and what we used in the case of mackerel. In the absence of a licensing system other mechanisms would have to be applied in the case of overfishing or the closure of fisheries. I think Deputies are overstating their fear as regards the licence but I am glad of the opportunity to allay any fears they may have on this matter. During the years we have adopted certain approaches to dealing with matters such as a drop in stock. We applied conditions to the catching of juvenile fish and to mackerel catches. All of this is not based on 55,000 tonnes.
The Minister says that the licensing of boats is merely to draw up a register of boats. Is there no co-ordination between the Department of Fisheries and the Register of Shipping? Possibly there are more boats on that register than will require a licence from the Department. There is more information available to the Registrar of Shipping without getting involved in more paperwork.
There is a register held by the Department of Transport in relation to ships. What we are forgetting is that we are still zoning in on the problem of unwelcome additions to our fleet that would in the normal way get registration through the Department of Transport. I am trying to prevent what might be unwelcome additions to our fleet and in such cases I will not grant a licence. It is purely a protective mechanism and it also builds up for our information a full register of boats engaged in the fishing industry. It is as simple as that. The next question I will be asked is whether we will make contact with the Revenue Commissioners — I have no intention of doing that.
The more we go on the more worried I become. The Minister has said we do not want unwelcome additions to our fleet. What is the position where a person wishes to buy a boat? Will a fisherman have to ask the Minister if he will give him a licence before he buys a boat? From what the Minister has said it appears one must first obtain a licence and I think this will be a major deterrent. The Minister must accept that a person will not buy a boat unless he is sure he will get a licence. In addition, it will create difficulties for BIM. I hope I am wrong but from what the Minister has said it appears a fisherman will not know if his boat will be licensed.
I think the Deputy is completely overstating the dangers. To say it will prove a deterrent and will cause problems for BIM is going beyond the bounds of commonsense or possibility. Any Minister who applied this provision in that manner would not be worthy to be a Minister and would do an injustice to the fishing industry. In the case of regulations a Minister has freedom to do many things. Over the years legislation was introduced in this House which was followed by regulations; and I do not recall any scandal, scares or serious consequences from provisions brought in by regulations by Ministers from any side of the House, because they had freedom to act irresponsibly if they so wished. That is not what we are there to do.
I should like the Minister to answer the first part of the question. Must a person buy a boat first and then apply to the Minister for a licence? I am not trying to be difficult and I fully appreciate that the Minister, like former Ministers, would put the interest of the industry first. We do not want to tie the Minister's hands. That is important because we do not want to have a position that if someone wants to apply for a grant to BIM they cannot first seek a licence or a decision to grant a licence when the boat is completed, like planning permission.
There is a very simple answer. Anybody who wants to buy a boat knows how he will crew it and what it will be used for. It is very simple for him to walk into Merrion Street and present his plans. If he complies with the normal regulations he will get a licence. It is very easy to establish whether he will get a licence.
Could the Minister give any information concerning foreign ships who are purchasing mackerel in Lough Swilly and have been for the last three years? They are being fished by Irish registered vessels but they are being trans-shipped in Lough Swilly to third country shop owners. Does this Bill cover that or does the status quo remain?
We have no specific proposals to deal with that. The Deputy is speaking about people, other than Irish fishermen, who are taking fish on board in Lough Swilly from Irish fishermen and trans-shipping it elsewhere. Irish fishermen catch the fish and they may dispose of it in any way they wish. We do not want to tie Irish fishermen.
This is a very important issue in relation to mackerel stocks and conservation, which we will be talking about later. I am very doubtful about the quantities recorded as being caught because I do not think there is a proper monitoring system and it may well be that other ships are using the facility to dispose of the mackerel which are being caught in the open sea. I am surprised that this Bill does not take that situation into account because we have a vast mackerel stock being fished and disposed of to foreign factory ships which are coming from the Eastern bloc who were able to obtain a foreign market for them and this is to our detriment.
The EEC regulations concerning technical measures for conservation are there. The legislation enabling the Naval Service to enforce the provisions are inadequate. Existing legislation has also proved inadequate for the control of freezer vessels and there is a proposal now to amend EEC regulations to tighten control. Freezer vessels have been operating in Irish waters in recent years and this section will permit control measures for these vessels. In the past technical measures under EEC legislation have been inadequate because there was no control on the transfer of catches. I am not that concerned about Irish fishermen's catches being transshipped to fishermen in Irish waters, but I am concerned about people who have no right to be fishing in our waters transferring their catches to freezer ships and then trans-shipping them without anybody knowing where they came from or where they were caught. Section 4 deals with the tightening up of this aspect of fishing so that matters should now improve. There are problems and there is no point in my telling the House that everything will be perfect in future. Because of the nature of things, it will not. I know Deputy Conaghan has a specific problem in relation to Lough Swilly and I hope this Bill will remove the problem for that area. It will move the problem a few miles further out, perhaps not as blatantly as that, but I am afraid that trying to ensure it is not done at all is going beyond the bounds of our capacity.
I move amendment No. 6.
In page 5, to delete all words from and including "boat, or of" in line 25 down to and including "specified," in line 27 and substitute "boat, shall be seventy-five per cent or more nationals of Member States of the European Communities,".
We discussed this matter fairly fully and this would be a more suitable section from every point of view, especially from the point of view of the text as it stands. It would be a far better section if our amendment were accepted. The amendment would make it more clear-cut and definite. There would be no ambiguity. There are problems in regard to section 2 but there is no problem whatever here and the Minister should accept our amendment. It would strengthen his position. There would be no loopholes.
As the Deputy said, we discussed this in great detail on section 2. I do not see any great difference between what the Deputy and his colleagues agreed to on amendment No. 3 and what is here. The same thing can be done here as we propose to do in section 2. The effect would be the same. The Deputy can take my word that the regulation will provide for the amendment he is seeking.
Why is it not possible to incorporate what will be done by regulation in the actual Bill? Any undue delays could lead to a very unsatisfactory situation because boats will try to establish quotas and seek to have concessions made. They would have to get the facilities we do not want to give them. Unless the law is clear-cut and incisive it will not be as effective as it could be. The British regulation came in almost simultaneously with the Act and there must have been a good and valid reason why the British did that. The Minister may argue there is a good and valid reason to keep it separate from the Bill and do it by regulation, but seeing the regulation is designed to secure the same result, surely it would get the message across more effectively if it were incorporated in the Bill. These people are very conscious that we are legislating here and they are monitoring what is happening here. If they find any loophole and there are undue delays in making the regulations we shall leave ourselves open to difficulties.
The Deputy uses expressions like "phasing in" and "establishing rights". No rights can be established and the phasing to be done is phasing out. We can actually count the number of vessels involved in that phasing out. There is no question of phasing in or establishing rights beyond what are there already.
This Bill will hopefully be passed by the Seanad next week and, following on its passage, the regulations will be brought in. They are actually in course of preparation. The Deputy need have no worries about a time lag or the danger of anybody establishing rights.
It is recognised that backdoor methods can be used very effectively and the British had to amend their legislation recently when loopholes were found. The legal situation has been very carefully monitored by people seeking to get access here who now find it more difficult to get access under British legislation. I am convinced that if they find loopholes they will test those in the courts and that is why it is imperative we lock the doors very firmly. Let them take on the British Government if they want to. I think they will do that and we should not make things easier for them here by letting them know in advance.
The approach by legislation has been adopted because these people are monitoring the situation. If they should find a loophole or try to enter by some back door we would not hesitate to bring in amending legislation. Actually the British used their heads and adopted the regulation approach to give them flexibility so that they could act quickly.
The Minister should seriously consider accepting this amendment. It is quite clear that it is 75 per cent or more and there is no reason why the Minister cannot bring in a regulation at a later stage and make it 100 per cent. At the moment the loophole is there and it is left to the Minister to reduce it from 75 per cent. We want to close this loophole. We are very worried about this and about the influx of Spaniards and other boats from third countries coming in here. We must show them that we are very serious in what we are doing. The Minister should seriously consider accepting our amendment, particularly as he can introduce a regulation at any time to increase that. If the Minister can give some good, valid reason for suggesting that it should be under 75 per cent, we could consider it but I believe that would be difficult.
It is important that this Bill is enacted very soon because, despite what the Minister says, that there are only nine Spanish boats involved at the moment, there is absolutely no reason why many, if not all, of the 62 UK-Spanish boats could not, in the interim period come in here and that they would also be included with the nine in this phasing-out period. What guarantees have we that as of this week the UK-Spanish have not made application to do what the other nine have already done? We are accepting the fact that there are nine there but the Spaniards knew many months ago that legislation like that introduced in the UK last March would be introduced here. Those clever business people more than likely have initiated this and possibly have submitted applications. What is the situation in relation to those boats?
They can make any application they wish. The regulation can define exactly to whom it applies and to whom it does not apply. We are back again to people coming in back doors, side doors and under cover of night. I cannot see any problem if the Deputies are prepared to accept from me that I will introduce regulations governing the 75 per cent under amendment No. 2, which the Deputies have withdrawn. What is the difference between that and accepting my word under the provisions in relation to section 3? There is none whatever and, as far as I am concerned, there is no doubt in my mind at the moment that the 75 per cent would be a fair level at which to take this.
There are times when it could possibly be more suitable to have 75 per cent plus. I cannot visualise any circumstances that would bring this about but if you had written in 75 per cent or more and you discovered for some very good reason that 70 per cent would be more appropriate you were stuck with the Bill at that stage. I am looking for the freedom to apply flexibility to meet the demands of the day. I do not need anything else. I am not looking for any concessions and there is nothing underhand about this. I hope the Deputies will accept this. They have withdrawn their other amendment and, while this is not exactly the same thing, the same principle applies in that the Deputies would also expect me to introduce regulations governing section 3. I am prepared to give the undertaking that I will do that.
There is no great similarity between amendment No. 3 and amendment No. 6 except the wording of it. Amendment No. 3 to section 2 referred to Irish boats whereas amendment No. 6 to section 3 refers to third country boats. The Minister, in what he has just stated has borne out what I have said, that he might want to increase it over and above the 75 per cent. Our amendment has left that option open to him. He has suggested making it necessary to reduce it to 70 per cent or maybe even less. Could the Minister tell us what in his estimate would make that more beneficial to the Irish? We must look after ourselves first because the Europeans will not. I cannot see any valid reason why the Minister will not accept this amendment of 75 per cent or more. We are leaving that open to him as well.
Could the Minister not reduce this by way of regulation from 75 per cent? He is satisfied that there are only nine Spaniards involved. He can only satisfy us by telling us tonight that this legislation will be retrospective if there are to be no more than nine. I believe many of the 62 UK-Spanish boats have commenced proceedings to become affiliated to others in this country. The Minister will satisfy us if he tells us that this Bill will be retrospective.
I do not see any reason why I should not be able to give an undertaking that we can now count the number of boats to which we are applying this in the phasing out. There is not phasing in as far as I am concerned. I am only in this Department for the past six months but I am there long enough and I am long enough in the House to know that, in relation to this particular amendment, even if there was a valid reason for accepting it, it would be very foolish of me to accept the wording the way it is framed without having it brought to the notice of the Attorney General's office and consulting with his officials first. I cannot advise Deputy Daly and Deputy P. Gallagher that the wording of the amendment would stand up. When I say "stand up" I mean that it will do what it is meant to do. After accepting something, and having written it into the Bill, one would be in a serious position. We are here dealing with non-Irish situations which would come under the aegis of the EEC. This would make me much more wary of the consequences of finding something illegal with the wording. Even if there were valid reasons for accepting the amendment put down by the Opposition Members I have to say that, in the form in which it is put, I would prefer to have it scrutinised in detail.
In view of the fact that the amendment says "nationals of Member States of the European Communities" I cannot see the logic of the Minister's argument. The Minister has accepted that 75 per cent appears to be a reasonable figure to start with, so why does he not accept our amendment? We are making the position secure for Irish-men. We are being reasonable with this amendment and we are all trying to do the best in the interests of the fishermen. I urge the Minister to seriously consider accepting it.
Is amendment No. 6 being pressed?
It might be necessary to press it. We will accept what the Minister says in good faith if he gives an assurance that the regulation which will be introduced as soon as the Bill is signed on Thursday or Friday of next week will specify 75 per cent. That would not tie the Minister's hands. We realise the numerical strength of the Government and we wish to obtain the best Bill possible for the fishermen, the processors and the exporters.
Yes, it will be done by regulation.
We want this provision to be firmly established in black and white. The Minister has not used a valid argument against what we are asking. The Minister is saying that he is working on the regulation and that it will be the same as what we are asking. The Minister will also have the power to make a further regulation if he finds that the section here needs to be regulated further. We are providing the Minister with a simplified method which will provide for what both we and the Minister want to provide for. This is not similar to the section 2 amendment which we put forward. We appreciated the difference there and withdrew that. The Minister should think about this and accept a valid argument and a sensible amendment to what is, to say the least, a very "fishy" Bill. This Bill was obviously rushed in.
Is this amendment being withdrawn?
Even now things may be happening of which we are unaware and we could find ourselves with other boats here that might get around this provision. Section 8, which concerns registration, applies immediately. Any boat that does not apply for registration is not registered; it is as simple as that. Section 3 in relation to this provision will mean a regulation. All I am saying is that for the most part this is an enabling Bill for which flexibility is being sought to introduce regulations to meet the needs of the Bill. I would be much happier if Deputies did not press this amendment. I have not had time to seek the advice I would need to be absolutely sure. It looks fine to me, but who am I to say that that is the correct way to do what we are seeking to do? I will do what the Deputies are proposing to do in the form of a regulation giving them the same flexibility they gave me in relation to section 2.
I accept that the Minister has not had the time to consult advisers. I would like an assurance from the Minister that he will look at this between now and its passage through the Seanad. Our proposal will strengthen rather than weaken the Minister's hand. If we thought we would weaken the Minister's hand or create difficulties for him we would have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment. I would ask the Minister to look at the Bill again to see if ours would be a better final solution than what he is suggesting and we will not press it now.
I assure the Deputy that if he withdraws the amendment now I will look at it in the Seanad next week and see what can be done.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 5, between lines 27 and 28 to insert the following paragraph:—
"(b) Require that the skipper of a sea-fishing boat to which the conditions apply shall be an Irish citizen,".
What we are trying to do here is to further strengthen the Minister's hand. If this amendment is accepted it will eliminate our fears in this area about the Spanish boats and many others. I was glad that the Minister said that some of the other boats had formed a company in this country. I am surprised that at this late stage the Department of Fisheries are not aware of this and of the fact that many of these boats have made application to one Department or another. I hope that section 8, which we will discuss at a later stage, will overcome any difficulties in relation to them. I would ask the Minister to accept amendment No. 7.
There are already provisions covering the certification of skippers and second hands of fishing vessels. These regulations under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, requires skippers and second hands to carry certificates of competency which in practice can only be held by Irish or British citizens. It would not be appropriate to include in this Bill the provision proposed as it would be in conflict with general legislation dealing with certification. As worded it would be deemed to be discriminatory and, therefore, contrary to the Treaty of Rome. The Deputy can see that there are problems in relation to that kind of proposal in his amendment. For the reasons given I would ask that he consider the consequences of his proposal before pressing the amendment.
Can the Minister quote the Act which stipulates that we cannot include the words "Irish citizen"? Then we would consider it. If he can prove conclusively to us that this would contravene the Treaty of Rome will he accept that this should read "that the skipper of a fishing boat to which the conditions apply shall be a citizen of the Community"? Why cannot the words "Irish citizen" be accepted?
I did not say that "Irish citizen" cannot be accepted. I said that under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, certificates of competency can be held in relation to our situation only by British or Irish citizens. By the way, a reciprocal arrangement is provided for between ourselves and Britain. Irish people can hold certificates of competency in relation to British boats. The Deputy knows, when he seeks conclusive proof from me in relation to the Treaty of Rome regulations, that I have expressed a view held that more than likely — that is as far as I or anybody else can go until one would have gone through the whole European Court system to establish the situation — we would be putting ourselves in grave danger of being told that we are or would find ourselves in breach of the Treaty of Rome on the basis of a discriminatory practice. It is a judgement which one must make for oneself in seeking to prove conclusively beyond any shadow of doubt. The Deputy knows well that that cannot be established without going through the whole system of court procedure which is very cumbersome and long drawn out and would probably take years to do.
The onus is not on us to go through the various courts to establish whether the Minister is right or wrong. I would ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, for guidance on this. Is it possible to include the words "shall be a citizen of the Community"? Is that acceptable?
I do not think we can change an amendment at this stage and even if we could I do not think I would be in a position to accept an amendment to an amendment like this, simply because, first of all, it is not done and, secondly, I would not be in a position to accept that kind of thing on the basis that I would not be aware of the legal consequences.
The Chair could not accept an amendment after Committee Stage has started, but of course if there was complete agreement and unanimity in the House on all sides anything legal can be done and in those circumstances it could be accepted, but only in those circumstances.
Surely it would not be difficult to secure agreement in relation to "shall be a citizen of the EEC". I hope that would be acceptable to all sides and it would overcome any difficulty which may arise for you, a Cheann Comhairle.
The Minister might add the words "shall be an Irish citizen or shall be a citizen of a member state of the Community".
The Chair would not be prepared to advise on that, but the Chair has said that if there is unanimity he will accept the amendment.
I would like to come again to the legal implications of this kind of thing. The Deputy will appreciate that it would be naive of me to accept it at this time without knowing what consequences might flow from it.
The Minister is not giving away any of his catch. It might not work at all if he did so.
A Cheann Comhairle, I appreciate your suggestion that this would be acceptable provided there was unanimity on all sides of the House. With the greatest respect to the Minister, as Deputy Daly has said, he is giving nothing away and this would strengthen his hand further. It is for that reason we are doing this. The Minister seemed to be suggesting implications of one kind or another. Nothing has been implied in anything that was said on this side of the House. We appreciate the difficulties in the industry and that this legislation is intended to prevent foreign or third country boats coming into the country. The Minister has co-operated with us already and I thank him for that. He has nodded his head in confirmation that he will introduce a regulation next week when the Bill is enacted that 75 per cent of the crew will be Irish. We are asking for only one slight change here and I think there should be no difficulty of problems of discrimination arising.
The Deputy happens to be in the happy position that it does not make much difference whether he believes it will cause problems. I mean that in the proper sense, not in the sense that he does not mind but it will not cause him personally any great headaches.
You never know, I might want to get a skipper's ticket.
The difference is that anything I do on this side will be scrutinised very carefully elsewhere. If the Deputy would give me the opportunity of withdrawing his amendment and if I see that it can be done and that it is legally possible and acceptable to advisers and so on, then I will consider it next week in the Seanad.
Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 are related to amendment No. 8. Amendments Nos. 8, 11 and 12 may be taken together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 6, line 3, to delete "£100,000" and substitute "£200,000".
This amendment gives the Minister more money. In relation to this legislation and in particular in relation to breaches of the law by third country boats, perhaps boats of member states, it is essential to have a realistic level of fines and also the authority to forfeit boats. This is why we are proposing to increase the maximum level of fine from £100,000 to £200,000. In amendment No. 9 we are making provision for the confiscation of a boat as well as fish and gear. We are also proposing that Irish boats be exempt from forfeiture.
It is well known that a pooling system is in operation for the payment of fines and there is not sufficient penalty on boat owners from third countries who are breaking the law. We must make it easier for the protection services to deal with these illegal activities which are taking place almost daily. The record of the protection service shows that there is hardly a day when third country boats are not taken into Rossaveal of Castletownbere and other places along the west coast. Widespread illegal activity must be taking place in areas where boats have a limited licence to fish and are extending the powers given to them. The impositions we are suggesting would make it easier for the protection services and would represent a greater deterrent for foreign boats operating illegally here.
The maximum fine under the Fisheries Acts is at present £100,000 and this applies in cases of illegal fishing by foreign trawlers. Up to 1978 the maximum fine was only £500 and fishing gear was automatically forfeited. The maximum fine is never imposed and the normal fine would be between £20,000 and £30,000, plus the forfeiture of fishing gear valued at about the same amount. A fine of £200,000 would be out of line with the normal level of fishery fines. While my own inclination would be to increase the maximum level permissible, it probably would not make one iota of difference because the same people would be trying the same offences and probably applying the same level of fines, regardless of the ceiling allowable.
Amendment No. 9 would involve forfeiture of a boat for a first offence and this seems somewhat unreasonable. The effect of amendment No. 12 would be to exempt Irish fishing boats from liability to foreiture under any section of the Fisheries Acts, even where such provisions already apply. Let us be quite clear that they do apply. Apart from that, the amendment would be discriminatory and its acceptance would involve changing the 1978 Act. Section 7 mentions ten sections of the 1978 Act and under all except three, forfeiture applies. The whole tenor of our legislation would have to be changed.
The level of fines is open to review and I am not opposed to having a look at it later this year and amending through further legislation the maximum levels which may be imposed. We will consider it carefully and make sure they are in line with what we are doing elsewhere.
I wish to refer to amendment No. 8 which increases the maximum fine from £100,000 to £200,000 in the case of foreign boats in breach of the Act. I totally disagree with the Minister on this matter. The evidence is that decisions on the amount of fine are almost invariably based on what the maximum is. Newspaper reports of cases show that the justice always asks what the maximum level is. I am not an expert in this area but looking at cases which have been disposed of over the last number of years, by and large the decision has been to impose the maximum fine provided for in the Bill. A judge will decide on the evidence before him what the fine should be. The general fine in this area has been £20,000 or £30,000. By doubling the amount here we would set a base line. This would enable judges to increase the fine to a more realistic figure. The fines have not been changed since 1978 despite the fact that inflation has increased considerably since then. Look at the way the price of boats has increased since that time. There is a vast difference between what a boat would have fetched on the market at that time and what it would fetch now. A sum of £200,000 would be a more realistic figure and would impose severe penalties on those committing this type of offence.
Did I understand the Minister to say that he intends to amend the existing legislation in relation to fines and so on? This Bill is an ideal opportunity for him to do something about that. I do not know if there is a legal difficulty in having a minimum fine rather than a maximum one. The law as it operates in relation to foreigners who are caught is a bit of a joke.
In relation to the forfeiture of gear what happens is that it is auctioned off practically straight away. The gear is so sophisticated that it would be of no practical use to our fishermen. What happens is that some local person buys it on behalf of the foreign fishermen. The same can be said about large catches of fish. I am glad the Minister will amend the legislation but I wonder why he did not do it in this Bill.
I see no reason why the Minister will not increase the fine to £200,000. I accept that they have been in the region of £25,000 to £30,000 but no doubt judges have taken into account the maximum fine set by this House.
I fully endorse what Deputies Daly and Gallagher said, that this will be used as a base and judges might consider increasing the fines on a pro rata basis. The Minister mentioned confiscation of gear which is normally worth about £20,000 to the skipper. However, in practical terms, it is of no real value to us since we do not use this type of gear. The only sure deterrent we have is to impose a fine. Perhaps we should have put down an amendment for £500,000 if the courts normally inpose about one-third of what we recommend.
We are all aware of the round robin financial system which operates in Europe and third countries. While I appreciate and fully commend the Naval Service for catching foreign boats and confiscating their gear and catches, other foreign boats are given an opportunity to come in. The boat owner is not paying the fine because it is coming from this insurance system. This is something which is happening in a hidden way. When the Naval Service are busy with some foreign boats, others come in. Boat owners pay into this pool each year depending on the size of the boat and their catch for the previous year.
We are giving the Minister our full support. If he wants to introduce a regulation later to increase the fine he will have our full support. We must show that we are not prepared to accept the system which operates and we will have to do something to deter boats from coming in.
As regards the level of the fines, I support the amendment to encourage the Minister to increase all fines which apply to foreign vessels fishing illegally in our waters. Having been Minister for Defence with responsibility for the Naval Service I offer the comment here that had the Naval Service been large enough to continuously patrol our waters I would be correct in claiming that they could catch a Spaniard every day of the week. They are fishing illegally all the time. The reason why more of these do not appear before our courts is that we do not have a sufficiently large naval service to consistently patrol our waters. With a small naval service, men have to return to port and the Spaniards know this well. Despite the assistance of spotter planes and the number of new vessels which we have obtained, our service is still a very limited one, when one considers the extent of the waters to which we have exclusive rights.
It is sad that the Spaniards can exploit our fisheries and consistently carry on illegal fishing. On the other hand, they are presenting their case for membership of the EEC as a country prepared to accept all the rules and regulations which apply therein, but they are not prepared to live by these rules now. The pool system referred to by our spokesman, Deputy Daly, enables them to risk being caught because so few are going to be caught and the fines which have been imposed by the courts are so small by comparison with the wealth which they are extracting that it is of very little consequence to the Spaniards and no deterrent. Our judges have a lot to answer for in not giving due recognition to the wishes of this House when the £100,000 maximum fine was introduced. They have not been imposing fines of that size. When that fine was introduced in 1978, it was hoped that our courts would impose fines of that size, or close to it. It is sad that the average fine is only in the region of £20,000 to £30,000, which is not a deterrent to the Spaniards. They continue blatantly to illegally exploit our fisheries.
I would certainly encourage the Minister to increase all the fines to the figure suggested here, or even higher. He should convey, through the appropriate channel, to the Judiciary who decide on these cases that it is the wish of the Irish people and the Government that when these fishermen are caught the maximum fine should apply, otherwise they will continue to ignore the legislation being passed here and at EEC level. I encourage the Minister to proceed along the lines suggested by the Fianna Fáil spokesman and to introduce much more serious and effective deterrents to stop this illegal exploitation in the face of all international agreements. These people should not be dealt with as leniently as heretofore.
I accept what has been said in relation to the ineffectiveness of the level of fines being applied. Deputy Gallagher mentioned minimum fines, but I understand that the courts do not like that type of restriction. We have a flexible, independent judicial system, the members of which apply their minds to specific cases on their merits. The independence of that arm should be left with them. While I would like, as Deputy Molloy and everybody else would, to see deterrents which would stop people from exploiting our fisheries as they are at the moment, the independence of our judicial system is also of paramount importance.
Deputy Daly mentioned a maximum fine being applied. He may be confusing the application of a bond to the extent of the maximum fine being sought. That is the normal practice. The fine is applied and the bond is also sought to the level of the maximum fine which can be imposed but is not normally.
We all agree that there should be stronger deterrents. I have no objection in principle to increasing the fine. The only problem is trying to harmonise the different legislation. Basically, I have no objection to accepting the amendment. I could point out that alterations in the overall position will have to come later. What I had in mind was looking at the overall position of penalties by the end of this year and applying across the board an upwards levelling off of penalties to make them more realistic. That would be a tidier approach. If the Members on the opposite side insist on my accepting their amendment in this case, I would have no objection. I would like to point out that the same penalty would apply to illegal fishing, together with illegal entry into our waters. That may be a salutary thought.
Amendment No. 9 was taken with amendment No. 8. Is amendment No. 9 agreed to?
No. Amendment No. 11 is consequential on the acceptance of No. 9. I am not accepting amendment No. 9. Without further scrutiny of the position, it would be going too far and would be seen to be unreasonable.
Amendment No. 10 is in the name of the Minister.
I move amendment No. 10.
In page 6, line 31, to insert "any or all of" after "extend".
This amendment is a drafting one and has no earth-shattering consequences.
This section is an important part of the Bill as it deals with conservation. Conservation must be an uppermost thought in the mind of everybody concerned with the fishery industry if that industry is to survive. We may pass all the laws in this House but their enactment is another matter. That was very well brought out by Deputy Molloy in relation to the matter of fines.
Section 4 states:
"(1) The Minister may, as he shall think proper, by order prescribe and adopt either or both of the following measures, namely, measures of conservation of fish stocks and measures of rational exploitation of fisheries.
In his speech on Second Stage the Minister said:
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 experiences with expanded mackerel fishery where much of the processing has taken place on floating factories.
Mackerel fishing has been a very important industry for Donegal fishermen. We have had factory ships in Lough Swilly buying their fish. What conditions does the Minister think he will bring in in relation to factory ships? If measures against them were brought in, they would move out to the ocean, perhaps to the Scottish coast, and we would lose the trade on the home front and lose control over mackerel fishing. That would be a grave loss to the industry because it is the only channel Donegal fishermen have for selling their mackerel. We must be very careful about this to ensure that regulations to be brought in would not have that effect.
In relation to salmon conservation, there are grave anomalies in the North of Ireland because of the existence of two fishery organisations, the Foyle and the Swilly. Fishing in those areas is controlled by two different sets of regulations. The Minister should be considering this matter in an effort to bring uniformity so that proper conservation measures could be introduced.
In relation to mackerel trans-shipment, the section concerns any boats other than fishing boats, and there is a provision in relation to what the Deputy is seeking. He spoke about the danger of the factory ships going, for example, to the west coast of Scotland, outside our jurisdiction. The provision could have that effect, but to put it mildly, we cannot have our loaf and eat it.
In relation to factory ships per se, I am not opposed to them because they provide an outlet for certain types of fish, and at certain times in the year, without them many Donegal fishermen would find it difficult to dispose of their catches. They are therefore a very welcome sight in certain areas of Donegal at certain times of the year. The problem is to get recordings of catches sold to freezers, not simply by Irish boats but particularly by foreigners. Foreign boats catch fish in our waters and transfer them to freezers. There is no record of these catches and we, of course, are the losers. An Irishman would have the benefit of the price of his catch. It is a question of surveillance and recording the transfers of fish.
It also involves the problem of loss of employment on shore. We cannot have local factories left without fish while freezers can get their full complement at sea and can steam away to their mother countries to deliver their cargoes there. That is what would flow from unabated and uncontrolled fishing and transferring.
On the question of regulations in respect of salmon fishing, there is an international convention that prohibits fishing for salmon outside our 12-mile limit. There was a legal doubt about the capacity and the jurisdiction of our navy outside that limit. Now, according to the convention, anybody found fishing for salmon outside the 12-mile limit is in breach of the convention and can be apprehended by our naval vessels. There has been reference to the activities of the Faroese and the Greenlanders who are reputed to have absolute freedom of the high seas in relation to salmon. That is not so, in fact, and we have been at the forefront at EEC level in demands for restrictions on the activities of the Faroese and the Greenlanders. So far as I can ascertain these efforts have been successful and both nationalities have accepted the necessity for conservation of salmon stock. Indeed, at the moment in the Faroes salmon fishing is being carried on under the watchful eye of our scientific research people, ICES, and conservation measures are being applied by both the Faroese and the Greenlanders.
Deputy Conaghan mentioned the salmon fishing in the Letterkenny district and in the Foyle area. Our representatives on the Foyle Fisheries Commission endeavour to achieve uniformity. They may at times have to accept terms that are somewhat out of line with arrangements made on this side, but normally we catch up or they catch up with us. There is always an effort made to have as little difference as possible between the two sides. Since I became Minister I recall doing that balancing act in this House with our regulations. At present there should be no great difference between the two jurisdictions.
I agree with most of what the Minister has said but there have been reports recently of Norwegians using the longline system for fishing salmon and making a fair kill. While we may be applying all the regulations and all the laws in order to conserve salmon it is where they originate that the real damage can be done.
At one time salmon was exclusively an inshore fisherman's fish. It is unfortunate that at present the inshore fishermen are the people who bear most of the brunt of the law. There is no excuse for the breaking of the law and the regulations but the way in which some regulations have been handed down is leading to many of the problems of the fishing industry. It is an area that must be looked at seriously. If we are serious about conservation we must tackle it where it is really being abused and that is out beyond the 12-mile limit.
Uniformity of regulations between the two fishery boards that operate in Donegal is important. Some fishermen are on both sides of the divide and they can be legally fishing on one side of the line and illegally fishing on the other side.
In relation to the mackerel industry does the Minister think that under the present regulations he has reasonable control over it and is in a position to monitor the situation? We must ensure that the opportunities that have been there for the fishermen over the last three or four years will continue to be there. I agree that conservation must be uppermost in the Minister's mind but whatever he does he must ensure it will not be to the detriment of the livelihood of the fishermen who have been fishing within the legal limits.
I would remind the House that we have 14 minutes left in which to conclude the debate and pass the Bill.
The illegal fishing of salmon is a problem and I am glad to know the Deputy endorses my stance and does not condone illegal fishing. We are all agreed on that. He made the point that the surveillance people are more concerned with the inland fishermen than they are with the more destructive types who are operating at much greater depths. The problem here is that at the moment with the limited resources at our disposal for protection purposes they are taken up with illegal fishing in the shallower waters. It would be great if they could turn their backs and go out to the nether regions to get what are alleged to be the really destructive fishermen, many of them not Irish of course.
In relation to mackerel the Deputy will be aware that we are operating under an EEC quota system. Along with that we have a licensing scheme here also. The Deputy can be assured that so far as I am concerned if for no other reason or higher ideal than self-preservation I will do my utmost to ensure that both the salmon and mackerel stocks are preserved for the benefit of our fishermen and their children and hopefully their great-great-grandchildren. That is the job I am entrusted with and I will endeavour to do that to the best of my ability.
I want to make it quite clear that there is nobody on this side of the House who in any way condones any type of illegal activity. The Minister can be assured of our support in this regard. This has been a useful and worthwhile debate if only to clear up some of the anxieties in the industry and to highlight some of the prospects for the future. That was in sharp contrast to a leading article in one of today's newspapers and the assertion that there was a lot of rubbish spoken here yesterday, this from some ignorant commentator who obviously was not here. Certainly I have seen a lot more rubbish in relation to fisheries published in newspapers in recent times than I heard here yesterday on this debate. I say that as one who has been involved in fisheries and served on a fisheries conservation board for a long time. I thought the level of debate here was excellent.
I would like to impress on the Minister the importance of maintaining vigilance within the Community in relation to the activities of the Faroese, the Greenlanders and indeed of the Norwegians — this is covered in section 4 — in relation to the exploitation of salmon in that area. It is a vital area for the future of salmon. If the Greenlanders, the Norwegians and the Faroese continue to plunder the salmon fisheries there — and these are Irish salmon from Irish rivers — they will do immense damage to the stocks, certainly more damage than any pollution, disease or netting in our own waters could do. There must be vigilance maintained there to ensure that, in so far as can be established, the regulations there to curtail the activities of the Greenlanders and Faroese are enforced.
I noted that the Minister said "as far as could be ascertained." I should like to know the extent to which we could ascertain what is actually taking place there, whether we could be satisfied as to the operation of ICES there and what action can be taken if it is found that the limited fishing activity for salmon allowed to the Foroese is not controlled; in other words to ascertain that that regulation is being enforced. I am not so sure that it can be ascertained fully from the evidence available now. It must be ascertained whether or not these controlling conservation measures are being enforced, whose purpose it is to control the Faroese salmon fishing, where there was never a traditional salmon fishery until recent times and where there are now probably something like 60 or 70 licensed boats. We need to be adamant in the Community and, to use the Community to bring pressure to bear in that area in order to safeguard our salmon stocks in that locality. I should like an assurance from the Minister that efforts are being made within the Community to further curtail and, if necessary, phase out the activities of the Faroese and keep a very close eye on the Norwegians who would like not alone to get the salmon but to come in and clear up blue whiting and anything else they can get. Yet they would not join the Community when they had the opportunity.
The Deputy will be aware that neither the Faroese nor the Greenlanders are any longer members of the Community — this is the problem — and neither are the Norwegians, as he said. However, there are third country agreements being entered into. I have full confidence in the ICES scientific people who are overseeing the operation of conservation in the Faroese fisheries. It is important for us that there is conservation both there and in Greenland for the sake of our stocks.
I want to make a few observations, first in relation to salmon. I also want to make it clear that, like other Members of this House, I cannot condone illegal activities. We must look also at the question of the income of traditional fishermen. We cannot condone any individual or any Government who would take from traditional salmon fishermen their only livelihood, obtained in a short four weeks. I might refer also to a leading article in a paper some days ago. It was highly irresponsible to suggest, indeed state, that there were certain fishermen in the country making £80,000 a year. It is no wonder the vast majority of people believe firmly that these small fishermen are very rich. The true facts show that that leading article was not true at all. I agree with Deputy Daly that the suggested waffle that was spoken in this House did not deserve the publicity it received in that paper. Anybody should report accurately, though they may have views of their own. While various people in the industry were interviewed they were given very little cover. The facts were there to be borne out.
Before I conclude on salmon I must agree with my colleague, Deputy Conaghan, that it is a worry for us if we are to be confined to 12 miles because very few salmon run that close to the shore. We spoke some time ago about not being able to have one's loaf and eat it. If this is implemented, it will mean there will be no loaf at all to be eaten.
On the question of freezer vessels, many years ago before I came into this House I took an opportunity publicly to state that the freezer vessels were even then — and still are — an integral part of our mackerel fisheries. Those who are in competition with these people on shore appreciate that we must live with these people and that we require these freezer vessels, particularly in times of glut. Despite the fact that we have a reasonably high capacity for freezing purposes it is necessary to have these freezer vessels. I would ask that the Minister and his officials maintain a particularly keen eye — and I have no doubt that he will — at times when landings are low and below the freezing capacity ashore to ensure then that the processors ashore are given priority. I know it is difficult to draw it up in black and white but I think the Minister will accept what I maintain.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 8, subsection (1) (c), line 35, to delete "section 370" and substitute "Part IV".
This is purely a technical amendment and I would ask that it be agreed to.