Written Answers. - Irish Fishing Fleet.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

37 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Marine if he has satisfied himself that the Irish fishing fleet can adequately compete with its EC partners or others in terms of Irish catch quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

47 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Marine the progress, if any, which has been made in the past five years to improve the opportunities for the Irish fishing fleet to capitalise on its location in the European Community with particular reference to supplies, markets available and improvement to the tonnage and size of the fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 47 together.

Ireland is uniquely situated to exploit the rich fishing waters of the North East Atlantic, where we have valuable quotas of both pelagic and demersal species. Fleet policy has, accordingly, developed along a two-pronged model. One of these has encouraged the emergence of a powerful and efficient pelagic sector with an emphasis on ensuring bulk supplies of quality herring and mackeral to processors based primarily in the North West. The other targets demersal stocks, particularly along the west coast where Ireland has traditionally underutilised its quota allocations.
Under the terms of the special whitefish scheme, introduced in 1992, skippers were encouraged to bring in specialised deepwater vessels which would target stocks of high-value whitefish. Seventeen of these vessels have now entered the fleet with a further three expected before the end of 1993.
I would also remind the Deputy that the campaign to modernise the Irish fleet received a major boost in April, when the Commission published its decisions on grant aid for the fleet. Community funding of £1.3 million was secured for 23 modernisation projects, underpinning a total investment of around £4 million, making this the most successful Irish grant aid tranche for a number of years. The next round will be made in October next and I will be pushing strongly at that point for further funding for modernisations.
Utilisation of pelagic quotas has remained steady at, or close to, 100 per cent over the last five years and with the new whitefish capacity coming onstream, utilisation of west coast demersal quotas is expected to increase significantly.
I would, however, sound a somewhat cautionary note in reminding the Deputy that Irish fleet development is circumscribed by the MultiAnnual Guidance Programme for the fleet, for the period 1993-96. Although Ireland recorded a considerable success in the negotiations on this programme at Community level and although the programme does provide for some expansion in the Irish fleet over the next few years, nonetheless, the fleet targets set in the programme must be met, with obvious implications for fleet development in Ireland.
Turning now to markets, Ireland is a net exporter of fisheries products and exports are growing strongly year to year: over the five year period from 1987 to 1991, the value of these exports has grown from £124 million to £175 million. However, there is always room for improvement and we are continuing the search for new markets abroad, particularly for pelagic species.
Many of the new markets identified are for processed fish products. In this context I am happy to inform the Deputy that Ireland currently has in place a very successful programme for the development of fish processing, with aid from the European Community. Over the past three years, over £25 million has been invested in projects in the processing sector with aid of over £11 million from the Community. Almost 60 projects have been assisted and this will result in the creation of in excess of 500 new jobs and will serve to protect the long term viability of another 750 full and part-time jobs in the sector.