Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1994: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The fishing industry is a valuable contributor to the Irish economy and it is well worth protecting. The purpose of the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill is to increase that protection and to help create an environment in which the industry can develop and grow. Before getting into the details of the Bill, however, I would like to comment briefly on the outcome of yesterday's Fisheries Council meeting as the aims of this Bill and the outcome of the Council, in the nature of things are interlinked.

The Council yesterday adopted a framework regulation — and I am using these words advisedly because we must know the meaning of the words we are using. I pay tribute to The Irish Times for its leading article this morning in which it makes the point that we are looking for information, explanation and communication and I agree thoroughly with the point of view set out therein. When I use the words “the Council yesterday adopted a framework regulation under which detailed measures will be implemented”, I am telling the House that this is a draft framework regulation and nothing has been settled. There is much in it and it is worth studying. The draft framework regulation will be completed by the end of the year and, in the meantime, much of what we sought yesterday is in that draft framework. We sought to have some matters included in the draft framework which have not been included but between now and the end of the year we would hope to negotiate on those matters we could not have included yesterday.

The Council yesterday adopted a framework regulation under which detailed measures will be implemented to follow those currently applicable to Spanish and Portuguese vessels under the Iberian Act of Accession. The Iberian Act of Accession was negotiated in 1986 and it is important to keep that in mind. If we are to go down the road of politics — which I do not want to do — that date should be kept——

A long time ago.

It is but the tragedy is that the chickens are coming home to roost ten years later.

Doctors differ and patients die.

The adoption of this framework regulation does not prejudice the content of the detailed measures to be applied later this year. On the contrary, the regulation contains a whole range of criteria, such as the avoidance of the risk to current balances, curtailment of fishing effort, the necessity to preserve the balance in the Irish Box and the socio-economic requirements of local populations which will be to Ireland's benefit.

This regulation, taking into account the important declarations on sensitive areas and the Spanish fleet, is fully capable of ensuring that Ireland's needs are met if the final measures to be adopted are adequate. What happened yesterday is as follows. Sensitive areas are addressed within this framework regulation; that is what we wanted. We wanted the size of the Spanish fleet cut back, we got that and that is in the framework regulation. What we did not get was agreement on the question of coastal State control over sensitive zones or boxes, but we hope to negotiate that between now and Christmas in the context of this draft framework regulation of which I am speaking. All is not lost. These measures will be brought forward later this year and we will continue to fight every inch of the way to obtain a satisfactory outcome.

The deal adopted yesterday is better and significantly so for Ireland than that on offer last December. Any fair minded person will agree that when we entered into negotiation last December, Spain and Portugal had a free run; it was open season effectively, full access to Irish waters. We prevented that happening. Credit must be given where it is due. I appreciate the comments of some of the leaders of the fishing organisations yesterday who recognise the reality of what we sought to achieve. Indeed from Spain's perspective, it accepted and voted for a deal yesterday which it could not accept or vote for last December. This deal does not give free rein to the Spanish fleet and there is no question that the final measures will do so either.

Nevertheless, I voted against yesterday's outcome for three reasons, first, to preserve the possibility of mounting a legal challenge against the regulation; second, because the Council did not agree advance guarantees on controls I felt to be essential and, third, to signal the political importance we attach to this issue in the interests of our fishing industry. Yesterday a journalist stated that this was the first time in years that Ireland was beaten by 11 to one. I asked what was wrong with Ireland standing up for itself; what was wrong with Ireland being at the wrong end of a boat in this regard? It is not about time we showed our independence, that we are different, that we are looking for different things in the national interest.

Unfortunately, we were a lone voice in the wilderness.

We were not in the wilderness; that is the point I am making. It is about time we stood up for ourselves instead of giving things away in a spirit of communitaire, which is what has been wrong with this country over the years. I stand over my action and tactics and feel totally vindicated by the outcome. Indeed, it will stand to us in the continuing negotiations in that we have achieved maximum advantage from the negotiations and have not conceded anything which would be prejudicial to the next stage. On the contrary, we have set the agenda for that stage by tabling a clear statement of Ireland's precise requirements on specific control arrangements. I feel neither defeated nor embarrassed by an eleven to one verdict because our stand is a principled one, wholly justifiable, and we will continue to pursue it.

I am not in the least worried about voting against something which does not meet our interests. Not to have done so would have weakened our position and options considerably. The results of my action yesterday will not become evident for some months to come. I think Spain will regret the decision it took in coming months; I think the action I took will redound to the advantage of our fishermen. That is my interpretation of it; I have no doubt other people may have other interpretations but that is what democracy is all about. Time will tell.

I have no intention of pursuing soft options at European level or of being drawn into cosy consensus for cosmetic purposes if our strategic interests are at stake. I intend to stand up for Ireland's fishing interests at every opportunity, on a principled basis, in pursuit of a fair deal for a decent industry.

To return to the main business of this debate, I will now outline the primary objectives of this Bill which are, first, to provide for tougher penalties for serious fisheries offences, including the possible confiscation of vessels in the case of serious or persistent offenders; second, to amend the law in respect of the licensing and registration of fishing vessels to take account of considerations of economic links in the granting or refusal of licences; third, to strengthen procedures for the detention of fishing boats and the seizure of fish and gear where an offence is suspected; fourth, to impose certain controls on the fishing, sale and possession of eels. I think one Member on the Fine Gael benches — I think it is Deputy McGrath — will be particularly interested in the section of the legislation dealing with eels because he has been pressing for it for some considerable time; and fifth, to increase the protection afforded to fisheries officers through substantially tougher penalties for assault — that arises out of the Ballycotton tragedy.

I have indicated to the House previously my serious concern about illegal fishing in Irish waters. As Minister with responsibility for both the Marine and Defence I have taken steps to bring about maximum co-operation between the services involved in fisheries protection so as to achieve the best possible results. I am very pleased to say that, when I became Minister for the Marine and Defence I brought together the two Departments in the common interest of the objective we seek to achieve, namely, the protection of Irish waters. That small group of people are working very effectively and efficiently.

Fair play to the Minister, he went out to sea.

Yes, I am glad we remained afloat. We were on a very nice boat, in the hands of a very good fisherman, a decent captain who, if I may say so, gave us a very good meal at about midnight in very rough waters.

A good cup of coffee, or perhaps it was Barry's Tea.

It may have been Barry's Tea; I did not take a note of the box but I am sure it was. Experience in recent years has shown that, despite the considerable fines imposed by the courts, certain categories of vessels have continued to flout and ignore the law.

Section 7 of the 1983 Act provided that, on a second conviction on indictment for illegal fishing or other offences, at its discretion the court could order a boat to be confiscated. However, in practice, following a first conviction, vessel owners systematically contrive to eliminate the possibility of confiscation by transferring the ownership of vessels to new companies.

The amendments proposed in section 14 of the Bill will remedy this by permitting the court to order the forfeiture of a vessel, first, where the offence, or a combination of offences, is considered by the court to constitute a serious abuse of conservation measures and, second, where the conviction is a second or subsequent conviction for an offence committed on board the same ship within three years of the date of the commission of the previous offence. Where it is suspected that a change of ownership was effected in order to evade the risk of forfeiture in the event of a further conviction, the onus of proving, to the satisfaction of the court, that the change of ownership was bona fide will rest with the defendant. In the nature of things, as I understand it, that means that the burden of proof shifts, or perhaps it does not.

Some Members might feel that confiscation of fishing boats should be mandatory. Consideration was given to the introduction of mandatory penalties but, having reflected on the matter, I have concluded that, notwithstanding the serious nature of certain offences, the imposition of penalties should be left to the discretion of our courts.

Perhaps the Minister would be afraid of a diplomatic upheaval.

No, our courts are able to manage our judical system. In the circumstances, penalties should be left to the discretion of our courts. Inevitably, if somebody else, in a political context, tries to impose penalties all sorts of charges will be made. Our courts are independent and constitute the proper route through which these penalties should be channelled and handed down.

In the course of preparation of this Bill I gave serious consideration also to the level of fines that may be imposed by the courts. In particular I became concerned about the considerable amount of evidence that has come to light regarding the number of vessels using hidden holds for the storage of illegal fish or undersized nets. Accordingly, I should like to take this opportunity to indicate that, on Committee Stage, I propose to increase the penalties for having a concealed fish hold or undersized nets from £10,000 to £50,000.

If the Deputy feels aggrieved——

Five hundred thousand pounds at least.

If the Deputy feels aggrieved at my softness or whatever, would he please table an amendment and I will be glad to address it. I might not accept it but I will take a very serious look at it.

The Bill will also give the Minister powers to ensure that people who are granted sea fishing boat licences have a real economic link with this country. In 1991 the European Court of Justice gave its support to the principle that member states have the right to set requirements which ensure that such a link exists between boats fishing off quotas and the coastal communities and regions which the quotas were designed to benefit. The Bill will allow the Minister to take account of the economic benefit that the operation of a boat will have for Ireland when considering an application for a fishing licence. This requirement will prevent the practice of quota hopping whereby boats from one State are registered under the flag of another solely for the purpose of gaining access to the latter's quotas.

The Court of Justice expressed its view on the concept of economic link in the context of its ruling that the provisions in Irish law which restricted the right to licence and register fishing boats in Ireland to Irish nationals and bodies corporate were contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Rome which prohibit discrimination on grounds of nationality and protect the right of establishment.

Those restrictions are removed in this Bill and the right to license and register fishing boats is extended to nationals and bodies corporate of member states. Nevertheless, I am satisfied that, by requiring that applicants establish a real economic link, the Bill will ensure that Irish quotas are used and will continue to be used for the benefit of this country.

The Ballycotton inquiry into the tragic deaths of four fisheries officers highlighted the need for increased protection for fisheries officers against assault and the penalties proposed reflect that view. In bringing forward these proposals I am taking account of the recommendations of the tribunal. Under the new provisions those convicted on indictment of having assaulted a fishery officer will face up to five years imprisonment and such fine as the court may deem appropriate having regard to the seriousness of the offence.

It is important that we recognise the essential work carried out by our fisheries officers, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances and that we provide adequate protection for them in our laws. To this end I have considered this matter further and propose to introduce an amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage which will provide for penalties for those who obstruct an officer in the course of his duties. By introducing these measures I want to clearly indicate our support for fisheries officers in their important work. They do a very difficult job in dangerous circumstances and I pay tribute to them for their courage.

The Bill also includes provisions to tighten controls on the catching, possession and export of eels. Increasingly in recent years licensed eel fishermen operating on lakes in the midlands have suffered assault and have had their gear and catch stolen by armed gangs of poachers. Existing provisions have not been found to be sufficient in dealing with this problem and it is, therefore, proposed to tighten controls on fishing for, dealing in and the possession of eels, including eels which are intended for export.

The Bill also addresses a number of administrative weaknesses and regulatory deficiencies in the existing law. It is proposed in particular to amend section 373 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which relates to the registration of fishing vessels, so as to update penalties for registration offences. It is also proposed to give the Minister the power to make and amend regulations governing the operation of the Fishing Boat Register and to provide an appropriate statutory basis for the Minister, in certain circumstances to remove a vessel from the sea fishing boat register so as to deal with certain anomalies that have arisen.

I am satisfied that the provisions of this Bill address many of the major issues facing the fishing industry and strikes a fair balance between the need to comply with EU Treaty obligations and the valid objective of securing a fair share of fishery resources for our economy.

The Bill clearly underlines our resolve to protect the rights of the communities who depend on fishing and to make sure that anyone seeking to abuse their access to our waters will think twice before engaging in illegal fishing or committing other fisheries offences. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister back from Luxembourg. I am sure he finds the waters of Dáil Éireann a little calmer than those he faced yesterday. I will respond briefly to the Minister's comments on yesterday's negotiations. I agree that everything is not lost, that there is still a big battle ahead but we have to recognise that yesterday's results were disappointing and the Minister will have much work to do to redress the balance.

I fear for Ireland's standing at EU negotiations. As a result of recent controversies on EU funding has our standing and the ability of Irish Ministers to fight the good fight been diminished? Has sympathy for Ireland which was always apparent been diminished? If so, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh, and the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Andrews, will find negotiations more difficult in the months ahead, as a result of which all of us will suffer. I hope that the damage caused in recent months by wild statements from Ministers, including the Taoiseach, can be repaired and we can win back our good name in Brussels. That is important from all our points of view.

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy except to say that our good name has never been lost.

Perhaps our good name has not been lost but the Minister will concede that the attitude of the EU towards our country in the past number of months is different. Senior officials in the EU were insulted by a Government Minister and that did not go down well. It makes the Minister's job more difficult as I am sure he found yesterday. It also makes the job of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh, more difficult. I hope that any difficulties caused by the Taoiseach and other Ministers can be resolved.

The difficulties faced yesterday were caused in 1986 and they ended yesterday.

The Minister's press releases during the past number of days indicated that the Minister was confident that he would be able to overcome many of those difficulties.

I am still very confident.

I hope the Minister's confidence is not misplaced but his difficulties are compounded by the recent speeches of the Taoiseach and different Ministers.

I know I can rely on the support of the Opposition.

I wish the Minister well in his negotiations during the next few months as they are of vital economic importance for the country, for our fishermen and the fishing industry. The Minister stated that he opposed the package because first, he needed an opportunity to make a legal challenge and questions on this subject have been tabled for this afternoon. I will be interested to tease out what type of legal challenge it may be possible to mount and its chances of success. Second, the Minister was concerned about the lack of a guaranteed control bearing in mind the admission of Spanish boats and, third he had to have regard for the political importance of the debate. For those three sound reasons the Minister had no choice but to oppose the package. The Minister was right to say that he was not embarrassed by the 11:1 defeat. If the Minister can turn an 11:1 defeat into a victory he should be appointed to manage a soccer team at the bottom of division 4 because they would appreciate the turning of such a loss into victory.

I would love that type of job in my retirement.

I welcome this legislation in that it is comprehensive and will benefit the fishing industry. The new penalties including the power to seize boats, are welcome and must be implemented. I am satisfied with the Minister's willingness to table amendments on Committee Stage to increase some of the penalties provided for in the Bill. I look forward to hearing what my colleague, Deputy Sheehan, has to say on the size of the penalties. In most cases a fine of £50,000 or £100,000 will not be sufficient for big fishing boats from Spain fishing illegally in our waters. It is a drop in the ocean compared with the economic return which their illegal operations generate. I hope the Minister will be willing to accept further amendments on that issue.

One of the main purposes of the Bill is to allow for the registration and licensing of EU boats. The EU has given us no choice but to bring this legislation forward. There is the danger that we will see a large increase in the number of foreign boats licensed to fish in our waters. It is difficult for the fishing industry to respond to such a threat when it does not have the same level of State support or quality of boat as its competitors. It will now be possible for foreign trawlers to register and obtain a licence to fish and we must ensure our fishing industry has the capacity to develop, through State aid, to meet this challenge. We must ensure fishermen are enabled to buy bigger and better boats. I hope the Minister will be successful in obtaining grant aid for them.

Section 5 is designed to prevent abuse of sections 3 and 6 which allow for the registration and licensing of foreign boats. It gives the Minister power to consider disallowing registrations or licences on the grounds that the trawler owners would not make a genuine or generous economic return to this country. The section is well intentioned and designed to protect the Irish fleet, but how effective would it be if challenged through the European Court? In his speech the Minister said:

The Court of Justice expressed its view on the concept of economic link in the context of its ruling that the provisions in Irish law which restricted the right to licence and register fishing boats in Ireland to Irish nationals and bodies corporate were contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Rome....

Is the Minister confident that section 5 is not in breach of the Treaty? If as a result of the court's ruling they have a general right to a licence and to register here, are we allowed lay down regulations which would prevent them so doing on economic grounds? What legal advice has the Minister obtained on this question? It would be disastrous if section 5 were found to be contrary to European law.

In a number of sections the Minister delegates powers to others, for example, the power to register and license. Who will be given these powers? I presume there would not be hundreds of applications for registration and licensing and it would not be a matter which would take up an undue amount of the Minister's time. Why does he think it necessary to delegate these powers and at what level will these important decisions be taken?

I take the Deputy's point.

We can deal with it in greater detail on Committee Stage. The Ballycotton tragedy led to the insertion of section 15. The Minister said he is stating loudly and clearly the Government's intention to offer full support to fishery protection officers. We all agree with that. They are doing a good job on behalf of the State. However, in some areas there are strong feelings of ill will and major problems. These need to be addressed. There is need for these officers but they can only work efficiently if they receive the full co-operation of everyone involved in the industry. That will not be forthcoming unless people feel that they are doing their job fairly. From time to time I have heard complaints about the qualifications necessary to become a fishery protection officer and about the recruitment procedure generally. Perhaps the Minister would clarify the position. Not only should the job description be tightened but we should have a clearer view of the type of person who should be recruited and the qualifications necessary for these important posts.

I am glad the Minister addresses eel fishing, an issue often raised by Deputy McGrath who highlighted the severe problems faced by eel fishermen following physical atacks and assaults on them by individuals and groups, sometimes, it was suspected, of a subversive nature. The Minister's proposal is a step in the right direction in regularising the industry. The Bill proposes to bring it in under the same regulations as govern salmon fishing. While we will never have perfect legislation, the proposals for eel fishing are a vast improvement on the existing regulations. We can go through this in greater detail on Committee Stage.

The Minister should consider introducing a fisheries consolidation Bill. Going through the Bill and particularly section 14 there are numerous provisions where it is necessary to refer to different legislation. That would certainly make the jobs of those who regulate the industry straightforward and make things easier for everybody. Will the Minister respond to this point?

I welcome this Bill because the new penalties and controls will be necessary when the Spanish fleet, in particular, has greater access to our waters. I hope these new measures will help to protect the livelihoods of Irish fishermen and those involved in the industry. We are unable to offer full protection to our fisheries because of insufficient fishery protection vessels. I accept that this is a question of finance but the Minister will have to fight at Cabinet for additional funding to ensure that moneys are made available for fishery protection vessels. The Department of the Marine and the Naval Service are fighting an uphill battle against huge trawlers and it will become more difficult in the months and years ahead unless extra resources are made available either through the budget of the Department of the Marine or the Department of Defence. If the provisions of this Bill are to succeed and the industry to develop in a regulated fashion, more resources are needed to enforce the law.

I look forward to the more detailed examination of the Bill on Committee Stage. Suggestions will be put forward in a non-political fashion — the fishing industry was never a highly politicised area. Perhaps one of the reasons for its underdevelopment is that it has never had the full political attention it deserves. I hope the Minister will respond in a reasonable way to our amendments.

I will be glad to hear suggestions and amendments and take a very positive view of some of the Deputy's suggestions.

I too was saddened to learn about the incident in Europe when the Minister was let down at the eleventh hour. We must ensure he is aware that we are fully behind him in these negotiations. We hope he will not be discouraged and will fight the battle to the bitter end.

I welcome this Bill on behalf of my party and pay tribute to the Minister for moving to amend the law to protect our national resources. The provisions are long overdue and I am sure the new measures proposed will help to consolidate our approach to the development of the fishing industry. For too long our fishing industry has been exposed to exploitation. We must now act in a determined way to ensure that the foundations are laid for the protection of our fisheries, both inland and in the waters around our coasts.

There can be no denying that fisheries has been a Cinderella industry, always promised State assistance and encouragement to develop but seldom given the means to embark on a programme of enlightened investment and conservation. The rich harvest of the sea has provided food and jobs, our fishing fleet has been upgraded but that is largely due to individuals of vision with the will to see their dreams come to fruition.

The European fishing industry is in crisis and even the European Union Fisheries Commissioner, Mr. Paleokrassas, admitted this. He said that the overall fishery sector in the European Union is going through a tough time and we have seen the recent problems in the French market when the European Union reintroduced minimum prices for certain white fish and Atlantic salmon. The crisis goes deeper than the problems of one market and the situation is rapidly going out of control. Only last month the crisis in the fishing industry was debated in the European Paraliament and the MEPs roundly condemned the inaction of the Commission and its clear lack of political will to resolve the problem.

The fact that Norway is engaged in talks with a view to joining the European Union is another cause for concern for the future of the European Union fishing fleet and has direct implications for Ireland's fisherman who land their quota of salmon from the north Atlantic. The proposed enlargement of the European Union poses many vital questions for the Irish fishing industry. Norwegian salmon production costs are subsidised to the tune of 20 per cent and facts and figures to support this claim were put forward in the European Parliament. With its salmon production set to grow by 50 per cent by 1995 Norway could fill the entire demand of the European Union. These are important matters for our representatives in the European Parliament and have even greater significance for Government Ministers who have the power to amend proposals and ensure that the European Union fishing fleet is protected. The current crisis in the European fishing industry is best illustrated by the fact that an Irish skipper had to accept £23 for a box of hake instead of around £54 which he had expected. While the low price of fish is the main problem there are the broader questions of policy such as dumping and compensation which we must address in the short term.

The Bill must be welcomed because it tackles some of the traditional abuses which have retarded the proper development of the Irish fishing industry. I am pleased that it strengthens the legal procedures for the detention of fishing boats and the seizure of fish and boat engines where an offence is suspected. For too long we have been the "soft touch" of Europe with foreign trawlers plundering our rich fishing grounds at will and doing untold harm to irreplaceable fish stocks. This plunder and rape of the seas around our coast must be tackled.

The influx of foreign trawlers to the fishing grounds off the west coast is beyond a national or Euro joke. We do not have the resources to deal with the problem. Huge Russian factory ships dwarf the protection vessels of the Naval Service. Whereas our fishery protection fleet acts in a most courageous and dedicated manner, the simple fact remains that it does not have the sophisticated, modern high-tech equipment to track down and apprehend these offenders who are plundering our seabed. Deputy Bradford and I agree — I have raised this matter at Question Time — that we need to look for financial assistance to provide bigger patrol boats around our coast. I was pleased to hear that the Minister for Justice had received encouraging information from the European Union that something would be forthcoming. Deputy Bradford made the remark that we must police fishing activities around our coasts.

The encroachment of non-EU trawlers and fishing boats into our fishing waters is a problem for the European Commission but it seems to tolerate the current crisis in the fishing industry. While I am aware of the controversial proposal from the Commission to introduce satellite monitoring, the debate on the funding of pilot projects is ongoing. Irish Members of the European Parliament have welcomed the provision of 100 per cent finance for pilot projects but the tracking of offending ships is a matter of concern. The fact remains that many of the fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing are registered outside the European Union and escape sanction. I am pleased that this Bill will tighten the law on licensing and the registration of fishing boats according equal treatment to nationals and bodies corporate of member states of the European Union under Irish legislation.

The power to implement the provisions of the Bill must be delegated to the duly appointed officers designated by the Minister and the Department. I pay tribute to our fishery protection officers for providing a sterling service ensuring that our natural resources are protected from illegal exploitation. It is no secret that they have come under threat in the line of duty; they have been attacked and injured as they go about their lawful duty on behalf of the State. They must be protected with the full force of the law.

I welcome the decision to impose heavy fines and terms of imprisonment on people convicted of assaulting officers. Some people seem to have adopted an ambivalent attitude to the protection of fishery officers. Incidents at sea involving illegal fishing have resulted in assaults and injuries, yet some elements in society treat the matter in a light hearted way as if their sympathy lies with the poacher and those who engage in a game of cat and mouse with the fishery protection officers. Our history has tended to glamorise the poacher but today there are shadowy and secretive elements linked to subversives who muscle in on illegal fishing activities. We must be conscious of this trend and take firm action to prevent the men of violence controlling any segment of the fishing industry.

Increased protection of fishery officers was one of the recommendations in the report on the Ballycotton Tribunal but questions such as safety and training could usefully be explored by the Minister and his Department to ensure that the fishery protection service is fully equipped to meet the threat posed by illegal and subversive activities.

While I give a general welcome to the provisions of the Bill, section 21 causes a degree of confusion. This section deals with the penalties to be imposed in cases involving the purchase, sale or possession of unseasonable or unlawfully captured salmon, trout or eel. There seems to be a contradiction; if a person charged with an offence can prove that the salmon was lawfully captured the charge shall be dismissed. If the person can prove that the salmon was lawfully captured there would be no need for a court appearance.

The reason I refer to this section is that our inland waterways and fisheries have the potential to be developed to boost angling tourism in some of the most scenic areas of the country. In the midwest, on the lakes of Clare and the Shannon Estuary, angling has considerable potential to be developed as a tourism activity. The Shannon Regional Fisheries Board — in particular Eamon Cusack and Jim Robinson — is doing tremendous work marketing the area nationally and abroad to attract anglers and fishermen to the region. During the next six months up to 1,000 foreign anglers will visit the Shannon Estuary. Most of the fish caught will be returned live to the water. The local economy will be boosted by the presence of so many anglers fishing in local competitions.

I welcome the fact that the Minister in deciding an application for a fishing boat licence, will take into account criteria such as landings at Irish ports, the creation of employment and local expenditure. Ireland offers wild, fighting freshwater fish and a range of warm and cold water fish. We offer quality angling in the most unpolluted rivers, lakes and seas in Europe. We must not destroy these natural advantages by unplanned developments which prove damaging to the environment.

There are six million registered anglers in Britain and, this market has been targeted by bodies such as Bord Fáilte. Angling tourism will only be developed if there is easy access to our lakes, rivers and sea fishing. Ireland benefits from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and the seafood rich western European continental shelf. Because of these geographic advantages we can offer the sea angler a range of excellent opportunities. Quality angling is available from rocks, piers, beaches or small boats in bays and inlets. We can also offer deep sea fishing. We are right to be concerned about the long term future of the fishing industry, be it the deep sea commercial harvesting of fish or the sporting activities of local and foreign anglers.

While we have a commercial interest in this area we must also act from a conservation viewpoint. We must not over-fish the seas; we must have an enlightened policy on capture and conservation. As some of our European partners do not share our views — there has been evidence of this during the past few days — we face an uphill battle. While there is a need for increased conservation measures there is also a definite demand for the restructuring of the European fishing sector. Senior European Commission officials admit that support for such a move may not be forthcoming from all member states. Herein lies the problem; if all member states cannot agree to abide by the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy what chance have we, a small nation on the edge of Europe, of protecting our valuable fishing waters?

This question goes to the heart of European Union policy. I urge the Minister to act now in a bid to resolve the crisis in the fishing industry. We wish him every success in this task. I also ask him to examine ways of improving maritime safety. It is distressing that in the first six weeks of 1994 more than 100 seafarers died at sea. These deaths can be attributed to substandard ships and to the fact that operators put profit before safety. Many countries have failed to implement the rules of the International Maritime Organisation and this trend is disturbing. I urge the Minister to take these points into consideration in future legislation.

This Bill, limited though it is, is welcome and should be considered in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy which since its inception, has been beset by a variety of problems. These include the inability of all sectors of the industry to conserve certain stocks, to protect fishermen and fish processors against cheap imports from non-European Union sources and the difficulty of progressively modernising fishing fleets without unnecessarily threatening fish stocks.

It is against this background of recurring problems that the policy makers have adopted a strategy to try to ensure that the industry can face the future with some possibility of survival, if not revival. The strategy can be summed up in one phrase: balancing fishing effort with existing or projected fish stocks. In simple terms this means that fishing capacity, that is, the number and types of fishing vessels, should only be deployed to the extent to which a given quantity of fish stocks is available. Matching fishing capacity to available resources means further regulation of the industry both by Ireland and Brussels. This has already started with the Department of the Marine proposals issued before Christmas on decommissioning, fleet categorisation and licensing. Indeed, a voluntary decommissioning scheme which is expected to be fully operational later this year — although I understand it may not come into effect here until the middle of next year — will have immediate and long term consequences for fishermen in Ireland and specifically for Howth fishermen and fishermen on the east coast.

Under the terms of the multi-annual guidance plan for the Irish fishing fleet, agreed between the Irish Government and the European Commission in December 1992, Ireland will have to make specific reductions in a number of segments of its national fleet between 1993 and 1996. That will seriously affect the development of the industry.

This Bill is also being debated under the shadow of one of the most serious developments for our fishing industry since we joined the European Community. It is hard to overstate the implications of the decision of the Council of Marine Ministers to allow virtually unfettered access to the Irish Box by fishing vessels from Spain and Portugal. The decision will make the development of our fishing industry all the more difficult. Despite what the Minister may argue, last night's decision is a defeat. It has been suggested that the Minister sounds like the managers of the Irish football teams of old who constantly tried to convert an 11:1 defeat into a moral victory. I can understand why the Minister would want to do that but it is a futile exercise.

I try to convince myself that there is a positive future for the fishing industry, despite the Deputy's pessimism.

I propose to deal with that. Pretending that an 11:1 defeat at the Council of Ministers was not a defeat is futile.

I am not pretending.

It would be more constructive to look at what can be done in the wake of that decision.

That is what I am doing.

We are at one on that at least.

It is the only thing on which we agree.

I beg your pardon.

I am sorry, I should not interrupt the Deputy.

I am very tolerant of Ministers who interrupt. The decision to allow the Spanish and Portuguese access to the Irish Box may have been legal but it is not just. When the appalling record of the Spanish is taken into account the reality is that piracy has been rewarded, flouting of international law has paid dividends and ignoring conservation rules has reaped rewards.

The record of the Spanish so far, with their limited access to Irish waters, has been appalling. We can only wonder what they will do now that the Council of Ministers has granted them the freedom of Irish waters. One out of every two Spanish vessels boarded is detained for serious fishery offences, nearly three-quarters of these vessels were in breach of the terms of the Iberian Act of Accession and, apart from these breaches, there were also serious infringements relating to logbooks and undersized fish. Since accession, 40 per cent of the vessels on the basic list have been arrested for serious offences. There has been a recent and serious development in the discovery of many Spanish vessels with secret holds and compartments. If this has been their record with limited access, what can we expect now that they have virtually full access?

The Spanish fishing fleet is huge. It accounts for more than half of the European Union's registered fishing tonnage and its population of 38 million provides a huge market and rich reward for Spanish vessels. The official estimate of the value of fish taken legally from our waters by Spanish boats is around £70 million. Who knows what the real value is when illegal catches are taken into account. It is huge business in Spain with the best part of 60,000 jobs at sea and on land created by this limited access to Irish waters. Our 1,400 vessels, mainly small craft, cannot expect to compete on an equal footing with this huge business and are entitled to special consideration.

Ireland accounts for just over 3 per cent of the Community catch, but we have 16 per cent of the Community's waters. Apart from any other consideration we now face the virtually impossible task of policing this huge area to ensure that quotas are honoured and conservation measures respected. With the exception of Luxembourg, Ireland's naval fleet is probably the smallest in the Community, yet it is expected to police 16 per cent of Community waters. The Naval Service is already overstretched. It is expected to play a crucial role in the war against drugs, smuggling and provide backup in the battle against terrorism. We have only a handful of vessels and, as often as not, a number of these are tied up in port for maintenance. It is fair to assume that the numbers of Spanish vessels arrested and detained by the Naval Service represent only the tip of the iceberg. The real fear must now be that Spanish pirates will run riot and clear out our fishing waters.

The additional powers and penalties in this Bill are welcome, but how are they to be enforced? The explanatory memorandum to the Bill tells us that there are no direct costs or staffing implications. It seems that the Government does not intend to provide any additional resources, extra staff or new vessels to take on the additional responsibilities. The cost of existing fishery protection measures are already substantial, amounting to around £60 million a year or almost one third of the value of our fish catch. What contribution is the European Union going to make in these circumstances?

We are now paying a heavy price for years of mismanagement and neglect by successive Governments. There have been few areas where we have consistently got such a poor deal from the European Union as in fisheries. When we joined the Community little attention was paid to fisheries by our negotiators; we put all our energies into ensuring that the farmers were looked after. Irish protests about fisheries policy are regarded as something of a joke in the corridors in Brussels. Too often in the past Irish Marine Ministers have been seen to beat their chests, jump up and down and threaten all sorts of vetoes and court actions only to meekly walk away when the crunch comes. In 1992 the then Minister Deputy Woods, threatened to go to the European Court to block changes proposed under the review of the Common Fisheries Policy, and he backed down. This Minister made the same threatening noises about proposed access to the Irish Box by the Spanish and Portuguese vessels only to perform a similarly spectacular retreat. We have failed to learn the lesson of the boy who cried wolf once too often.

I would not agree that I retreated. On the contrary, I fought a very hard fight. If I had not done what I did in December——

Even those who fight hard fights sometimes retreat.

I did not retreat; the contrary is true. If I had said nothing in December they would have had full access. We were on a fifth revision no later than yesterday in relation to the Spanish. Let us be fair. The Deputy is being unfair and the fishing industry would not agree with him.

If Deputy Andrews were the Minister for Social Welfare he would not be getting off so lightly.

I do not want special treatment. I am able to handle myself.

The policy seems to have been to give good copy to the headline writers at home and keep the head down when it comes to decision time. Perhaps our Minister should have taken a leaf out of the book of the Norwegian Minister for Fisheries, Mr. Jan Henri Olsen who, when negotiations on Norwegian accession had reached a crucial point over the fisheries issue, said "I will stand tall and firm and say no". Perhaps when Irish Ministers say "no" more often and, more important, when the Community can believe that an Irish "no" really means "no", we will be listened to more seriously in Brussels.

That is what I said yesterday, and I stand tall in the natural course of events.

The Minister said it too late. I accept that this Minister is carrying the can for many years of mismanagement and has a virtually impossible task to win the day in the interest of the Irish fishing industry. Nevertheless, he is the Minister and carries the can.

I carry the can, but I do not carry an empty one.

It must be a leaking one.

No, it is not.

Despite being an island nation our fishing industry has not been developed to the maximum. Our job creation record in fishing and fish processing is disappointing. Our record is particularly poor compared with other island countries, such as Iceland, where almost one-fifth of the population is engaged in fishing or fish processing. The fishing industry here has made only a limited contribution to our economic development and the latest decision will not only further restrict the potential for development but may also threaten existing jobs. With just 16 per cent of Community waters and taking only 3 per cent of the catch, Ireland is clearly not responsible for overcapacity or a threat to fish stocks. We should not be made a scapegoat for the difficulties of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The Minister talked about carrying the can and said there is little point complaining about yesterday's defeat but it would be more constructive if we concentrated on the conditions which would make the abolition of the box acceptable to Irish fishing interests. It should be abolished on the basis that new entrants would be rigorously controlled. The Minister should take a stand on this issue. Obviously, that would imply resources being made available to implement the regulations which would mean insisting on greater assistance from the European Union. Infringements should result in withdrawal of licences for at least one year from vessels seized by the authorities in breach of European or Irish law. More important, the abolition of the box should not mean that the European Union will hand over the valuable resources in those waters for exclusive use by Spain and Portugal. Irish fishermen should be in an equal position to exploit those waters. One of the main arguments in favour of abolition is the failure of Government and the sector to use the period since 1983 to maximise fishing opportunities and to construct a viable and well integrated sector. It is argued that, if we do not exploit the box, refusal smacks of a dog in the manger attitude. A serious commitment to developing the fishing sector is the only realistic way forward for its survival.

As a Deputy from County Donegal, where the majority of my constituency is bordered by the sea, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1994. Since entering politics I have been deafened by people shouting about the plundering of our waters and, in particular, about the failure of our laws to address the many problems pertaining to such plundering. There is concern also that people have been able to hide catches in secret holds and so on and that when our Naval Service instigate prosecutions it is discovered there are many loopholes in our laws. I congratulate the Minister on introducing this long-awaited comprehensive legislation.

Unfortunately, in this House the fishing industry does not get the attention it deserves, it is not on the same level as agriculture in respect of the contribution it makes to our economy. If it was not for the fishing industry in Killybegs unemployment in County Donegal would be much greater. Since November the position in Burtonport, Rathmullen and Killybegs is untenable as our boats have not gone out since then because of bad weather. We welcome the introduction by the Minister of an aid package to assist owners of white fish boats in particular. We are all aware that boat owners need assistance in making loan repayments to banks and other institutions; they are the entrepreneurs in the fishing industry. I hope the Minister, in discussion with his officials and officials of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and fishing organisations, will place great emphasis on helping those in most need, namely, small fishermen.

On the recent Social Welfare Bill we debated the problems of share fishermen which still need to be addressed. I hope the Minister's package will help to alleviate the many problems faced by fishermen in my constituency which I am sure are shared by fishermen nationwide. I commend him for his initiative on introducing the first ever aid package for the fishing industry and look forward to hearing from him in relation to its administration.

The fishing industry here employs approximately 15,000 people, not a large number, but important in a minority industry. Unlike some Deputies, I see tremendous potential for the fishing industry here and am glad the Minister took such a strong stance at the European Union level to protect our fisheries and the fishing industry. I do not know if many people would take the courageous step of becoming fishermen nowadays because not only would they have to deal with the dangers associated with fishing and the high seas, but also with bureaucracy and unfair competition from our partners in the European Union. Contrary to belief, the management and conservation of our fishing stocks is uppermost in the minds of fishermen and elected representatives.

If the Minister had not taken a strong standpoint in December we would not have anything to say about what happened yesterday in respect of the Irish box. We lost the vote by 11 to one, but not enough has been done to inform people about what really happened at that Council meeting. I commend the Minister on his stance and hope we have a united front here in supporting him to get the best deal possible, given that the inevitable happened. We knew the Spaniards would win one way or another in respect of the Irish Box in 1996. As far as I am aware, this is the first time the Spaniards conceded in any way what has been sought for many years by successive Ministers for the Marine and Irish fishing organisations. I welcome the fact that the Spaniards will have to bring their fleet size into line with their quotas. We have done so for many years and it is regrettable that other countries did not do likewise. It is difficult to sell a concept to the fishing industry if it is not addressed by every member state.

However, I agree with the Minister that all is not lost. Hopefully, the new sensitive provisions will allow us fish our native waters and gain access to other waters. The Minister should vigorously pursue the control of those sensitive areas. It has been suggested that fishermen should give notification on entry to box areas of the length of time they will fish in those areas. This proposal should be addressed and strict controls imposed in respect of those sensitive areas. Fishermen should not be allowed to leave a Spanish port to fish in a sensitive area for a week without notifying the relevant authorities.

I commend the Minister on a number of sections in the Bill. Section 7 deals with the confiscation of a vessel and the arrest of its crew. In the past a vessel was not confiscated for a first offence and ownership of many vessels was changed to avoid confiscation when a second offence was committed. That position was farcical. Fishermen could come into port, be arrested and prosecuted and not be penalised. I commend the Minister for tightening that loophole and hope the provisions in that section will resolve the problem. I welcome the imposition of stricter penalties for illegal fishing which hopefully will deter such practice in our waters.

I am somewhat concerned about section 8 which gives additional powers to fishery officers to collect statistics, gain access to premises and so on. I am aware a document dealing with control in this area has been agreed by the European Union and regulations will be introduced in that regard. The system of using log sheets which has been used here for a number of years has worked well and the Minister should reconsider the providing of additional statistics. That would result in many fishermen being pressurised to produce more paperwork and lead to greater bureaucracy. I am aware the gathering of statistics has been advantageous in respect of the package the Minister has introduced but I question the necessity to amend the Principal Act in this regard.

Section 3 is welcome. I assume when people apply for licences the present tonnage requirements will apply. I am pleased the matter of "quota hopping" will be addressed. Large corporations that had no economic link with this country could fly flags of convenience and it is time that matter was addressed. Many of our fishermen find it difficult to obtain licences when they have to buy tonnage, replacement tonnage and so on, and it is frustrating that other fishermen can plunder our waters and deplete our stock but make no return to our economy.

The Minister has performed well in his portfolio but I hope there will not be despair after yesterday's talks. I hope all Members of the House will support his efforts on behalf of the fishing industry. There is potential to develop our industry. Unfortunately, when we joined the EC we did not get our act together in respect of the fishing industry. That is the fault of everybody, not this Minister or former Ministers. We did not realise the potential for fishing and have been plagued by reductions in quotas and an old fleet.

As a Deputy from a maritime constituency I see young people who would like to invest in the fishing industry deterred because they cannot afford to buy tonnage and replacement tonnage. There has been much criticism of the lending institutions who have not facilitated young people who wish to invest in the industry. Perhaps at a later stage when the matters of the Irish Box and aid have been dealt with the Minister might consider the plight of young people who wish to invest in the industry. Financial aid should be available for small fishermen to upgrade their boats.

There is concern about the seaworthiness of vessels in our fleet and we all want to avoid further tragedies at sea. The Minister's Department has been excellent in promoting safety at sea and ensuring vessels are seaworthy but soon many vessels will be unseaworthy. However, fishermen, skippers and boat owners find it difficult to secure loans to replace vessels. In Killybegs the super trawlers and entrepreneurship of some of the fishermen in the town have led to prosperity for some, but small fishermen, who are not publicity seekers or owners of big flagships, have lost out and require consideration. While I am not very au fait with yields in my constituency I am pleased the Minister will address this area also.

I welcome the granting of increased powers to sea fishery officers and measures to guarantee their protection. They do trojan work but have been attacked on numerous occasions. Much work is needed in this area and I am sure the Minister will make every effort and use his contacts in the European Union to develop the industry. I await the outcome of further discussions in respect of the former Irish Box and sensitive areas.

I welcome the Minister back from Luxembourg, even though he did not bring with him the world wrestling belt. However, he is still in the ring, or at least he gives that impression. I must question the decision of EC Ministers to allow Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels access to the Irish 50 miles zone from 1 January 1996. It is a deplorable decision that will have serious effects on the survival of the Irish fishing industry. The Minister, Deputy Andrews, should have adopted a more aggressive stance when he discovered he was going to be outvoted. He should have used his powers of veto to protect this valuable industry for the nation.

I did not have a veto.

Great Britain succeeded in restricting access to the North Sea by Spanish and Portuguese trawlers, but our Minister was left high and dry as regards preserving the Irish 50 mile box. To add insult to injury, there will be a further threat from the Norwegian and Faroe Island fishing trawlers from 1 January 1996. The Minister should spell out the details of the Norwegian accession which was agreed about a month ago in the European Parliament. I cannot understand how such a decision was arrived at yesterday at the EC Fisheries Summit in Luxembourg when there was ample evidence of the restrictions imposed under the 1986 agreement.

EC nations such as Spain which allow secret holds to be constructed in their fishing fleet to conceal illegal catches should be automatically debarred from the Irish fishing box for at least a decade. This would allow an already depleted fisheries stock to be built up to the maximum capacity. I am amazed at the way some EC nations are allowed flagrantly and blatantly to flout EC laws and still be afforded preferential treatment from 1 January 1996.

Why was the Minister, Deputy Andrews, left high and dry by the Government? Why did the Taoiseach not give him a helping hand by going to meet the leaders of EU countries? Surely this is a matter of such paramount importance the Taoiseach and even the Tánaiste should have travelled to meet the leaders of EU countries before yesterday's meeting in Luxembourg? They should have canvassed support to ensure that Ireland got its rightful share of the cake in terms of the North Atlantic fishing zones. However, the Taoiseach sat idly by. Instead of gallivanting on the Government jet in the United States a month ago——

In Cyprus.

He did not take the jet to Cyprus. He should have visited European capitals——

The Taoiseach was doing excellent work on behalf of the nation.

——to meet European leaders and ensured that Ireland had its rightful say. The Taoiseach showed complete disregard for this important matter.

I do not agree with the Deputy. The Taoiseach left the matter in my capable hands.

Time will tell. I appreciate the work done by the Minister on behalf of the fishing industry, but he is fighting a lone battle because he is not getting the back-up to which he is entitled.

I got the backing of everybody, including the fishing industry.

If that was so, the Taoiseach would have thrown his hat into the ring and fought side by side with the Minister.

That was done collectively.

If the Taoiseach had done so it would not have created a precedent. When Dr. Garret FitzGerald was Taoiseach he went on a tour of European capitals, met leaders of European Union countries and sealed a good deal when Ireland was under threat.

He achieved the accession which is causing our present problems.

Mr. Byrne

That is for sure.

Who was Taoiseach when the 1986 Iberian Act of Accession was passed?

Perhaps the Minister is not so conversant with what happened in 1972.

I am, but Spain was not in the Community then.

Who drafted our regulations of accession to Europe? The answer is a Fianna Fáil Government led by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. The then Minister for Fisheries who is still a Member of the House, Deputy Brian Lenihan, did not give a damn if the Spaniards came up to the bridge of Athlone as long as he got his point across appertaining to agriculture and other matters. That is when the Irish fishing industry was sold down the drain. The Minister should not try to camouflage or whitewash history that was created by a Fianna Fáil Government in 1972 under Deputy Jack Lynch.

You cannot rewrite history.

That is true history. When the Iberian accession negotiations took place in 1986 Deputy Jim O'Keeffe was Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Paddy O'Toole was Minister for Fisheries and Deputy Peter Barry Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I ask Deputy Sheehan to refrain from inviting exchanges across the House. If he persists there will be a breakdown in the debate.

Deputy Brian Lenihan promised a 50 mile zone but he was in office for only three months when he sold out.

Who was in office in 1986 during the Iberian accession negotiations when the Spaniards came on board?

It did not make any difference to Deputy Brian Lenihan at that time whether the Spanish trawlers came up to the bridge of Athlone, and they almost did. They stopped the salmon from coming up there.

The facts are there; Deputy Barry, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe and Paddy O'Toole were in office in 1986.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy is creating waves. I wish he would refrain from inviting exchanges.

I remind the Minister that it was in 1972 the deed was done and the battle lost.

Spain was not in the Community then.

Irish fishermen were sold down the drain on that occasion, never to recover. What have successive Governments done since 1986 to repeal the concessions given to Spain?

Mr. Byrne

Who was in Government in 1986?

Acting Chairman

Deputy Sheehan, without interruption.

When Deputy Sheehan spoke in this House in 1986 I was sitting beside him.

Mr. Byrne

I am sure he was equally colourful then as he is today, but he was talking rubbish.

He was as much against the Spaniards then as he is today.

This is the deathknell of the Irish fishing industry.

Mr. Byrne

The Deputy should try to help the industry.

European Union Ministers paid lip service to the industry. They said that Irish waters, particularly in the south and south-west, should be considered sensitive areas. Who is the Minister codding? He failed to take action yesterday to conserve stocks in those sensitive areas.

I exhausted myself. I am like an empty shell after yesterday's meeting.

I do not blame the Minsiter. I know he is playing his part, but unfortunately he did not get the backing he deserves from his Cabinet colleagues.

Of course I did.

The Spanish fleet is capable of fishing four times its quota. Why did the Minister not object to that?

I did, in November and December. It is on the record.

Why were the proper steps not taken at the meeting to reduce the fishery tonnage of the Spanish fleet to its rightful size before any further extension of fishery grounds was allowed to them?

Does the Minister realise that the decision reached in Luxembourg yesterday will result in a loss of 15,000 jobs in our fishing industry? How can he ensure proper surveillance will be carried out when for the past ten years Spanish trawlers have plundered ad lib our valuable fishery stocks in the 50 mile box even though they were debarred from coming into it? How can the Minister prohibit these trawlers when they will be given free access to our 50 mile box from 1 January 1996? Why did the Minister not hammer home this very important point at the Council of European Ministers?

If so, it must have fallen on deaf ears or else we have very few friends in Europe.

We have many friends——

They are wishy-washy friends.

——but not many supporters.

The Minister must realise at this stage that regardless of the surveillance system introduced it will not be sufficient to repel Spanish trawlers. We were glad to see the Spanish Armada in 1588, but they were repelled by Sir Francis Drake.

And the weather.

The Minister is a noble man for whom I have great regard but unfortunately he was not a Sir Francis Drake yesterday.

I was not a General Winter either.

Mr. Byrne

The North Cork militia of 1798 do not have a glorious history either.

The Bill seems to imply that proper surveillance will be carried out in future. Will the Minister say if this surveillance will be carried out on Irish salmon fishermen or on the huge marauding Spanish fleet? The Minister must ensure that all the regulations under this legislation are implemented to the letter of the law and that all European countries abide by them.

I am afraid that the Minister has closed the door after the horse has bolted. I admire his courage and determination to raise this matter again at European level, but before he takes on these European heavyweights I hope the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will help him by making direct contact with their European counterparts.

The Minister stated that a draft framework will be completed by the end of the year. What will it entail? The Minister's speech today needs to be digested fully, so to speak. He stated:

To return to the main business of this debate, I will outline the primary objectives of the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1994, which are: to provide for tougher penalties for serious fisheries offences, including the possible confiscation of vessels in the case of serious or persistent offenders...

This provision will not be sufficient to deter Spanish trawlers. In my first 30 years I saw marauding Spanish trawlers tearing the bottom off the fishing beds off the South-West coast while at night huge convoys of foreign vessels fished ad lib inside our territorial waters. Spanish trawlers have a notorious record for ravaging fish stocks throughout the world, particularly in the North Atlantic Ocean. If Spanish fishing trawlers gain access to our 50 mile box from 1 January 1996, I can guarantee that they will not only desecrate our entire fishing stocks but will take the limpets off rocks.

No matter which way we deal with this matter, it is evident that Spanish trawlers will have access to our 50 mile box from 1 January 1996. Will the Minister say why Ireland, which will be the only island nation in the EU after the Channel tunnel is officially opened, was not given preferential treatment? We must be given some preferential treatment. Surely the Minister cannot sit idly by without taking some further action to ensure that our rightful share of the fishing stocks is preserved for our fishing fleet.

I do not understand how the Minister will bring those people who deliberately flout the law to justice under this legislation. Fines of between £10,000 to £50,000 are only peanuts. I want to impress upon the Minister the necessity of making it mandatory for Spanish or other EC fishing trawlers with illegal holds to be automatically seized and not returned to their owner. This may give rise to ruffled feathers at diplomatic level, but what about it. There is no point enacting legislation if we do not implement it. The only way to deal with this problem is to introduce legislation which will make it mandatory to confiscate vessels with illegal holds.

In the past two years all the trawlers brought into Castletownbere by Irish fishery protection vessels had illegal holds. Once they had paid the meagre fine they took to sea again. While these trawlers were tied up at the pier in Castletownbere their sister ships were marauding the fishing grounds off the South-West coast. The Irish fishery protection vessel had to stand guard over the captive trawlers and could not leave the harbour.

I urge the Minister to tighten up the numerous loopholes in the legislation. On Committee Stage we will outline how this can be done. The Minister should not be misled into thinking he scored a victory yesterday — he has merely postponed the evil day. How can he redress the situation? The Minister was completely outvoted yesterday. Why did he not exercise the veto?

I did not have the power of veto.

If this matter is raised at a higher level——

I did not even have a qualified majority. Even though I was told by one country that it would support me it did not support me.

It is hard to accept that the Minister fought a lone battle in Luxembourg yesterday.

In the context of the vote but up to that point I was not fighting a lone battle. I understood we had some support but, unfortunately, it evaporated when it came to that point.

I would like the Minister to explain how Great Britain retained its restrictions in the North Sea while we failed hopelessly to make a break through.

I do not want to make a case for or against another country but I think the position of Britain was rather strange, to say the least, and early this morning commentators on British radio were very critical of the move.

It makes little sense to me.

I agree with the Deputy.

I ask the Minister to do his best to fight off this threat and to ensure that Ireland obtains some preferential treatment so that we can conserve our fish stocks and protect our fishing industry. We are faced with the problem of a fleet that is almost 30 years old and, at the next council meeting, the Minister will have to put all the facts on the table and take off the kid gloves. If he puts drive into his efforts, I have no doubt he will achieve results on behalf of Irish fishermen.

Mr. Byrne

My colleague, Deputy Sheehan, made a very interesting contribution. Like myself, Deputy Sheehan lives among fishermen and has a reasonable knowledge of the industry. The Deputy, however, missed a great opportunity to show support for the Minister in his efforts and instead made an attack on some of the Members of this House. I was particularly upset by the attack on the Taoiseach when Deputy Sheehan suggested he was gallivanting in the United States and that he was not doing good work for Ireland.

I had the good fortune to be in the United States at that time promoting a project for New Ross which will create much employment. The Taoiseach, during his busy schedule there, found the time to attend and was very supportive of the project. I am sure, as a result of his visit, the project will get off the ground.

What will be the benefit for the fishing fleet in Wexford?

Mr. Byrne

New Ross and Wexford are very involved in fishing. Celtic Seafoods in New Ross employs approximately 200 people. New Ross is important and it was on the Taoiseach's agenda.

There is not much left in the Celtic Sea now.

Mr. Byrne

If Deputy Sheehan wishes to confuse the issue, he certainly will not confuse me.

The Minister stated that the Council yesterday adopted a framework regulation under which detailed measures will be implemented to follow those currently applicable to Spanish and Portuguese vessels under the Iberian Act of Accession. While carrying out some research recently I discovered that the Iberian Accession negotiations took place in 1986 and I was curious to know who were the Ministers involved at that time. One was Deputy Peter Barry, then Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs was one of the most respected Deputies of this House, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. It was very unfair of Deputy Sheehan, as a constituency colleague, to attack Deputy O'Keeffe today.

He defended him.

Mr. Byrne

Everyone living along the coast and in fishing communities will know that what took place yesterday was the regularisation of what is already happening.

I would agree with much that Deputy Sheehan has said but many Members and many fishermen would agree that without the stout defence of the Minister yesterday, we might be in a far worse position today. I am quite happy that the Minister led the defence of the Irish fishing industry and I wish him continued success. What took place yesterday was successful to a certain degree. Fishermen, of course, will not be happy but we must remember what happened when we joined the EU. Perhaps a barter took place and agriculture may have received a little more for the sale of some of our fishing interests.

I am asking for all party support for the Minister so that people will know that the Irish Parliament is united in its efforts to uphold the rights of fishermen. We must not be devided on this issue and we must not use the tactic of blaming the other members of the Government. The Government supports the Minister, Deputy Andrews, in his actions and I am asking for a united front.

I support Deputy Sheehan's appeal to the Minister, now that he has achieved some additional time for the Government and the fishing industry, to visit his European counterparts.

We will row in with him.

Mr. Byrne

I hope Deputy Sheehan will row in with him and I hope he will not use the same tactics that he used today, which were predictable.

We will go along with him.

Mr. Byrne

That is why Deputy Sheehan is in the position he is now in. A little support from the opposite side of the House might lift the Deputy's profile in the polls. Deputy Sheehan had an opportunity to do that today.

We will be glad to give our advice free of charge.

Mr. Byrne

I would encourage Deputy Sheehan in particular to do that in the knowledge that he has some experience of the fishing industry.

We all know how the Spaniards behave. I totally accept what the Deputy said about the Spaniards and their secret holds and the penalties imposed on such boats. As the Deputy said, it is like the Spanish Armada. The pirating culture is still very much part of the activities of the Spanish fishermen and they never seem to be particularly worried about policing. The number of boats in our Naval Service is too small and if we are to patrol the Irish Box and the activities of the Spanish fishermen, we will need many more naval vessels. Obviously, the cost of this cannot be borne by the Irish Government only. I would suggest that the Minister seek to obtain as much funding as possible from Europe, as this is a European issue. If the Irish Box is to be policed, and if the Spanish fishermen are to be dealt with, we must have faster and bigger ships. It is an advantage that Deputy Andrews is Minister for the Marine as well as Minister for Defence. I ask him to use both Ministries to ensure that the Spanish fleet is policed in the knowledge that they have never yet behaved in the fashion that should be expected of them.

As a person who lives in a fishing community I compliment the Minister. We all know that fishermen are never shy to make a case for themselves. The Minister performed extremely well and I understand he has attained a profile in Europe that will help him in the coming years.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.