Written Answers. - Fishing Regulations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

22 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the reason recent Sea Fisheries (Gill Net Tuna and other Species) Regulations are more restrictive for Irish owned, as opposed to foreign owned, fishing boats; the further reason that under these regulations Irish fishing boats are restricted in the length of gill net allowed on board for a range of tuna, sword and shark species, whereas foreign owned vessels are restricted for one species only; and the reason for the apparent preferential treatment of foreign owned vessels. [17183/01]

The regulation referred to by the Deputy, together with a regulation for non-gill net tuna and other species fishing create a comprehensive legal framework which addresses a number of specific issues associated with the prosecution of these fisheries.

The new legal framework fulfils a number of essential objectives. In the first instance it reflects the need to comply with our obligations and requirements at EU level and in relation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas including by catch restrictions.

The new framework is designed to ensure delivery of strategic national objectives in the context of the coming into force of the ban on drift netting for tuna next year. The newly established Irish quota for northern albacore tuna of 3,158 tonnes is a vitally important new fishing opportunity which will assist a significant portion of the whitefish fleet to diversify from fishing on traditional stocks already under pressure.

To maximise the benefit of this quota for the whitefish fleet as a whole, it is necessary that the Irish fishing industry urgently develops the capability in longlining, trolling and pelagic trawling. The new legal framework is designed to facilitate progress being made in this area, otherwise the long-term capacity of the industry to catch and maximise the economic returns from this valuable quota will be undermined.