I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for attending this afternoon to address this topical issue. I also thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for selecting this matter. It is topical and is causing some distress for the inshore fishing fleet throughout the country, in particular those along the south-west coast who have been hit extremely hard.
The Minister of State will be aware of the extreme weather events we have had since November 2015, including storms Clodagh, Desmond and Frank. It has been an unprecedented time of adverse weather events. Will the Minister of State pass on my gratitude to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for his Department's response to those who were affected by the floods and for the response of the Defence Forces in particular for its help to many households, businesses, towns and communities right around the country? I acknowledge the scheme that has been put in place for the first time to compensate business owners and ratepayers who have been adversely affected by the recent bad weather. One sector that has been particularly hard hit is our inshore fisheries fleet. They have simply not been able to put to sea since November. Under normal circumstances they expect bad weather at this time of year and they try to deal with it as best they can. They have been now tied up at the quays for almost seven to eight weeks without an income. As the Minister of State is aware, there is no social protection for these fishermen. The owners are self-employed and those who work on deck are self-employed share fishermen. There is no fishing or catching and, more specifically, there is no income. Many are now facing very serious financial consequences because of the weather events.
One of the issues, which the Minister of State may be aware of, is that the quota system, which allows the inshore fishing fleet to work, is operated on a monthly basis. It puts extreme pressure on fishermen to catch the quota of fish within a calendar month. It sounds a bit archaic and somewhat anomalous that one has to catch the fish within a calendar month. If the weather does not allow this, in many cases the quota cannot be rolled over to the following month. The knock-on effect on fishermen is that they put to sea when they would be advised not to and so take risks. It is a dangerous occupation at the best of times but if they are under financial pressure as a result of adverse weather and if there is fish to be caught and rather robust prices as relatively little fish is being landed, the temptation is real and leads to extreme danger.
I call on the Minister of State and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to give serious consideration to the administration of a compensation scheme through BIM for fishermen who can prove they have really suffered financially because of the adverse weather. A precedent has been set by the flood victims, particularly by the introduction of a grant scheme for ratepayers. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.