Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill 2017: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the issuing of heritage licences to island fishermen to facilitate the continuance of traditional fishing practices on Ireland’s offshore islands; and to provide for related matters.

I will share time with Deputy Martin Kenny. Over recent years we have become acquainted with the situation in rural Ireland, particularly our coastal communities. While they are suffering terribly, our island communities are suffering even more. The way of life of island communities has survived by means of fishing and farming, and much of their fishery included drift netting for salmon, potting for crayfish and lobster, some trawling, gill netting for various species and fishing for pollock, spurdog and bass. In recent years, the island communities have become detached from the Common Fisheries Policy quotas and now receive little, if any, quota apart from some in the whitefish sector. There is a European ban on spurdog, despite that many fishermen in our coastal communities say there is an abundance. They are no longer allowed to fish bass, even though fishing trawlers and boats from other EU countries are allowed to do so. The biggest hit of all was the banning of the drift net for salmon. Fishing and farming were a way of life in our coastal communities and they managed to survive in a sustainable way.

Before we prepared this Bill, Deputies Martin Kenny and Pearse Doherty and I met the island communities, and it is conjunction with them that this Bill has come forward. We need a sustainable way of life and the Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill 2017 is one way to bring that about. I ask the House to support it because it will go some way to address the terrible imbalance between our island and coastal communities and the rest of the country.

The Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill is about ensuring people who live on the islands have a future and about facilitating their right to maintain a way of life they have had for centuries. The problem at the moment is that under the Common Fisheries Policy many small fishermen on our islands are unable to make a living. Working in conjunction with the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation, IIMRO, we developed the heritage licence scenario. The Bill is designed for people who live on the islands and want to make their living from fishing and will try to allocate a portion of the quota to the island fishermen. In providing for this, the Bill facilitates the islandmen in having a future and the continuation of traditional fishing practices on our offshore islands. It provides that the issuing of a licence to island fishermen will be confined to people who are habitually resident on one of Ireland's offshore islands and are engaged in small-scale coastal fishing to earn a livelihood. Small-scale coastal fishing is defined as fishing from a vessel of less than 12 metres in length and not using towed fishing gear. We are putting in restrictions to ensure it cannot be expanded to anyone else and the licences cannot be traded or sold off, as has happened in the past. They will be non-transferable and will be in force only when the holder of the licence is on board the vessel. In other words, one person cannot have several boats. This provision ensures it is about the small fishermen on the island having a future. The enactment of the Bill will involve a transferable community island quota, such as has been done in other jurisdictions in the EU.

Much of the work that went into this Bill was done by the island fishermen themselves, who came to us looking for a solution to their problem. This is an attempt at such a solution and we would appreciate the support of the Government. People on the islands feel they are disadvantaged not only by their geography but by the erosion of their traditional way of making a living by legislation brought in by Brussels and enacted here. I appeal to the Government to support the Bill.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.