Fisheries and Coastal Communities: Statements

We, as a nation, have endured many challenges over the past year and a half, from the disruption stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic to the upheaval caused by Brexit. Ireland's seafood sector has been among the most seriously impacted during this period. My objective is to work with the industry to grow the sector and the coastal community supported by it in the years ahead.

My Department's action plan for 2021 sets out the priority actions to be implemented this year to drive the development of a sustainable competitive and innovative seafood sector. I have had ongoing engagements with stakeholders in the seafood sector since I took office at the start of the year. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions I have not been able to engage with people on the pier side. In order to interact directly with members of coastal communities, last month I held a series of virtual town hall meetings with people from coastal communities around Ireland. These virtual meetings allowed me to hear directly from those impacted by both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit about their experiences and their ideas for the future of their communities. In the coming months and subject to prevailing public health guidelines, I will visit our piers and harbours in person to meet fishers in their communities to hear at first hand their views on the industry. I regularly meet fishing industry representatives and will do so again on Monday next with the Taoiseach.

The impact of Brexit on Ireland's seafood sector is, understandably, a major concern for all those involved in and connected with the fishing industry. The trade and co-operation agreement between the European Union and the UK will have significant negative impacts on our fisheries sector and on coastal communities dependent on fishing. The wider impacts of Brexit - for example, the disturbance of established routes to market and established supply arrangements - will also negatively impact on some of our seafood enterprises. In March, I established a seafood sector task force to examine all the potential impacts and to make recommendations to me for initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet, and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing. I also asked the task force to consider and recommend constructive actions that would help to alleviate the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland in the trade and co-operation agreement.

The task force is chaired by Aidan Cotter, assisted by Margaret Daly and Micheál Ó Cinnéide. It includes in its membership many representatives of our seafood sector together with a host of other experts from bodies that may have a key role to play in helping our seafood sector and coastal communities overcome this difficult time and continue to prosper. Following seven meetings of the task force, I have received the interim report and I expect to receive a full report in the coming period. A copy of the interim report is available on Bord Iascaigh Mhara's website. The interim task force report supported by all members of the task force addressed the issue of burden sharing between member states and recommends a range of initiatives to address the quota reductions in the trade and co-operation agreement. The task force recommended a series of actions targeted at the pelagic quotas and actions targeted on demersal quotas. The interim report indicates that the recommended actions after further consideration by the task force will be set down and detailed in the main report.

The interim report also recommends a voluntary tie-up scheme. The task force recommends that the temporary tie-up scheme be put in place for the period from September to December for approximately 220 polyvalent vessels and beam trawlers directly impacted by the quota transfers under the trade and co-operation agreement with each vessel allowed to tie up for one calendar month. It recommends the payments should be calculated based on average gross earnings over the 2017-2019 period, excluding the cost of fuel and food.

Vessel owners must ensure that a certain percentage of the payment is distributed among the crew members of the vessel. Crew members availing of the scheme must not take up alternative employment or claim benefits during the period of the voluntary tie-up. While the refrigerated seawater pelagic segment which engages in intensive seasonal fisheries does not feature in the recommended tie-up scheme, the interim report recognises this segment has been subject to the largest trade and co-operation-related quota reductions - in the order of €15.6 million in 2021. The task force considered that because of the seasonal nature of pelagic fisheries it would be problematic to include these vessels in a tie-up scheme but it is actively exploring other possible short-term supports as a matter of priority.

The interim report of the task force also identifies a large number of possible actions that it may recommend in due course in its full report and that will seek to address the very inequitable share quota transfers to the UK that Ireland is being asked to bear under the trade co-operation agreement in comparison with other member states. The report notes that the task force wants to give consideration to these possible actions, the challenges arising and how their actions may be progressed. In the meantime, I will continue, as I have done since December, to take every opportunity to raise the inequity of the quota cuts burden on Ireland with the Commission and other member states.

The next review of the Common Fisheries Policy is due to be completed by 31 December 2022 and I am committed to doing everything possible through the upcoming review to secure additional quota where possible for Irish fishers. I will work closely with the fishing industry and in line with the recommendations of the final seafood task force report to advance the position of the Irish fishing industry in the Common Fisheries Policy review.

Regarding the inshore fishing sector, the interim report of the task force recognises the difficulties being faced by vessels targeting non-quota species, including inshore vessels of less than less than 15 m. While these vessels are not directly impacted by the quota transfers under the trade and co-operation agreement, they have suffered losses resulting from logistics and route-to-market issues arising from Brexit. The interim report notes that the task force is actively exploring short-term support measures for the inshore sector with a view to making recommendations in its final report.

The programme for Government and my action plan for 2021 contain strong commitments in the context of supporting the inshore community and the wider seafood sector in achieving their potential. Work continues to implement the strategy for the Irish inshore fishery sector 2019 to 2023. This is the first industry-led strategy for the Irish inshore fishery sector.

In the terms of reference I gave the task force, I had asked that it consider how all available funding streams could be used to address to the extent possible the initiatives identified and the State agencies to support these initiatives. In its interim report the task force noted that its full recommendations will in due course give rise to substantial public expenditure and recommends that during the 2021-2023 period, the measures necessary to implement the task force recommendations should to the greatest extent possible be funded from Ireland's EU allocation under the forthcoming Brexit adjustment reserve, BAR. EU negotiations on the BAR are still ongoing but all going well Ireland expects to receive nearly €1.2 billion in current prices. The BAR is fully EU funded and its objectives are to provide support to counter the adverse consequences Brexit is having on the worst-affected member states. Of course, the BAR is not specific to our seafood sector there will be many competing demands for funding from Ireland's allocation under the BAR. Nevertheless, I am firmly of the view that the seafood sector is a priority sector for funding under it. The impacts of Brexit are being felt across our economy and any support measures for our seafood sector proposed to be funded under the BAR will also need to be considered at Government level in the context of competing demands from other areas of the economy the economy.

Another important funding source for the recommendations of the task force will be the new seafood sector development programme for the 2021-2027 period that is being prepared in my Department. Similar to the current European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF, programme for 2014 to 2020, which has been very successful in disbursing its €240 million budget, the new programme will be an important source of funds for the development of our seafood sector and for coastal communities. I anticipate that the new programme will be ready to send to the EU for its consideration by year end and will be operational early in 2022. In the meantime, I have agreed arrangements for an interim capital support scheme for fisheries, aquaculture and processing funded under the new programme.

This will allow fishers to continue investing in energy efficiency, value adding and health and safety measures on board and will allow our aquaculture farmers to continue investing in growing their production. The seven fisheries local action groups, FLAGs, have been successful as an innovation over the past four years and in disbursing €12 million in grant aid to projects in our coastal communities. This compares with just €1 million under the pilot FLAG scheme which briefly operated before that.

Demand for grants under the FLAG scheme has far outstripped available resources. This level demonstrates the phenomenal entrepreneurial spirit which exists in our coastal communities, with many new marine, tourism and leisure-related businesses seeking to take advantage of the fantastic natural assets we have around our coast. To ensure the continued success of the FLAG initiative, my Department is working with An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, to invite expressions of interest for FLAG groups for the 2021 to 2027 period under the new seafood development programme.

Subject to the recommendations of the task force, I will be seeking to ensure the FLAG initiative continues to be well funded so it can achieve its potential and make an important contribution to growing prosperity in our coastal communities.

The programme for Government recognises the importance of exports in Ireland's open economy. This is key in the seafood sector which is largely export driven. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to our traditional seafood markets and supply chains. Ireland's top five export partners for seafood, France, the UK, Spain, Italy and China, were all severely impacted, especially in the initial months of the pandemic. Irish seafood exports were valued at €590 million in 2020. That was in the context of 2020 being an extremely fragile year, with both the domestic and export markets reacting to the ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19 and, of course, the UK's departure from the EU.

Even in the context of these challenges, opportunities have emerged. While exports to key markets in Europe and Asia fell, the value of exports to Africa and the Middle East grew by 87% and 43%, respectively, driven by increased exports of mackerel. This year has shown some signs of recovery, as seafood exports to France and Spain grew by 76% in January in value terms, compared with the same period in 2020. Re-establishing the presence of Irish seafood in our key markets, particularly in Europe and Asia, must be a priority for us throughout the remainder of this year.

If we take 2019 as our baseline, pre-Covid, our seafood industry was worth €1.22 billion to the economy. Of this, exports comprised €640 million and this is where Ireland needs to return to in the short term. The Government's focus on and commitment to new market development also remain firmly on the agenda. Up to December 2020, €8 million had been allocated to Bord Bia under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund programme to augment existing funds and to promote Irish seafood in the domestic and international markets.

A further allocation of €2 million in 2021 will contribute to Bord Bia's overall seafood promotion strategy, which includes the recovery of lost market share as a result of Covid-19, the recruitment of new trade customers and priority markets and targeting an increase in consumption of Irish landed fish on the domestic market.

The impact of Brexit on seafood trade is not yet behind us. Throughout June and July, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, will be communicating the changes which will come into effect from 1 October this year, through the BIM Brexit hub. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will also host a series of industry webinars, commencing in early August, to outline how the 1 October changes will impact on Irish seafood businesses. I encourage all Irish seafood producers to make use of these opportunities and to be Brexit ready.

Turning to the aquaculture sector, in December 2016, the then Minister appointed an independent aquaculture licensing review group to review the process of licensing for aquaculture and its associated legal framework. That report of the review group was submitted to my Department in May 2017 and a key recommendation of it was that my Department put in place a strategy to eliminate the backlog of licence applications. This has been ongoing and has been the primary focus of my Department since the publication of the report. It has resulted in more than 1,200 licence determinations being made since 2012.

The backlog in shellfish licensing has now been eliminated as an issue affecting the industry and my Department is now focusing on maintaining the equilibrium with regard to shellfish licence applications and also addressing the backlog in marine finfish aquaculture licence applications. The processing of these applications is, however, significantly more complex than the shellfish applications, not least due to the requirement that the application be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment and, in the case of applications received after 16 May 2017, an environmental impact assessment report. This requirement is set out clearly in EU and national legislation and applications cannot be progressed in its absence. My Department has been actively engaged with applicants on this matter and considerable progress has been made. In the meantime, and pending the determination of applications for marine finfish aquaculture licences, national legislation provides for the continued operation of aquaculture sites by operators of their sites, subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of their licences. The progress made on both shellfish and marine finfish licensing will continue to pay dividends for both the aquaculture industry and coastal communities.

As Deputies will be aware, fishery harbour centres are established under the Fishery Harbour Centres Act 1968 as centres in which to promote, develop and carry on sea fishing, including the production and sale of fish and fish products and related activities. The six centres designated under the legislation are owned, managed and operated by the Department under statute. The Department also has responsibility for North Harbour on Cape Clear Island for maintaining a range of piers, lights and beacons around the coast.

Approximately 85% of fish landed into Ireland is now landed at the six centres. The total value of all landings into these centres increased from €224 million in 2013 to €257 million last year. In addition to the fisheries and seafood production industries, the harbours also accommodate ever-increasing amounts of diverse commercial business. At the end of 2019, the centres were valued by the Valuation Office at €456 million and I was delighted to recently announce a €38.3 million capital investment package for them as well as for 79 local authority-owned piers and harbours.

As I said when I announced the package, it is important to me to place added importance on the local authority scheme this year. I was pleased, therefore, to be in a position to announce an enhanced €4.2 million programme in 2021 to assist local authorities in the repair and development of their fishery and aquaculture-related marine infrastructure.

Over the past year, our outdoor spaces have become even more important to us as an amenity. The refurbishment of our harbours will support fishers and tourism and have many other benefits for local communities.

It would be impossible to cover in detail every issue relating to fisheries and coastal communities today, but I have tried to provide an overview of some of the main issues and developments and will address some additional points in my closing statement. I am acutely aware of the challenges facing the sector. I assure the House this Government is committed to working with the seafood sector to meet those challenges and provide a clear path for the growth of our seafood sector and our coastal communities depending on it in the years ahead.

I should have said at the start that I am sharing the remainder of my time with Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan.

I thank the Minister for facilitating this debate. I express my disappointment at the lack of attendance in the Chamber for a debate on one of our most important sectors and the future of our coastal communities. That illustrates the challenge we and the fishing sector have in highlighting the huge obstacles, barriers and challenges it faces in making the sector viable. That is why a number of weeks ago, more than 70 boats from around Ireland sailed into Cork Harbour up to the Cork City docks to prove a point and make known their huge frustration with the state of the Irish fishing sector. It was a respectful demonstration. The fishers made their points, which were valid, on issues such as the removal of the control plan, the need for immediate supports and measures for their industry and the measly quota share the Irish fleet has under the Common Fisheries Policy.

That is the point with which I will start. When dealing with the fishing sector we quite often get bogged down, the message gets lost in terminology and species names and we miss the point. The point is that the Irish fishing sector is correct. Its share of quota species in EU waters is abysmal.

In order to demonstrate that point in the easiest way possible, I have made a series of graphs, which are just visible on the screen. This series of graphs shows areas in EU waters right around the island of Ireland and demonstrates the tiny quota share the Irish fleet has in respect of these different species. These statistics are undeniable and irrefutable and are seen in the Common Fisheries Policy facts and figures document for 2020. They clearly demonstrate that, in respect of the well-known species, hake, of a total pot of €185 million, the Irish share is just €10 million, a measly 5%. Moving on to another very well-known species, haddock, of a total pot of €20 million, the total Irish catch is €1.6 million, a measly 7% share. With regard to blue whiting, a species of fish particularly abundant in Irish waters, of a pot of €67 million, the Irish share is €8 million, or 11%. With regard to monkfish, or anglerfish, again a very popular fish which is in demand, the statistic I have refers specifically to sector 7 and so is specific to Irish waters. Of a total pot of €124 million, the Irish share is just €9.4 million, a share of 7%. These facts are easy to follow. My final statistic relates to prawns. Of a total pot of €112 million, the Irish share is a tiny €1.5 million, or 1%.

What the industry is telling us is absolutely correct. The share we are getting, after years and years of losing out on quota share, is not good enough. That is why those in the industry are concerned. That is why they are frustrated and want us to go back to Europe and fight a better fight for quota share. It does not stop there. We have seen a loss of €15 million in our mackerel quota, which will increase to €26 million by 2026. To take a species like herring, the Irish Sea is only a few miles from here. This is where herring are caught. This is where west Cork boats have, for years, fished for herring in the Irish Sea. Europe has given away 99.9% of the quota for that species. I can testify that bluefin tuna is abundant off the Irish coast, particularly as we move towards the end of the summer and into August. We have no quota for bluefin tuna while Japanese boats come to the west coast of Ireland to fish for this species. I can therefore understand the frustration of the industry.

It is plain for everyone to see. The statistics are there. I did not create them. I took them from the Common Fisheries Policy. We need to step up to the mark. I commend the Minister and the task force on the production of this interim report but one of the most important points made within it relates to the whole area of burden sharing. It says:

The Task Force recommends that all options to alleviate the loss of quota share be pursued at every available opportunity and treated as a matter of urgency. This should involve a whole of Government approach supported by a lobbying exercise by industry and Government at all EU levels.

The industry is asking for help. It is asking for us to go back to Europe and fight for better quota share. We are an island nation. We have this incredible resource right around our island that can sustain coastal communities and help them to flourish. We need to look after it. We cannot neglect it. I implore the Minister, the Government and the State to step up to the mark.

Another point made at the protest related to the outrage at the removal of the control plan. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Agency, SFPA, came before a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine and failed to answer questions on the removal of that plan. It failed to tell the committee why it was removed and when it will be brought back. Its removal is leading to circumstances in which fishers right across Ireland are forced to weigh their fish on the pier. On sunny days like today, that will have a very negative impact on the quality of our fish. Fish is having to be de-iced, weighed and re-iced. This process takes hours and has implications for health and safety. Prior to that, the Irish industry weighed its fish in the factories. It was traceable, transparent and safe. That is what we need. As soon as possible, we need the SFPA to step up to the mark and reintroduce a control plan for the pelagic and whitefish sectors so that fishers can continue to do what they had been doing safely, transparently and in a traceable way, which is to weigh their fish in the factories. That needs to happen as soon as possible.

The task force's interim report speaks about support measures for the pelagic sector and the refrigerated seawater, RSW, sector but also opens the door to supports for the inshore sector, as the Minister mentioned in his contribution. That is something at which we really need to look. The inshore sector may not have been impacted in the same way by the Brexit trade agreement but it has been severely impacted. It has been impacted by both Brexit and Covid. Restrictions have led to the closure of restaurants and facilities and a consequent drop in demand and significant drop in price for many shellfish species, of which brown crab is a perfect example. Inshore fishers' income has been devastated in 2020 and 2021. Through this task force, we now have an opportunity to step up to the mark and introduce a support scheme. I have given the Minister the document from the National Inshore Fishermen's Association, NIFA, in which the association outlines some very simple, easy and achievable measures which would help to support the sector. These include a continuity grant of, for example, 20% of 2019 turnover to help the industry survive, battle and get past this two-year period, which has been the toughest in the sector's history.

The inshore sector is not just based in my constituency of Cork South-West or the Minister's constituency of Donegal. In every port and harbour across the island of Ireland we have an inshore sector comprising small boats and bigger boats which are the lifeblood and lifeline of their communities. They are what make these coastal communities tick. We need to ensure that there is still an inshore fishing sector when all of this is done. The opportunity has presented itself in the form of this task force and the document from NIFA which I have given to the Minister outlining a potential continuity grant. I believe this grant could be the difference between this industry surviving and not surviving. I plead with the Minister to read this document and take it on seriously.

The Minister has a challenging job. I commend him on the establishment of the task force. The measures outlined in the interim report are good and can be built on. They can be the basis of a final report which will help this industry. Whether it is funded through the Brexit adjustment reserve, BAR, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF, or Revenue, we need to do everything we can to ensure that this industry, which is the lifeblood of many coastal communities, is viable and has a future. Some 70 boats recently sailed into Cork Harbour to demonstrate the exact points I have been making. There will be many more sailing into Dublin next Thursday. I ask the Minister please to listen to the fishers' requests.

We move to the Sinn Féin slot. Deputy Mac Lochlainn is sharing time with Deputies Mairéad Farrell and Cullinane.

The Minister has heard the remarks of his party colleague, Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan. I commend the Deputy on the graphs providing a visual display of the utter injustice in terms of the allocation of quota to the Irish fishing fleet.

The current percentage of Irish waters that are within the overall jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy is 12%. We have 12% of the waters but we were allocated 4% of the overall quota. What we are actually receiving is one third of what we should get on the basis of our proportion of the seas. What does that mean in real terms? It means hundreds of millions of euro lost every year. It means thousands of jobs in jeopardy. As the Minister is aware, the industry currently supports approximately 16,000 jobs overall. If we are getting one third of what we ought to be getting, one could argue that tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of euro will be lost because of the Government's repeated failure at least to try to renegotiate the Common Fisheries Policy and stand up with regard to what has happened here.

The Common Fisheries Policy is based on relative stability. In other words, it is based on the practices that were in existence when we entered the European Economic Community, as it was back then. Even though the capacity of our industry has grown, we have to adhere to the allocation based on the situation as it pertained many decades ago. How unjust and unfair is that? One sees the implications when one considers the species. That is jobs and revenue lost to our coastal communities, many of which could desperately do with that extra fight. The truth is that when it comes to fisheries policy, everybody who has operated in Brussels through the years and interacted with it knows that we are the laughing stock of Europe. They just cannot believe that we have wilfully handed away so much of our own natural resources and the potential wealth of our coastal communities. It is such a sorry thing to say that we are the laughing stock of Europe in that regard. They cannot believe that we keep doing it year in, year out.

This is all in the context of the EU-UK trade agreement. Ireland, the country that is a victim of the Common Fisheries Policy in real terms, has been hit with another 15% of our quota cut, considerably more than any other fishing fleet, and €43 million per year lost. Here we are, almost six months later, and there is no evidence of burden-sharing. Where is the fight from the Government for a fair outcome after the EU-UK trade agreement, especially considering what I have just said about the historical approach of Europe?

I refer to bluefin tuna. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan was right to raise that issue. The situation in respect of bluefin tuna is an absolute scandal. It is one of the most lucrative fish in the world. Thanks to species management internationally, it has been recovering in recent times. It is plentiful in Irish waters but we have zero allocation of quota: nothing. To add insult to injury, we are allowed to catch and release, so one can catch the fish with tourists and just release them again. We are involved in scientific surveys. For Christ's sake, it is unbelievable. The fishing fleet of the European Union has had an increase of 78% - tens of thousands of tonnes - in the quota of bluefin tuna in recent years, but we have not been allocated a single fish. Imagine what it would do for our inshore fishing fleet if they were to be given some of that quota. Who is fighting for us? Who is making this case? It is absolutely astonishing.

Senior officials of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have stood over this approach for many years under Minister after Minister. We do not have a dedicated Minister of State for the marine, never mind an actual dedicated Minster for the marine at Cabinet. We are the only island nation in the European Union but we do not have a dedicated Minister who would only focus on the marine and could deal with these senior departmental officials and get them to shape up and fight for a fair share of resources for this country. It is astonishing. The situation in respect of bluefin tuna alone tells one everything one needs to know about what is going on in terms of the State fighting for our people.

The seafood task force has been established. I have spoken to many people who are participating on it. It is critically important that if it has agreed in good faith an approach we need to take, that approach is implemented with heart and soul and fire and passion. We have ground and time to make up and we need to fight hard for our interests at European level. That is critical.

I refer to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA. My God, if anything represents what is going on in fishing communities and what has gone wrong for so long, it is the performance of the SFPA. As the Minister is aware, PwC did an analysis of that organisation. It concluded the SFPA is dysfunctional, not fit for purpose and in need of urgent reform. The utter failure to make that organisation work effectively in partnership with and with respect for fishermen and fish producers around the island has led to the disaster relating to the weighing system process. In my opinion, based on the conversations I have had with fishermen around the coast, the SFPA views our fishing community as if they are criminals. It assumes the fishers are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent. That is the type of culture that is there.

Oversight and regulation are important. We need to protect our precious resource and prevent overfishing. I recently visited a fish factory in Killybegs and I saw fish being landed at the harbour onto a trailer with water that took them a short distance to the factory. I saw the fish being weighed on a state-of-the-art and sealed weighing system with which only the SFPA can tamper. The National Standards Authority of Ireland can come in unannounced at any time to see whether the weighing system is doing what it is supposed to be doing, but that was not enough. That is a lot of oversight. There are CCTV cameras all around the factory, looking down at this weighing system as the fish go over it. Those CCTV cameras beam directly to the offices of the SFPA. I cannot think of any other industry with that level of oversight, where the staff of the regulator can literally watch the entire process happening for as long as they want. If that is not enough, they can come into the factory and look at the production end, where there is a trolley of fish in boxes. Each box weighs 20 kg and there are 60 boxes on the trolley, so that is a total of 1.2 tonnes. One can go into the freezer system. My God, if you want to regulate them, you can regulate them. You can regulate them to the nth degree. In fact, our seafood sector is the most regulated in all of Europe. How in God's name did we get to a situation where we have allowed the European Union and the European Commission to reach a conclusion that Irish fishers have overfished and are involved in widespread illegality? Where is the evidence? A whole industry has been accused of overfishing but it has not been given the evidence. I submitted a parliamentary question on the matter to the Minister and his departmental officials said it cannot be released. My God. Can the Minister imagine a person being accused of a crime - the fishermen are being accused of a crime - and found guilty but not given the evidence? The person is punished but was not given the evidence, so never had a chance to defend himself.

The report was leaked to a number of organisations, which have behaved deeply unfairly by putting it into the public domain. It was leaked to the media and certain organisations but was not given to the people who are facing accusations.

Flowing from that is the utter disaster that is the SFPA and the way it has conducted itself on matters affecting people living on our coasts. It is a dysfunctional organisation. We now have a situation where every fisherman must weigh his or her catch, including non-quota species, on the pier or harbour. Fishermen have to take the fish out of the iceboxes to do so. Christ almighty, seafood regulations state that the cold chain must be protected. The fish must be stored at the required temperature the whole way through the process and that must be guaranteed in respect of any sales that are made. Bord Iascaigh Mhara is a good organisation that is trying to promote Irish seafood across the world and work with the industry to develop technology and standards. It is trying to promote the tremendous seafood we have in this country. However, fishermen are being told to take the fish out of the iceboxes and keep it in the open heat before putting it back again. A system has been imposed that puts fishermen at an utter disadvantage relative to their competitors and undermines all the work of BIM. One arm of the State is fundamentally undermining another arm of the State that is progressive and effective.

The Government has never got a grip on the senior officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the SFPA. This is happening on the Minister's watch. He is a Donegal man from a coastal community. He has been told at every single meeting he has attended around the coast what the issues are. I commend him on the town hall meetings he conducted. That engagement was a good initiative. The Minister heard from the horse's mouth that the officials are completely out of synch with the communities with which they are supposed to work. I will draw an analogy to illustrate the point I am making. When it comes to policing, a garda who treats people with respect and uses common sense is a garda who is respected in the community. He or she enforces the law while also explaining the law and respecting people in the community. People will work with gardaí like that. However, where a garda treats people with contempt and like criminals from the start, and looks down his or her nose at them, then we have ineffective policing. That is what the SFPA has become. The agency was handed a template in Killybegs and I cannot believe it has not presented it to the European Commission and said: "Look at the standard of regulation we have reached and the level of oversight we have in being able to watch people on CCTV and monitor what they are doing closely."

The Minister needs to get a grip on the senior officials in his Department and the SFPA. The seafood sector task force and the town hall meetings are the right way to go. He has heard what needs to be heard. As a fellow Donegal man who, like the Minister, has spoken to fishermen and people in all these coastal communities, I say to him it is time for big change. It is time for the Minister to deal with his officials and tell them straight he needs them to fight for Ireland and do everything they can to rectify the wrongs that were done. The Department needs to show the fishermen and fish producers it has their back and will fight for them with all its might and main. If the Minister can achieve that, he may be able to deal with the protesting fishermen who are coming to Dublin next Wednesday and show them he is making a difference. There were protestors here last week and there will be more next week. If the Minister can deal with the issues both those sets of protestors are putting to him, he can look back on his days in government with great pride.

Two weeks ago, I met with fishers from Inis Oírr who raised two key issues with me. First, they are deeply concerned at having to weigh the shellfish when they land it on Inis Oírr. There is no account taken of damage to, or incidental loss of, the catch before it travels back again by sea to the factories. The other key issue is the pier on Inis Oírr, which not only impacts fishers but the entire island community, which is one of the coastal communities we are discussing today. Since I was elected to represent the Galway West constituency a year ago, I have been shocked by how island communities have been completely forgotten and neglected in almost every aspect. Inis Oírr is a very good example of that neglect by successive Governments.

I want to describe the hazardous nature of the pier on Inis Oírr for the benefit of the Minister, Deputies and any media representatives who are here. If people were aware of how bad it is, there would uproar. At the start of this year, videos were circulated, mainly in the Irish language media, of waves crashing over the pier wall, the force of which broke the lights on the pier. One can imagine how dangerous it would have been if people had been on the pier. The weather was bad but not that bad. The damage meant the pier had to be closed and the boats could not dock, which not only impacted the people of Inis Oírr but also the people of Inis Meáin because the two islands share the same doctor. Three mornings a week, the doctor from Inis Oírr goes over to Inis Meáin, which he could not do on this occasion.

The redevelopment of the pier on Inis Oírr was contained in the Government's 2015 capital investment plan, Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021. Six years since it was promised, it is yet to happen. There was good news with the announcement the pier was finally getting the go-ahead but that was followed by further delay, with no clarity as to when the project will go to tender. It is unfair that the islanders are being left in the dark again. Will the Minister look at this issue and try to push it forward?

Táim díreach chun ceist Chéibh Inis Oírr a ardú leis an Aire. Táim tar éis an cheist seo a ardú sa Seomra seo go rímhinic ó toghadh mé bliain ó shin. Tugtar neamhaird iomlán ar na hoileáin. Dá mba rud é go raibh píosa infreastruchtúir chomh criticiúil is atá céibh i gcomhair oileáin sa ndrochchaoi chéanna is atá Céibh Inis Oírr i gceantar rachmasach i mBaile Átha Cliath tharraingeodh sé raic agus bheadh sé réitithe ag an Rialtas láithreach. Tá an chéibh seo á gealladh ó 2015. Is sé bliana ó shin é sin. Bhí dea-scéal ann le gairid go mbeadh an chéibh ag dul amach go tairiscint ach tá an chosúlacht ar an scéal go mbeadh moill eile ag baint leis. Níl sé soiléir cén t-am go díreach go mbeidh sé ag dul amach go tairiscint. Tá faitíos ann nach mbeidh an próiseas ar fad críochnaithe roimh an Nollaig. Níl sé féaráilte go mbeadh muintir Inis Oírr fágtha sa ndorchadas arís eile. Tá práinn ag baint le forbairt na céibhe. Tá sé fíordhainséarach ach ní féidir le muintir Inis Oírr dul trí gheimhreadh eile gan forbairt ar bith ar an gcéibh. Caithfidh an Rialtas breathnú ar bhealach inar féidir é seo a bhrú ar aghaidh.

Is rud eile gur mhaith liom a ardú leis an Aire ná na srianta uisce atá curtha i bhfeidhm arís thar oíche i mbliana. D'ardaigh mé an fhadhb sin anuraidh ach níl tada déanta faoi. Táimid i lár paindéime, áit a ndeirtear linn go gcaithfidh daoine a gcuid lámha a ní ach níl uisce ann i gcomhair mhuintir na n-oileán thar oíche. Tá sé iomlán dochreidte. Níl mé in ann freagra ar bith a fháil maidir le cén plean atá ann chun réiteach a fháil ar an gceist sin.

I have previously raised with the Minister a number of issues relating to the fishing industry in County Waterford, primarily in Dunmore East. I want to revisit those issues today and highlight the requests of the fishing industry in the county. During our last debate on this matter, I invited the Minister to visit Dunmore East to see the opportunities that exist to restore the village to a thriving economic hub and revive the fishing industry. I again invite him, especially now that restrictions have been eased, to come to Waterford over the summer period and meet with fishing and community representative groups in the east and west of the county to hear about, and see for himself, the current plight of the industry there.

The issue of the landing of fish from vessels based in Britain and the North in Dunmore East still has not been resolved. The Minister has consistently said it would be kept under review, which I welcomed. I ask again today how that review is going. Locals in Dunmore East want this facility returned in order to generate additional economic activity. The crews of the British and Northern vessels want it to return to prevent them from having to sail to Howth or Cork. The SFPA, which would be responsible for overseeing any landing requirements on a limited-hours basis, has said it would not require any additional capacity to carry out the functions required. I appeal to the Minister again to redesignate Dunmore East as a landing port for fish caught by British and Northern-registered fishing vessels.

Investment in Dunmore East, as in any place, is key to its future success. The existing fishing harbour is, at times, near full capacity. The construction of an outer harbour would have a dual purpose in providing further safe landing space for the fishing fleet and also promoting Dunmore East as a welcoming destination for world cruise liner visits when that industry restarts in the time ahead.

In the past, I have raised with the Minister the issue of a number of derelict buildings under the ownership of his Department that need a strategy to get them back into use, economic or otherwise. There are local enterprises that have previously expressed interest in developing these buildings. They have the support of the local authority to develop jobs and generate economic activity. I am sure that the Minister and I want the same thing. If there are derelict buildings that can be brought into use to generate economic activity, why are we not doing it or supporting it?

I understand that leases for these buildings will go out for public tender again soon. The last tender failed. Once the next tender process is complete, I ask the Minister to engage with the local authority members and local economic representative groups to ensure that we can bring these buildings back into proper use and stimulate jobs in the area. A ministerial visit to the site, or to any of the ports or fishing villages in Waterford, would be hugely beneficial. I speak to fishers on a regular basis. I know they would like to see the Minister come to Waterford and engage with them. Those in the smaller inshore fleet, in particular, are under severe pressure at present to protect their livelihoods. A sustainable and worthwhile future must be carved out for these fishers. At present in Dunmore, the fishers, who are primarily middle-aged men, are obliged to climb across five and six boats to get access to their own boats to allow them to get out to fish. The harbour master has deemed this to be a health and safety issue and perhaps a tragedy waiting to happen. A small pontoon installed in the existing harbour would resolve this issue. It is an example of the greater investment that is required and to which I have referred.

I welcome the opportunity to engage in a debate on this issue again. I previously wished the Minister well in his role. I know that he is deeply committed to fishers and to ensuring that coastal communities are properly supported. However, it must be all coastal communities right across the State. As a representative of Waterford who engages with the fishing community and who is aware of the importance of the development of the harbour of Dunmore East and of communities in west Waterford, I invite the Minister to visit the area. I also implore him to ensure that all ports, fishing communities and villages are properly supported in order that they can thrive and add economic value to the people who live in those areas.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil deis agam labhairt ar cheist cúrsaí iascaigh. I will begin by raising a small issue that perhaps the Minister can tackle for once and for all. He mentioned that as Minister, he inherited six harbours and then he got Cape Clear. Obviously, the Minister's Department did not tell him that he has a bit - I mean a bit - of Cleggan Pier. The fact that half the pier is owned by the county council and the other half is owned by the Department has stymied the development of the pier for years. I suggest that the Minister should transfer total ownership of the pier to the local authority and then allow it access to money to properly develop it because the local authority would have access to island funds, etc.

Níor mhaith liom a bheith ag troid le comhghleacaí liom as mo Dháilcheantar agus ní thiocfaidh mé troid ach ceartóidh mé an méid a dúirt sí tráthnóna. Dúirt sí tráthnóna nach ndearnadh tada do na hoileáin riamh ag aon Rialtas agus ní fíor sin. Iarraim uirthi an méid atá ráite aici a tharraingt siar agus a cheartú.

Sa deich mbliana go raibh mise mar Aire le freagracht as na hoileáin, caitheadh €100 milliún ar bhunstruchtúr ar na hoileáin. Rinneadh céanna ó cheann ceann na n-oileán agus bhí ceann in Inis Oírr chomh fada le cúrsaí pleanála agus an cead pleanála faighte nuair a d’fhág mé an Roinn. Ní beag an méid €100 milliún a chaitheamh ar na hoileáin. Chomh maith leis sin, tugadh isteach go leor scéimeanna eile. Mar shampla, tugadh ráta cánach speisialta ar na carranna ar na hoileáin. Tugadh liúntas leasa shóisialaigh isteach do na hoileánaigh a thug breis ar an méid a fhaigheann a macasamhail ar an mórthír.

Nuair a chuaigh mise isteach sa Roinn i 1997, ní raibh aon bhád farantóireachta fóirdheonaithe ag dul ag na hoileáin taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá ceann ag dul ag chuile oileán go bhfuil aon phobal orthu i láthair na huaire. Ag an am sin, ní raibh aon bhád farantóireachta fóirdheonaithe ag dul ó Ros an Mhíl go dtí na hoileáin Árann. Ní fhéadfaí maireachtáil ar na hoileáin sin anois gan é. Caitheadh airgead mór ar bhóithre, ar chéanna, ar ionaid sláinte, ar scoileanna agus ar shaoráidí pobal de chuile chineál.

Mar sin, iarraim ar an Teachta an taifead a cheartú agus a admháil go ndearnadh an t-uafás do na hoileáin idir 1997 agus 2010 nuair a d’fhág mé an Roinn. Bhí mé imithe as an Roinn ar feadh bliain go leith den mhéid sin. Má tá rud amháin ag teastáil anseo, is é sin ná go mbeadh muid féaráilte agus macánta lena chéile. Ní dhearnadh mórán ó shin. Chuir mise ceist sa tréimhse deireadh Dála cé mhéad togra de bhreis ar €1 milliún a ceadaíodh do na hoileáin ó 2011 ar aghaidh agus dúradh liom nach raibh ceann ar bith. Sin fíric.

Ba mhaith liom bogadh ar aghaidh ag cúrsaí iascaigh. Is cuimhneach liomsa i bhfad siar agus mé an-óg nuair a bhí caint ar dul san AE, go raibh mé in aghaidh an tuairim go mba leis an Eoraip na farraige timpeall ar an gcósta. Chonaic mé go raibh saibhreas aiceanta iontach ann agus thuig mé nach raibh muidne ag fáil cruach, gual nó na hacmhainní eile a bhí ag na tíortha ach go raibh muid ceaptha ár gcuid acmhainní féin a thabhairt suas. Ba i 1983 a rinneadh an dochar mór millteach. Díoladh amach muid. Mar a deireadh san amhrán, bhí muid “díolta leis na Gallaibh.”

Tá dúshlán roimh an Aire nuair a thiocfaidh an plé ar aghaidh maidir leis an gcéad comhphobal iascaigh ach caithfear an troid a dhéanamh an t-am seo agus caithfear a bheith feicthe ag déanamh troid an t-am seo. Caithfear an bord a bhualadh agus a mhaoímh nach bhfuilimid sásta mar phobal nach bhfuil ár gcuid acmhainní nádúrtha againn féin. Chomh maith leis sin, chuirfinn i gcloigeann an Aire dá ndéarfadh muid go mbeadh síneadh ar an bpíosa sin cois chósta den fharraige atá faoinár gcúram agus go mbeadh síneadh timpeall ar chuile bhallstát, go mb’fhéidir go dtabharfadh an tAire leis cuid mhaith de na hiascairí intíre a bheadh báúil don choincheap sin. Chomh maith leis sin, bheifí in ann é a dhéanamh ar bhonn caomhnaithe mar níl aon amhras faoi; ní hiad ná báid bheaga atá ag déanamh an dochar.

Má théimid ar aghaidh chuig Brexit, dúirt mé sa Dáil mí na Samhna seo caite go raibh faitíos orm nuair a thiocfadh sé go dtí na laethanta deiridh deireanach san oíche nuair a bheadh an plé á dhéanamh, go ndíolfadh an Eoraip amach muid ó thaobh cúrsaí iascaigh. Bhí faitíos orm go dtiocfadh na tíortha móra isteach agus go ndéanfadh siad cosaint ar a gcuid féin. Caithfidh mé a rá nach raibh amhras ar bith ormsa riamh ach go dtiocfadh an Bhreatain agus mórthíortha na hEorpa ar chomhréiteach maidir le trádáil. Bhí buaileam sciath agus troid na mbó maol ag dul a bheith ann i gcónaí ach bhíodar i gcónaí ag dul ag teacht ar réiteach agus nuair a dhúisigh muid ar maidin cé a bhí thíos leis ach muid féin. Deirtear linn go bhfuil ciste fhóirithinte ann. Céard air atá muid ag caint leis sin? Ag rá le hiascairí gan dul chun farraige? Cuimhnigh gur sin a táimid ag rá. Táimid ag insint dóibh fanacht sa bhaile agus gan dul ag iascach. B’fhéidir gur réiteach gearrthéarmach é sin ó thaobh cúrsaí airgid de.

Ar ndóigh, ar nós feirmeoirí agus feirmeoireacht, is maith leis na hiascairí dul ag iascach agus ní mhairfidh airgead den chineál sin go deo.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá faoin control plan seo. Ní thuigim cén bunús a bhain leis an Eoraip ag cur deireadh leis an gceann deireanach. Níl aon fhianaise ann go raibh mórán de dheis ag an tír seo na cleachtais a bhí ann a chosaint. Tá an rud atá déanta seafóideach amach is amach. Labhair an Teachta Farrell faoin dlí atá ann ach níor mhínigh sí go hiomlán é. Má thagann portáin nó gliomaigh isteach go hInis Meáin, Inis Mór, Inis Oírr nó go hInis Bó Finne, caithfear glaoch ar an SFPA agus deis a thabhairt dóibh teacht amach ar an gcéad bhád farantóireachta eile leis an iasc a mheá. Sin má ghlacann an SFPA é sin a dhéanamh. Ansin caithfidh na hiascairí féin é a chur ar an mbád farantóireachta ina dhiaidh sin agus é a chur ar ais ag an mórthír. A leithéid de sheafóid. Tá 150 céibh i gConamara agus baintear úsáid as beagnach chuile cheann acu le haghaidh na “non-quota species”, mar a thugtar i mBéarla orthu. Anois caithfear glaoch ar chuile cheann acu agus rá leis an SFPA go bhfuil siad ag teacht agus caithfear déanamh cinnte go bhfuil scála meáchain i chuile chéibh.

Tá cás na ronnaigh agus an cineál sin éisc mínithe go maith. Tá an leac oighir le baint den iasc, é a mheá agus leac oighir a chur ar ais air. Cá as a dtagann an leac oighir agus daoine ag déanamh na hoibre sin? Caithfear réiteach sciobtha a fháil air seo. Tosóidh margadh mór níos deireanaí sa samhradh, ag tús an fhómhair, agus ní féidir linn dul ó sheachtain go seachtain agus ó mhí go mí ag iarraidh é seo a réiteach.

Ceist eile gur mhaith liom a ardú leis an Aire ná ceist na n-achomharc le haghaidh na ceadúnais sliogéisc. Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an méid a dúirt sé. B’fhéidir go bhfuil dul chun cinn déanta maidir le ceadúnais ó thaobh na Roinne de ach tá an coiste achomhairc fós ag tógáil a chuid ama. Chuala mé faoi chás ceadúnais le gairid atá tar éis a bheith leis an mbord achomhairc ar feadh bliana agus anois tá an cinneadh curtha siar sé mhí eile. Tá rud amháin a chaithimid foghlaim sa tír seo - sé sin, go gcaithfidh daoine atá ag déanamh cinntí foghlaim le cinntí a dhéanamh go sciobtha agus go féaráilte. Is cuid de bheith féaráilte bheith sciobtha agus níor cheart go mbeadh daoine ag fanacht agus ag fanacht i dtaobh foraoisí nó ceadúnais muirshaothrú. Níor cheart go mbeidís ag fanacht an iomarca ama. Ba cheart go mbeadh treoir ama sa dlí maidir le cé chomh fada gur féidir le haon údarás a thógáil le teacht ar chinneadh.

I am looking forward to the Minister coming to Connemara. He promised me he will come and I know he will. We have much to show him there. He has appointed Malachy Walsh and Partners to carry out another review of the review of the piers. We can live with that if this is the final and comprehensive review which takes the whole use which Rossaveal pier could be put to and takes into account all the State lands.

The west coast has taken a battering in the context of the way that the Cinderella industry of Ireland, which should be one of our largest industries as an island nation, has been treated over the years. There are still many people in the west with an interest in the sea. There is no fishery port in the hands of the Department from Dingle to Killybegs, however. The west coast is way longer than the east coast, a long stretch of sea. The only port is Rossaveal but it cannot take the boats of any size. To revive the industry of fishing and to start a renewable energy industry, we are asking for a modest project, which would cost approximately €20 million, to proceed once we get this report. I have no doubt the report will say it is worth going ahead with the deep-water pier in Rossaveal.

Some Deputies are seeking copies of the Minister's speech. It would be helpful if we could have that. I call Deputy Buckley.

In considering fees, it is important to note that the State currently provides very substantial financial support to undergraduate students in higher education towards the cost of their studies.

This commitment is demonstrated through the high level of fees support amounting to in excess of €500m per annum provided by the State for large numbers of students participating in higher education. This comprises tuition fee funding via the Free Fees Schemes under which the Exchequer currently contributes €340m to meeting the tuition fee costs of almost 140,000 eligible undergraduate students in higher education. All students eligible for the scheme receive state support whereby the Exchequer pays the cost of tuition fees exclusive of the student contribution. In addition, over 60,000 students have all or part of the €3,000 student contribution paid on their behalf under the Student Grant Scheme at a cost of over €180m.

This substantial funding support has played a very important role in enabling access to and growth in higher education in Ireland.

In terms of the future position, my Department's Statement of Strategy, which I published on 8 March last contains a commitment to put in place a sustainable funding model for higher education. This is essential in ensuring that our higher education institutions can effectively meet high standards of quality and performance, and achieve critical outcomes for our economy and society.

A comprehensive economic evaluation of the funding options contained in the Cassells Review was commissioned by the European Commission and undertaken by independent expert consultants. This review is currently being finalised.

I look forward to the completion of the funding review which will provide the basis for determining how best additional investment in higher education can meet future requirements, in particular in supporting access to higher education in terms of the totality of the costs of participation. This is an essential to meeting a core objective of my mission as Minister is that everyone regardless of their background, age, gender, or address achieves their best potential.

The most important thing here is the processing of Irish fish in Ireland and the quality of food that we have. I appeal to the Minister, like many other speakers have said, to go back into Europe and to say we have had enough of being abused and of being taken for granted and that we will not take any more of this. We need to take back what is rightfully ours. We will certainly negotiate but we are surely entitled to a fairer share.

This what is happening here at the moment. We saw this in Cork two weeks ago and it was a fabulous sight as the flotilla of all of the ships came into Cork Harbour, which a great many followed online. This was not what one would call a protest but was a celebration of the industry and of all those families and generations who have lived on and by the sea and who just want to maintain what they have and their fair share. We will see the same atmosphere in Dublin next week. As elected representatives in this House for the people, we should be going back to Europe and saying that it can take its foot off the hand now. We need to be able to stand up and stand our ground to say that we are entitled to what we should be getting here.

One person I spoke to briefly before I came in here, and he did not mean this in any nasty way, but as a public representative for east Cork, he told me to ask the Minister how can he legally earn a living for his family. That is the amount of fear that people have. I appeal to the Minister to do the right thing. Let us be strong against Europe and grow our fishing industry so that we can be very proud of it.

Over the past few months in our discussions of the Common Agriculture Policy, CAP, the Minister has repeatedly informed me that his position is to seek as much national discrepancy, or flexibility as he calls it, as possible for CAP funding. He also informed me that the national CAP plan is “a matter of engaging fully with farmers throughout the country on what our plan should look like, and fully consulting everyone before I, as Minister, make any calls on that". I may disagree with the ambivalence of the Minister’s position on CAP, but if that is the standard he wishes to take, that is fine. He is committed to engaging extensively with relevant stakeholders before making significant decisions. However, he is obliged to be consistent. Fishing communities have not, in any way, received the same level of consideration and consultation.

From the disastrous Brexit deal announced on Christmas week to the ongoing issues with the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority weigh systems, fishing communities have not been consulted with, apart from an online town hall meeting he referred to after all of these decisions were made. Moreover, they feel the Government is actually working against them in many cases rather than with them.

The Minister has to recognise the double standard here, and why fishing and coastal communities are feeling abandoned. I also note how the lack of engagement with coastal and fishing communities regarding the Marine Jurisdiction Bill is indicative of how the Government views these areas and does not bother engaging with them.

There are numerous significant issues for the sector which have been highlighted at recent protests, including the unfair trade and co-operation agreement, TCA, between the UK and the EU and the absence of natural justice from the penalty points for fisheries offences. These are, of course, symptoms of the Government’s lack of engagement with these communities. If the Minister commits to anything today, can it please be to bring the same energy and commitment to engaging with fishing communities as he does for others? Will he have consultations across the country with these communities, and as part of that will he ensure to engage with all fishing communities?

The closure of the artisanal hook and line fishery for mackerel for vessels under 15 m in length is another example of a regressive step. As a result of this change, even the smallest vessels in the fleet can no longer go out and catch a few dozen mackerel for sale at the likes of a farmers market. This a fishing method which is probably, we can all agree, the most environmentally friendly of all.

When one consider that simultaneously 98% of the quota is allocated to 49 larger boats, the mind boggles. For anyone who does not know, and I do not believe that many people do, the mackerel quota is distributed nationally by ministerial policy. I ask the Minister how is it that fewer than 50 boats are getting 98% of the quota, while only 2% of the quota is being allocated to the inshore sector of almost 2,000 boats. This is the sector that has the most sustainable type of fishing practices which we should all be supporting. This is blatantly a policy for the few and not the many. Our inshore fisheries are more environmentally friendly and use the kind of fishing practices that have been going on in coastal and island communities forever. This is also where the vast majority of employment is in the sector. What is the Minister actually doing? Can he please explain to us or justify how this has happened, where 2% of the fishing quota is going to where the vast majority of the employment is in the sector with the most sustainable practices, and where 98% of the quota is then going to 50 boats? For almost two years, representatives of the inshore sector have been seeking a very modest increase in that 400 tonnes. Regrettably, these requests are getting nowhere and the lack of a producer organisation, PO, status for many in the inshore sector is a component of this. They have made reasonable requests that the quota is allotted to recognise that the 400 tonnes set aside for the line-caught mackerel is insufficient to allow the over 1,000 boats under 15 m to manage.

The fishing season is being cut short due to the quota being landed early, which has knock-on effects for fishers, other workers whose livelihoods depend on it, and coastal and island communities on the whole. Line-caught is an inherently sustainable model given its low impact nature, the absence of by-catch, and the short fishing window each day. I ask the Minister to engage with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum on this issue immediately. In the overall scheme of things a small adjustment to this quote will make the world of a difference for the inshore fishers and to our coastal and island communities.

Related to that, as I have said, is the PO status of inshore fishers and while I welcome the progress in recognition of the island inshore PO, it is essential that the Minister continues to prioritise the granting of PO status to small-scale representative groups to better reflect small and family businesses. There are things in respect of inshore fisheries that we do not hear enough about such as small piers. I can think of many examples in my own constituency but to give one, the pier at Turkhead, almost 20 people are making a living off that pier, with many commuting out to islands. It is used as a public amenity for things like kayaking and the pier literally drops off. There is not even a slipway there or somewhere to turn. There are vans in different scenarios where the back wheels have gone off the pier because there is absolutely no infrastructure there for them.

Like I said, this inshore sector represents the vast majority of employment of fishers in the country. They do not even get a hearing. I was on the coastal management committee on Cork County Council for a brief period but at the first meeting I remember saying that we might as well not bother talking about all of the different areas that need work and start talking about how we get more funding because Cork is a very large county with a very significant coastal area that does not have the funding to provide the basic infrastructure for small fishing families to make a living. Finally on this point, can the Minister outline the actions he has taken in response to the Norwegian Government unilaterally increasing its share in the mackerel fishery by 55%?

I would also like to highlight the need for greater commitment around ensuring fairer, sustainable and ethical practices in the fishing sector. Ultimately, the continuity of the sector relies on good fishery management but this needs to be operated with communities rather than the top-down approach we have now. Communities need to feel that State services are working with them and only then will we have a successful model.

Regrettably there are a small minority who engage in practices such as illegal fishing or the abuse of workers. We need more robust mechanisms to detect and punish these crimes, which not only cause environmental harm and violate the rights of individuals but also harm legitimate fishers in the sector.

We know that there are undocumented migrants operating on some vessels and we know this is a highly vulnerable cohort given their precarious position. Can the Minister elaborate on his commitment to ending abusive employment practices in the fisheries and give an assurance to any undocumented persons or their advocates that they can come forward and that the undocumented individual will not be themselves punished or, indeed, deported as a result of reporting a crime? Can the Minister outline how he intends to work with fishing communities to stamp out illegal fishing?

As we recover from Covid-19, we have considerable potential to re-imagine and invigorate our marine sector and help develop our coastal and island communities. There are many different ideas for this. One is of a national marine park and there are examples of this in other countries like Wales, where it takes into consideration the local, social and economic importance of the fisheries sector but does not mean eliminating the practices, although it sometimes is perceived like that. This could support our inshore fisheries, our tourism and greatly help coastal and island communities on the whole.

Despite the lack of consultation, the Marine Jurisdiction Bill and the national marine planning framework have the potential to redefine our relationship with the sea and our maritime space. We have an opportunity to grow our blue economy, creating more jobs in coastal communities while delivering a healthy marine environment that is resilient to the mounting pressures of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. This can only be achieved by working directly with people. This requires a cross-departmental approach. At present, fishers have to go to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for issues around offshore developments, while the Department of Foreign Affairs is handling the Maritime Jurisdiction Bill.

I think we all agree we need a unified approach centred on the needs of coastal and island communities, and the Minister needs to take leadership on this.

I am sharing time with Deputy Ó Cathasaigh.

An extensive part of the constituency of Cork East is coastal. The communities involved in the fisheries in Youghal and Ballycotton, in particular, have expressed significant concern to me about the level of investment in our local coastal infrastructure. From the standpoint of the aquacultural and marine activity in my constituency, I am concerned about the level of coastal erosion taking place around the existing pier infrastructure at a number of locations in my constituency. In particular, I single out Knockadoon, a beautiful head near Youghal. It is a very small place. All it has is a walking trail. There is a Dominican camp there and limited fishing activities take place at the head. Unfortunately, the area around the existing pier has been badly damaged by significant coastal erosion.

I ask the Minister for assistance with that issue, because funds are needed for Knockadoon, but also for assistance with Ballycotton, a beautiful village in my constituency. It is famous for its local scenery but also because of the fish that is landed at the pier. It supplies many restaurants throughout the region. Many of the top restaurants in the country are located in County Cork and Ballymaloe House is just up the road from Ballycotton. Obviously, it is of great importance for our local economy to ensure the operations at Ballycotton pier are seamless. The fishermen and women involved in fisheries are very concerned about the damage that has been done over a long period at Ballycotton.

I raised this matter in the House previously with the Minister and was a little disappointed with the level of funding granted. We received just €54,000 towards the pier in the latest round of grants but the level of work required will run well into the hundreds of thousands of euro, potentially close to €500,000, to upgrade the sea wall. I am working with Cork County Council, which will report back to me, as requested, on the significant levels of damage done thus far and also on what is required. I again ask the Minister to examine this matter. In comparison with the other constituencies in the county, the grant is drastically smaller than what they were allocated, as he will clearly see when he looks at the figures from his Department. I would like that to be rectified, if possible.

I acknowledge that the Minister is committed to addressing the issues facing fisheries and I respect that. In his constituency of Donegal, too, they form a major part of that local economy, and the same has to be said about my constituency. In that context, I would be delighted to welcome the Minister as soon as possible to the constituency of Cork East to engage with people working along our coast. From an agricultural standpoint in his Department, he is very welcome to come to Cork East, where he will receive a great welcome from the people, who want to engage with him on a number of positive issues on which we believe the Department could have a proactive and helpful interaction with our constituency.

Some fishers have been injured on the job, with no protection measures to support them while they are not working. Others have testified to circumstances where over-quota catches have been hidden from the authorities. As an island nation with a proud legacy of thriving coastal and fishing communities, it is important that we properly protect all workers in this sector. They are a vital part of the fishing community and work in extremely challenging circumstances to keep the industry going and maintain our fishing supplies.

I am conscious this issue falls across a number of Departments, not just the Minister's, and, therefore, more co-ordinated efforts will be needed to address both policy-related and more practical challenges facing these fishers. The Minister's Department has an important and pivotal role to play as the focal point for the entire fishing sector and for fishers from all levels of the industry in particular. I welcome the chance to have addressed the Minister in respect of these issues.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this important topic. The north County Dublin coastline is one of the most beautiful and, indeed, productive parts of our island. Its coastal towns and villages are home to great scenery and a vibrant fishing industry, particularly inshore fishing. There are, however, many threats to north County Dublin, its communities and these industries. Those threats include the cost of housing and rents, the failure to extend transport links, a lack of funding and supports for communities, improper planning for and consultation in respect of offshore wind energy and an undermining of our fishing industry.

My first point to the Minister relates to the mackerel quota. The mackerel quota is distributed nationally by ministerial policy. This is Government, not EU, policy. Approximately 98% of the quota is allocated to 49 larger boats. A tiny amount of the remaining percentage is set aside for boats that are less than 18 m in length, fishing with nets that get mackerel as a by-catch. A fixed amount of 400 tonnes is set aside for boats less than 15 m in length that fish mackerel with hooks and lines.

The National Fisheries Inshore Forum made suggestions to the quota management advisory committee regarding this line-caught mackerel. These suggestions were given little or no consideration by the committee, however. Inshore fishers moved to line-caught mackerel as a way to diversify in response to the cessation of salmon drift net fishing. From speaking to those in the industry, I am aware, however, that the catch allocations are too small, with quotas being reached in the early months of the year. The industry sought an increase in the line-caught allocation to 3,000 tonnes annually and an increase in the landing limit from 750 kg to 1500 kg, but, as already stated, these requests ignored. There was not even discussion regarding what was achievable, just radio silence.

As opportunities for inshore vessels are limited, many turn to mackerel if and when they show up locally. Unfortunately, as I have said, the 400 tonnes did not last long this year and the hook and line fishery is now closed. For the life of me, I cannot understand why inshore fishermen are given no more help to diversify into this sustainable fishery. Furthermore, the EU Common Fisheries Policy has done a profound injustice to some of Ireland’s fishers. A terrible decision was made by the Government of the day to base fish quota allocation on relative stability and established fishing practices. This was left unchanged in the decades that followed and has allowed a situation whereby Ireland has 12% of EU waters but our fishers are only allowed to catch 4% of the fish. This costs the State thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of euro worth of seafood every year.

Furthermore, fishers were locked out of nearly all the Covid-19 supports. Grants, wage supports and the Covid restrictions support scheme locked out fishers because they did not have rateable premises, were self-employed sole traders or self-employed share fishers and the public health restrictions did not restrict footfall to their businesses. I know the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association and the National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation sent correspondence to the Minister on this, but it does not seem anything was done to support them in a meaningful way. These are just more examples of another indigenous industry that has been failed and let down. Maybe if our fishers painted Apple, Google or Facebook logos on the sides of their boats, they might get a little attention from this Government.

There are other issues around planning which need to be addressed. For instance, on maritime planning, the decision taken by the Dáil will have major repercussions for the future, particularly the future of my constituency of Dublin Fingal and the seashore along the north County Dublin coast. The marine planning Bill, which will establish a marine planning system for our maritime areas similar to that in place for land planning, is coming down the track. What is in that legislation has to be an agreed vision constructed through engagement and conversation with planning experts, marine biologists, the fishing community and coastal communities. To date, this has been lacking.

As I stated last week, the marine planning framework was recently passed by this House with hardly any debate on it. I said it then and will say it now, engagement, communication and conversation with planning experts, marine biologists, the fishing community and coastal communities is necessary because if we do not get an agreement on a broad range of fronts, mistakes in maritime and marine planning similar to those in north County Dublin, which is still dealing with the legacy of planning failures, will be made.

There is no excuse for Deputies not to do right by our fishers and coastal communities. The majority of counties in this State have some coastal communities and their viability, prosperity and success should be paramount to the Dáil and Government. If we fail to do our jobs properly at this stage, these communities will suffer either through intended or unintended consequences.

I urge the Minister to anchor the issue of workers' rights within the fishing sector because it falls between several Departments and needs attention. There are really awful work practices at play around undocumented workers and because these workers fall between Departments they can sometimes be overlooked. I urge the Minister to engage with the International Transport Workers Federation, look at his diary, check the last time he met with its members and ensure he will meet them again soon.

I am sharing time with Deputy Barry and, possibly, Deputy Boyd Barrett.

In May 2019, the previous Fine Gael Government, propped up by Fianna Fáil, declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. So far, more than two years on, even with the Green Party now in government, those in power have completely failed to follow up that declaration with adequate action. The science is very clear on this. We must deal with the climate and biodiversity crises together. This is especially the case when it comes to our oceans. A diverse array of species inhabit our coastal and offshore waters. There are more than 1,000 different species of marine algae, 560 species of fish, 58 species of shark, ray and chimaera - a shark nursery was discovered just a few years ago - 24 species of dolphin, two species of seal and 23 marine bird species. There is so much there but it is all at risk.

Overall, our marine environment is in bad health, severely degraded and in rapid decline. It is no wonder, when the threats relating to climate action and warmer ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, raw sewage run-off and overfishing by industrial fishing fleets are considered. The ocean is also the earth's biggest carbon sink, holding the most carbon on the planet. Researchers recently discovered that bottom trawling, where a weighted net is dragged across the sea bed, scraping the sea floor and scooping up everything in its vicinity, releases as much carbon globally as the entire aviation industry.

For all those reasons and many more, it is vital that, without any more delay, we begin expanding our marine protected areas. We need to set up a marine protected area agency, which is necessary to co-ordinate what areas are designated, how they are managed and how they are actually being protected. There needs to be real engagement with coastal communities and small fishers. Carving out 30% of our waters and protecting them will mean less fishing, however, which undoubtedly will impact on fishers and their families. We have to work to ensure that small fishers have full financial supports during this process into the future, have no loss of income and, in fact, have a guaranteed quality, decent income. That is what a just transition, which the Government was not really interested in hearing yesterday, is all about. It is about saying that the cost of taking climate action should fall on the big industrial fishers as opposed to the small fishers.

As with nearly every environmental target ever set by this State, we have already missed the target of protecting at least 10% of our waters by 2020.

Now the Government says we will go for 30% by 2030 but I find it hard to believe it will happen, considering we currently have less than 2.5% being protected in any sense.

I underscore that these marine protected areas must actually be protected from industrial and harmful human activities, as pointed out by the Irish Wildlife Trust. We need an alliance of small fishers, environmental activists and workers everywhere to demand this sort of action happens. We need marine protected areas that are networked and protected and we need full supports for all fishers and coastal communities that will be impacted by this. If we continue with business as usual, the mega-trawlers will hoover up the fish, the industrial fleets will continue destroying the seabeds and we will all be left paying a significant price.

I will briefly refer to conditions faced by non-EEA migrants in the fishing sector. There is horrific exploitation of workers based in this country. The kinds of horror stories one hears involve effective human trafficking of migrant workers into this country on boats. They work extremely long hours in dangerous conditions, working overnight day after day, with no protection in terms of health and safety-----

We are halfway through. I do not know how the Deputy is sharing the time but it is up to him.

I will finish shortly. They have no protection in terms of health and safety. They suffer injury in many cases. For many of these fishers, it comes to an end when they suffer a significant injury and are no longer able to continue. They are then off the boat and the owner of the boat no longer cares about them. It is an absolute scandal which continues in this country. The International Transport Workers' Federation has done excellent work in highlighting and campaigning on this issue but we need action by the Government. We know there are 211 boats eligible for the atypical working scheme but only 227 live permits. That begs the question of who is crewing these boats and suggests there are large numbers of undocumented workers. We need a census to take place now. We need protection of workers across the industry, proper transposition of the EU directive on working time within fisheries and observation of that to make sure workers' rights in the sector are being protected.

This debate is happening in the context of a punitive intervention by the European Commission, which has declared no confidence in the authorities of this State in the prevention of over-quota fishing. Over the years, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority has not fulfilled its responsibility in carrying out a credible number of inspections and properly pursuing cases of over-quota fishing. As a result, the EU has imposed a collective punishment on all vessel owners who now have to have their catches de-iced and weighed at the quayside under close supervision before being refrozen and transported.

Insofar as there are compliant boat owners, particularly of smaller vessels, they have reason to feel aggrieved but there needs to be honesty in this discussion. The International Transport Workers' Federation, in its dealings with documented and undocumented migrant fishers working on the larger vessels, reports that, where quotas species are being finished, migrant workers are routinely coerced into hiding over-quota catch from the authorities. Forcing vulnerable workers to engage in illegal acts is one of the criteria of forced labour, according to the International Labour Organization.

Migrants are very much part of the fishing communities we are discussing today. We know from replies to parliamentary questions I received yesterday that, on the basis of the partial level of inspections conducted by the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, over the last year, issues of non-compliance affecting migrant workers spanning over 40 vessels were uncovered. There are currently only 227 non-EEA migrants enrolled in the atypical scheme spanning the entire eligible fleet, which is barely above one per vessel.

We saw in the case of two Egyptians who survived a sinking in April that the Departments of Justice and Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed in writing that the two fishers were never enrolled in the atypical scheme. Yet the boat owners association felt it was fine to have the non-compliant owner of that sunken vessel represent it on the national airwaves one month later, on the day of the flotilla protest in Cork.

The statutory bodies responsible for ensuring the rights and safe working conditions of these migrants need to step it up, starting with a comprehensive crew census of eligible boats so we can establish, once and for all, who is crewing the boats and what hours they are made to work. It will be interesting when we get proper information on that one. It will also be interesting to find out what they are being paid.

I must start with the recent European Commission decision that fishers must weigh their catch at the pier. Be under no illusion that this will be, as described by local fishers, the final nail in the coffin for the fishing industry. In County Wexford, fishers landing at Kilmore Quay bring their catch a mere 200 m from the pier to the factory to be weighed. It is entirely counterproductive to force them to invest thousands of euro in infrastructure to weigh at the pier. It is also costly in manpower, time and the quality of the product. Fish must be kept at a certain temperature for freshness and value. To demand the fish be de-iced, handled individually and then re-iced for transport to the factory is anti-fisher and ludicrous, especially when fishers and factory owners have no objections to thorough oversight by the SFPA within factories.

The Government needs to start backing up the fishers now. As matters stand, these plans are unworkable, unproductive and will force many fishers, particularly smaller boats, out of business. The weight ruling comes on top of the already deep outrage and discontent felt in fishing and coastal communities at the bleak outcome of the Brexit EU-UK fishing negotiations. This reduced fish quotas by a further 15%, which will cost €43 million per year. That outrage has continued and deepened as genuine fears around sustainability worsen and the lack of support continues.

Earlier this month, we discussed in this Chamber the rushing through of the Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2021. One of the concerns I had was the lack of consultation with small coastal communities and the businesses the legislation would affect. When I talk to fishers and people in small coastal businesses, they feel completely forgotten and ignored. Talk of decommissioning boats is antithetical to the interests of Irish fishers. They carry proud family traditions that are not for sale at any price. Measures must be put in place to favour the Irish fishing industry, not to bureaucratically strangle it.

I am worried about the sustainability and viability of the indigenous scallop fishers in County Wexford. The industry provides a livelihood for around 120 families. UK authorities confirmed on 1 April that import requirements for direct landings of live bivalve molluscs, LBMs, including scallops, are being delayed until 1 October 2021. The Minister has set up a seafood sector task force to deal with the many issues around Brexit, which is welcome. Will the plight of the scallop fishers fall within the scope of the task force? These fishers are rapidly running out of time. They cannot be left behind as the task force conducts its work. They are waiting to hear the fate of their livelihood and deserve to be kept up to date on any progress and on any help the Government is willing to offer. The interim report from the task force was published yesterday. I welcome that but the clock is ticking for Wexford scallop fishers and they are anxiously waiting to hear from the Minister.

Another example of a small coastal business being wiped out is the closure of Kilmore Seafood Limited in Wexford. The company is to cease trading after 30 years as it is suffering significant financial losses connected to Brexit.

This comes with the loss of 32 jobs. That is 32 families that face significant economic challenges coming out of the pandemic. This type of closure will be replicated around the country if the Government does not intervene with serious measures to address the barriers facing fishing communities.

The final issue I wish to raise with the Minister is about the move to offshore wind energy generation and the potential impact on fishing and coastal communities in terms of extra journeys, distances of routes and the loss of fishing grounds. I have raised the issue in this Chamber previously. As I said then, renewable energy is the future, but I also believe in the principle of just transition. I have concerns about the management of the impact of this essential infrastructure on small businesses which make their living from our waters. They must be included in meaningful negotiations and any anticipated harms mitigated in our move to a greener world. The concern is not just the wind farms themselves, but the imposed safety zones around them too, as they add distance by disrupting the regular routes of smaller boats. The loss of fishing grounds cannot be overemphasised. We want our move to renewable energy to be successful, but it must be done in a just and equitable manner for all concerned.

I urge the Minister to take on board the points I have raised with him. We must protect our fishing communities and the way to achieve this is by treating them with respect, integrity and meaningful engagement and by renegotiating the CFP.

As a Donegal man himself, I am sure the Minister fully appreciates the importance of the sea to this island nation, but most importantly to coastal and fishing communities around the country. I am pretty sure he also appreciates how dangerous it can be on the high seas, especially in the north Atlantic, and how many tragedies, unfortunately, have befallen the fishing communities in recent years. Whether we are crewing a cruise ship, pleasure craft, a container ship, car ferry or fishing vessel, it is a very hazardous occupation. If any Irish mariner is putting out to sea, he or she must have confidence that the State has the appropriate structures and services in place to help when things go wrong.

It is on that basis that I wish to use my time to address some issues concerning the Naval Service with the Minister. I know, strictly speaking, it is outside his brief, but the effect of the issues come within his brief from a fisheries point of view. I hope he can raise these matters with his Cabinet colleagues. I wish to focus on four issues in particular. The first is the search and rescue capability of this country. It has been dramatically depleted in the past five years in particular. We should have nine naval ships at sea, but we only have seven. The reason two are at anchor in the port in Cork is that we do not have the sailors to man them. It is an extraordinary situation to be in that we have the ships, but we do not have the crew. We have the hard part, but we do not have the soft part. As a result, the search and rescue capability of this country is significantly diminished, in particular in the first crucial hour when there is a tragedy at sea when everything hangs in the balance, and that prevents the Naval Service from getting to trawlers in trouble at the appropriate time.

The second point I wish to raise relates to the search and recovery capability. I refer to the wonderful people in the Naval Service dive team. When trawlers, unfortunately, go down and become submerged in a tragedy, these are the people who swim as far as 40 m below the surface and pull remains out of trawlers, bring them back up to the surface, hand them over to the grieving families ashore and give them some solace in the face of unspeakable tragedy. There should be 30 members of the Naval Service dive team but, unfortunately, only six remain. That has massive knock-on effects for the fishing community as well.

The third point I wish to raise concerns law and order. This is a massive issue. We are investing in the Garda Síochána to police the land mass. That is appropriate and it is exactly how we should be doing business but, unfortunately, we are reducing the investment in how we police our territorial waters. I am sure the Minister is well aware that there was an alleged attempted ramming of an Irish trawler only two weeks ago off the south coast. It is not just about fishing: it is about the importation and smuggling of drugs, fugitives, people, and weapons. There is a gap in our defences from the perspective of our territorial waters and it does affect the fishing community.

The fourth and final point I wish to raise specifically relates to fisheries protection. In particular, in light of Brexit, we now have a massive third country on our doorstep with an extensive sea border. We must be in a situation where we can prevent the night-time plundering of Irish fish stocks in Irish waters by EU and non-EU vessels that should not be here. We must invest in the Naval Service from an inspection and patrolling perspective.

I would very much appreciate it if the Minister could raise those matters with his Cabinet colleagues. The Naval Service is in crisis. It is a man-made problem and it is therefore within our gift to solve. Fishing and coastal communities deserve better than the status quo from a safety and security point of view.

It is not very long since the House dealt with farming. The byword when it comes to farming is "sustainable". I would say that is the same way we need to look at the entirety of the fishing industry. It is all about ensuring that we have a viable, sustainable fishing industry that can deliver a plentiful supply of fish but also protection for those families engaged in fishing, many of whom have done it for many generations, and the Minister would know this better in light of the part of the world from which he comes.

It is fair to say that, across Europe, we gained greatly from solidarity in regard to the Brexit issue and we hope that Europe would maintain that level of solidarity in the near future. We obviously have difficulties in the context of the threats from Boris Johnson on the Irish protocol, but these are all problems that can be dealt with, in my view and in the view of many who would know a lot more than I. However, we have continually seen fishers and the fishing industry taking the slack or being the fall guy. Many in this House have referred to the Common Fisheries Policy and the fact that at the time we entered the EEC, to a degree, we got a very bad deal as regards the fishing industry. That has not improved. The Minister will have dealt with numerous fishers in the last while. We now have a situation where this State has 12% of the waters in the EU but only has access to 4% of the catch. There is a definite unfairness in this regard. I know that when Britain left, there was going to be an element of pain, but it looks like the fishing industry in this State is going to take a huge whack, which is unfair.

Anything that can be done from the point of view of a fairer renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy needs to be done. We need to engage in this process as soon as possible. Brexit funding is to be welcomed and this needs to be used from the point of view of doing whatever we need to do, whether it is capital infrastructure or whatever is necessary to lessen the blow and, beyond that, to ensure we have a viable, sustainable fishing industry. What cannot happen is that a huge amount of this would go into a decommissioning process. There may be fishermen who, for various reasons, that might suit but it cannot be the main focus and we cannot allow that to happen. We need to revisit the entire process.

I would also raise some of the worries the Minister will be aware of regarding inshore fishermen in particular the worries around the marine planning framework and all the legislation that is required to produce a complete framework in respect of how we deliver wind energy, including offshore wind energy. We all get that this is a requirement but we need to ensure that, in dealing with this legislation, we put the correct framework in place and that we ensure all stakeholders are dealt with, particularly those inshore fishermen who are afraid of being impacted upon. We know there are certain operations with plans for offshore wind that have engaged in consultative processes with fishers, and some of them have been quite successful, although others have not been. We need to ensure we put best practice in place.

We also have the territorial issues relating to Rockall, Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough, which is in my neck of the woods. Obviously, deals were done with Britain in the pre-Brexit context but we have to take a look at all of these situations again. The Minister has engaged to a degree with fishermen but we need to look at all fora into the future from the point of view of ensuring we have the best consultative processes in regard to Government and European decisions and the fishermen who are affected by this.

I am delighted that we are having this long-awaited discussion on fisheries. I thank our leader, Deputy Mattie McGrath, for pushing the matter at the Business Committee on several occasions and eventually getting his way to have this very important debate take place at a very difficult time for Irish fisheries. I have been pushing very hard in recent times to get more debates in the House. In fairness, it was said earlier there are not many Deputies here but everybody took up their slots, bar Labour. In fairness, there is a bit of interest out there in regard to fishing, which is very important, but there needs to be a further and stronger focus, and this is not where we have had our focus recently.

I pushed recently on the Order of Business to discuss the near-ramming incident in the waters off Castletownbere by a Spanish trawler three times the size of an Irish trawler, and I was voted down. It went up on social media that it was raised by a Deputy from west Cork and that this was the wrong way to do business. I do not care how we get to debate fishing in this House as long as we debate it - and do so continuously - and iron out the crisis that is there. I make no apology to any Deputy, to the Minister or to the Taoiseach for raising these issues. The Taoiseach is furious with me, so much so that he tried to mislead the Dáil last week and on several other occasions, which is an issue that is being dealt with through the Ceann Comhairle’s office. I make no apology for putting the fishermen first at every opportunity. If the Business Committee is run by the Government because it has more numbers on it and will not allow the time, I will bring the matter to the House on the Order of Business. I will push these Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies to either press the “Yes” button or the “No” button and we will see how the fishermen react.

I go back over the performance of the past 12 months. Many of the issues that led to the crisis we are in today date from before the Minister's time. I want to make sure that it is not me versus the Minister in any shape or form. I am furious that successive Governments - not the Minister, Deputy McConalogue - have left Irish fishermen to hang out to dry. Unfortunately, the Minister has been left to deal with a complete mess that is the legacy of other Ministers. The whole reason fisheries is at the bottom of the barrel in this country is because we are afraid to mention it and our Governments are afraid to fight the corner of ordinary Irish fishermen.

In the negotiations for Government in which I was involved in 2016, I brought up the idea of a senior Minister for fisheries. In 2020, I was involved in discussions with Deputies Micheál Martin, Varadkar and Eamon Ryan. Bantry Hospital was also a very important issue for me but this was the other red-liner, and I said they would not get my support unless there was a senior Minister for fisheries. They refused me point-blank and now we have the complete evidence of their inaction and the way they let this country down and left fishermen in tatters.

To look at the performance in the past 12 months under the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, we have had five Ministers with responsibility for dealing with these issues. When the Deputy took over as Taoiseach, what was the first thing he did in those early weeks? He signed into place the completely flawed penalty points system that has proven to be a terrible infliction on Irish fishermen, when he should have stood up for them and refused to sign until the issues that had to be rectified were rectified. He did not do so. Then, we had a Brexit deal that we failed to negotiate. I pleaded in the House with the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, and the Taoiseach to go in and fight for our rights. Irish Ministers should be negotiating in there, not Michel Barnier. Michel Barnier did a deal but he did not do a deal for the Irish. Mr Barnier did a deal for France and every other country. Ireland was hung out to dry because we had no negotiator at the table at a very crucial time.

We have gone from one crisis to another crisis in the past 12 months.

Everybody is asking questions about the weighing crisis here. Nobody has answered any about the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. It is an authority of its own. It misled us in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I was there. The Minister told me afterwards that he and the SFPA knew there was a weighing crisis in December. Why was the fishing industry not informed of that crisis until 5 p.m. on 16 April 2021? Representatives of the SFPA had told the committee the authority worked well with the industry. It did not work with the industry and did not tell the industry about the crisis. The SFPA could have been working towards a solution from December until April but nothing was done and now we have a crisis. It is shocking.

We have found out that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the SFPA have made an agreement that French and Belgian vessels can land fish straight into the back of lorries in Irish ports. Their catches do not have to be sampled, weighed or checked. This is astonishing. Why are we giving more rights to foreign vessels than to Irish vessels? Imagine an Irish fisherman being pushed and tugged with every rule coming down on top of him and this impossible weighing situation. He can see a Spanish trawler park up and they are laughing at us as they fill their lorries without any weighing being done. Does the Minister know what quotas these foreign vessels are bringing in? Does he know the amount of Irish fish on these boats? Does he have any idea what they are doing? They are coming straight in and the boats are not searched to see what catch they have. There is no weighing and there are no problems. They are told to drive on because they have rights but the Irishman has no rights in his own waters.

I do not have much time but I could speak for an hour on these issues. I raised the near-ramming incident involving a Spanish trawler that is three times the size of a Castletownbere trawler. There are many questions about this and I want a special meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine held to resolve it. The SFPA leaves much to be desired. The Naval Service was not able to attend to the incident, through no fault of its own, because it is probably underresourced. I cannot understand why no protection was provided to Irish fishermen on the day in question. It took 12 hours to get out to the location. Imagine what would have happened if the vessel had been rammed. Well done to the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation for the peaceful protest in Cork recently and to those involved in the protests in Ringsend. I fully support them.

I support the fishermen of our coastal counties. I am from an inland county, Tipperary, which is a proud county. I acknowledge the work that Deputy Michael Collins has done and corroborate his statement that his demand that the Taoiseach appoint a full Minister for fishing was not delivered on. That is all he ever asked for.

Irish fishermen understandably resent the EU requirement, facilitated by the Irish Government and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, for catches to be weighed at ports. They have to take the fish out of ice. It is unbelievable. We lost badly in 1973 when we joined the EU. There has been a total sell-out this time. Like Deputy Collins, I am not blaming the Minister because he is new and there were three or four Ministers before him in a short time. We took our eye off the ball and got a bad deal, under which we can only catch 16% of the fish in our own waters. Spanish and French trawlers can come in to our ports and they do not have to weigh their catches. They can bring them back to where they want to process them, as we used to do. This new weighing rule is tyranny. The Minister has run away with himself since Covid. He thinks he can do what he likes and he has got away with very little scrutiny here. I am astounded that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and some Independent backbenchers, especially from coastal counties, will not stand up to represent their people as they are elected to do.

Much has happened to fishing communities recently, with very little debate about it in this House. That says a lot about how these communities are thought of in this House. We had the shambles of the Brexit negotiations and the complete lack of attention the Government paid to fisheries. There has been the fiasco of the weighing investigation court case and the impact it has had on fishing, both pelagic and demersal. There is the ongoing treatment of foreign workers in our fishing fleet, which is a serious employment and human rights issue.

The Department, Minister and Government showed a complete lack of interest in what was happening with Brexit, to the extent that they have allowed other EU nations, supposedly our partners, to reap the best of a bad deal. We have been left with the worst of that deal. Sadly, our Minister shows no interest in belatedly trying to deal with the issue. When the deal was being made, the Department did not even know which Irish vessels were fishing in English waters, despite this being discussed for three years in advance of the deal.

The fiasco of the weighing system, including how it has been dealt with by the Department and the SFPA, is telling. Rather than deal with supposed wrongdoers, why do the SFPA and the Department damn the entire industry? Surely the right approach would be to deal with the problems and let everyone else continue to work? We have the crazy situation where the pelagic fishing industry had to take a judicial review to get a fair hearing about its solution to the problem because the SFPA would not or could not make a decision. We must consider the judicial review in the context of the SPFA's recent statement to the joint committee that it consults the industry on all matters at all times. I beg to differ. The record shows that this statement is an untruth. I use that word because apparently Members cannot say in the House that it is a lie.

We continue to be left with this treatment of the white fish fleet and the weighing disaster. Let us take how monkfish are treated when landed in order to get an accurate weight. If the ice is not removed fully, its weight will taken with the weight of the fish and the boat will lose out. It seems the fishermen do not really matter. That is certainly how they feel and I do not disagree with them.

If the SFPA has a job to do, why can it not work with the fishermen to achieve its aim? There appears to be an attitude that fishermen are all out to cheat the system and the SFPA will, therefore, behave that way too. The problem is that the fishermen have always been outdone by the system. The root of all these problems can be found in our negotiations to join the European Economic Community, as it was then. According to Garret FitzGerald, the EEC never again treated us as badly as it did with regard to fishing rights on our accession to the EEC. It cannot be said often enough that it did not have to treat us as badly again. We became net contributors to the EEC on the day we joined.

Sadly, we also have to discuss and acknowledge how fishermen have been treated. It is a great shame of the fishing industry that foreign fishermen have been maltreated across the sector. It should not happen. Sadly, when we look at how Irish fishermen were treated in the past, it is hardly surprising. All fishermen and workers should be treated with respect and offered proper pay and conditions. That is the least that any worker deserves. It is when our fishing communities can look to the Government to support them and help them to grow that we will see rural Ireland grow and survive. If communities could expect official support and proportionate rules, we would have an industry that supports everyone in rural Ireland. That is not too much for anyone to ask and it is all that fishermen are asking for at this stage. The Minister would do well to listen to them and get the Department and SFPA on board and working with rather than against them. Unfortunately, that is how things are in the industry and it is the root of the problem.

The root of the problem lies in our accession to the EU and what happened at that time. Unless the Government goes to Europe and actively deals with that issue through negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy next year, the problem will, unfortunately, continue.

Fáiltím roimh an deis páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht seo in ainneoin srianta ama. Ba mhaith liom cúpla pointe a dhéanamh agus b’fhéidir go mbeidh toradh ar na pointí sin. Beidh mé ag díriú isteach ar chúrsaí oileáin, feamainne agus iascairí beaga. Tá easpa polasaithe i gceist in ainneoin gur vótáil formhór na Dála, breis is trí bliana ó shin ó thaobh cúrsaí feamainne de agus breis is dá bhliain ó thaobh cúrsaí oileáin de, go raibh gá práinneach le polasaí agus níl polasaí ar bith againn fós.

Tá sé suntasach go leor go bhfuilimid ag caint inniu ar chúrsaí iascaireachta agus na ceantair tuaithe agus tá sé sin anuas ar an bhfógra nach féidir le hiascairí beaga na tíre níos mó ronnaigh a thabhairt as an bhfarraige.

Is é sin an fógra ón Roinn Talmhaíochta, Bia agus Mara. Díríonn sé sin solas ar cé chomh hamaideach, lofa agus mícheart is atá an córas, nach féidir le hiascairí beaga níos mó ronnaigh a thabhairt as na farraigí.

Tá gá le hathrú meoin. Tá gá le polasaí atá bunaithe ar fhormhór na ndaoine, seachas na báid mhóra agus lucht an rachmais. Má tá aon cheacht foghlamtha againn ón bpaindéim agus athrú aeráide agus ón ngéarchéim atá ann, is é go bhfuil gá rudaí a dhéanamh ar bhealach eile, ar bhealach atá inmharthana. Níl an dara rogha againn. Tá an réiteach againne i measc mhuintir na tíre. Ní mór don Rialtas seo cabhrú linne díriú isteach ar na réitigh sin mar go bhfuil gá lena dhéanamh.

I welcome the opportunity to talk on this matter, notwithstanding that the time is limited. I wish to make points on islands, seaweed and smaller fishermen. It is ironic that we are talking about fishermen today, on the day the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that no more mackerel can be caught. How can the Minister say that is just? We are only in June and no more mackerel can be caught. Of course, this disproportionately affects the smaller boats. One problem is the quota and, as my colleague said, the sell-out. In addition, even the limited quota we have has been utterly mismanaged. The smallest boats are being penalised and now they are not allowed to catch any more mackerel.

More than three years ago on 8 March 2018, the majority of the Dáil - that was some achievement - accepted a motion that I and my colleagues tabled on sustainable seaweed harvesting agus cúrsaí feamainne agus an gá práinneach le polasaí ó thaobh cúrsaí feamainne de. We are now in 2021 and there is no sign of a policy or a strategy. This is a wonderful asset - no more than our waters and oceans, no more than quotas for fishing, which are public assets which should be used for the maximum public gain. It is more than three years later and we still have no policy on seaweed.

Our islands are an example to us in sustainable living. If we were cliste go leor, d’fhéadfaimis éisteacht leo agus ceacht foghlamtha a bheith againne maidir leis an mbealach is fearr le dul anois chun dul i ngleic le cúrsaí aeráide agus paindéime. If we had any sense, we would realise that the solution lies before our noses through sustainable development in our community areas and having the people on board with us. Instead of that, we are pursuing policies that are segmented and guaranteed to divide and conquer. I am absolutely committed to action on climate change. I voted for the Bill yesterday. While I was not happy with it, I realised it was all we were going to get at this point.

However, we are pushing ahead with a policy that is not encouraging people to work with us on climate change. We are pushing renewable development, which I fully support, but not in a manner that is sustainable. For instance, in Connemara there is uproar over the manner in which windmills are being proposed. I will find myself in an extremely difficult position. We want public involvement, public return and public ownership. That is what we need in all our communities.

Through the pandemic we learned that globalisation is not good for people. It is not good for business because we have had to bail all the businesses out. Most importantly it is not good for the planet. Therefore, if we are talking about transformative action, we need to do it in a way that is meaningful. What better way to start than with the small fishermen? A renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy is coming up. In the first instance, we must acknowledge that wrong was done and then try to get a much better deal, with the realisation that a quota is a public asset for all of us.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions. We have had a very constructive and useful debate. I am very glad we have had three hours to discuss marine issues. As Deputies will be aware, it has been my hallmark as Minister to engage in every way I can with fishers. I have held virtual town hall meetings with people from coastal communities throughout the country in the absence of being able to meet people during the pandemic. I intend to visit our piers and harbours over the summer when hopefully it will be possible to do so.

I have had many engagements with Deputies at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine. I am open at any time to attend that committee to discuss the matter further. Likewise, I am open to having a discussion in this Chamber at any time on marine matters. I have had substantial ongoing engagement with producer organisation representatives and fisher representatives on all issues and will continue to do that. If anybody needs any more debate at any stage, they should just ask and I will be available.

Deputy Michael Collins spoke about seeking a debate and raising the issue here in the House one day. I am always available to meet and there are ways and means for people to make requests. A hurler does not land in the middle of a football pitch looking to play hurling and then give out about the referee putting him off the pitch, which was what happened when the Deputy requested the debate that day. He raised it during an entirely different debate and was told by the Ceann Comhairle that it was not appropriate on that point. I know he disputed it at the time but that was why there was a kerfuffle that day. It related to the forum in which it was requested. At any stage when a debate is required, I am open to it.

It is clear from today's debate that it is not always as simple as looking to press a "Yes" or "No" button on issues relating to fishermen. There are many technical difficult issues involved which require much engagement and consideration in the Oireachtas, including at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine, and directly with fishermen and fisherwomen. We have had many challenges to deal with recently, including Brexit which is a once-in-a-generation challenge to the sector, the weighing issue which is presenting a real challenge at the moment and ongoing challenges relating to quota. Those matters require considerable engagement and I am always open for that. It is not as straightforward as looking to create a set-piece and push a "Yes" or "No" button.

Some Deputies have suggested that we need a dedicated full Cabinet Minister for the marine. However, I am a full Cabinet Minister for the marine in the same way as in the full Cabinet Minister for agriculture. I am Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The same applies to food. I have never been told that we need a dedicated Minister for agriculture because I also cover food and the marine. The same logic applies to being a full Cabinet Minister, fully representing the marine as well.

Even though it is a smaller sector in its proportion of the national economy, accounting for about one tenth of the exports that agriculture does, it is a very important sector of the economy, nonetheless. It is very important to our national identity. It takes up much more of my time than that, given the challenges facing our marine and fishing sector. I am honoured to be able to work with everyone and to represent it as best I can, working with my Government colleagues as a full Cabinet Minister in the same way as I am a full Cabinet Minister for agriculture. It is really important that a full Cabinet Minister has that responsibility. That is the best way to ensure the sector is represented at Cabinet level and at European level on the Council of Ministers.

I touched on many topics in my opening address.

In my closing remarks, I will touch on a few other points, many of which were made during this debate. It is also important to discuss the topic of climate action in the seafood sector, particularly in light of the passing last night of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill. There is growing global acceptance of the reality of the impacts of climate change on our oceans. This has driven a sharp focus on the need for solutions and actions to address these pressing challenges. The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications has signalled his intention to publish the climate action plan 2021 this summer. My Department is participating in several working groups contributing to the drafting of the plan. As I speak, climate action is actively being embedded across policies, programmes and work streams within my Department and the agencies under my remit, creating opportunities for innovation and to harness the collective input of policymakers, scientists, technical experts and industry representatives to generate meaningful climate action.

As islanders surrounded by ocean, it is imperative that we further and deepen our understanding of the marine environment and the effects of climate change. During 2021, the Marine Institute will conduct a baseline study of essential ocean variable monitoring in Irish waters, current measurement programmes and data quality. We also have the new marine research vessel, RV Tom Crean, which is due to be completed in summer 2022. I was pleased last week to be at the pier in Greencastle, in my home county, to announce that over 600 tonnes of mainly plastic waste has been collected by our seafood sector since 2015 as part of the clean oceans initiative. I congratulate all the fishers who were involved and Bord Iascaigh Mhara for its initiative.

Withe regard to the national marine planning framework, all maritime spatial planning matters, including for offshore renewable energy projects, come under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I understand the Minister intends to publish the maritime area planning Bill in the coming weeks, which will overhaul the planning and development system in the maritime area. The national marine planning framework is due to be published next month.

I will briefly address the issue of fisheries control, which was raised by a number of Deputies. I am very much aware of the recent decision by the European Commission, which has significant implications for our fishers, to remove Ireland's derogation for weighing of fish after transport. As Deputies will know, I have addressed this issue in the House many times. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority has put a revised fisheries control plan out to public consultation. Following the conclusion of that public consultation, the SFPA will submit a new control plan to the EU for approval.

On the situation post Brexit, the interim report of the task force, to which several Deputies referred, was presented to me in recent days. The report accurately describes Brexit as a once in a generation geopolitical shift. That is a fair reflection of the challenge and impact Brexit has had. Overall, we will see a 15% impact on our national fishing quotas, between now and 2026. That is causing significant distress to our sector and all the fishers who are impacted by that loss. I will continue to explore all opportunities to address this burden placed that has been on us and which exceeds the burden many other member states are carrying. We will be informed by the advice from the fisheries task force, under the chairmanship by Aidan Cotter, on the avenues and methods for best doing that. We will be guided by further reports of the task force. I look forward to the task force bringing to a conclusion its work on how we can support and invest in our fisheries sector in the years ahead.

I know we have had challenges in recent months but I fully believe the fishing sector has a tremendous and sustainable future. It is a sector I want to ensure we invest in to maximise its potential to sustain incomes throughout the country, address the challenges it faces and build it to become as important a sector in our future as it has been in our past.

On a point of order, the Minister, in my view, misled the House in saying I was trying to create a set piece and that I was a hurler on the field.

That is not a point of order.

I am entitled under Standing Orders to seek a debate at any time. It is an entitlement of every Deputy. It is misleading to say I was trying to create a set piece. I am entitled to do that. Fishermen were almost killed off Castletownbere in the last two days and I wanted a debate on that issue. It is an urgent issue. It is wrong of the Minister to make that statement and he should correct the record. I am entitled to do that, as he is.

Deputy Collins has misused a point of order. He indicated it was a point of order and it is not.

(Interruptions).

No, it was not a point of order.