Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1974: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The purpose of this Bill is threefold. Firstly, it is to extend the statutory limit on borrowings by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara from the Central Fund. Secondly, it is to broaden the powers of the board to borrow from sources other than the Central Fund by enabling them to make such borrowings in foreign currencies. Thirdly, it is to provide for the giving of a State guarantee where necessary for the repayment of sums borrowed by the board from sources other than the State.

The Sea Fisheries Act, 1952, under which the board were established, enabled the Minister for Finance, on the recommendation of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, to advance money to the board from time to time out of the Central Fund; but the Act also restricted to £500,000 the aggregate amount that could be so advanced. After some years it became clear that the upper limit of the borrowings was no longer high enough. The limit was therefore raised to £1 million by an amending Act in 1956, £3 million by a second amending Act in 1959 and to £5 million by a further amending Act in 1970, which also changed the application of the limit to total outstanding borrowings instead of aggregate borrowings as before. The 1952 Act also provided that the board must repay to the Minister for Finance the advances from the Central Fund in half-yearly instalments with interest. A 20 year repayment period is being operated for the repayment of each advance. The board use the funds advanced to them from the Central Fund to give loans for the purchase of fishing vessels and the repayments by the vessel owners provide the funds that enable the board to repay the advances from the Central Fund.

The amount of the board's outstanding borrowings from the Central Fund now stands at £5 million, which is the maximum figure permitted by the Acts. For the continued development of the fishing industry it is essential that the board should be in a position to continue to make loans available for the purchase of fishing vessels and fishing gear. For that reason it is proposed in this Bill to raise the maximum amount of the board's outstanding borrowings from the Central Fund to £15 million. Such borrowings by the board are at present running at about £2 million a year and so the increase of £10 million in the upper limit should provide for the board's needs for the remainder of the present decade.

While the foregoing outlines the essential purpose of this Bill, the opportunity is being availed of to provide for a useful amendment to one other borrowing power of the board as it is thought that the amendment may possibly be of advantage at some time in the future. Section 22 of the 1952 Act, as amended by section 2 of the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1970, enables the board with the consent of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, given after consultation with the Minister for Finance, to borrow such sums as they may require for the purpose of providing for capital or current expenditure from sources other than the Central Fund. The Attorney General however has advised that the statutory powers of State-sponsored bodies to borrow do not cover borrowings in currencies other than Irish currency unless a specific provision to this effect is included in the relevant legislation. In case that at some time in the future the necessity for the board to do so may arise, the opportunity is being taken in the Bill, by means of the provision in section 3, to enable the board if they so desire to negotiate loans in foreign currencies.

I am also making provision in the Bill for the giving of a State guarantee for the repayment of borrowings by BIM. This is quite a normal feature of borrowings by State-sponsored bodies.

For the benefit of those Members of Seanad Éireann who may not be fully familiar with the role of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in the fishing industry, I should like to outline briefly what the board's functions are at present. The general powers of the board were set out in the 1952 Act in very broad terms but the primary purpose of the board's establishment can be described as the assistance and improvement of all facets of the sea fishing industry. In their early years the board actively engaged in a number of aspects of the industry, including the purchasing, processing and marketing of fish. But, as the years went by, it gradually became clear that some of the board's activities were no longer necessary and that they should concentrate more on promotional and advisory activities.

In 1962 the board's role in the furtherance of Government policy in modern conditions was set out in a White Paper entitledProgramme of Sea Fisheries Development. As a result the board have withdrawn completely from active participation in fish processing and marketing and now operate in the role of a development body for the industry. The board's present functions include the administration of a marine credit plan under which grants and loans are given for the purchase of fishing boats and gear; the provision of an advisory service to fishermen to improve fishing techniques and promote cooperation among fishermen; the development of markets at home and abroad for fish and fishery products; the encouragement of private investment in worthwhile fish processing undertakings; the operation of three boatyards for the building and repair of fishing boats; and the operation of ice-making plants at some fishing ports where such facilities are not provided by private enterprise.

The success of the board in these fields can be measured by many sophisticated yardsticks but surely the best indication of the thriving nature of our sea fishing industry at present is the ever-increasing demand by fishermen for more and bigger fishing boats. Many fishermen with the requisite experience and training are anxious to invest their savings in boats of their own, while many others who have proved successful in operating their own boats are now anxious to turn over to larger vessels. This active demand for boats is without any doubt the best evidence one could wish to get of the progress being achieved in the industry and of the future that lies ahead for our progressive fishing community.

There is no question but that this demand for boats must continue to be fostered by the grants and loans scheme operated by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The grants can continue to be made available from funds provided in the Fisheries Vote each year but the scheme of loans for the purchase of fishing vessels can be continued only through the provisions of the present enabling Bill. In this connection I can assure the House that as much money as possible will be made available for the development of our fisheries, whether from Irish, EEC or other sources.

I commend this short Bill to the House.

I will be brief because, as the Parliamentary Secretary stated, this is continuing legislation the primary purpose of which is to raise the financial limit in regard to Bord Iascaigh Mhara's borrowing from Exchequer sources. It is proposed to raise the limit from £5 million to £15 million. There are some welcome subsidiary proposals in the Bill in regard to the granting of a State guarantee where necessary for the repayment of sums borrowed by the board and the granting of powers to the board to borrow from external sources. I support these also. It was a retrograde step to deprive the board of that right. Now that they have it, I hope it will be availed of.

The whole purpose of this borrowing is primarily to deal with the granting of loans to fishermen for boats. This has become a growing area for higher expense because of the larger boat undertakings developing around the coast. Smaller vessels were not proving economical for our fishermen. We have now advanced to middle distance trawlers—boats twice the size they were ten years ago— ranging from 85-foot, and 100-foot to 120-foot, 130-foot and 150-foot vessels. These are manned and owned by young Irishmen. They are involved in substantial loans. That is why I seek an assurance from the Minister that the grants scheme will continue both in regard to subsidising the interest rate and the direct grants to fishermen purchasing boats.

I do not want to turn this into an Estimates debate, as was done in the Dáil. However, it is perturbing to note from the Book of Estimates that the Fisheries Vote has been reduced for the coming year. It seems rather contradictory to bring in a measure of this kind raising the board's borrowing limits from the Exchequer from £5 million to £15 million, unless this is matched by the grants written into the White Paper. Both these grants—direct grants and interest subsidisation grants—will have to be paid in order to encourage larger boat development.

While approving of the Parliamentary Secretary's proposal to raise the borrowing limits from £5 million to £15 million, I fail to see why the Fisheries Estimate was reduced. I hope the Minister can assure me there will be no default in regard to the grants scheme. This scheme reduces the costs to the fishermen substantially—from 25 per cent to 35 per cent in some cases—and cuts the interest rate by more than half. It is this aid to the fisherman which makes it possible for him to undertake the very heavy loan commitment involved. If he does not get the grant to reduce the initial cost, if he does not get the interest subsidy to reduce his annual overhead, he is in serious trouble. I should like an assurance from the Minister that, as far as the payment of loans is concerned, grants will continue to be operated at the same level heretofore and that every loan application will automatically attract the appropriate direct grant and interest subsidisation grant.

The whole purpose of sea fisheries planning, which has been so successful over the past decade, has been to ensure, first, bigger boats and, secondly, a number of harbours with excellent landing and processing facilities. The harbour development envisaged under the original Bjuke plan—Bjuke was the Swedish consultant who devised the plan about 12 years ago—has not kept pace with the original proposals as they were implemented by successive Governments. I am not condemning the Parliamentary Secretary in this respect because every Government has been at fault here in not pushing ahead with harbour development to a sufficient extent.

What is the up to date position on the harbour proposals for the main ports such as Killybegs, Castletown-bere and the other smaller ports around the coast? There does not seem to have been a sufficiently coordinated drive in regard to harbour development to keep pace with the undoubted growth in the catching side of the industry. There has been a growth in the landings. Bord Iascaigh Mhara are engaged in continuing promotional activities on the marketing side. The availability of up to date modern processing facilities and landing facilities have become more important. In this area there has been a sluggishness on the part of the Administration.

I realise the enormous capital cost involved in harbour development but, at the same time, port development has not kept pace. I welcome the port development that has taken place in Connemara, but along with it has been the abandonment of the port in Galway. The port project there, appears to have been abandoned. Dunmore has been completed. I do not know the up to date position of Castletownbere, but I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary can deal with that. I do not think the full development of Killybegs has taken place yet. I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's views on all of these areas, as well as on the development of smaller ports.

I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary is not master of his own destiny in this, because the Office of Public Works have responsibility for the development of harbours and harbour facilities. In my view, this is one capital work that is fully justified even in the era of restricted finance in which we find ourselves at present. This is the type of financial investment and development which deserves a high priority in Government thinking, particularly as it is orientated towards regions needing further employment opportunities and a growth in sea fish landings. Sea fishing is one of the most ideal forms of regional employment activities. Most of our fish happen to be found in areas that are disadvantaged from the regional point of view, the south-west, the west and the north-west. Therefore, these areas would fit readily into any regional policy conception.

This is an area which could very well attract EEC funds. I know that the regional fund at the moment provides a rather miserable amount of money for the first year. But, hopefully, when the fund gets off the ground, there will be a growing allocation of moneys. Harbour development and improvement can be done in the areas most disadvantaged from the regional point of view. This would represent a very valuable type of capital investment to attract EEC regional funds. It is in this very expensive area of harbour construction, development and improvement that the sea fishing industry needs its most positive injection.

I welcome the Bill on the basis that it represents a further commitment to the development of the sea fishing industry. This is based on the use of larger boats with effective catching power which can make for high volume landings. I should like to see the marketing and processing facilities made more effective to deal with what undoubtedly will flow from the availability of such facilities, that is, greater landings. We must have a more efficient way of handling fish on landing. We must ensure that boats can berth easily and efficiently and that there are efficient handling procedures and processing facilities adjacent to the pier. We should be concentrating our attentions in that area along with the objectives of this Bill.

While I agree with Senator Lenihan in welcoming this Bill I have certain reservations in regard to some of what he had to say. We rarely get an opportunity in this House or anywhere else to discuss the sea fishing industry. Consequently, when a measure such as this comes before the House it is worth our while to take the opportunity to have a look at the whole situation.

It always intrigues me that sea fishing should be lumped together with agriculture in one Department. When one compares the amount of assistance, either financial or technical, given to sea fishing with the great amount of technological, financial and educational assistance given to agriculture, the fishing industry generally compares unfavourably with its colleague. That cannot be attributed to the present Parliamentary Secretary who has been in his job for a relatively short time. He brought to it a deep personal knowledge of the problems of the sea fishing industry. He has done a great deal in his short time to help the industry. He has had consultations with those engaged in it. He is to be congratulated. His work has been noted and respected by those involved in the day to day activities of the industry.

The sea fishing industry suffers from the lack of a meaningful development programme. Of all our scarce nature resources, this is the one which has been given the least attention and has had the least amount of investment and investigation. There is a vast untapped wealth off our shores. Successive Administrations over the past 50 years must be condemned for having done so little to develop our fishing industry. When one looks at the size of the industry today, our geographic location and the amount we are harvesting from the sea in any one year in comparison with the catches being landed—often fished from our waters—at continental ports by continental boats, it is frustrating.

The sea fishing industry has a very high employment content. On any of the boats going to sea from Irish ports today there are at least six aboard, not to mention those employed ashore either at the landing port or at the various stages of marketing. There are also large numbers employed in the construction industry. Consequently, we can see the high spin-off effect in the industry as far as employment is concerned. This again is a reason more attention should be paid to it.

I would like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary details of plans for further educational courses. Considerable progress has been made in recent years providing proper training for young men going into the industry in order to make maximum use of the technological aids now available. This is a very important aspect of the industry. We should be prepared to devote quite an amount of money in this area. Any money invested educating young men entering the sea fishing industry, will be repaid to us a hundredfold.

I have been interested for the past three or four years, at constituent level, in the problems of some of the people in this industry. I often feel that there is an attitude in part of Bord Iascaigh Mhara which is not conducive to consultation between those engaged on a day to day basis in fishing and those engaged on a day to day long term basis in planning fishing policy and in the administration of the activities of the board. Members and officials of Bord Iascaigh Mhara would be far better served if they sat around a table with the people who are involved in the industry and listened to their problems and their ideas. Their ideas on the proper development of the sea fishing industry are very often farsighted. These ideas concern not just their own port and its environs but the whole country. I got the impression—I hope wrongly—that occasionally there is a rather paternalistic attitude adopted by certain people in Bord Iascaigh Mhara who seem to feel that they know what is best for the people who are fishing and that, if the people who are fishing do not agree with that, then that is their hard luck. I do not think that is in any way helpful to the proper development of the industry.

One hears many complaints about the use of our waters by foreign vessels. There are varying views on how best this can be dealt with from listening to fishermen in County Dublin, and from my own personal experience in the Irish Sea, I know at times the Irish Sea can look like O'Connell Street on Christmas Eve at nightime—it can be full of lights, boats, people and movement. On certain occasions if half of those are Irish, that is as high as it would be.

The Parliamentary Secretary gave a good deal of time and attention recently visiting our ports in an effort to encourage the fishermen to engage in the exercise of conserving our herring stock. He asked them to desist from fishing at certain times of the year.

I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary there is a certain feeling among fishermen that, while they respected the idea that conservation was necessary, they felt it was ironic they should be asked to conserve when they felt, rightly or wrongly, that those who are at the present time fishing their waters illegally would continue to do so, irrespective of any voluntary or indeed mandatory efforts at conservation. While every effort is being made in this connection further attention should be paid to it. It is not just a question of the harvest being taken from the seas by foreign vessels but the fact that they are using fishing methods which cause permanent and irreparable damage to the seabed and to the fishing stock. This means that when Irish boats revisit that area the seabed and the stocks there have been permanently damaged.

I have often been on the Irish Sea in summertime and seen so many Englishmen, Frenchmen, Dutchmen and Germans in our waters that one begins to get an inferiority complex about the whole situation. To see the position at sea first hand is to realise the vast amount of wealth that is there for our taking but which, apparently, is much appreciated by others who come so far and spend so much money in order to harvest our catch.

I agree with those who emphasised the need to concentrate even more on the processing side of the industry than we have been doing. There is a vast export potential here, which has not been exploited so far by anyone in this country. Some friends of mine visited a port not very far away from the Parliamentary Secretary's home town. In the hotel there one morning they dined very well on a particular type of marinated fish. They were delighted to get it and assumed that it had been marinated locally. Imagine their surprise to discover that the fish they were eating had been caught in a port in south-west Cork. It had been taken by the driver of a refrigerated truck to Holland, where it had been marinated and brought back by him. He did this as a favour to the local people so that they could have it available for their guests in the hotels. Was there ever a more ludicrous situation than that?

I was surprised to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that in their early years the Bord Iascaigh Mhara actively engaged in a number of aspects of the industry, including the purchasing, processing and marketing of fish, but as the years went by it gradually became clear that some of their activities were no longer necessary and that they should concentrate more on advisory activities.

I have a piece of free advice for the board. I do not know how good it is and I do not know how much heed they will pay to it, but I will give it anyway. It would be a damn good thing for the fishing industry and for the housewives if they got involved in the marketing of the product. I have seen the situation where the fishermen in Skerries have got a nett £1 per box for fish caught. They get £2 for the box, but it costs £1 to send it from Skerries to the Dublin Market, 20 miles away. By the time carriage, ice, the cost of the box, and auctioneers' fees and other costs are paid for, the total cost per box is £1. At certain times the gross price paid for a box of fish is £2 but the nett price back to the trawler is £1 and the nett price to the housewife for that box of fish would probably be £10, £11 or more.

There is something very wrong there. It does not take any brilliant economist to work out what it is. I have as much time as the next for private enterprise but a certain small group are operating as middlemen in this industry and the profits they are making are extravagant in the extreme. There is a situation where neither the fishermen nor the person who buys fish for consumption is benefiting. The people who benefit are a small, powerful group who are able to artificially fix the price of fish offered on the Dublin market. Consequently that operates to the detriment of the producer and to the detriment of the general public. This is wrong. It is something that the board or some other arm of the administration involved should interest themselves in.

I recall a situation where a small group of fishermen tried to go against this and tried to export their fish directly. There was such an embargo placed on them and they met with so many difficulties that they were driven out of the market and driven out by the same small group of middlemen, who are making very little contribution towards the development of the sea fishing industry or to the benefit of the general public.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether the additional moneys which will be raised by the passing of this Bill will be available for granting of loans or towards the cost of purchasing second-hand boats. Very often young men who are fishing from small boats and who want to go a step further are not prepared to bear the considerable cost—often of the order of £150,000 or £160,000 —involved in the purchase of a completely new modern trawler. They feel that instead they would like to purchase a larger and better second-hand boat. This would give them some experience of the bigger boat before they took the final step of getting a new one. I understand that of late the board have indicated they have not the money available to provide loans for the purchase of second-hand vessels. If that is so it is a very retrograde step and not one designed to help the industry.

The other question, which was briefly touched on by Senator Lenihan when he referred to the EEC Regional Fund relates to assistance which might be made available from EEC sources. I understand there is assistance available from FEOGA at present and that in the last year Denmark received a considerable amount of capital assistance for the extension of existing port facilities. I do not believe that we benefited in the same way from FEOGA. I should like to think every effort is being made to ensure that we receive all possible financial assistance from FEOGA and any other available EEC sources.

I will give the Parliamentary Secretary an example. An extension was built to the harbour in Skerries over two years ago. The cost was £120,000 and it took 30 years to have it built. I was intrigued listening to Senator Lenihan today. He was involved in the building of that pier about ten years before it was built and about 20 years after the agitation for the building started. I was a little taken aback when he spoke about the neglect in providing capital for the building and extension of piers because it was something he was involved in for a long time. However, this extension was built. Of course, by the time it was built it was hopelessly out of date. When it came into existence it was for fishing fleets which in present day terms are valued at more than £1 million.

There are 20 boats there. Some are worth far more than £100,000 and some worth less, but they are together worth something in the region of £1 million. The fishermen in Skerries are agitating for a further extension of the harbour, but apparently Bord Iascaigh Mhara have inadequate funds. The local authority agreed to provide 50 per cent of the capital cost. While I understand there may be the possibility of assistance from FEOGA in relation to staff projects I understand from a colleague of mine in the county council that no council scheme has yet been submitted to FEOGA for such a project. That does not appear to me to be the best way of tackling it. I would have thought that at the earliest possible date all capital works of that nature deemed to be important should be put forward for consideration. We should utilise not only financial assistance available from the EEC but also technical assistance.

I believe—and this was evident to some extent from the remarks of Senator Lenihan—that over the years we have concentrated too much on too few ports. It was decided, I think, that five major ports were to be designated as major ports for the development of all types of facilities. The implementation of that plan has meant that other ports have not received as much assistance as they might have done if the cake had been divided more evenly. It is ridiculous that a port like Skerries and other similar ports should be left without facilities for repairs and storage. As I said, there are £1 million worth of boats in that port, and apart from an ice plant there are no backup facilities there at present. If a boat suffers a major breakdown in that port the nearest boatyard it can go to is some ten or 12 miles away by sea. That boatyard is not always in a position to cater for trawlers, and if that yard is not free then the trawlers must travel some 20 miles to the Liffey dockyard.

I am taking Skerries as an example because it is the port I know best, but in my travelling around the coastline I have come across a number of other ports in the same position. Major breakdowns take place because all the facilities are concentrated in a few ports. The main boats operating out of these smaller ports are left in a most disadvantaged position.

There is another matter which has shocked me and to which Bord Iascaigh Mhara ought to devote attention. They are the lending agency with a financial interest in the boats involved. I have seen boats tied up at quay sides for anything from two days to two months waiting for parts, usually engine parts, to arrive from foreign countries. We must consider the loss of earnings involved in this as well as the direct loss to the board, because for so long as that boat is tied up it is not earning its share for Bord Iascaigh Mhara and they are not getting their repayments.

It seems to me therefore that the board should consider building in Dublin a central store from which spare parts could be readily distributed to other parts of the country, or alternatively they should ensure that imported spare parts are distributed to the ports in question. I have seen fishermen get off their boat, tie it up, go down to Dublin Airport and take a plane to England. There they collected a part at the factory and brought it back home. They did this because it was quicker than ordering it through the normal channels. That is no way for a State board to deal with those to whom they advanced money.

These are some of the criticisms one comes across meeting the people involved in the operation of the industry. It would be unfair to say that the fishermen generally are despondent about their industry. There is a great amount of confidence among the Irish fishing fraternity. There is a belief that the wealth that lies in our waters is really unexplored at present. The young men who are being trained and who are being provided with expensive trawlers have paid back, often in a far shorter length of time than was necessary, the money advanced to them. In so doing, they have provided a great amount of additional employment and wealth in their areas.

No money advanced for the development or the promotion of this industry will go astray. Our fisheries are probably our greatest natural resource so far not properly developed.

It could provide much more employment, often in areas of high unemployment, if it were developed to its full potential. Its export earning potential knows no bounds. That potential would be even higher if the processing industry was developed to the level that some of us would like to see. Any money allocated to the fishing industry is money well spent. I am confident that so long as the present Parliamentary Secretary remains in his position, with his deep personal knowledge and interest in the industry, every effort will be made to bring about a meaningful development of the fishing industry.

In common with Senators Lenihan and Boland I wish to welcome this Bill. I should also like to pay tribute to Senator Boland for an excellent speech which shows he is clearly in touch with the problems of the industry. Perhaps if more people who spoke showed that knowledge it would increase the value of the debates we have in this House.

I also have an interest in the industry. Unlike Senator Boland, I do not have constituents who are involved in it at quite such close range, but I do have an interest. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary some questions about the borrowing and then make some remarks about the operations of Bord Iascaigh Mhara because, as Senator Boland pointed out, this is the time to talk about Bord Iascaigh Mhara and their operations, to suggest alterations, to look at the structure of the industry and to see how reorganisation could be carried out, what changes are necessary and to make suggestions to generally encourage further development of our industry.

In connection with the extra borrowing power which this Bill gives to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, I am in favour of extra borrowing but I have a reservation about borrowing in foreign currencies. It may be necessary. If we think about the current position and our link with sterling, who would give me odds against a devaluation in sterling over the next two or three months? If we are going to borrow in foreign currencies—and I think that a similar provision is coming into similar Acts right across the board—I am not against it, but I think that we should consider our positionvis-à-vis sterling. We want to look at the link with sterling and if the balance is favourable we want to break that link. In the Finance Act passed recently by both Houses of the Oireachtas we made certain legal provisions to break that link if we want to.

We, Bord Iascaigh Mhara or the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries could be placed in the same kind of difficulty as that in which the B and I Shipping Company found themselves when they borrowed large sums of money to buy boats from West Germany. They borrowed in West German currency but the Deutsche Mark was revalued upwards, so they had a great deal more money to pay in £ sterling for the same goods. Breaking the link with sterling would not get over this problem but it certainly would give us some flexibility. This question is one of my hobby horses. It was one of the more ridiculous sacred cows to Ministers for Finance. It has now come to the stage where we must examine our link with sterling, particularly in the light——

I am afraid the Senator is going very wide of the Bill. The fact that something is a sacred cow does not make it relevant on every Bill from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Perhaps the metaphor is not correct.

It is perfectly in order for the Senator to discuss the effect of devaluation on borrowings under this Bill. It is not in order to discuss the merits or demerits of devaluation as such under the Bill. That would be a matter for another debate.

I accept that. I wish however to point out the problem which arises if we borrow foreign currency, as suggested in this Bill. It gives an impetus to look at the fiscal situation again.

I should also like to ask, as Senator Boland has, about the possibility of getting straightforward grants from the EEC. The fishing industry is carried out largely in areas where there is not much industrial development. We should be eligible for money from the EEC Regional Fund. I should like to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say about the prospects of getting money from the Community through the regional fund, retraining funds or whatever funds there are to be tapped. I hope we will be able to develop our fishing industry with EEC money.

The fishing industry and its organisation has followed an up-and-down path. The first Act, which legislated for control of fishing and fish importation, goes back to 1667. In fact grants were paid to Irish fishermen by the British Government in the 17th century. Bounties were given to aid the fishing industry and to buy boats. The real purpose however, seems to have been to recruit personnel for the British Navy. They felt that if they could get Irish fishermen trained they could easily recruit them for the British navy. Approximately 50,000 people were employed in the industry in 1800, and the figure reached a peak, during the famine years, of 113,000. Then there was a steady decline. In 1900, if we take a comparable country, such as Scotland, their landings were eight times larger than ours. When we talk about the development of our industry, we must have some comparisons so that we can be realistic about our progress or success.

In 1914, the Congested Districts Board became the forerunners of Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Fishing at that time was mainly for herring and mackerel. The Congested Districts Board ceased operations around the time of the first World War. In 1931 the Irish Fisheries Association was established, which was the real forerunner of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, and their aims were to provide boats and equipment on hire purchase terms for fishermen. In 1952 Bord Iascaigh Mhara took over. Their aims were to provide comprehensive, ad- visory and education services, to promote co-operative marketing and fishing research, to give capital grants and loans for boats and equipment, to provide a free inspection service for boats and equipment, to expand the home and export market and to encourage investment in the industry.

To achieve the first aim of providing educational and training facilities for fishermen, in 1959 a training centre was established at Moville. My contention is that considerably more could be done in this direction. In 1971 the intake into the college was about 30 people per annum. If we are talking about the development of our fishing industry, we must think of it in larger terms than this. I would encourage the Parliamentary Secretary to push the boat a bit more in this direction. I know he has a knowledge of and interest in the industry. He comes from an area where fishing is a very important part of community life. I would encourage him to make further efforts along the lines he has described. We need to encourage more people to take part in the fishing industry.

Fishing has been a traditional custom, passed down from father to son. There is an important place for tradition and I should not like to see it dying out or diminishing. With judicious use of publicity the recruitment of people into the fishing industry could be enhanced; and more people would know about the industry. It has a certain glamour. It is hard, demanding and challenging. Sometimes the rewards are not what we should like them to be, but when they materialise they are good. Bord Iascaigh Mhara could get together with RTE and make some film about the fishermen's life and problems and whole pattern of the fishing industry. This sort of publicity, using our television or radio networks, would be an encouragement to fishermen. It would highlight their problems. It would help people to find out what a fisherman's life is like. It would encourage investment by private enterprise and it would also increase interest in the consumption of fish.

Our home market is small and underdeveloped. One of the aims which Bord Iascaigh Mhara have been pursuing is the development of our home market as well as our export market. There is another problem with our home market—we import far too much fish. In 1965 our exports of fish were £1,900,000 and our imports were £1,200,000. In 1972, we exported £7,700,000 worth of fish, which was a considerable increase over 1965, but we imported £2,300,000 worth of fish. Allowing for inflation, those figures on the export side are rewarding but on the import side they show clearly that something more could be done.

One of the problems about the importation of fish and fish products for consumption by human beings is that Irish housewives like to buy tinned fish or fish fingers. These processes are not carried out in Ireland. We do not make many fish fingers nor do we do any tinning.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7.15 p.m.

Before the adjournment I was discussing some of the functions of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. In particular I referred to the home market, which is not a very big market because the Irish people have some sort of prejudice against fish. Even though we have a small home market we still import a surprisingly high proportion of the fish consumed. Something should be done about canning fish and developing other ways of packaging and marketing fish, such as the production of fish fingers and so on. Bord Iascaigh Mhara should encourage all such development.

Another important aspect is that of research. Senator Boland referred at some length to the problems of overfishing both by our own fleet and by foreign-owned vessels. We cannot make categorical statements about this, as we do not know exactly what our stocks are. We will have to know what the breeding stocks are to see what restrictions and limitations are necessary to ensure that these stocks are conserved. A situation will certainly arise that international agreements will be required to limit fishing in certain areas to conserve breeding stocks. In some cases international agreements have already been entered into dealing with specific fish. The United States is involved in an agreement about salmon fishing off the Greenland coast. Further agreements will be required as fishing fleets grow larger and more modern and are equipped with better methods of detecting shoals of fish. This is not just a national problem. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary might refer to the problem of international agreements for conservation of stocks.

We cannot shirk our responsibility in the research area. I should like to see more use made by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara of research departments in marine zoology and marine biology of the universities, particularly in University College, Galway, where there is a considerable amount of development in this faculty. There is a strong argument for much closer links between the research scientists who are working in this field and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

We need to know the extent of our fish stocks to set limitations at certain times. This applies not only to mackerel, herring, plaice, cod and whiting but also to shellfish, where there are considerable problems of conservation. There is also the problem of pollution. Particularly with inshore shellfish, there is considerable danger from pollution. We have seen recent examples of problems caused by oil spillage and pollution in Bantry Bay. We must know the effects of pollution on our breeding stocks of flat fish on the seabed close to the shore and on shellfish. There should be the closest possible consultation between the scientists and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, because we cannot get maximum returns from our fish unless we have maximum knowledge of the behaviour of fish, the breeding of fish and the whole cycle of fish life.

The grants and loans scheme operated by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara has been a considerable success. Without this scheme we would not have a fishing fleet worth talking about.

I commend the provisions in this Bill for raising money to increase further the grants for buying boats and the loans and grants for buying equipment.

There has been quite a marked increase in the size of our boats. I have indicated that in 1964 we had four boats greater than 75 gross tonnage; in 1972 that figure had increased to 37 boats of tonnage greater than 75. Simultaneously the number of boats under ten tons has doubled since 1964 when the number was 344; there are now 704 registered fishing vessels under ten tons. This is rather disturbing because it means an increase in the number of people who are fishing part-time. That is a bad thing when the increase in the part-timers relative to the full-timers is as considerable as it seems to be. What we want to do is to encourage more people into the industry in a full-time capacity. If we want to compete with European nations we shall have to have bigger and better equipped boats. This means boats of over 100 tons which enable fishermen to stay at sea longer, which have high-power modern detection equipment and which have modern trawls and perhaps, eventually, processing at sea.

The problem with small fishing boats with a crew of five or six is that they are capable of spending only one or two days at sea at most and they are unable because of their size and because of their equipment to fish in the deeper waters. That is where the bigger rewards are to be had. Bord Iascaigh Mhara should think about the promotion of, as I am sure they are thinking about, bigger fishing vessels. It might be a case of the Government or Bord Iascaigh Mhara buying the vessels and leasing them to the fishermen if they really are big and modern, because there is not enough private capital around to run these vessels in the industry at the moment. The problem at the moment is that if a fisherman gets a loan from Bord Iascaigh Mhara for a big vessel he has got to have a sufficiently big catch to repay the loan and to pay wages for a large crew, because these vessels do not operate without reasonably big crews and the risk involved is considerable. He may find that his return is not sufficient to meet the commitments. I would encourage a policy of Government owned vessels over a certain tonnage which would be leased to the fishermen rather than having vessels owned entirely by the fishermen themselves.

It is obviously desirable that as many trawlers be owned by fishermen as possible, but when we really get into the big league, when we are talking about these bigger boats, the sort of boats that our competitors have, then we cannot expect our fishermen to afford to buy them even on a very generous loan system. For example, the Japanese have large trawlers owned by a big industrial concern, and they are fishing mainly as an industry. There is a tremendous amount of capital, and so we want to think along these lines, too, and it may mean the Government buying these large vessels and then leasing them to our Irish fishermen if we are going to remain competitive.

One of the other problems that the board faces is the business of trying to attract private capital, private investment, and to encourage the entrepreneur to take an interest in the fishing industry, to invest in it, to get people to participate in it and to look at it as a thriving industry. I think we want to change the image. I would go back to what I said earlier, that some well-judged publicity about fishing and the possibilities, the life, and the returns, would be an extremely good investment—that and an increase in the training facilities which are available. The pupils spend five months in the college, seven months at sea, and then they are qualified. Fishing is becoming increasingly technical, and navigation is becoming technical. We have got to give students a more thorough training and we should attempt to train larger numbers of young fishermen in the very complex process which is modern fishing.

Some reference has already been made to the problem of harbours. I think it is correct that there are five centres designated as major harbours from the point of view of our fishing fleet. They are Killybegs, Castletownbere, Dunmore East, Howth and Rossaveal. There is an argument for increasing this number of designated seaside towns. I would particularly like to see the town of Cobh designated as a major fishing port. It has a magnificent deep water harbour. I would also like to see Kilmore Quay put into this category. It already has a thriving fishing fleet, and the developments there should be on a par with the developments in the other centres. The problem about harbours is that they need a considerable amount of capital, as people have already mentioned, for their development and it is not entirely the function of Bord Iascaigh Mhara to produce this capital or to carry out the development. There is no question but that the board have an influence on the decisions made regarding these harbours.

What are needed, first of all, are berths for separate vessels rather than one berth for three or four vessels. This is particularly important in the case of the bigger vessels which we hope will be becoming an integral part of our fleet. We need to have proper equipment for unloading the fish and for moving it from the harbour to the market. We need to have localised markets. There is a real problem in having Dublin as the only fish market in the country. There should be localised markets and these markets should have good communications for internal distribution and for export. The localisation of marketing is important and I would urge, as Senator Boland has done, that the board should not completely leave the problem of fish marketing in the hands of the private individual. Again, many of our better enterprises in this State rely partly on private enterprise and partly on State intervention. In the marketing field the State can play an important role.

There is of course the question of protection. It is a very moot point whether our present naval strength can provide adequate protection of our Irish waters. I should like to see an increase there so that we can give our fishermen the protection they need and preserve our Irish coastal waters for Irish fishermen.

There are many other aspects of the fishing industry which I do not intend to touch on but I should like to emphasise again the need for a change in thinking. More publicity about fishing and its problems would be very welcome. It could have a spectacular effect both on our consumption of fish at home, on recruitment to the industry and on the general willingness of the public to vote sums of money such as we are being asked for here to finance this very important industry. It has and it does bring great rewards to areas which have not got many other viable industrial concerns.

It is an essential part of our national life but we have been rather slow to develop our fishing industry and all I can say is that I would be happy if the Parliamentary Secretary and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara were asking for larger sums of money. I would hope that we will make every effort to obtain maximum grants from the EEC and from all other sources because if we are going to remain competitive in this highly competitive industry then we have got to have first-class equipment and first-class, highly trained personnel. The only way to achieve these desirable objectives is through fairly considerable injection of finance from the State and from external sources.

I, too, wish to welcome the Bill. I also wish to extend a welcome to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Seanad. Unfortunately, I find the debate on the fishing industry somewhat of a lament. We all decry the lack of interest and the lack of finance that pervades the fishing industry.

It is fair to say that there is a general prejudice and almost a bias against fishing, fish and the fishing industry in general. This seems to affect all sectors of the community and the higher levels of Government. The cut in the Estimate for the Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for the coming year is most regrettable. Of all the Departments to cut, I think this should have been one of the last, if not the last. It is a developing industry and it needs a tremendous amount of capital and this cut in the Estimate is adopting this procedure in reverse. Fishing should be our second largest industry, a very close second to Agriculture. In actual fact, it is a very bad third. It lags way behind agriculture and behind the manufacturing industries.

Primarily we lack education in matters that concern fishing. This is probably the main cause of our apathy. To rectify that, I suggest that we start at the top and work downwards. First and foremost it is obvious that we need a Ministry for Fisheries as distinct from a combined Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I know quite well the Parliamentary Secretary would like to be up-graded. We have had rather funny little jokes about this before.

The harsh reality is that the separate Department have not been mooted in the proper places, and the sooner the better. We have made mistakes all the way down the line. The principal objective of the fishing industry should be to increase the amount of fish consumed at home and the amount of fish exported and to get the maximum benefit out of these exports. In the first place, the amount of fish we consume in this country is terribly low in comparison to what it might be. Our marketing processes are very slack. The bulk of people in this country have not got access to fish if they feel like eating it. They are denied the right to buy fish and eat it if they need it.

In most towns and villages there is no marketing service. You might have it in the cities and the large towns where there are fishmonger shops, but generally in the country there is no such service. The only time that a great deal of rural people get a chance to eat fish is when there is a glut of herring or a glut of mackerel and people buy a couple of boxes of these fish on the quays and travel around the countryside in vans selling them at maybe 5p or 10p each. We have not got the continuity of supply nor have we got a proper marketing setup whereby these fish can be distributed all the year round. Probably if we had a huge amount of cold storage and freezing facilities this would help the situation.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara should get back into the marketing and the distribution of fish. They should make it their business to see that people have a ready supply of fish when needed. This goes back to the point about education. Most people like it, the prejudice is confined to the minority. If people get a chance to eat fish and have a choice, it will develop their interest in the fishing industry.

Again, the lack of continuity in supply is due to our neglect of what we call middle-water fishing and far-water fishing. Our industry over the years has been completely concentrated on inshore fishing. Our fishermen are going out early in the morning and getting home in time for their tea—that sort of attitude. We need larger boats which can stay at sea for considerable periods and in all kinds of weather. We have all noticed that the Spaniards and French who operate off the south-west and the west coast can survive in their rather small boats. They are not that huge but they survive the most awful storms and they get tremendous catches.

The Irish boats and the Irish industry do not seem to be geared for this type of fishing. We could catch huge quantities of fish if we developed a fleet of large trawlers which could do middle-water fishing and further out. With sufficient cold storage facilities we would have no problem as regards continuity of supply and a steady market for people who wish to eat fish.

It is most disturbing to see that in 1972 we imported over £2 million worth of fish products. Most of these products, if not all, need not have been imported. It is a reflection on the lack of development in our processing industries. If you go into a shop you will find that the canned fish on the shelves or the fish fingers in packets are invariably imported. The fish involved could all be caught or are all caught off the coast of this country. For instance, if you buy a tin of herrings you will pay at least ten if not 20 times the price of that herring when it was exported from such place as Dunmore East where the bulk of them are caught. The continentals buy them up, take them away and process them and sell them back to us at enormous profits. We should not have to import fish of any description. We should be in a position to increase the value of our exports out of all proportion to what they are at the moment.

The figure of £7,700,000 has been mentioned here today. Most of that fish is exported raw. If we had the facilities to process it and can it, I am sure we could multiply that figure many times over. This is what we should strive to do. If necessary, we should give firms who wish to set up this type of industry an extra incentive in the form of increased grants. A foreign industrialist coming in here to set up an industry, using foreign imported materials, will get the same grant as a native firm which are trying to develop an industry based on native products such as fish. I think the Department might attempt to do this, because there seems to be a certain reluctance on the part of the Irish industrialists to go into the processing industry as we would wish them to do. I should like to see the export of all raw fish come to end at some stage. It would be to the benefit of the nation as a whole if that situation developed because there is so much more money and so many more jobs to be got from the processing side.

The Agriculture Estimate this year comes to something like £80 million. Fisheries account for only £4 million and it is a decrease on last year. It is a regrettable state of affairs, as I stated already, and it just shows how little regard we have for the fishing industry.

I should like to refer, while talking on the cut in the Estimate, to a report in last Sunday's papers from the Irish Federation of Marine Industries who view with grave concern the cut in this Estimate which will considerably reduce the employment level and the output in Irish boat-building yards. Bord Iascaigh Mhara have three of these yards and there are a number of private firms. The figure mentioned in that report—the figure of threatened redundancies—is in the nature of 500, and I am led to believe that if there was an extra million pounds in the Estimate there need not be any redundancies at all. Indeed, it is being stated that there will be very few new boats built after March, according to this federation. They view the whole situation with alarm and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to make some reference to that situation.

The setting up of a Ministry for Fisheries would give the Minister a much bigger say in the allocation of moneys and I would think that instead of Estimates being cut as they are this year they would be increased dramatically over the years. It must have a considerable bearing on who gets what whether you are a member of the Cabinet or not. If the Parliamentary Secretary had the status of Minister he could make a much stronger case and the fishing industry would benefit greatly.

Another fact that is inhibiting the growth of our fishing industry, our fishing fleet and our catches, is the lack of proper harbour development. Most of our harbours have not been changed, expanded or bettered for 100 years or more. We got four major developments, Dunmore East is one of them, in the last five or six years, but the bulk of small harbours around the country have not been improved in any way. Most of them are tidal. It renders them useless to commercial fishermen because most of them lack protection against severe storms. I can think of one lovely little harbour in County Waterford, Dunnabrattin, which is crowded in summer time with medium sized boats, 30-footers and so on which do a lot of lobster and mackerel fishing and a bit of drift netting for salmon. But once the autumn comes and there is a threat of storms the boats all have to be removed because if not they will be smashed to pieces.

Such harbours must be expanded. The need to move boats in all types of weather must be eliminated. These middle boatmen, operating 30-footers, are very anxious to make a living out of this but they cannot because they have not got the facilities to moor and protect their boats. In my county you have to travel 14 miles from Dunmore East to Helvick before you can get any sort of reasonable berthage in rough weather. Otherwise your boat is most likely to be smashed in a south-east storm.

There are a number of spots which could be developed and should be developed and where the amount of employment which would be given would be quite large. Dunnabrattin is one. Ardmore is another. Ardmore is completely unprotected although you have 50 or 60 people fishing from it in the summer. In winter they just cannot moor their boats there because they have no safe anchorage.

We had about two or three years ago, a detailed survey carried out by officers of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and they surveyed all landing spots in County Waterford and they have done it also for the whole west of Ireland and the whole south of Ireland, but as yet nothing has been done as a result of that very detailed survey. The idea obviously was to pinpoint harbours which should be developed as a second phase after the four major works were done. I think Castletown-bere, Galway and Howth were the other three. Many millions of pounds were spent on the development of these harbours. In a second phase, a number of other harbours should be developed, such as Dunnabrattin. Nothing has happened as a result of these surveys.

I am afraid I must intervene here. The Senator is going into considerable detail on the question of harbour facilities, which are not a function of Bord Iascaigh Mhara. They certainly are a factor in the operations with which Bord Iascaigh Mhara are concerned from another aspect. A passing reference would be in order but a discussion in detail would not.

What I wish to say is that the survey has been made but we have not had any result of the survey. We should like to see something concrete being done to provide these facilities. We are keeping thousands of fishermen on the land when they wish to go to sea because they do not have the facilities to moor their boats in difficult weather conditions.

Fishery protection has also been referred to in the debate. I would consider that the degree of fishery protection has increased considerably in recent years. We now have four fishery protection boats. Five or six years ago we only had one boat and that was not always able to go to sea. At that time we had a great deal of poaching, mainly by large Dutch trawlers. There were hundreds of these trawlers off the south coast. Nowadays, poaching is more sporadic —it is not of the same proportion.

Many native Irishmen do considerably more harm than continental fishermen. We have by-laws referring to the protection of breeding grounds, but these by-laws are not enforced. It is a common occurrence to have large trawlers trawling in these spawning grounds and not being prosecuted. It is an easy way to fish when the weather is bad. You stay inshore and mess up the spawning grounds, catching a few fish in the process. I should like to see more action being taken in this regard. People who traditionally driftnet for herring along the Wexford and Waterford coasts and in Waterford Harbour are having the shoals decimated by trawling in large boats. Restrictions should be put on this type of fishing.

The point about training fishermen is a very important one. We have a training college in Greencastle. Greencastle is in the very northern part of the country—it is almost as far away from the south coast as parts of England or Scotland. If the network of training centres was broadened there would be an increase in the number of trainee fishermen and a far better service would be provided. If this type of training was put under the aegis of Bord Iascaigh Mhara it would be carried out much better than at present. For an industry of such importance, I would advocate the allocation of special departments in the regional technical colleges, or in large technical schools where there may not be a regional college, to train young fishermen in the finer points of fishing and the handling of equipment. At present, most people living in the south are not inclined to travel 250 miles to go on this course. Training facilities should be more equally spread throughout the country.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to inform us if he has any hope of getting some of the EEC Regional Fund to help improve landing facilities for the fishing industry. Unless there is some effort made, this money will be syphoned off into other sectors. Referring again to the development of harbours, quite an amount of this money could be used for that purpose. I should also like the Minister to explain how the FEOGA grant might be used to the betterment of the fishing industry.

The Law of the Sea Conference, which was held in Caracas last summer, debated the possibility of extending limits to 200 miles. There did not seem to be any great enthusiasm on the part of this country to have the limits extended to 200 miles, principally because we would not be able to protect such a sea area. I should like that general aspect dispelled. We have much to gain in this respect, seeing that the Continental Shelf would be covered by this limit. Therefore we should back up those countries endeavouring to have this limit introduced.

This has been a very constructive debate and somewhat similar to that which took place in the Dáil. I should like to thank the Senators who contributed. I have no doubt that the Fisheries Division and BIM will take the contributions of the Senators and Deputies alike into consideration when formulating future policy.

I accept what the Senators said about there being an inadequacy of funds available for the fishing industry. I repeat what I said in the Dáil that so far as I am concerned I will endeavour to ensure that more money will be provided, whether from State funds, EEC funds or from other sources.

The Bill before the House, as indicated in the introductory statement, is one dealing with the borrowing powers of BIM. I want to thank the Senators for the welcome they gave to this measure. As pointed out by Senator Lenihan and other Senators, it is an essential one because it has a threefold purpose: to extend the statutory limit on borrowings by the board from the Central Fund and to broaden the powers of the board to borrow from sources other than the Central Fund by enabling them to make such borrowings in foreign currencies. At the present time the board are not empowered to borrow in foreign currencies. I know the doubts about foreign currency expressed by Senator West are valid but I am sure he will accept that when money is in short supply we must give this kind of power, particularly as we now are a member of a much larger community. It was just as well, seeing that we brought in this measure, to include that provision.

The third provision ensures that the State will guarantee loans. Without that provision it would be difficult for the board to get money. Senators are worried about the availability of finance for the board. Bord Iascaigh Mhara should operate a system which will provide them with money from year to year. A board like BIM must have a long-term system covering two, three or four years. It would be very desirable if it covered a five-year period. Our system of operations does not allow for that. I say that because I have received orders for 1974 and 1975 which may not be executed until 1976. The board must be always in a position to accept orders for future years.

Moneys allocated to BIM usually relate to a 12-month period. This time we are dealing with a nine-month period. In a 12-month period £4.85 million would be allocated. For 1975 the money allocated is £5.1 million, a small increase of £25 million. I accept that this increase is insufficient to allow for the unfortunate inflation that prevails at the present time, but am satisfied that the position will be reviewed when the occasion arises. As I said in Dáil Éireann, I am quite happy that the boats will be working the same way in 1975 as they did in 1974. Possibly programmes will be formulated in the new year. I hope to see activities expanding instead of retracting.

Senator Lenihan asked about harbour development. I know the Chair has ruled that this is incidental to the Bill. A number of Senators mentioned the reduction in the Estimate for this type of development, which is closely connected with the activities of BIM. As many Senators pointed out good harbours are essential to progressive fisheries. I do not blame the Minister for Finance in jerking the Department to life in regard to this Estimate. This reflects the decrease that has taken place in the Estimate as a whole.

Moneys voted for harbour development down through the years were not expended. I view this with great concern. I am sure the Senators here hold the same view. I had an opportunity of discussing this with the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Office of Public Works. We endeavoured to draw up a policy which will ensure that in future years money will be voted by the Oireachtas for this vital work—harbour developments of one kind or another and the developments mentioned by Senator Boland. The Minister for Finance, in allocating funds for 1975, was quite justified in drawing our attention to the type of procedure that obtained here down through the years in regard to this item. One might just as well have taken a figure from the air, put it into the Book of Estimates and said: "There is £4 million for harbour developments for 1973-74 or 1974-75" in the knowledge that this money would not be expended.

I said in Dáil Éireann, and I repeat it here, that the Office of Public Works cannot expend money, just for the sake of expending it. They must be sure that the money is available from public funds for this work. They must usefully and gainfully employ it to the best advantage of those connected with fisheries and the economy as a whole. We have difficulties. I hope I am not imposing on the Chair's indulgence too much when I ask his permission to spend a few more minutes on this very important aspect.

The Office of Public Works, as mentioned by Senators in the course of their contributions here, are carrying out a large scale survey around our coasts. Some areas have been finalised. In other areas they are surveying harbours and reporting to the Office of Public Works, who, carry out all public schemes.

For 1975 we hope to have worked on 24 schemes. This would amount to the figure quoted in the Estimate. Senator West inquired about Killybegs. The provision for Killybegs totalled £270,000 and for Castletownbere, £180,000. These are the two major schemes.

Senators referred to harbour development, which is incidental to the discussion on this Bill. I agree with the points made by Senator Boland and others in requesting that there be a greater spread of the moneys available. I agree entirely with the assertion that we must address ourselves to the major harbour works. We must also be mindful of the minor works too in places in Senator Deasy's county of Waterford and in other fishery areas. These harbours even though small in relation to the other bigger schemes, are in themselves of exceptional importance.

I mentioned that the position is not anything near what we would like it to be so far as the execution of these works is concerned. Leaving over from year to year large unexpended balances is something that is most undesirable. I mentioned earlier that I have had discussions with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. We hope that the staffing difficulties and the other problems which have arisen in the Office of Public Works will disappear so that moneys available for this work and voted by the Houses of the Oireachtas will be expended within the current year. I have not the slightest doubt that, if the position obtaining in the Board of Works improves and if we are in a position to carry out more work, the Estimate will be reviewed. Our past performance down through the years, as accepted by Senator Lenihan in his opening statement, indicates that there is a great deal of leeway to be made up there. I hope to change that position in the future.

A number of Senators—Senator Boland, Senator West and Senator Deasy—stressed the need for educational facilities for our skippers and indeed for deck hands and other young people who intend to work in the industry. I agree entirely with the sentiments on education expressed by the Senators. We must in 1975 and in future years ensure that those who move into this industry are adequately educated.

I thought we had such a scheme in existence.

We have. This scheme is in existence. The Senators are all aware of the scheme but they want to ensure that as many as possible are aware of it, particularly those young boys, potential fishermen, who intend making fishing their careers. They must get to places like Greencastle and they must serve their apprenticeship. If they do not they are unlikely to get approval from BIM when it comes to determining applications for loans.

I agree entirely with the emphasis placed on educational facilities for our young men who intend entering the industry. Senator West pointed out the position obtaining in Greencastle where you spend five months on an educational course and then seven months on a practical course. We are satisfied that the facilities available now in this modern school in Greencastle, which was opened this year, are quite good and that, as a result, many of our future fishermen will be well trained. It was also pointed out that training facilities should be extended as far as possible around the coast.

Senator Boland talked about fishermen sitting down at a table with BIM and discussing the policy of the Department. I emphasised before the desirability of involving the fishermen as much as possible. I agree entirely with Senator Boland's suggestion that the fishermen should sit down at a table with BIM, and indeed with the officers of the Department, and discuss all aspects of the industry with a view to formulating policies that will be beneficial to the industry as a whole.

Senator Boland, Senator West and Senator Deasy referred to the position of our exports and imports. Senator West gave the figures of the position obtaining in the mid-1960s and in 1972. I agree the position is rather peculiar, that in an island country such as ours, with hundreds of miles of coastline and hundreds of fishing ports, big and small, spread over that coastline, we should import fish. I should like to assure the Senators we hope to reduce the need for us to import into this island country, where fishing should be a very important industry, such a large quantity of fish relative to our total requirements.

The EEC money was mentioned, and I hope that, when the Government make decisions on the utilisation of the EEC Regional Fund, fishery development works will get the consideration they deserve. I am optimistic in assuming that a portion of the funds will be available for this kind of work.

The FEOGA grants were also mentioned. We expect a decision on those grants early in 1975. We have 24 applications for determination. While the decision will not be made until next month we are optimistic that it will be favourable. So far as the 24 applications are concerned, I hope we will get the maximum rate of grants from the funds, which is 25 per cent.

I should like to take up a point made by Senator West about State-owned boats. I do not think I could go along with the Senator on that new idea. It is an innovation so far as the industry is concerned, but I doubt if it could be considered. As well as seeing the advantages and the credit side of the assertion indicated by the Senator there are, to my mind, debits also. We make a contribution of some 52 per cent of the total cost of the boats, taking into account the grants and, of course, the loan subsidies.

The Senators will agree that the loan subsidy is an exceptionally good one. Up to the present we have been charging fishermen only 4 per cent on loans approved. That 4 per cent was set down at a time when the normal charge for the borrowing of money was around 6 per cent and certainly less than 7 per cent. In this age of inflation and when the rate of purchasing money is much more than it was years ago when the State had to pay as much as 14 per cent for money, the subsidy is far greater now than it was when it was introduced at first and when the interest on money was relatively low. In any case, I appreciate the point made by Senator West in so far as the Government-owned boats are concerned and it is something that we can be thinking about.

For the bigger boats.

Yes. I know it only applies to bigger boats. The Senator just mentioned the term "bigger boats". The emphasis is on bigger boats and we are trying to move out in the Atlantic, move out in the Irish Sea, move out in the St. George's Channel and the North Sea and move away from our shores as much as possible. We can only do that with bigger boats.

I am trying as far as possible to deal with the points raised by the Senators. We had this question of conservation. We do not like that term but it is necessary for us to take account of it and we have had the report of our scientific advisers that so far as certain fish are concerned, such as the herring—we have to take into account advice not only tendered to us by our scientific officers but by the officers advising the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. They tell us in a very firm voice that unless we take heed as far as our herrings are concerned and unless we agree with the other members of the commission to limit our herring fishing, the time may not be far distant when the supply may be exhausted. The inexhaustibility of the supply has been put to us in very forceful language. We are getting 18,000 tons of a total quota laid down by the commission of 32,000 tons for 1974-75. Next year, 1975-76, there is in the opinion of the commission, a need to reduce it still further. The herring figure is: total 25,000, Irish share 14,000. We are trying to bring that up to the 18,000 figure if we possibly can. We do not know what the outcome will be. The Senators will agree that much as we dislike this herring conservation it is absolutely essential.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary give us the figure for the catch in the past year so that we can put the other two into perspective?

Giving the Seanad the figure for the past year would not give a reasonable idea of what the position is because the figure for the past year was an exceptionally low one—11,000 tons—because of bad weather and other circumstances prevailing. The figure was much greater for the previous year. Last year's figure was too small and it would not be helpful, in so far as our case with the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission is concerned, to use last year's figure.

Pollution and protection are two matters which are very important. We have five pollution officers now. I am referring now to fisheries in general. Pollution in inland fisheries is possibly more prevalent than in sea fisheries, as Senator Deasy pointed out. In any case, we have four protection vessels now. I know the number is inadequate but I also know that the State funds are limited and we have the amount allocated for this type of work. Protection has been increased. That is one operation that I would like to see combined with the operations of the Fisheries Division.

In conclusion, I will repeat again that I would like to thank Senators for the constructiveness of their contributions. They indicated quite clearly their belief in the development of this industry and their willingness to approve additional funds for such development if such are necessary. I believe they are.

I have said time and again that we are an island country with hundreds of miles of coastline. We must have money to develop this vital industry. We must help the people who go out to catch the fish, provide them with proper boats and facilities. We must help the people who build the boats in the boatyards, both public and private. When I say public I refer to BIM yards as we all have a share in the ownership of BIM yards and an interest in private yards as well. We then have the processing industry, which was referred to by many Senators and naturally we in the Department are very anxious that the maximum quantity of fish products should be processed here. This would help employment and it would enhance our returns from the export markets.

The Senators will excuse me for overlooking one very important item, and that was the marketing of fish, referred to by several Senators. The marketing of fish at home, the availability of fish in towns and villages, the difficulties many fishermen have in regard to the disposal of their fish and the lack of a suitable market are all matters which are engaging the attention of the Department and of BIM.

This whole system needs to be restructured as it leaves a lot to be desired. As mentioned here by some Senators, it is difficult to obtain fish in coastal towns. As Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Fisheries, I have complete confidence in this industry and I can assure the House that, despite the criticisms justifiably made of the amount of money allocated for this Estimate, the Government have full confidence in the industry. I should like to emphasise that statement here. If the development of this industry requires more money next year or the following year, the Government will give it sympathetic consideration. They will help to ensure that the fishing industry will go from strength to strength.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.