I want to join with other Senators in welcoming the Bill in general terms. Most people would agree that the Bill is necessary. Some Senators referred to the fact that the introduction of such a Bill has been proposed for a very long time. This is partly due to the very difficult time —as we who are in public life know —which the Department of Lands experienced internally. The Department of Lands are responsible for a great many things. Most Senators and Deputies who have been dealing with the Department of Lands for a very long time have found it very difficult to come to grips, in real terms, with any transactions, correspondence or dealings with them. I always had the impression that the Department of Lands found it difficult to conduct their business like other Departments. I accept that there was delay in introducing the Bill but I hope that when it becomes law it will do more than just put on record very elaborate terms for the files in the Department. I hope that, with the introduction of this Bill, there will be an effective follow-up. I fear the size of the Bill, the wide coverage and the Minister's long introductory speech. With such a sizeable Bill there is the danger that it will become ineffective; that the very people who will be expected to administer the Bill will be so bound up in its details that nothing constructive will follow. If this happened then it would be counter-productive and it would not correspond with the welcome which the Senators have given the Bill.
The follow-up action to the Bill is very important because those people who are interested in the preservation of wildlife will look to this Bill to regularise the many anomalies which have existed for a long time. When we discuss the working of the Bill I hope that we will have the basic guidelines and that they will come into effect in the near future. County committees of agriculture, regional game councils and gun clubs are all anxious that some effective measures be implemented by the Oireachtas to bring about an improvement in the situation. I am not entirely convinced that this Bill will do that but I hope it will. I ask the Minister to get the basic principles contained in the Bill across to as wide a section of the people as possible. That is the best contribution the Minister could make, rather than having elaborate legislation which was understood only by brilliant officials in his Department.
I am sure it is the Minister's and his Department's intention to have those people who are interested in the preservation of wildlife involved in the administration of the new Act. If the terms of the Bill are understood, most people in regional game councils, county committees of agriculture and gun clubs will be anxiously awaiting directions and help from the Minister. From my experience as a member of a county committee of agriculture and a regional game council I feel these councils are very anxious to preserve wildlife, especially game, but that they are frustrated in their attempts by the Department of Lands. Now, I hope we shall have an effective means whereby legislation can be put into effect.
Section 16 provides for the setting up of an advisory council and I hope the Minister will include all interested people on that body. If the Minister does that he will have good results.
The Bill covers a very wide area and one could talk on many aspects of wildlife. I should like to mention briefly the preservation of game. I have seen many clubs making very determined efforts to preserve game but they have been fighting a lost cause for a long time. It is an uphill battle to enforce the many regulations connected with the preservation game. I know some of the reasons why these organisations have been fighting a losing battle. I hope the Minister will examine this matter. The Department of Lands, through the Forestry Branch will have a major part to play. In every area where there is game there are forests. These forests are game sanctuaries.
I hope the Minister will not depend entirely on the forester in a particular area to advise on the administration of the Act as far as game is concerned. I have had the unhappy experience where a forester set himself up as the landlord and only the forester, his friends, relations, bank manager or other connections could shoot and take game from that part of the lands. However close the relationship between the forester in the area and the Department of Lands there should not be total dependence on the forester because he could very easily abuse the privilege, the knowledge and the power he has to the detriment of the preservation of game and by so doing actually bring about a deterioration in the credibility of the Department.
The forester is a very powerful man in the area because through him come tenders from regional game councils and from gun clubs for certain stretches of land. He has a decisive role to play in the allocation of lands to gun clubs and regional game councils. Therefore, he would be in a position of power and all too often the forester himself is totally in charge of that area and largely responsible for any game that is taken from very large stretches of forests. This position can be abused by a forester. I know of a case which still exists where a forester is abusing his position and only he and his friends can take game from a certain forest or from a wide range of forests which would be largely a sanctuary for game at the present time.
There is great danger that this can happen without the knowledge of the Department. The Department would feel that their representative on the ground would be the man with the most knowledge, the man who would be prepared to administer fairly in all cases. He would make recommendations. In cases where a forester is actually involved in taking game and has a gun licence, I think that the Department or the Minister should ensure that he is not abusing his rights and privileges. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not leave it to the local forester to decide whose tender will be accepted for a certain area of land and that the Minister will have other means of finding out what gun club or what game council are suitable tenants for land left by the Department and that the decision will not be left entirely to the local forester.
I hope that the Minister realises— it is of great importance—that at the end of the day you will have to depend on a wide section of the public effectively to administer this new legislation. It is not only a matter of the preservation of wildlife and game; definitions of game and vermin must be clearly set out here. The legislation must be followed up by help on the ground for those who are going to eliminate the vermin which has been largely responsible for the destruction of game and wildlife generally that we would like to preserve.
County committees of agriculture have been determined for a long time to make contributions out of their limited budgets for the wiping-out of vermin in various parts of the country but their budgets are limited and they can only make small contributions. Regional game councils have been getting some help from the Department for a long time. I do not think they have been getting enough. It is very hard to get effective work carried out in this field without getting a reasonable amount of help from the Department. The advisory council that will be set up will certainly have the task of assessing the need for providing money for the destruction of vermin and advising on various aspects of the preservation of game. I hope that the advisory council will embrace as wide a circle of opinion and involvement of people interested in the preservation of game and wildlife as possible.
This Bill also covers wildlife at sea. One could talk for a very long time on the various aspects of wildlife; the wildlife that it is desirable to preserve and where vermin come in. I rely mainly on the advisory council that is to be set up and I hope that people from the various industries, including the fishing industry, and those associated with fishing generally will be represented on the council.
I have had the experience of being closely associated with fishermen who have spent a good deal of money providing trawlers, nets and very expensive gear and they go out now in the salmon season fishing for salmon. I have seen as many as 20 or 30 salmon heads in a net, the salmon having been eaten by seals or sealions. I do not know whether this Bill will classify them as wildlife to be preserved or vermin of the sea. It is very important that there should be a clear definition of what is desirable here. There are people who think it would be a great crime to destroy sealions, seals and fish like that, and I hope that all interests can be taken into consideration when clear guidelines are being set. It is very very hard for those involved in the fishing industry who labour through the night with very expensive gear to find out in the morning that most of their fish have been destroyed by the sealions and seals. I hope that these will be classified as vermin and not as wildlife that we would be entitled to preserve. The fishing industry are the best people to advise on this and their advice should be recognised and accepted.
I do not agree with some of the speakers here who said that our present sporting activities are costing too much. We are the cheapest country in the world in this respect: a man can get a licence for a gun and he can pay a £1, or a very minimal contribution and have practically free shooting and free game licences. This is for nothing in comparison with the amount of money that people are prepared to spend on other forms of recreation. I hope that people will have to pay sufficient for it to appreciate that it is a very well worthwhile sport and that money must be spent to preserve game for those who want to shoot it in their leisure time. I never want to see the situation where it is only a rich man's sport. This would be totally against the wishes of most of us.
Nevertheless the cost of sport and sporting, shooting and hunting game should be in relation to other forms of sport. It costs money to play golf: annual fees must be paid to any golf club. We should have a premium on sporting and shooting that would commend the sport and would contribute towards the preservation and the restocking of game. That could be done when this Bill is being implemented. All in all, I am fairly confident that the public response to this measure will be very good and I hope that the Minister will use this opportunity to tap all the various interests involved. He will get the best results from the Bill if there is an immediate follow-up.
The various clubs in the country will be very anxious to contribute to the implementation of this Bill. I hope that the widest possible consideration will be given to all who are anxious to contribute—the county committees, the regional game councils, the gun clubs, the landowners, the fishermen. These are vital interests that must be taken into account if the Bill is to be effective. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not allow this measure to become dormant but that we will see a completely fresh approach to the whole matter of preservation of game and have clear definitions of game and vermin so that all the interested parties will know clearly how they can contribute, and that we will not be in the dark expecting the Department alone to administer the legislation that is now being introduced.
I am always fearful when wideranging legislation is introduced. People take it that it is the answer to all the problems but in fact it is only the paper answer. I hope this is not the paper answer. We have waited a long time for this Bill and I sincerely welcome it and hope that it will be put into effect and clearly understood by those who want to be helpful and to contribute to it.