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Seanad Éireann debate -
Friday, 18 Dec 1987

Vol. 118 No. 3

Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1987: Second Stage.

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

State expenditure over the years on the development and protection of our inland fisheries has been substantial and I am now proposing that trout and coarse fish anglers who benefit from this should bear part of the cost.

At present a licence is not required for trout or coarse fish angling: salmon anglers must have a licence. The Inland Fisheries Commission, as far back as the mid-seventies, proposed the introduction of a licensing system for trout and coarse fish angling. The 1980 Act, however, although based on the commission's report, did not introduce trout and coarse fish licensing but instead made provision for a voluntary system of registration for trout, coarse fish and sea anglers in order to raise revenue for the development and protection of inland fisheries. Such registration cost £5 per annum up to 1985 when it was increased to £9.50 which is the present fee. It entitles those registered to fish for trout and coarse fish without a permit in any of the waters owned or occupied by the Central Fisheries Board and the Regional Fisheries Board with which the angler is registered.

There are approximately 100,000 trout anglers and 10,000 coarse fish anglers in Ireland as well as an additional 10,000 trout and 33,000 tourist anglers. Out of those 110,000 native trout and coarse fish anglers only about 3.5 per cent have registered. This figure is very disappointing indeed.

On the introduction of the proposed licensing system for trout and coarse fish anglers, the present voluntary register for such anglers will be dispensed with. I will, however, retain the voluntary system of registration for sea anglers. I have, accordingly, provided in the Bill to change the name of the register to a "Register of Sea Anglers". In this connection I wish to address myself to sea anglers and to encourage them to continue to pay their voluntary contributions towards the development of sea angling which has enormous potential but which has been relatively under-exploited and which a small contribution would help us to further develop.

Life members of the former Inland Fisheries Trust are entitled to fish for trout and coarse fish without payment of a permit fee in fisheries boards' waters. With the introduction of the proposed legislation these members will require a licence to fish for trout or coarse fish but will retain their right to fish without having to pay for a permit. Of course life members who have reached their 66th birthday will be exempted from purchasing trout and coarse fish licences. I am proposing to introduce separate licences for trout angling and coarse fish angling which can be used nationwide and will be available for a period of 21 days or for the full season with respective charges of £10 and £5 for the 21 day licences and £15 and £10 for the full season licences.

I am also proposing to reduce the number of classes of salmon angling licences from five to two — a 21 day nationwide licence costing £21 and a full season nationwide licence for £25. I might add that this rationalisation has been long overdue, particularly bearing in mind the position that has obtained up to now in which there was a multiplicity of licences available.

In the case of anglers who engage in all types of rod fishing I am providing in the Bill for an annual composite licence costing £40 which will entitle the holder of fish for salmon, trout and coarse fish nationwide.

In the preparation of this legislation I have borne in mind the recreational needs of our young people. Neither have I forgotten our senior citizens. As Senators will no doubt have observed, I am providing in section 4 (2) of the Bill that persons under 18 years of age or over 66 are exempted from having a licence when fishing for trout and coarse fish. This, of course, will also apply to tourist anglers in those age brackets. The present law which provides that salmon anglers of all ages are required to hold a licence is not being changed. I am not proposing to require those engaging in sea angling to hold a licence.

It is very difficult to estimate how many trout and coarse fish angling licences will be sold in the first year following the introduction of the new licensing system. A total of 50,000 licensed trout and coarse fish anglers would, however, yield an annual income in the region of £500,000 in any one year.

I would stress that all the income derived from the sale of the new licences will be retained by the fisheries boards for protection, development and conservation of fisheries and for pollution control. The fear has been expressed by many people that the money would not be put back into the relevant region. I am giving this House a solemn assurance that this money, which will be collected locally, will be used on the local inland fisheries.

The Central Fisheries Board, on which all regional fisheries boards are represented, have requested the proposed legislation now before the House. It is also supported by the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland and the National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland.

Some organisations and individuals have voiced their objections in principle to the introduction of licences for trout and coarse fish angling. It has also been stated that it will harm the tourist industry. While visiting coarse fish anglers will outnumber native coarse fish anglers by about three to one, on the other side of the coin, however, native trout anglers far outnumber visiting trout anglers by about 10 to 1. The bulk of the licence fees will, therefore, come from native anglers.

Few visiting anglers will object to paying £5 for a 21 day coarse fish licence or £10 for a 21 day trout angling licence. A fee of £5 or £10 for a coarse fish or trout angling licence is a very small charge in the overall cost of a holiday and tourists who pay a substantial sum to come to Ireland on fishing holidays are most unlikely to change their plans because they are required to pay such a fee. Tourist anglers are more than willing to make a contribution.

Trout and coarse fish anglers, be they native or tourist, cannot expect the Exchequer to continue to completely fund the development and protection of their angling waters. What we are seeking here is a small contribution from the anglers who benefit substantially from the recreational amenity of inland fishing.

I am anxious to ensure that licensing constitutes the minimum amount of inconvenience to our own, or to visiting anglers. While the arrangements for the distribution and sale of licences will be primarily a matter for the fisheries boards, it will be organised in the simplest possible manner. Licences, as at present, will be sold by the fisheries boards through their own offices and some field staff and through outlets countrywide — shops, hotels and offices of regional tourism organisations. The feasibility of extending on the spot sales of licences by fisheries field staff is being examined.

Many Senators will be aware that a restructuring of the fisheries boards is currently being considered. No firm decisions have yet been made, however, as to the future structure. There are many references to the fisheries boards in the text of the Bill. This is necessary in view of the fact that responsibility for inland fisheries currently lies with the fisheries boards.

In conclusion, I wish to again state that the objective of this Bill is to provide a more equitable way by which funds for the future development and protection of our inland fisheries will be available without undue strain on any sector of the community.

I strongly commend the Bill to the House.

The Minister says that at the moment a personal licence is not required for trout and coarse fishing, and that the Inland Fisheries Commission, as far back as the mid-seventies proposed the introduction of a licence system for trout and coarse fishing. Despite the fact that that was proposed in the mid-seventies nothing happened perhaps due to the wisdom of the people at the time.

The Minister in his speech also said:

I am also proposing to reduce the number of classes of salmon angling licences from five to two — a 21 day nationwide licence costing £21 and a full season nationwide licence for £25.

That is a very small difference and for the sake of £4 I believe those figures should be the same — a licence fee of £21 to cover everything.

The Minister suggested that there would be about 50,000 licensed trout and coarse fish anglers yielding an annual income of £500,000. There would be many more than 50,000 trout and coarse fish anglers, so the income generated would be much greater.

I welcome the Minister's undertaking to retain the money in the fisheries boards for the development and conservation of fisheries and to control pollution. I hope the fisheries boards will be retained. The licences cannot be issued by the fisheries boards if they are not to be retained. The Minister said that no firm decision had been made as to the structure of the fisheries boards in the future. I am glad a firm decision has not been made yet as many people, including myself, would have things to say on the restructuring or abolition of the fisheries boards as they now exist.

On receipt of this Bill I read through the Title in an effort to find out what its purpose was to be. The Title reads as follows:

An Act to amend the law relating to fisheries and for that purpose to amend and extend the Fisheries Acts, 1959 to 1987, by amending the provisions for salmon rod ordinary licences and extending the provisions for ordinary fishing licences which relate to rod and line to include licences in respect of trout, licences in respect of coarse fish and licences in respect of salmon, trout and coarse fish, to limit registration under section 58 of the Fisheries Act, 1980, to sea anglers and to certain other persons and to amend and extend section 59 of that Act, to provide for other matters connected with the foregoing and otherwise to amend and extend the Fisheries Acts, 1959 to 1987.

There is no real indication in the Title as to the purpose of the Bill. This Bill was presented by the Minister for the Marine on 8 December 1987. I am surprised at the speed with which the Bill is being put through the Oireachtas.

When I studied the Bill on Wednesday, 9 December, I was not aware, nor was there an indication on the Seanad Order Paper even on Wednesday of this week, that the Bill would be dealt with in this session in the Seanad. I gave an assurance to a number of interested parties that I would have discussions with them about this, as I had assumed that the Bill would not come before the Seanad until after the Christmas recess. That was a mistaken impression. We have not had enough time to go into various aspects of the Bill because it appears to be the intention to have it enacted before the end of the year. Senators in my position have been left with very little time to consult various groups. I wrote to people on Wednesday undertaking to enter into consultations on the assumption that the Bill would not be taken at this stage.

I read through the Bill and found the punch line to lie in section 6 (a), which gives the real reason for its introduction. This is also indicated in the Schedule which states:



Licence Duties in Respect of Fresh water Rod Ordinary Licences

Kind of Engine

Classes of Freshwater Rod Ordinary Licences

Composite fresh-water angling ordinary licences

Salmon rod (annual) ordinary licences

Salmon rod (twenty-one day) ordinary licences

Trout rod (annual) ordinary licences

Trout rod (twenty-one day) ordinary licences

Coarse fish (annual) licences

Coarse fish (twenty-one day) ordinary licences









Freshwater rod








These are the charges which will be imposed if the Bill becomes law.

There should be no doubt that the introduction of licence fees will be resisted, especially in the area of Lough Corrib, the largest free fishing lake in Europe. It is promoted as such throughout the world. Galway angling and tourism interests are angry and will resist the introduction of these fees. A protest march is to be held tomorrow in Galway. People may be encouraged in this protest by the obvious success of recent parent protests about cuts in primary education which forced the Minister to back down. The federation of anglers' clubs in Galway are willing to take to the streets on this issue. The Galway Observer published last Wednesday contained an item which stated as follows:

Angry Galway anglers will take to the streets next Saturday to protest at the Government's plans to impose licence charges for trout and coarse fishing.

The anglers are furious that Lough Corrib, the largest free fishing lake in Europe, will lose its free status under the terms of the proposed legislation.

The Government proposes to license all trout and coarse fishing in a Bill which proposes fines of up to £20,000 and two years in prison for all breaches.

The Federation of Lough Corrib Anglers are expected to strongly oppose the legislation when they meet later this week, but already a number of individual angling clubs have rejected the move out of hand. Braith-reacht na Coiribe, one of Galway's oldest angling clubs, have organised a protest march through the city for Saturday.

A similar article appears in today's issue of the Connacht Tribune. Anglers are saying in effect that the Minister should tackle the real problems of poaching, pollution etc. Tomorrow's protest march is also mentioned in the Connacht Tribune article, which goes on to state that it will be followed by a mass meeting of all angling clubs in Connacht in Castlebar at 2 p.m. on Sunday. It reports Mr. Seán Beatty, a member of the Annaghdown angling club, as saying that he had fished on the Corrib for the past 40 years and found it hard to stomach that a charge could be imposed on him now. This gives some idea of the ordinary angler's opposition to this Bill.

The Minister is in a difficult position. The introduction of licence fees at this time will be seen simply as another means of collecting revenue. He has indicated that he expects to raise about £500,000 but I believe the figure will be much greater. A detailed study recently published by the ESRI has shown that there are 122,000 regular anglers in Ireland, while a further 200,000 tourist anglers visit Ireland each year. Those figures are small relative to the potential market.

If the new licences are to be accepted by anglers the Minister should make a provision in the Bill guaranteeing that the moneys collected in licence fees will be reallocated to the regional fisheries boards for the non-pay element in fishery protection, pollution control and other promotions. The regional fisheries boards are operating in conditions of severe financial hardship. They were established, along with the Central Fisheries Board, under the Fisheries Act, 1980. Their first year of operation was 1981, the year in which the first embargo on recruitment to the public service was introduced and cuts in public expenditure began. These new organisations, which were intended to give a whole new impetus to inland fishery protection and development and the promotion of angling, had to cope with progressive cuts in resources, manpower and finance in the following years, making it extremely difficult and often impossible to cope with the statutory functions given to them.

Financial allocations to the boards have declined seriously in real terms since 1981. With increasing wage costs, the money available for non-pay purposes and to keep the staff working productively has declined to a ludicrously low level. As a result, the full potential of inland fisheries has not been realised. To give some idea of the way moneys have been cut back over those years, I will quickly run through the budgets since 1982. In that year £3.1 million of the budget was spent on pay and £1.9 million was spent under non-pay headings. In 1983, £3.5 million was spent on pay and £1.7 million on non-pay elements. In 1984 those figures were £3.7 million and £1.1 million. In 1985, £3.9 million was spent on pay and £1.5 million on non-pay. In 1986, £4.4 million was spent on pay and £1.3 million on non-pay elements. This year £4.8 million was spent on pay, while non-pay elements accounted for only £900,000. It is obvious that since 1982 when the non-pay element of the budget was £1.9 million we have lost £1 million. To have the equivalent of the 1982 figure we would need a non-pay budget of £2.93 million today.

Despite the cutbacks, the boards have made significant progress in dealing with the tasks and functions given to them. They have been to the forefront in highlighting the problems of pollution. While in many cases local authorities have stood back from these problems, fishery boards have been actively tackling them. The record in relation to monitoring, detection and prosecution of offenders speaks for itself. In terms of prosecutions alone, records show that the boards have been many times more active than local authorities. The boards have no vested interest, as have many of the local authorities who may themselves be polluters.

In the western fisheries regional board, the area in which I live, successful prosecution has been taken against the local authority when a five figure sum in damages was awarded to that fisheries board. The protection of salmon, sea trout and molluscs has improved considerably compared with the position obtaining prior to the establishment of the boards. In 1981 there was a real danger that salmon stocks would disappear within a very short time. The work of the boards has halted their decline. Oyster fishermen's co-operatives now openly confirm that, without the protection services of regional boards, the potential of the important oyster fisheries in the areas of Kilkerrin, Galway Bay and Clew Bay could not be realised and indeed, would be endangered. The Western Regional Fisheries Board have tackled the important development of preserving the natural environment of the Corrib. A regional fisheries board is in the best position to undertake this task.

Promotion of the game angling resources of the region have been undertaken in a professional manner. The boards can point to other significant improvements also effected. The Minister has indicated elsewhere that he is now considering the abolition of the regional fisheries boards and to replace them with a national authority. I believe that would constitute a retrograde step and should be opposed because the democratically elected body with strong local representation — whose members act in a voluntary capacity — would be supported. The members of regional fisheries boards now act in a totally impartial manner. They can comment objectively on abuses, particularly in regard to pollution. The boards voice local interests in the protection and enhancement of the essential part of their local environment. The abolition of regional fisheries boards would not effect any real saving in public expenditure because the only cost involved is its members' travelling expenses. Probably many of the members of regional boards would be prepared to act even if they did not receive those travelling expenses.

In any event a centrally-sited body in Dublin might cost just as much, in terms of travelling expenses, for officials commuting to and from Dublin. I contend that any shortcomings in the past few years have not been the fault of the regional fisheries boards. Apart from lack of resources the greatest shortcoming in the past has been the absence of any policy in this area. What are needed now are the right policies to ensure that the State gets the maximum economic benefit from those important resources. Policy is a matter for the responsible Minister. The Central Fisheries Board endeavoured to contribute to the question of policy in its document entitled: Inland Fisheries — Strategies for Management and Development with inputs from the regional fisheries boards. That publication was acknowledged to be progressive and positive in relation to future needs and prospects. Yet, within a few days its publication, the board was threatened with abolition. Was this an indication of the general apathy to sensible planning or the inability of Government Departments to take decisions in the country's interests.

All of this work undertaken by the boards has come about despite a drastically reduced budget each year. Far from scrapping the boards, as was indicated, I believe their powers should be strengthened to tackle the problems of the development of inland fisheries, of pollution of poaching and of other problems.

A new problem has arisen recently on Lough Corrib and I believe also on the Erne. On Lough Corrib, in the Ballycuirke area, near Moycullen, a section of the lake has been taken over by roach, which could be an even more serious problem than pollution. It is believed, in the case of Lough Corrib, that the roach were introduced about six years ago, probably by German anglers using small roach as bait and then disposing of them in the lake. They multiplied so rapidly that, within four to six years, they had taken over in a section of the lake with millions competing for the food of other species. The presence of those millions of roach in a stretch of the Corrib will completely destroy other fish life because they eat all the food life wherever they habitate.

The western region fisheries board have done tremendous work on predator control and, up to this year, had taken thousands of roach from the Corrib. This year no money was allocated to this essential work because of the serious cutbacks. Again, the budget for the non-pay element of the Central Fisheries Board and the Regional Boards has been reduced over the five years by £1 million. Their allocation is now £1 million less than it was the year after the boards were established. How can the regional fisheries boards continue their work if they are starved of finance? How can they monitor and control pollution if their budget continues to decline each year?

In the western regional fisheries board, monitoring of possible pollution is done on a daily basis. The board has convened meetings with farmers and industrialists to educate them in the dangers of pollution from activities carried out close to waters. They have made great strides in that area; that is from the angling point of view only. Other interests represented on the boards would include eel fisheries, the fishery owners, the oyster section, drift net and draft net interests, angling representatives and salmon, trout and coarse fishing interests. There will be, and there is, great hostility on the part of the ordinary angler to the introduction of a licence charge of up to a maximum of £40 a year for a composite licence. There is great objection to it on the part of the Federation of Corrib Anglers Clubs, on the part of tourist interests, particularly in the Corrib catchment area. As an alternative — and I have spoken briefly only to some of them — the Corrib Anglers Clubs have said they would advance a £1 for £1 contribution to match anything central Government would invest in regional fisheries boards for non-pay development.

The angling and tourist interests in Galway, Connemara and Mayo have been complaining for the past two seasons that salmon are not reaching the rivers and lakes on account of severe poaching and illegal fishing, with monafilament netting, further up the coast and off the Donegal coast, in the area represented by the Minister of State. When will the Government take action in regard to illegal fishing. It is quite obvious to anybody in the western region that salmon just do not exist in the lakes and the rivers. How can they be there while there are miles and miles of net preventing them from coming up to their natural habitat to spawn. The tourist interests in Connemara, anglers who come there every year, have been complaining for the last two years that the fish are simply not there. Catch records bear that out. This question must be addressed seriously by the Government and the Minister. No matter who is catching the fish they are doing serious damage to the natural environment.

On top of all that without taking any steps to solve the problem of illegal net fishing — the Minister is proposing to impose a licence fee on angling tourists who, for the past two years, have been coming to Connemara catching practically no fish. The fisheries boards have put themselves out on a limb in supporting the introduction of licensing of rods. Therefore, the Minister must guarantee that the revenue raised from licensing fees will be allocated to the regional fishery boards for the non-pay element of their work. We must warn against any attempt by this or future Ministers, to repeat the stipulation that local authorities should raise revenue for service charges. Yet, when they did so — unpopular as it was in some cases — their capital grants were further reduced. If this Bill becomes law we must ensure that there will be a written guarantee that this Minister or any future Minister will not allow that to arise.

These safeguards should be written into the Bill. The revenue from licences must be allocated to the fisheries boards to finance the valuable work they are carrying out and in recognition of the responsible attitude they adopted to this Bill. Investment in fishing will be more than paid back over a number of years. Any money invested in developing fishing is economically justified and there will be a quick return on the capital investment.

In the present economic climate, there is now general agreement on the need to conserve and concentrate on the development of our resources. Fisheries have been especially identified by the Government as a growth area, and a target of 4,500 new jobs has been set in this sector. The present contribution of £50 million a year to the economy from inland fisheries as a whole is but a fraction of its potential and £30 million of the current £50 million total is attributable to tourist angling. This is an indicator for the future. In 1982 salmon angling contributed an estimated 50 per cent of the revenue to the State from the salmon industry from only 4.5 per cent of the catch.

Ireland's fisheries have a unique natural advantage. We are now widely recognised as one of the few countries in the world which still have the potential to provide high quality angling in abundance. The value of this natural resource has not been fully recognised or exploited. The current influx of tourist anglers is small, relative to the potential markets available. There are four million anglers in Great Britain. The angling holiday markets on the Continent and in North America are also substantial, with the potential of access by many millions of additional anglers.

Ireland does not have an industrial advantage comparable to its natural fisheries environment. It is reasonable to suppose that investment and promotional costs would be lower for jobs in fishing than for industrial jobs. To attempt to prove this in an abstract, generalised, way is unlikely to be very convincing as there are little data on which to base development costs. Individual cases are strongly supportive of this argument. For example, the Corrib-Galway fishery which was bought by the Government for £200,000 in 1978 has averaged a yearly surplus since of between £30,000 and £40,000 and would give a profit to the State of about £150,000 after clearing the purchase price.

Prior to the purchase of the Erriff fishery for £175,000, the average turnover for the previous five years was a mere £12,000 per annum. This was built up to £80,000 last year by the Central Fisheries Board and it is hoped to exceed £100,000 this year. The Moy fishery cost £300,000 and is expected to show a profit of about £50,000 this year. These figures reinforce the view that a well managed Irish fishery can make money. It is worth noting that investment in those largely self financing natural resources is durable and not mobile, and the jobs created are permanent.

Let us continue our investment in fishing. Let us halt the decreasing budget each year. Let us realise the potential benefit of investment. Above all let the Minister guarantee that if these licence fees are introduced — and we have an indication of that already — the money raised will be allocated to the various fishery boards.

Níl aon rud eile le rá agam ar an mBille. Ní dóigh liom go glacfar leis mar níl na hiascairí i gContae na Gaillimhe agus i gContae Mhaigh Eo sásta leis ná fóralacha atá ann.

I welcome the Minister of State and hope that this debate will not keep him or, indeed, the rest of us at this seasonal time. At the outset. I welcome the principle behind the proposals before us. I make that point at this stage of my contribution lest anything I might subsequently say might be misinterpreted as being outright opposition to the Bill which is not the case. However, there are aspects of it about which I would like to express some concern.

I wish to start by welcoming the general thrust of it. The lack of finance for the protection and development of trout and coarse fishing here in Ireland has inhibited the industry from realising its full potential down through the years. The provision of coarse fishing facilities in my own county of Leitrim has proven to be an economic lifeline to the area and for the lakeland region as a whole encompassing the counties of Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Fermanagh, Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Offaly, Galway and Mayo and the Minister's own county of Donegal. Of course the Minister's ability to cast a long line is legendary.

Any proposals in relation to the coarse fishing industry affect a considerable portion of the country. The traditional tourist, using the term in its widest possible interpretation, in many of the areas outlined, but particularly in the North Shannon area of Leitrim, Roscommon and Cavan has been the coarse fisherman and his family. The vast majority come from the English midlands and the London area. They are a separate breed of people who have an interest in coming to Ireland for one reason only, to catch fish and to talk about catching fish and, in most cases, I am happy to report, to tell all who care to listen about their success, expecially if they fish around the 20 or so lakes within a four mile radius of my own town of Drumshanbo.

The method of attracting these special people who normally come among us in the close tourist season of April, May and June needs to be encouraged. The method for attracting them is for Bord Fáilte in co-operation with local voluntary tourism bodies, and guest house proprietors to mount aggressive marketing and promotional campaigns in Britain. I was present at such a marketing occasion in London only two weeks ago and was most impressed with the spread of accommodation available and the professionalism of the Bord Fáilte personnel in going after this important segment of the market. I would like to emphasise my impressions of Bord Fáilte on that occasion, particularly in the light of the comments that have been made about the board in recent weeks.

The single biggest attraction at this promotional exercise was the quality and the quantity of the fish in our area, exemplified by a first rate film presentation to the several hundred English anglers present and most important the fact that this veritable feast of fish on film was all free. Free coarse fishing is synonymous with Ireland and her lakes. As I stated at the outset, I welcome the proposal to put much needed finance into the coarse fishing area. For counties like Leitrim with a low industrial base and a high service sector, such moneys will be a much needed stimulus, and I can assure the Minister I will be among the first at his door when be begins to dispense the largesse which he estimates is about £.5 million in the first year. I would like to compliment him on giving his strong assurances to the House in his Second Stage speech that the moneys generated by this licensing system will go back directly to the local areas.

However, I would like to remind the Minister — in fact he does not need any reminding — that there is strong opposition to this measure among tourism angling interests, particularly in my region and further west. This opposition is not new and has a certain validity. I remind the House that two previous attempts to introduce charges such as those proposed failed at first reading, one under a Coalition Government when the late James Dillon TD, was Minister for Agriculture, and again in 1966 when the present Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, was Minister for Agriculture. The opposition then as now was based on the detrimental effect such charges would have or were perceived to have on the tourist industry. The Taoiseach admitted his own reservations on the matter of charges when in reply to a question put to him about the possible implications for the tourist industry in Ireland he said there would be ample opportunity to consider that aspect before it was finally enacted. In the Dáil at Question Time on 28 April 1966, Official Report, Vol. 222, col. 1010, the Minister for Agriculture said:

I do not wish to interfere with free fishing but it seems to me reasonable that we should make this provision for the benefit of the sport as such. However, I am at the moment receiving representations from interested parties about this proposal. I am discussing the proposal with the various organisations interested and I am having regard especially to the effect the proposal might have on the tourist industry.

At a later date he again indicated he was looking at the proposals in the light of their possible effect on the tourist industry. Even then there was an acknowledgement — and the proposals were modest at the time — of the opposition to the measure. The opposition was so vocal that the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1966, did not get beyond the First Reading in either House of the Oireachtas.

It is interesting to note that 21 years on the position in relation to the Bill seems to have changed among those whom I might loosely refer to as having a vested interest. The main opposition in 1966 came from the National Federation of Coarse Anglers. Now, however, a similar body representing coarse anglers have come out in support of the proposals as per the Minister's statement earlier. This volte-face on something that was a matter of great principle as well as policy in 1966 makes for interesting debate. I can only speculate on the reasons for the change in the absence of any speculation from those particular sources.

I am aware that colleagues of mine have contributed to this Bill in another place and have articulated support now given by coarse fishing associations, as referred to by the Minister, in some of their lakeland constituencies. I have no wish to doubt their sincerity. I just happen to differ on the general principle of imposing a charge for coarse fishing where none has existed for hundreds of years and where the absence of such a charge has contributed enormously to the economic well-being of the area I am proud to represent in this House.

It is perfectly natural that tourism interests in my region should be nervous and feel vulnerable to any change in market conditions in such a volatile industry as tourism where Ireland has to compete for every pound, for every angler who has alternatives for his chosen sport. The arguments put forward in the past against the introduction of these charges are equally valid today. I was interested to read in The Irish Times of Thursday, 17 December 1987, a letter from a Mr. B. Hobler writing from County Galway as follows:

As to the impact on tourism, is a Dutch or German angler expected to pay £26 in licences before he can fish for his pike and trout? When I fished in the Netherlands a few years back I paid less than £2 for a licence which entitled me to fish for all species of fish. A similar licence in Germany cost £3 last year on my holidays. Obviously the continental European angler will not return to Ireland when he is forced to pay such an excessively high fishing licence.

The new licence system will have a particularly detrimental effect on the brown trout fishing on the western lakes. Towns like Ballinrobe, Headford and Oughterard, which depend on the tourism angler, will suffer enormously by this proposed legislation.

He could have mentioned a few of the lakes in Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The theory behind these proposals sounds impressive. A levy is imposed on a definable collectable group of people who will have no option but to comply if they wish to pursue their favourite leisure occupation. We then wait for the money to come rolling in so that it can be reinvested for the betterment of the sport and ultimately the economy generally. Let us look at the possible consequences. The traditional English angler is not an affluent individual. In the main they come from the lower economic level where every pound counts and any increase in costs has already inhibited such people from coming to Ireland. The high cost of access to Ireland has resulted in a falling off of this market and in my own area it has been very noticeable.

However, the impact of Ryanair and cross-Channel air charges leading to more competitive sea carrier prices, which is the traditional mode of entry for the English angler, has resulted in an upsurge of visitors, specifically to Counties Leitrim, Roscommon and Cavan during the close season in 1986 and again in 1987. There is no doubt whatsoever that the reduction in the access charges into this country over the past 18 months, has contributed significantly to an increase in coarse fishing and anglers coming into the counties I have referred to. In that context it was one of the most important developments that this Government initiated since they came into office and one that should be applauded and encouraged. I suggest to the Minister that the new charges will cause many of these new-found friends of ours to pause and to consider whether they might not be better off staying in England rather than coming to Ireland to do their fishing.

Ireland is synonymous with free coarse fishing. In the past 25 years the market has been assiduously cultivated by voluntary organisations irrespective of Bord Fáilte's involvement. The coarse fisherman is a totally different animal from the salmon fisherman who can well afford to pay for his sport, in many cases a sport which can prove lucrative. Coarse fishermen return all their catch to the river or lake in which they are fishing. It is the challenge of the fly from the first bob of the cork or the float, that sends the adrenalin running in a true coarse fisherman. This reaction is added to by the thrill of the catch.

I can see a time, not too far distant, when only those with substantial funds will be able to fish Irish rivers and lakes and to be a coarse fisherman will have as elitist a tag as to belong to certain golf clubs in this country. It has been suggested that the proposed charge will quickly double or treble and that every lake owner will now impose their own charges for access on top of the State levy. Such a move should be met with the strongest opposition from the Minister and his Department.

I am aware that the Minister refused to accept an amendment to exempt tourist anglers in another place. I would ask him to give the proposal serious consideration in the interests of tourism and the economic well-being of the region from which I come. I know that the arguments against this are that one should not single out any one section but we are talking here about something that is contributing to the livelihood of a particular region which has been ill-served since the foundation of the State.

There is some emphasis on the role of the Central Fisheries Board in the administration of the proposals contained in the Bill. The Minister clarified the reasons on the basis that the Central Fisheries Board are responsible for such administration. I regret having to bring to the attention of the Minister criticisms of the role of the board in relation to the protection of fish resources in the Lough Allen area. I am aware of several successful attempts to poach fish from the Shannon lakes by the illegal use of monofilament nets. Despite several protests from tourist interests to the appropriate authorities, the response was not that they were unwilling to do their job but that due to lack of resources and inadequate personnel they, the Central Fisheries Board, were unable to stamp out this invidious practice. In that context, again from the letters' page of The Irish Times of Thursday, 17 December 1987, a Mr. Patrick Maher from Dublin, in the course of a long treatise on the reasons he is opposed to the introduction of licences, said the following which should be brought to the attention of the Minister. I quote it without comment and without any suggestion of criticism of the Central Fisheries Board.

Mr. Maher said that, in an effort to get some information, he telephoned the Department of Fisheries and the Central Fisheries Board on the afternoon he wrote the letter. He said the response he got from the little girl in the Department was "I'm afraid we don't know anything except that new arrangements have been made to increase the cost of licences in 1988". Mr. Maher said that absolutely nothing was forthcoming concerning the control of poaching, or pollution, or indeed conservation. The spokesman for the Central Fisheries Board also knew about the new licensing arrangements. In fact, he only knew as much as had been reported in the newspapers and he told me that his organisation was being disbanded at the end of the year. Obviously, it is opportune for the Minister at some stage in this debate to clarify that position. I am sure the Minister would not wish to have officials of his Department or those under his aegis being criticised in the public press where they cannot respond or reply.

I mention the Central Fisheries Board in the context of the Bill as they propose to dispense the money. The Explanatory Memorandum states: "The purpose of this Bill is to introduce a licensing system for trout and coarse fish angling". It further states:

This licensing system is required in order to ensure that trout and coarse fish anglers who benefit from substantial State expenditure on the development and protection of trout and coarse fish fisheries contribute towards that expenditure.

I do not think any of us could argue with or object to the sentiments expressed in the Explanatory Memorandum, but in the light of the information and experience I have had in my own area in relation to the protection of the fishing stocks in the Shannon and in the Shannon lakes, the suggestion that the money is going towards the protection as well as the development of trout and coarse fish fisheries is to be welcomed.

I referred earlier to the difficulties the local tourist interests have had in my own area about illegal poaching. As a result, in order to protect their livelihood, in co-operation with the local Garda local people took steps to ensure that such illegal activities were terminated. I advise any would be illegal poachers that they will get a welcome to Lough Allen not in keeping with the tradition of the area which is based on friendliness and open hearted hospitality. These illegal activities were planned and executed using the most sophisticated equipment available. I know the Minister is aware of the gangsters who are involved in this trade. I also am aware of the Minister's deep concern in that area. I hope that, on a general level, in the context of the resources which are going to be provided for the protection of the fisheries industry, the Minister will keep in mind that aspect of it.

As I said at the outset, I wanted to preface my remarks by saying that I supported in principle the thrust of the Bill but, in honesty, I could not come before the House and before the Minister without outlining the very serious and genuinely held concerns of voluntary tourism interests in my own area which must be viewed in the context of a very wide area, the midlands of the country.

I know the Minister does not need reminding of the importance of the tourism industry in the context of coarse fishing to areas such as County Leitrim and parts of his own constituency. I hope that, once this legislation is passed, the Minister will continue to monitor the collection of the levy, the collection of the licences and, more important, that he will use his good offices to ensure that an area which he knows so intimately, and I am sure he will agree with me, requires perhaps a larger slice of the national cake than it has been getting. When the time comes for the dispensing of that money to the area I come from in the north west which relies so much on the coarse fishing angler from England, it will benefit to a degree.

I have not got the experience of Senator McCormack or Senator Mooney in this matter. I do not think I would be here today but for the fact that I attended a meeting last Wednesday of the Dublin and Eastern Regional Tourism Board of which I am a member. At the commencement of the meeting there was an angry discussion among members involved in the tourism business directly, hoteliers, etc. They complained bitterly at the introduction of this Bill which proposes to charge tourists a licence fee for trout and coarse fishing.

As Senator Mooney has pointed out, we have sold the fishing facilities of the tourism industry in Ireland as free across the world. We have marketed them in that way. The extraordinary thing was that these people who were angry were not angry at the charges but at the way in which they were being implemented. They have all produced their brochures; they have all packaged their holidays; they are in the throes of that at this time. It is all ready; it has all gone abroad. They are writing to people in England and elsewhere explaining in their brochures and literature that coarse fishing and trout fishing are free in Ireland. I do not think it is in the best interest of the tourism industry if these good people, who are a very important cog in the wheel of our tourism industry, have to tell their clients when they arrive: "We are sorry, We misled you. There is a charge now." I would not ask the Minister to exempt tourists from his charges but, in view of the fact that he has been so late in introducing this Bill, the tourism industry should be exempt in 1988 from these charges. That is a fair point. It would be a fair response to the tourism people, the hoteliers etc. who attract anglers to our country and they would not be seen to mislead them. If the Minister were to exempt them for 1988, it would solve the problem which was brought to my attention last Wednesday.

I am one of these people who are all in favour of developing our fisheries and, in particular, our inland fisheries. In many ways our inland fisheries have not been given sufficient attention, or the attention they deserve. They have a considerable potential, not only economically but, as other Senators have said, from the point of view of recreation.

Where to fish and how to fish can present various problems around the countryside. When I first read this Bill I looked on it as something which might bring a certain amount of order into the chaos which exists in certain areas. However, as I read through the Bill I am afraid I came partly to the conclusion, at least, that chaos will continue to prevail. For instance, there is an enormous number of categories of fishing one can do. There is rod fishing for trout, and there is fresh water rod, ordinary licences and so on. I wonder how can one really control the bewildering variety of licences or permits or whatever, it is proposed to issue. If some more streamlined method could be introduced it would be an effective way of bringing about that certain order which I think the fishing structure in the country lacks.

However, there are more problems than that. We are told, for instance, about composite licences which will entitle the holder to fish for salmon, trout and coarse fish nationwide. I honestly do not think that is a practical proposition for the very good reason that we all know you can be fishing down a river; you can walk across one stream and you are into the control of a fishing club. Then you may walk another piece and you are into a free fishing area. What is going to happen to all these local fishing clubs? Are they going to be disbanded?

Secondly, if a landowner does not allow you on to his land to fish, say, in a river or from the bank of a lake, what are you going to do about that? Thirdly, one might ask, can landowners themselves whose land may be bordering on lakes and rivers fish in these lakes and rivers without having to procure a licence? I can see an enormous number of problems before us straight away.

I also feel — and this is the nub of what I really want to say — that perhaps one has moved a little too quickly here. There might have been too much of a rush. We should really look at this whole important problem in a slightly more comprehensive way. For instance, what about pollution? I have often gone fishing and the only fish I could see were dead ones, killed as a result of pollution.

One may also go fishing and what one would meet are these enormous draglands where huge arterial drainage schemes are going on, which indeed have been doing untold damage to river fishing, at least, over a number of years and not only just when main drainage programmes are in hand, but during the maintenance afterwards. There is a great deal of insensitivity with regard to the maintenance of certain rivers. For instance, the machines are re-introduced at the spawning season very often. This is not so in all cases, but I have experience of it and it is a very unwise situation. Basically, what I would like to inquire is if there is any possibility of looking at this enormously important resource from a slightly wider viewpoint which will involve examining the whole problem of ownership — who owns the rivers, the waters, the lakes and so on. Will this system of licensing lead on to even a more limited use of our resources by our own people?

As some of us may know, salmon fishing, for instance, at the moment and for a number of years is a very elitist pursuit in which only a limited number of people can engage. To conclude, I am certainly very keen to see this valuable resource developed, but I would suggest to the Minister that it would be much more beneficial to everybody concerned to look at the problem from a much wider viewpoint and to tackle some of the issues which may prove in some cases rather tricky to tackle, but not just to introduce what really is a form of taxation. It is a form of taxation which can, or could, damage the tourist industry but what is even more important is that fishing in many ways is a local amenity for local people and we must also bear that in mind.

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the purpose of this Bill is to introduce a licence for trout and coarse fish angling. I object to this in principle. In this country, a licence has never been necessary for coarse fishing and it has been one of the strong points in parts of the country that derive much money from coarse fishing. My colleague from Leitrim, Senator Mooney, so eloquently said——

I thank the Senator.

The Senator is very welcome. He said that inland fishing in Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Fermanagh and Cavan is a major industry. It is the most major industry in that area. Coming from Ballinamore I have seen, in the last number of years, the amount of work that the local tourism and angling associations on a voluntary basis have put into bringing fishermen here from Europe and Britain under the auspices of the tourist board. They have gone to Europe and Britain and they have worked extremely hard at trying to entice fishermen to Ireland. Taken on a local basis, fishing has a very great economic effect within our country. It helps supermarkets and publicans.

From my own experience, in the months of April, May and June, when there would not be very many tourists around — and, indeed, in September and October — if you go into any of the local bars you will always meet five or six tourist fishermen. That is very essential in a small economy. The principal argument used to bring the fishermen to the area is that there is no licence for coarse fishing. That is the nub of the argument. Regardless of how small the licence is, it is in people's minds that it should be free. It costs money in Europe and Britain. I think the Highlands of Scotland are the only other place where there is no charge on coarse fishing. In all seriousness, licensing will have an effect on the industry and I would ask the Minister to reconsider it. I know that the Bill has passed through the lower House, but as an individual, I object in principle to the introduction of a licence.

The Minister stated that few visiting anglers will object to paying £5 for a 21 day coarse fishing licence or £10 for a 21 day trout angling licence. It seems a very minimal amount of money but there is the principle that people have gone out and sold the idea that we have free coarse fishing. I know that for example, you could charge extra for accommodation, but the important principle is that we have had free coarse fishing.

Another aspect of the Bill is how it is hoped to police these new licences. Senator Mooney has given an example that poaching has being going on, not only in Lough Allen. The authorities are quite aware of that but, unfortunately, due to lack of funds there is not much they can do about it.

Hear, hear.

I honestly do not know how the Minister is going to police the legislation. Since I have become a Member of the Seanad, this is a point I have made on a number of Bills. We are the best country in the world for legislation but some of it is not being implemented properly. I hope that if the licence for coarse fishing is brought in, it will be implemented and policed properly. I hope it is not going to be a farcical licence, because, as we are quite aware, implementation is going to be very difficult. Going to the extreme, the Bill will allow people under 18 years of age and above the age of 66 free fishing. If a gentleman or a lady is fishing in a group on the shore how can you know his or her age? It is just one of the difficulties that could come up.

Another problem which will have to be dealt with on Committee Stage is that a licence which permits fishing for trout does not cover a person for coarse fishing. If a person catches a perch, for instance, he could be taken to court and fined up to £500. I know that is another extreme example but we should not put in legislation——

You can throw the perch back.

I accept that.

You cannot fish for it.

That is the problem. If this licence fee is introduced like every other good thing within this country it will always increase rather than decrease. The rain is the only bloody thing that comes down unfortunately. We have the example of local charges. Anybody who is a member of a local authority, and the Minister of State is well aware of this, knows what has been going on during the past couple of years. What I am afraid of is that this fee will increase. It is at a minimal cost at the moment but it might not be too long before it costs £50 or £100. That would prove detrimental to those who have built, with the help of Bord Fáilte, great bed and breakfast and tourist accommodation. They provide services similar to those provided by the hotels and at a cheaper rate. These people have put a lot of money into their areas. Introducing a licence fee is bad enough but to increase it will prove to be detrimental.

I have been very negative but what I would like to compliment the Minister of State on is that if the licence fee is imposed he intends to put all the moneys raised in that way back into inland fisheries. I hope this is done but, in principle, I object to the introduction of a licence fee for inland fishing as in the long term it will produce the wrong effect. As I have already said we increase things rather than decrease them. That is my objection to the Bill.

I am the only Senator here who earns his livelihood directly from tourism. I welcome the Bill. The opening paragraph in the Explanatory Memorandum says it all. We can talk about fishing here until the cows come home but I wish to quote a very famous politician who said: "The days of the free lunch are over". If there ever was an industry to which that could be applied it must be the fishing industry. We can go on all evening praising the great attraction which we have for foreign anglers but what happens when they get here? Quite often, they find disarray. In fact, most of the time they find disarray.

I have seen surveys which were carried out on visiting anglers and I will resist the temptation of doing a travelogue and talking about the famous rivers and lakes in Munster. Anglers from the UK and, particularly, Germany have indicated in recent years that they are not satisfied with the quality of fishing in our lakes and rivers, simply because there is a distinct lack of organisation. Quite often when they come they find no fish. They may find that lakes have been swept the night before and that there is a distinct lack of control. To add insult to injury there have been recent cases of pollution.

This Bill is proof positive that the Minister of State and his Department are at long last taking this problem seriously. There is reasonable concern within the tourist industry about this matter. Senator Doyle's suggestion that the Minister of State might consider a moratorium of one year for foreign anglers may be worthy of consideration for a number of reasons, the primary reason being that Bord Fáilte have printed their literature for 1988 which includes an offer of free fishing. It may be said that the hotels and guesthouses could absorb the cost of the licence fee into their charges but if they do the next morning they will receive a letter in the post from Bord Fáilte urging them not to increase their prices. The industry needs to be seriously examined and it will only be seriously examined when the anglers become serious about it. Quite often a lot of hot air is generated by angling clubs about pollution. They harass local authorities and, occasionally, farmers in relation to the problems caused as a result.

There is another side to this argument. Over the past few years, at a time when the fee was quite small, there has been an abysmal failure to respond to the request to register. In fact up until 1985 the fee was a derisory figure of £5. Therefore, one must wonder at the level of commitment among anglers. The Minister of State has decided at long last to grasp the nettle but he will only be able to do that when he has money in his pocket. I am pleased that the Minister of State has said that it is his intention to commit the entire amount raised from the collection of the licence fee to the further development of the industry. This is what is needed. If for no other reason, the fact that the licence will not be issued free will make people realise that they must seriously examine this industry.

It is unfortunate that the 1966 Bill did not get past a First Reading as if it had been passed a lot of money would have been collected in the intervening period and we would not now be confronted with the problem of having no bailiffs to control large stretches of countryside and miles and miles of river bank and lakes. This is a direct result of the underfunding of the fisheries boards. I can remember a time when there was a bailiff, and quite often two, to control every river adjacent to Bantry Bay. At that time we could have legitimately said to UK, German and French tourists: "Come to Ireland to fish; you can be sure of getting a week or a fortnight of satisfactory fishing and you can be absolutely certain you will be able to catch a lot of trout". Therefore, the introduction of this Bill is timely.

Perhaps the Minister of State would consider mitigating the impact the introduction of the licence fee will have on the tourism industry next year. The Minister of State should make it his intention to introduce the charge immediately preceding the next tourism season in recognition of the fact that people compiling brochures and tourism packages for the coming season did not have an opportunity to address the problem in regard to the absence of free fishing in Ireland next year.

There are one or two other minor points I would like to make. The issuing of a 21 day licence is not particularly advisable. I do no know why a period of 21 days was chosen as it is not the normal duration of stay of tourists to Ireland. I suspect that the normal duration is between seven and ten days rather than being 21 days. It is now very rare for a tourist to stay in Ireland for three weeks.

If we are anxious to get the co-operation of angling clubs the Minister of State should at this stage give a commitment that the fee will remain unchanged for three to five years. In this regard Senator Reynolds's comments were timely. Having established the charge it should not start to creep upwards as this will only lead to genuine people in angling clubs becoming disillusioned.

In conclusion, I am a little disconcerted by the fact that it is envisaged that additional staff will not be required. This certainly amounts to a contradiction in that we cannot control our fisheries if we do not have sufficient staff to do so. River raiding at night is not being properly handled.

We also had a big problem of river pollution this year which was highlighted by the fact that it was a dry year. Pollution has been bad for a number of years but it was not as much in evidence because the rivers were swollen for most of the summers of 1984 and 1985. The Minister should tackle the problem of river and lake pollution. I accept that it is primarily the responsibility of another Department but it is not enough to pass legislation dealing with pollution, place it on our Statute Book and not implement it.

The Department concerned should liaise with local authorities in the fight against pollution. If it were possible to establish a good working relationship between local authority staff and the staff of the fisheries boards in a drive against pollution in the next two or three years we would go a long way towards solving the problem. It is not enough to talk about educating our farmers; we will have to flex our muscles a little more positively because there is definite evidence that most farmers do not give a damn. I regret to have to say that. Farming organisations, and others, may say that this is an educational process but there are other ways of educating farmers besides slapping them on the wrist.

Limerick County Council should be complimented on invoking legislation under which an offender is expected to leave a fishery in the condition it was in before it was polluted. That is the type of action we need to take against those who are seriously undermining one of our best natural resources. Until we take that positive stance the problem will continue. We tend to be a little blasé about pollution, particularly the pollution of our rivers and lakes. It is not good enough for Members, myself included, to talk about clean rivers and a clean environment when pollution has reached a serious stage. Is it right to bring people here to see the disarray that exists in regard to our inland fisheries? One only has to look at the demise of the Atlantic salmon to realise the serious problem that exists because of lack of control.

I should like to compliment the Minister on taking this initiative. It was not an easy or popular step. As a former chairman of a regional tourism board and a person who derives his income from tourism I know that the move is not popular in tourism circles. However, we will have to grasp the nettle but we can only do that when the industry is properly funded and we get people to appreciate that the day of the free lunch as far as fishing is concerned is over.

Ba mhaith liom labhairt faoin mBille seo os rud é go gcaithim féin roinnt ama ag iascaireacht ar aibhneacha agus lochanna na tíre agus de bharr freisin go bhfuil an oiread sin ama caite agam le blianta fada anuas ag obair thar timpeall cuid des na lochanna, na srutháin agus ar chuid des na haibhneacha is deise san Eoraip. Mar gheall air sin, tuigim go maith an chontúirt atá ag bagairt ar go leor des na háiteacha sin le tamall anuas.

Ní dóigh liom go mbeadh iascairí na tíre in aghaidh an Bhille seo dá gceapfaidís go bhfaighidís cothrom na Féinne ón Rialtas. Ní dóigh liom áfach go mbeidh siad ró-shásta leis an chaoi in ar leagadh amach na costais. An príomh rud a chuireann as dóibh ná an staid in a bhfuil cúrsaí iascaigh sa tír faoi láthair, agus an cheist mhór ná céard tá le tarlú amach anseo. Chonacamar go léir céard a tharla i rith an tsamhraidh nuair a scriosadh na mílte bric agus bradáin agus ainmhithe eile nach iad.

Anois tá sé ráite ag an Rialtas gur ar son leasa na n-iascairí an t-airgead a baileofar ar na ceadúnais seo. An cheist ba mhaith liomsa a chur ar an Aire ná, cé mhéid airgid a bheas le fáil sa bhliain atá romhainn le haghaidh chursaí iascaigh agus cén chomparáid a bheas idir an figiúr seo agus an méid a bhí le fáil acu anuraidh. Cén cineál tacaíochta a bheas ag oifigigh an bhoird iascaigh amach anseo nó an mbeidh siad ar adhastar arís sa bhliain seo atá romhainn ceal airgid?

I favour fishing licences if the money collected is handled in the right way. Unfortunately, this move to issue licences seems to have been seen by the Department as a purely financial matter. It has not been sold to anglers and, in my opinion, it has been badly thought out. The Minister said that the anglers agree with the measure but they agree with it in principle and not with the way the financing arrangements have been worked out. According to my sums it seems the Department looked at the £1 million, the proposed amount to be taken off the budget for fisheries in the coming year, calculated the number of anglers at home and abroad and came up with a figure for the amount of money required to make the service work.

Before I comment on the state of our fisheries I should like to deal with what the Bill lays down. There is to be a £25 licence for salmon and sea trout, £15 for brown trout and £10 for coarse fish, making a total of £50 or a special price of £40 for the three permits. That figure is too high. We have always had free fishing for brown trout and coarse fish and we have now gone from zero to £25 if one wishes to fish for brown trout and in the off season throws a line in the canal. This has happened suddenly and without warning after years of advertising of free fishing. Many fishermen will object to this price package and will not pay it. It would have been much better if the fee was set at £20 all in, to cover salmon, sea trout, coarse fish and brown trout or a £10 licence for brown trout and coarse fish and a £5 permit for coarse fish only. I do not think visitors would have objected too much to that and the £20 package could have been sold by saying that it was a salmon licence and was better value than could be obtained in most countries.

Allowing under 18s and over 65s to fish free is a mistake. A junior ticket could have been issued for a nominal amount. There are many young anglers who would feel they were involved if they had a licence and we are losing out on quite an amount of money in this area by allowing all to fish for free. When I was a youngster I did not feel I was a real fisherman until I had my ticket from the local angling club. I know several fishermen who still have the first licence they bought when they were youngsters. The over 65s in many cases are anglers who have at least that amount of money to spare and who would be quite willing to buy a licence. Fishermen would be glad to pay a licence fee if they knew that our waterways, and what swims in them, would be looked after. However, this money will not be extra to what the fisheries had last year. The licence money is supposed to fill a very large gap made by reducing the budget of the fisheries boards by £1 million.

The maintenance of our developed fisheries is being run down and we will have in 1988 a much reduced service compared to 1987. The development which has gone on for the past 30 years has deteriorated and it will cost an amount of money to even get to where it was five years ago. If we are to believe that angling is worth £50 million per year to us, surely this approach to our fisheries is nonsensical? It is a growing sport here and the largest sport in England, much bigger than the game of soccer. Yet, in spite of this growing industry we do not seem to treat it very seriously. Our fisheries officers are the greatest guardians of our rivers and lakes. I have no doubt that the mean-minded approach to that service has been responsible in no small way for the huge pollution problems which faced us during this year. Without even thinking of the proposed 25 per cent cut this year the fisheries people have had a 75 per cent cut in three years. We had the ridiculous situation this year of seeing skilled able-bodied fisheries officers sitting at home because they could not put petrol in their cars to patrol our waterways.

In the coming year the pollution problem will be even worse if we do not act more sensibly in relation to the financing of what are essential services. I am not just talking about the preservation of fish or about areas of recreation for anglers. I am talking about our own health and our survival in relation to clean water. With the exception of the Shannon system the water table in this country is very shallow and it is far too easy to have pollution from one water system running into a neighbouring system and ending up in our drinking water.

If the new licence fees are sufficient to finance our failing fisheries and allow the fisheries people to carry on with their work the anglers will accept the scheme, but if the fisheries are to continue deteriorating all the angling clubs will have very strong objections to this extra cost on their pastime. I hope the Minister does not think I am getting at him because of the situation. Every Minister is going to hate me because I will keep on chipping away with my hammer and chisel until the system begins to understand that we have a country which is really nothing short of a jewel and we do not really understand what we have and what we stand to lose. I am sure the Minister will understand that I know that he has the country at heart and I am sure everybody from the Taoiseach down is of the same mind, but there is something about the system which does not seem to understand what makes up this country and that we have a very fragile environment.

It may be of interest to many of our salmon anglers that yesterday the Danish Parliament made a decision to ban inshore drift netting altogether. This decision was made on the basis that recreational fishing for salmon was worth far more than commercial fishing. It is extremely interesting for Ireland in that the strategy document drawn up by our own Central Fisheries Board was used and praised in order to convince politicians of the rational way to manage their inland fisheries.

Níl tada eile le rá agam ach gur mhaith liom mo bhúiochas a ghabháil libh agus gur mhaith liom Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise a ghuí ar an Aire agus ort féin, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, agus ar na Seanadóirí go léir.

I am not convinced there is a need for this Bill. I have read the Minister's speech and I am still not convinced that we need it. I have always found it difficult to understand why people needed a salmon licence in the first place. Watching over the years the way the issue and distribution of salmon licences was approached and implemented convinced me that we did not need it at all.

This Bill is going to affect many areas of our lives which we cannot afford to have affected detrimentally at the moment. I want to start with the tourist area. I listened to Senator O'Callaghan both in the office and here after I came in. As somebody who is depending on the tourist industry and the hotel industry I am amazed he is not at loggerheads with the Minister on this issue. We have sold the idea of free fishing for years. We have sold the idea of "come to Ireland and fish cost-free" and we are now moving backwards. It is going to hit tourism. It will hit it this year, as has been explained very vocally and articulately in the past couple of days by people in the general area of tourism, but it will affect us in years to come also. What we need to sell is an Ireland that is free, that you can come to and be part of the environment, part of the ambience. The amount of fish tourists are going to take or kill anyway is quite small.

Let me pose one point that the Minister might respond to. To get round the difficulty of hotels, would it be possible to have a general licence for guests in hotels or for a person who is genuinely in Ireland on a holiday? If it is necessary to implement this Bill perhaps we could do it in a way that would not affect the tourist industry. I ask the Minister to consider that and to give me his response. I know the way holidays are costed by the tourist industry and by hotels particularly. The cost per unit, in other words the cost per guest, is worked out to the nearest 50p almost and an additional expense such as a licence fee on top of that would very often make it something that would not be a saleable commodity any more.

It worries me when I hear about substantial State expenditure on an issue as a reason for getting people to pay for it. Let me explain. Substantial State expenditure should always reap a reward wherever it happens to be, in health, education or tourism. However, I dislike this way of reaping the reward. Really we are saying here that we will invest in fisheries. We will try to have a good ambience or environment for fishing and we hope to reap the benefits in terms of the tourist industry but, at the same time, we are going to make people pay for the cost of our investment. That lacks logic. It is too simplistic to say we are paying this money out so we need to get this money back in terms of licences. It does not work so simply. We pay this money out and get the money back by selling the tourist industry, by selling the occupation internally and externally. I would like to hear explained very carefully the estimated costing of this Bill. In other words, I want to know how much it is going to cost the State to collect £10 or whatever it is for a licence. It is not convincing to know that it will not be an actual cost to the State, it will be a cost on the fisheries board. If it is a cost on the fisheries board they will have to direct resources in the area towards collecting these licence fees. That means they will have less money in other areas. In that case there is a cost to the State. There is a cost to the industry. There is a loss to the investment in this area. I would like to hear that costed because it seems that it will cost very close on £10 to collect £10, to monitor it, register it, account for it and receipt it. I see nothing very desirable in that.

I have listened to a number of speakers. I listened carefully to my colleague, Senator de Buitléar, á rá linn go raibh sé ag tabhairt sórt fáilte don Bhille seo agus gur ceart agus gur coír go mbeadh but I have not heard the reasons for it except that people should feel responsible, should feel the need of being part of the system. I need to know more than that. I am speaking now environmentally rather than just financially. Why should people need to have a licence to go out and, in his words, drop a line into the canal? Knowing the Minister I believe he would agree with me that the last thing he would want to do is make fishing an exclusive occupation. In other words, I am sure he would agree we do not want to make fishing an occupation that people could not participate in. Even though the licence fees mentioned in the Bill are small, as I accept, it is still a question of applying for a licence and having one before one can go out to fish. People will not do that for a number of reasons: first, because they figure they could spend money in other ways; secondly, Irish people in general, whatever kind of psyche we have, are not heavy into licences and with any licence we have tried to sell we have come across this problem and thirdly, people feel they have a certain right to participate in fishing. Is it fair to make a person who might not have much else in terms of a pastime or a hobby spend £10 or £20 on a licence in some particular week? Take somebody who is unemployed with a family. This is an outlet, an occupation for that person. Even though £10 is a small amount of money, if you are trying to live on £80 or £90 in a week some week a decision must be made that this week you are not going to have £10 for food or whatever it is, because you will just have to spend it on a fishing licence. They will not do that. Therefore, are we criminalising people who cannot afford to pay the licence fee? That is the difficulty I have. I ask the Minister to come back on that and I will read over with interest what he has to say on it.

For that and other reasons, this measure is almost unimplementable. I have been reading through the Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum and I have great difficulty with parts of them. Maybe because it was a quick reading I did not interpret it properly, but the idea of the different licences and the need for having licences for any kind of fishing creates a number of problems for me that perhaps the Minister could explain. If I am at the seaside next summer with a number of my children and I want to show them how to fish, as many parents have done time and again, and if I put a line on a bamboo cane and a hook on the end of it, and if I bait the hook and throw that line into the water — and this is the only day of the year that I will ever fish — am I breaking the law?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

You want to be careful with the bait, Senator.

I am holding the rod, I am the one who is dropping it in, but would I be breaking the law if I go fishing for pinkeens off a rock in Dingle or Portrane? This is an issue I want to raise.

I know it is not the practice to interrupt on Second Stage but if the Senator thinks my officials should not consult at any point——

Not at all.

The Senator can fish for pinkeens not alone one day in the year, but 365 days in the year. The only Christmas present I can give him is to say it will cost him nothing.

That is very clear but I do not understand how, within the legislation, that actually can be done if I am fishing without a licence. I would like the Minister to refer to the section under which I can do that because I do not believe it is there.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator O'Toole, without interruption.

I am pleased that you protect me. I always sense the need for protection in this Chamber. I appreciate it because I often do not get that support. I am not talking about the juvenile licences. I know if I handed the rod over to one of my five progeny that they would be quite all right. But I would hate to be looking around for a bailiff and, if I saw one coming, to hand the line to one of the children. I want to know whether I am entitled to demonstrate how to fish so that my children will know what they should be doing, not that I was ever a great fishing person. I struggled at it and did a little bit as I went along. The Minister tells me definitely that I can go fishing. That is fine. Does the same thing apply to fishing in a stream?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Would Senator O'Toole make his speech without inviting interruptions.

I appreciate the fact that the Minister came in so quickly on it and he will refer to the section when he concludes, which says I can take Ruain, Aoife, Sorcha, Donnacha and Áine——


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Would Senator O'Toole make his speech, without interruption, please?

I admit I have only read this Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum once and I could be wrong about this but I want to be reassured that I could not be fined £500 and/or sentenced to two years in prison for teaching my children how to fish. The Minister has assured me that that cannot happen. Similarly, if I were to go fishing in a stream with a trout licence and if, because I use the wrong hook, bait or whatever, I manage not to catch a trout but something else for which I did not have a licence — say, a perch or pike — and if a bailiff were to come ambling along the bank just as I was landing the fish — while it was under the water I would not know what it was, and ignorance being no excuse in the eyes of the law — does that leave me liable to a fine of £500 and/or two years imprisonment?

I have just mentioned two or three points in this Bill which will give me sleepless nights. Innocent people are being exposed to fines of up to £500 and/or imprisonment of up to two years, because they are enjoying themselves.

I am unconvinced that we need this Bill because I think it will affect our tourism industry. It reinforces the divided society. A sum of £10 or £20 is small money for those of us who have managed to survive and exploit the system, but it is a lot of money for people who have to find it and this fee will create difficulties for those people. These are two main groups I am concerned about — the tourism industry and the socially or economically disadvantaged members of our society.

I have said time and again that the worst kind of legislation is that which is not implementable. Unless I can be reassured on a number of points, I do not believe this legislation can be implemented, that it is necessary and that it is fair. I would ask the Minister to reconsider whether we need to have this dramatic change in the laws governing licensing. I find it extraordinary that a Government who talk fairly regularly about things like privatisation and deregulation, at a time when deregulation seems to be the God towards which we should all be bowing, are introducing more and, to my mind, unnecessary regulation. I would ask the Minister to reconsider these points and I will listen to his response with some interest.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo atá tugtha isteach ag an Aire ar son an Rialtais. Tá mé ag ceapadh gurb é an rud is suntasaí faoi ná, le blianta fada go raibh go leor de na clubanna iascaireachta seo ar tud na tíre ag cuartú airgid ón chiste lár ionas go mbeadh siad in ann leanúint ar aghaidh leis an córas iascaireachta atá acu féin, agus anois go dtugann an Bille airgead go háitiúil do na boird atá ann agus cead ansin do na clubanna iascaireachta dul ar aghaidh agus airgead a fháil ó na boird chun cabhrú leis an iascaireacht.

There is just one item I want to mention. In the Connemara area we have quite a few lakes which have been totally undeveloped over the past number of years due to the fact that there are not many angling clubs there. Many of these lakes and rivers are being taken over by major companies which are using them as hatcheries, and some of them are using them for fish farms. I am worried that some of these fish farms and hatcheries are very prone to disease and from disease we get pollution.

I would like to see some control of the lakes where these fish farms and hatcheries are, and, in particular, control of those fish farms and hatcheries which are under the private scheme.

There have been many complaints about lack of finance and the Minister has thrown the ball back down to the local regional boards. The main thrust of this is that he is allowing them to hold onto the finance which they collect. That is a very important move because the money collected by a local authority in motor tax goes right back into the Central Fund. The local fisheries boards can hold onto this money and it will be up to them to ensure that this money is collected and ploughed back to help the fishing industry. That will help the tourism industry in the long term.

However, £40 for a licence for a tourist is quite substantial. There should be some sort of allowance made to try to entice in more of these fishermen. A substantial number of them come from Wales and England and most of them would tell you that they come here because our lakes and rivers are pollution free. Because of the pollution from fish farms and other industries I am worried that this will not be so in years to come.

The Minister said that people under 18 years of age and over 65 years of age will be exempt from having to have a licence. We have high unemployment at present and I ask the Minister to consider letting the unemployed have free access to the rivers and lakes because I am sure many of these people who have a lot of leisure time would be interested in fishing but they could not afford to pay for a licence. It would be a good pastime for those people. I welcome the Bill generally but I am worried about the pollution from fish farms and hatcheries.

I welcome the Bill. As Senator McCormack rightly pointed out. we have not exploited our inland waterways to their full potential. They are a great potential source of wealth. There is fishing second to none in the Boyne and Blackwater rivers and in many of the lakes in north Meath. There are good fishing waters in the Cavan area also in Lough Ramor, Lough Sheelin, which hopefully will be back to its best in the near future, Mullagh Lake and all the other lakes in that area.

As I mentioned before in this House, I live in Kells on the main Cavan to Dublin road and one way of guaging the success of the tourist season is to go out in the morning and see the number of cars with small boats and fishing gear on their roofs passing through the town on their way to Cavan and north Meath. Unfortunately, in recent years they have not been as plentiful as they might have been but during the past year there was a marked improvement in the number of cars and I am glad of that. The hotels and guesthouses in those areas depend to an extent on the fishing potential in that region and the money brought by that business permeates through the whole society.

The problems in the fishing industry have been mentioned already by a number of Senators. Pollution can overnight, and indeed in a matter of a few hours, destroy the fish life in rivers and undo the work of years. Hopefully we have reached the stage where that problem is under control. Diseases and drainage works, which have been condemned to some extent also cause damage to fish life. A scheme was undertaken on the Boyne and Blackwater rivers and I must pay tribute to the Office of Public Works for the way the rivers were restored. By and large the angling clubs and fishermen are very satisfied that a good job was done. The spawning beds have been restored. Stretches of the rivers differ from traditional rivers which meander along and some now look like canals. Nevertheless this is satisfactory from the point of view of fishing.

Poaching has always been a big problem and it is one of which people like me who were brought up in rural areas would be very conscious. I am sure it is a problem that still exists to some extent. I do not live in a rural area any more but, as a child I saw stretches of rivers denuded of their fish overnight by some individuals who achieved notoriety and were famous because of their poaching. It is a difficult job to patrol the rivers. I understand the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board will have to let ten employees go this year and this is unfortunate.

At present there is a lady fishery inspector in the Kells area and she does a very good job but she has an almost impossible task. She is a fishery officer and a water pollution officer. In addition she runs a hatchery in Virginia which was closed by the Department but which was taken over by a joint council of the Boyne anglers and is now operating very successfully. In effect what is going to happen is that there will be nobody to patrol any of the rivers from Bailieborough to Navan. I think it was Senator Eogan who said that the allocations to the fisheries boards have been reduced by £1.8 million and I hope this is not so.

This Bill deals with licences. I have met representatives of the fishing and angling clubs in Kells and I understand they are in full agreement with this Bill and the charges for licences. Even if only £500,000 is collected I am sure it will be put to good use. I would be interested to hear further about the mechanics of the collection of the fees for the licences. This is a problem and on Committee Stage we can go into it in more detail.

I have referred before in this House to coarse fishing and angling. In my young days fishing referred to coarse fishing and angling referred to trout and salmon fishing. They are more or less interchangeable now. The point I want to make is that salmon caught by net are sold for £2 per lb. I made the case before that every salmon caught by a tourist is worth several hundred pounds and a recent survey by Bord Fáilte came to the conclusion that such a salmon was worth £740 and in many instances coarse fish such as pike, roach and perch could be valued at £1,000 per lb.

In order to develop our fishing potential further we must guarantee that there are fish in the rivers. We have no way of controlling the sun but I understand that with regard to fishing the weather is not very important. When angling tourists come to this country they want to fish in the rivers. Like other Members, I would like to see free fishing available but I am not sure that something is appreciated when it is free. It is important that fish are available in the rivers and if this Bill achieves that purpose, it will have done a good days work.

I agree with Senator O'Connor that perhaps some way should be found of allowing people who are unemployed to fish without licences or at reduced charges. Poaching by people from Northern Ireland in our lakes and rivers constitutes a real problem. I agree with Senator Doyle that if some way could be found with regard to a deferral of charges for tourists in the coming year it would be helpful. Mention was made with regard to restrictions on fishing in private waters. That problem is evident in County Meath. There are stretches of river convenient to the town of Kells that are owned privately. People in the area do not have the right to fish in these rivers. That is wrong. Everybody should be free to fish where they like, particularly when this Bill becomes law and they will have licences to fish.

Section 12 refers to removing salmon from a river, no matter what way they are caught. It is an offence if, for example, somebody gets a salmon which has been caught by an otter. It seems that is the implication of that section. It could possibly be a mistake to include that measure in the Bill. As a young boy I walked along the river on many occasions and got salmon that were killed by otters. People who come from rural areas will know that others eat a small portion of the salmon only.

People under 18 years or over 66 years will not have to pay a licence fee. I appreciate that. Perhaps young people over 18 years of age and attending third level or second level educational institutions should also have a right to fish without licences.

Finally, as the Minister has said, sea fishing has great potential. On many occasions in the past I have gone to Clogherhead in the autumn and the pier there is always overcrowded. It seems that no effort has been made to arrange boats or to arrange some proper way of coping with the crowds who come there to fish for mackerel. I agree with the Minister that there is tremendous scope in that area. As I have said, I have discussed this Bill with senior representatives of the angling fraternity in Kells and they are satisfied with it.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí go léir a tháinig anseo inniu agus a thaispeáin an tsuim atá acu san tionscal seo agus na Bhille seo chun Acht 1959 a leasú. Déanfaidh mise mo dhícheall freagraí a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna éagsúla a chuir Seanadóirí. Cuireann sé áthas mór orm chomh maith gur chaith na Comhaltaí oiread sin ama ag plé na ceiste seo in ainneoin go bhfuil sé chomh gar sin don Nollaig agus go mba mhaith leo bheith sa bhaile nó ar a mbealach abhaile go dtí a gceantair féin agus go dtí a dteaghlaigh chun an Nollaig a chaitheamh leo.

First, I am pleased at the number of Senators who have remained here today to contribute to the Bill before us, the Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1987, which relates to the introduction of licences for trout and coarse angling on our rivers and lakes. It is particularly gratifying, at this late hour on a Friday evening and so near Christmas when many people are on their way home to their constituencies and families, that Senators with a particular interest in this Bill have remained here. I would like to pay a particular tribute to all of them.

Many of the Senators raised very interesting points, many of them raised similar points and I will try to deal with them as best I can. In response to the query by Senator MacCormack regarding the long title of the Bill which he read out, this is not something which was prepared by me but by the parliamentary draftsman and approved by the Attorney General. Need I say any further than they would have tried to ensure that it would have been a much shorter version if that were possible.

The 21 day licence which was referred to was directed specifically to tourist anglers. I would like at the outset to refer to the various licence fees. One would get the impression that they are so exorbitant that they will have a great effect on the tourist industry, that if this Bill is enacted on 1 January 1988 immediately the message will go out to the world, in particular to the UK and to the Continent, that there has been a substantial increase in some fishing licences, particularly salmon licences and that there is a new licence fee for coarse angling.

One of the reasons we have decided to introduce this Bill is that trout and coarse fish anglers benefit very substantially from State expenditure on the development and protection of our trout and coarse fisheries. There should be some contribution towards the cost of such development.

People have mentioned golf and various other sports. Let us for a minute pause and draw a few simple comparisons. If one wants to play one day's golf — not 21 days' golf — the fees range from £12 to £18. If one went to any football match the admission fee would vary from £1 to £5 for an hour or an hour and a half's entertainment. I do not think any of us here would know precisely what it costs to go to a film because politicians do not have the opportunity to avail of this leisure time but, having checked with some people who do have such an opportunity, I found it costs £4 to £5 and much more to go to the theatre. Is there any comparison between that and a day's fishing — not alone one day's fishing but 21 days fishing. If we do not want to sell this industry abroad, a very simple catch phrase can be used to those who want to use the 21 days licence for coarse fishing: "Fish in Ireland 24 hours of the day for 24p a day", and that is precisely the choice we are introducing.

This House like the lower House passed the Estimates and realised that we have a serious problem in this country which has been going on for a number of years. We must try and reverse it. We could have given £3.8 million to the Central Fisheries Board to run both the board and the regional boards in 1988. While I can be contradicted, I wonder how many references were made to the £1 million and what suggestions were made as to where further moneys could be raised. All politicians should be responsible. We can all fly kites and take the popular stance and say there should be no charges for anything. People here today suggested that there should be no charges for this but I have yet to hear in this House a suggestion as to where the finance should come from. We have this right across the board. We have got to be responsible and if we say that there will be £.5 million less for the boards if we do not introduce this, let us have suggestions on where the money should come from, realistic suggestions, not some of the unrealistic suggestions which are made by politicians and, indeed, many people outside the House.

The cost of coarse fishing per day for 21 days is 24p. The yearly one is 3p. For 21 days fishing for trout it is 48p. The yearly one is 4p. Salmon fishing for 21 days is £1. I sincerely hope that everyone will go out to fish for salmon over the 21 days. Indeed, I am told that it is not the actual catching of the salmon — it certainly adds to it — but actually spending the day at the side of the river that costs £1 approximately per day. Over the year it is 7p per day and the composite licence to which anyone is entitled costs 11p per day. Those are the facts. I appreciate — and I do not want Senators to get me wrong — the psychology that is attached to it. For very many years we had free fishing in Ireland and people came here as a result of that.

I should remind the House that, long before Senator Mooney and many others were born, the salmon licence fee was introduced and I have not seen it as being detrimental to the inland fisheries or to tourism. All Senators should appreciate fully that this is not a means of raising taxes for the Exchequer to dispense in other ways; it is a means of raising a tax to supplement the millions which the taxpayer and not the Government, pay towards inland fisheries. If we are to suggest that there should be no increase in this, in effect what we are suggesting is that the hard pressed taxpayer should be paying more moneys to supplement this £3.8 million which is being paid.

I was glad to hear Senator McCormack suggest that it could be much higher than £500,000. Lest there be any ambiguity about it, there is no suggestion here that if we reach £500,000 that goes to the boards and anything in addition goes to the Exchequer. The solemn commitment I gave I repeat: all of the money raised by way of fees will go to the various regional boards in which they are collected. It was also suggested that the fee should be £21 for 21 days and £25 annually. Then is it suggested that we make it £25 and give everyone an annual one? I suggest that we should leave it.

I would welcome it if we could increase it, but I think it would be unrealistic and I do not think it was the point that Senator McCormack made. The point he made was that the extra £4 was barely worth collecting and it should all be £21. That £21 is relatively cheap and anyone who lives in the country, or who wants to come back to the country a number of times throughout the year for an additional £4, can fish throughout the year for this. It is the same on a pro rata basis as far as trout fishing and coarse fishing are concerned.

Senator McCormack referred to the resistance out there by the public to this. There will always be resistance to any increase but on this one a solemn commitment has been given that this will be for the benefit of the industry, to develop our fisheries, to protect the fisheries, to curb pollution. This is where the money is going. It is in the best interests of these people and there is no point in enticing tourists to return to Ireland year after year if the rivers become more polluted, if there are less fish in the rivers and if we stop any development of our fisheries. There is no point in inviting them to Ireland, this beautiful Ireland, the lakes and rivers of Ireland if the number of fish is decreasing each year.

I would say to Members of this House and to the Members of the lower House who, incidentally, passed this by a vast majority, that if the Government feel it is right to introduce this type of legislation for the common good, we should do it. Having taken advice, of course, which we did in consultation with the Department of Tourism and Transport, this was circulated. We got observations. We in the Department of the Marine who have responsibility for the development of inland resources must take an overall view because, as everyone in public life will realise at any level, there is no way that there can be unanimity. We have a responsibility to take the overall view and introduce the type of legislation which we feel is right.

If my explanations are not acceptable to Senators they can tease it further out on Committee Stage. All of us have a duty to sell this to those who oppose it most.

I very much appreciate the points made by all Senators, particularly those from Leitrim. Indeed, I was awaiting an amendment that it was so important to Leitrim that Leitrim should be exempted from it. That is not possible. It is important to the country as a whole, vitally important to the economy and if we as a Government thought — if I and the Minister for the Marine thought — that this would be detrimental to the industry and to the economy, we would not introduce it. We are doing it because we feel it is the one way of extracting this extra finance which is going to the boards and that those who can enjoy 21 days at 24p a day, fishing 24 hours a day will gladly contribute towards it. In the long run it is to their own advantage and their own benefit. It is vitally important to various regions of the country.

The midlands and part of the Northwest were mentioned. At times it is gratifying to go through County Cavan and stop in a particular restaurant where one hears more German being spoken than Irish or English. This indicates to me the importance of fishing to tourism in that area. I doubt if the extra 11 pence per day would buy a mixer for a drink of spirits. I think we are over-reacting to the introduction of this charge. There would be greater criticism of the Department if we did not introduce some form of licensing. It was not accepted some years ago because of indecisiveness and trying to appease the minority instead of trying to do what is right for the industry and the common good.

Senator Mooney referred to a letter in The Irish Times of yesterday regarding the cost of a licence in Holland and in some other continental countries. In Holland a licence costing £2 entitles a person to fish for all species of fish, while a similar licence in Germany cost £3 last year. I have gone through this prior to the debate and have not seen any reference to quantity and quality which we can so proudly brag of in our respective areas. He also referred to a query to my Department which I will pursue.

The Central Fisheries Board would have realised that this Bill was being introduced, but before a Bill is circulated it has to be approved by the Government. That may have well been the reason for the Central Fisheries Board saying that they were not aware of it. I cannot go along with the suggestion that the Central Fisheries Board are to be disbanded at the end of this year. That is not to say they will not be disbanded. I will refer to that at a later stage.

Certainly free fishing is synonymous with coarse and trout fishing in the lakes and rivers of Ireland. What better catchphrase could we have than "fish in Ireland 24 hours a day for 21 days at 24p a day"? Compare that to green fees, entrance to football matches or films. Salmon fees were there long before some of the Senators were born and we have seen no great difficulty.

As far as I and my Minister are concerned, there is no question of locking the door. I have said time and time again that we are interested in consultation with Members of both Houses and all in the industry. If there are any problems they want to discuss with us, we are there to assist. We should also remember that there were cases under the existing law before the court in Manorhamilton a few weeks ago. The only complaint I got from public representatives was that the court was too severe on people polluting our rives and lakes. We cannot have it both ways.

Senator Mooney made a statement the phraseology of which would need of be corrected. He said that the Minister is aware of gangsters who are fishing illegally. If any Minister was aware of gangsters who were fishing illegally he would not be worthy of being a Minister of State. What he meant was that Ministers are aware that certain individuals may be fishing illegally. If the Minister knew the House could be quite sure that——

Maybe the Senator would inform him.

——action would be taken very quickly. Senator Doyle referred to a meeting of the Eastern Health Board which he attended recently. As I said earlier, the Minister for Tourism and Transport was consulted in relation to the introduction of the licences and the views of the Minister were taken into account when reaching a decision on the range of licences that should be required.

A number of Senators made the reasonable suggestion that tourists should be exempt during the year 1988. Prior to the debate in the Seanad we spent many long hours into the early hours of the morning looking at the various groups that could be exempted. The only groups which we felt we could exempt, because we could define them without any difficulty, were those under 18 and over 65. I do not go along with the view of a Senator who suggested that those over 65 should be able to afford this. I feel that we should introduce this exemption and it is one which has been welcomed. If we were to exempt all of the groups suggested here there would be no point in introducing this legislation. It would be extremely difficult to define "tourists" going from, say, from Donegal to Cavan. It is also very difficult to define "students". This has to be introduced for the whole community. If we were to exempt various groups the administrative costs would then be greater that the actual income.

I would say to Senator Eogan that if the Bill is enacted the Department will insert advertisements in the daily newspapers and angling magazines explaining the licensing system in a simple way for the information of trout and coarse fish anglers. A question was raised in relation to riparian rights. The position will be precisely the same as in regard to salmon and we have seen no difficulties over the years as far as that is concerned.

This money will be used for protection and development and the curbing of pollution in order to assist the industry. While no one could be so naive as to give a categoric assurance, we will do our utmost to ensure that this legislation will be implemented and policed. I recall that there was a case in Limerick recently where a person was taken before the courts, charged and convicted and made responsible for restocking a particular river.

It is also important to note that Ministers from the Departments of the Marine, the Environment, Tourism and Transport and Agriculture and Food have set up a working committee and that the Minister for the Environment will be introducing legislation. Working groups are advising the Ministers. My Department will also ensure that penalties will be increased.

There was reference to those under 18 years and over 66 years of age. Suffice it to say that those exempt under the provisions of this Bill can be required to produce documentary evidence. We cannot do anything about that requirement. One cannot determine a person's age by looking at them. For example, a bus pass or any other such evidence of a documentary nature would be acceptable.

I was glad to hear from Senator O'Callaghan that he derives quite a substantial amount of income from this industry, that he does not feel that the provisions of this Bill will have the serious effects some Members believe they will have. He said the days of the free lunches are over. This is not a question of extracting fees from people to put them into the national exchequer and dispense with those funds in other ways. I cannot reiterate often enough that all of these moneys — not limited to £500,000 but hopefully, as Senator McCormack said, it will be much higher bearing in mind the prospective 100,000 trout anglers, 10,000 coarse fish anglers and 3,000 tourist anglers whose fishing activities should generate a much larger income — will be put back into the coffers of the central and regional fisheries boards.

There will be no question of additional staff being deployed. The provisions will be operated in the same way as those in respect of a salmon licence. It will not be a question of having to travel to the headquarters of the regional fisheries boards, such as Ballyshannon for all the north-west, or Ballina or Galway in order to purchase licences. These licences will be available in many shops, hotels and tourist offices throughout the regions. If we foresee any difficulty in that respect we shall extend those facilities. We will be anxious to ensure that anybody can obtain a licence seven days of the week. If there are any difficulties encountered in that respect we will act very speedily to ensure that the licences are available.

Dúirt an Seanadóir de Buitleár — fear a bhfuil an-suim aige san timpeallacht — gur dóigh leis go mbeidh daoine sásta an ceadúnas seo a íoc os rud é go bhfuil siad ag fáil cothrom na Féinne. Tá súil agam go mbeidh na daoine seo ag fáil cothrom na Féinne agus go mbeidh an £.5 mhilliún seo ar a laghad ag dul ar ais chuig na boird reigiúnacha iascaigh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé níos mó ná sin agus má tá, beidh siad ag fáil níos mó ná cothrom na Féinne, más féidir é sin a rá. Chaith an Stát £4.813 mhilliún anuraidh ar iascaireacht.

These cuts were absolutely necessary. All Departments have had to swallow the bitter pill. We had to devise ways and means of effecting cutbacks but we decided we could reduce our expenditure by £1 million without having to find this money elsewhere. As public representatives, we can sell this to the public on the grounds that it is in the best interests of all concerned. There was reference to the cost of a brown trout licence. The maximum fee for a trout licence is £15.

I refer to the Ministerial committee set up to curb the incidence of pollution. I can assure Senators that no time will be wasted in this respect. Senator J. O'Toole felt that the introduction of these licence fees could be detrimental and spell the death knell for the fishing industry. I cannot accept that view. I go along with those who appreciate that their imposition is necessary and that it constitutes a cheap form of entertainment. It is a natural resource from which many benefit. He referred to the necessity to consider granting a general hotel licence for guests. We examined all of these possibilities but ascertained that that would not be possible. We have not done an exact calculation in regard to collection costs. I might add that the administrative system is already in place. Therefore, the costs should be minimal.

Senator O'Toole who said he had read the Bill several times referred to the time he spends with his children on the seafront. He asked whether he would be committing a crime if one of his children or he himself had a rod, line and bait and cast it into the sea. That is the only Christmas present I can bring to the House today. It does not cost anything to do that. We are talking here about inland fisheries, not sea fisheries. Therefore, he can take all his children to the sea. I might add that it is even a cheaper form of entertainment if people want to engage in it.

I am gratified at the responsible attitude of the Members of this House in relation to fines. In the other House the impression was given that if you caught a pike while fishing for a trout you could spend two years in Mountjoy and on conviction on indictment could be fined a maximum penalth of £2,000. That sort of irresponsible attitude, particularly on the part of people who should know better — by people in the legal profession who tried to introduce a red herring — is regrettable. They should know better. That is the maximum fine. It is contained in the provisions of the Consolidation Act, 1959, and its imposition is at the discretion of the courts. I might reiterate that if a person is fishing for salmon or trout and lands a pike or a perch then the same obtains as has been the case since the salmon licences were introduced. I have yet to hear of a case where anybody was brought to court, fined £500, and sentenced to two years in jail for catching a perch while fishing for salmon. All of those people who fish as a sport would throw that type of fish back into the water. I would be very interested to hear of any case where such penalties were imposed.

Senator Ó Conchubhair referred to the difficulties that might be encountered in 1988. While I might like to concede to his request my advice is that it is not possible and would be very difficult to implement. Senator Fitzsimmons referred to the importance of this activity generally to the economy. It is of vital importance. With this extra finance we will do our utmost to curb pollution and overcome the poaching problem. The question of riparian rights was raised. They can be taken into consideration. If one has riparian rights then one has to have a licence unless one is under 18 or over 66 years of age.

The objective of this Bill is to provide a more equitable way by which funds for the future development and protection of our inland fisheries will be available. The Minister and I, since our appointment to the Department of the Marine, have taken the question of inland fisheries very seriously.

The Department of the Marine have taken the question of inland fisheries very seriously. Despite the reservations of many Senators, we will find that this will improve the situation. However Senators vote in relation to this, when we leave this House we have a duty and an obligation to build up this industry. If I can give any further explanations at this Stage and on Committee Stage I will be only too pleased to do that.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.