Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1999: Second Stage.

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

This Bill sets out to create a new framework for inland fisheries. Our inland fisheries resource is a precious national asset in its own right and in terms of the social and economic benefits it brings to local communities and to the country as a whole. The inclusive management, conservation and development of the resource to the highest standards is my overall policy objective.

This is a forward-looking agenda for change reflecting the interests and responsibilities of all concerned. It is a carefully balanced package designed to empower all concerned at local and regional level. It will deliver on the accepted need for new directions in the management, organisation and service delivery of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards. The new framework for the boards and the co-operative societies, combined with the establishment of the National Salmon Management Commission, is the most significant initiative for the inland fisheries sector for 20 years. The reform of the structures reflects the process of change in the public service and local government. It also reflects the evolution in thinking in recent years about inland fisheries development and conservation, and recognises the importance of environment, regional development, tourism, heritage and biodiversity.

The framework will devolve responsibility to local level through the regional fisheries boards, the co-operatives and clubs. It underpins the vital contribution of all local fisheries interests to the development of the resource. The philosophy underlying my approach, therefore, is firmly based on the principles of devolution, subsidiarity, partnership and quality service delivery.

I wish to outline for the Seanad the substantive provisions of the Bill and the thinking which underlies my proposals for change. The Bill provides for clarified and enhanced functions for the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards. The need to re-define and clarify those roles has been obvious for many years. It is first and foremost in the interests of the boards, their committed staff, and all who have a stake in inland fisheries.

The Central Fisheries Board will have a pivotal national role in policy advice, strategic planning and development and in providing specialist co-ordination and support services for the regional boards. It will have explicit responsibility for the co-ordination and delivery of multi-annual strategic plans, the overall supervision of EU and other funding schemes, and in co-operation with Bord Fáilte, the delivery of overseas marketing and promotion strategies for tourism angling. The central board will, therefore, deliver on the national policy dimension of inland fisheries. It will also ensure delivery of crosscutting services to ensure optimum resource deployment, accountability and corporate governance. The central and regional boards collectively employ over 400 people and are funded largely by the Exchequer and EU to the tune of over £16 million per annum.

I have also secured in the national development plan £24 million for the development of inland fisheries for tourism and also for recreational purposes. This is a significant funding envelope for the period of the plan. The involvement of the regional boards, angling clubs and co-ops in the planning and expenditure of this funding will be critical to its success. The Bill provides for that. New standards of service delivery, reporting and accountability in line with modern public service norms are also provided for in the Bill.

The functions and roles of the regional fisheries boards are significantly enhanced in the Bill. The boards will have front-line responsibility for management, conservation, protection and development of inland fisheries and angling in their regions. They will have a new pivotal role in leading a voluntary process of inland fisheries catchment management with angling clubs and other interests. This reflects new thinking about the integrated nature of fisheries with the environment and local activity generally. I will expand further on this point later. The boards will also have explicit responsibilities for sustainable development, biodiversity and heritage, which again reflects the evolution of thinking at national and international level. The boards will work together in a new form of regional co-operation and shared responsibility. This reflects the essential shared nature of the resource.

I am providing for a new role for the regional boards in the acquisition and management of State fisheries subject at all times to ministerial approval. Senators will recall that earlier this year I oversaw the transfer of the Moy fishery to the North-Western Regional Fisheries Board. This was the first practical step towards the new model of subsidiarity which will ensure management of our valuable State fisheries assets is undertaken by those best placed to manage and develop them. I include the long established network of salmon, trout and coarse angling clubs in that context.

Overall my proposals deliver the correct balance between national and regional priorities. The Bill will empower the regional boards, their executives and local fisheries interests with exciting new remits which reflect the latest thinking on sustainability, responsive and answerable to local priorities and needs.

The Bill provides for revised composition of the regional boards to achieve a more appropriate balance of fisheries and other relevant interests. My proposals on membership were designed to underpin the new functions and reinforce the links with other local stakeholders. They are also designed to maintain the local democratic nature of the boards. My proposals therefore continue the system whereby local fisheries interests elect representatives to the boards in addition to appointment of agriculture, tourism, aquaculture and other relevant interests.

Since I published the Bill on 5 November there has been a generally positive response to the strategic concept, including the clarified functions and roles of the regional boards. There is general agreement that the direction is broadly the right one. As public debate on the Bill developed it became clear that there were six key areas which gave rise to particular concerns – the levels of elected fisheries representation on the boards; the balance and mix of ministerial appointments to the boards; the place of angling organisations within the new framework; the future of the fisheries co-operative societies; the mechanisms for consultation on the introduction of salmon tagging and the concept of inland fisheries catchment management.

In recent weeks I have met and received submissions from all the angling organisations, commercial fishing interests, central and regional boards and other interests. This consultative phase has been very productive. All the various interests clearly set out their views on changes which they wished to see. There has been close liaison with all the groups in working to reach agreement on a number of key improvements to the Bill.

The Bill has been amended in a number of respects. It now maintains existing levels of representation for salmon, trout and coarse anglers and life members of the Inland Fisheries Trust on the regional boards. It will also maintain the current level of representation for commercial salmon interests. This will ensure the necessary fisheries focus at regional board level.

The chairpersons of the regional boards will continue to be elected by all board members. This in line with the clearly expressed preference of the majority of those concerned. The Bill now provides for the prescribing of organisations representing agriculture, aquaculture, the environment, regional tourism, the natural heritage and regional/local development. These organisations will nominate members for appointment.

I have inserted a provision which uniquely recognises and copperfastens in statute the particular role and contribution of angling clubs and associations in inland fisheries development. The Bill also provides for an enhanced public consultative process on any scheme for salmon tagging which the National Salmon Management Commission might recommend.

The existing arrangements for the fisheries co-operatives whereby trout and coarse angling share certificate holders elect five members to their committees are being retained. There will be one nominated regional board staff member and one ministerial nominee to the co-operative committees. Making share certificates compulsory will remain an option for co-operatives to decide on themselves.

The provision in relation to catchment management has been amended to clarify comprehensively and ensure confidence in what is intended. The lead role of the regional boards in encouraging catchment management plans with local fisheries interests has been made explicit. The provision also spells out clearly that catchment management is a voluntary and incremental process which must take account of specific and unique factors or circumstances pertaining in each catchment area.

Catchment management has stimulated a great deal of discussion and debate in the last two weeks. Much of the debate has been positive but concerns have been expressed by some angling groups. The Bill sets out to facilitate a catchment management process where and when it is agreed to be potentially beneficial. Catchment management is a simple practical concept. It brings together all the local stakeholders to work in partnership, overcome problems and improve the resource. Catchment management is still at an embryonic stage, although well developed abroad. I have made it clear that catchment management in the Irish context must take account of the highly complex factors which have traditionally characterised our inland fisheries ownership management and access. The difficulties which have arisen in the Killarney pilot project exemplify the need for an open, patient and facilitating approach to developing a range of future options. This will be the approach across the board.

These readily agreed changes to the Bill will deliver confidence and certainty about the overall directions. This is a framework for positive change and empowerment all the way around. Everyone agreed on the need for new directions. The Bill delivers those new and positive directions to the benefit of all.

The Bill provides for a modern rebalanced structure for the Central Fisheries Board reflecting its national role and the norms on State boards. A direct link with the regional boards will be maintained through the nominations of a chairperson and a chief executive of a regional board. Two members will be nominated by the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. This reflects the links between fisheries, the environment and heritage and biodiversity. Three ministerial nominees with relevant professional or business expertise will contribute a new focus to the board's work. Central board staff will nominate a board member also. The board membership is designed to position the board and its executive to deliver on its core mandates of policy planning and advice and specialist services.

The trout and coarse fish co-operative societies review group report made wide ranging recommendations for change. It is now clear that a majority would prefer to continue the existing structures. I am happy to respect their view. The funding and accounting mechanism will channel matching Exchequer funding for co-operative projects through the regional boards. This will facilitate better administration and accountability. It will also help to integrate the co-operatives more closely with the mainstream of regional fisheries development.

The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Salmon Management Commission in line with the recommendations of the task force. The commission will advise on salmon management policy and strategies and will take forward the detailed work on the salmon tagging scheme. The commission will have 16 members nominated by the relevant organisations and four other nominees. The angling organisations have already sent in their nominations for the commission and I will shortly confirm nominations from the commercial salmon netting interests. The commission will ensure consensus on future national salmon strategies. This new consultative and advisory forum will directly complement the work of the central and regional fisheries boards as well as the Marine Institute.

Section 29 provides for waiving of the payment by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara of interest unpaid, including interest on interest unpaid, under sections 20 and 21 of the Sea Fisheries Act, 1952. These technical provisions will enable interest charges payable by BIM as a result of bad debts associated with loans to fishermen in the past to be waived, thus addressing the long standing imbalance on the balance sheet of BIM. The oil crises of the late 1970s and early 1980s and high interest rates caused severe financial difficulties for fishing vessel owners. Many found themselves unable to make repayments on BIM loans. In certain cases loans were deemed irrecoverable. While the level of irrecoverable debt was revised substantially upwards in the late 1980s, the necessary waivers were not provided in order to balance BIM's debt position. The BIM balance sheet at 31 October 1999 shows a large technical imbalance between repayments due to the Exchequer on advances made to BIM and the value of loans due to BIM by fishermen. The sum of £13.6 million is technically due by BIM to the Exchequer, while the value of loans is just £3.9 million. This leaves an imbalance of £9.7 million. Finance sanction was granted last month to waive the repayment of advances amounting to £9.7 million.

Existing legislation can only be used to waive the repayment of future interest and does not provide for the waiver of interest arrears. Approximately £4 million in interest arrears is now due by BIM. As interest is charged on interest arrears, the latter will continue to accumulate substantially unless action is taken. This provision will clear these interest arrears once and for all.

Section 30 amends the Marine Institute Act, 1991, to extend the institute's functions to include matters relating to shipping and shipping services. I am also establishing, within the Marine Institute, the Irish Maritime Development Office as a development and promotional agency for the Irish shipping and services sector. Locating the office initially within the Marine Institute is a highly cost effective option, as well as providing major strategic opportunities for both organisations.

The establishment of a dedicated development agency for the promotion and development of our shipping industry and onshore shipping services sector, is a milestone for the industry. With 95 per cent of our trade carried by sea, there are real opportunities to develop the Irish fleet, consolidate and develop employment at sea and onshore, attract ships to the Irish Ship Register and improve the shipping services sector.

It is forecast that there will be a major growth in world shipping over the next 15 years. Seaborne trade is set to expand exponentially. Much of the world's shipping tonnage is due to be replaced over the next ten to 15 years. Corresponding increases in related services are also predicted.

Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of these trends. These opportunities include acquisition and operation of additional tonnage, and financing new and second-hand ships, building on the proven success of the Irish Financial Services Centre.

The remit of the office will be to promote and assist the development of Irish shipping and Irish shipping services, in conformity with the EU guidelines on State aid for maritime transport, to promote Ireland as a centre for ship registration, to develop and implement a strategic framework for the shipping industry and its ancillary services sector, and to liaise with and support the industry, and advise on policy initiatives and the overhaul of the legislative and fiscal framework for merchant shipping so as to underpin development and generate employment.

There will be full consultation with the shipping and shipping services industry in the formulation and implementation of the development plans. I am setting up an advisory group to the IMDO and I will shortly appoint its chairman and members, including representatives from the shipping and shipping services sector and the IDA.

I want the IMDO to be fully operational by the millennium. I will work closely with the Marine Institute to deliver jobs and create a new confidence within the shipping industry to encourage investment and innovation.

The Bill has been further amended to underline, for the avoidance of doubt, that seafarer training may be one of the policy matters for implementation by the IMDO. This is a necessary adjunct to the IMDO's remit, given the critical importance of seafarer training in shipping development and the upcoming development of a new national maritime college.

I commend the Bill to the Seanad and look forward to hearing the views of the Senators. I wish to request that a clerk's correction be made to the Bill as passed by Dáil Éireann. Section 2 of the Bill deals with interpretation and provides that the "Act of 1980" means Fisheries Act, 1980. Unfortunately, an error has occurred in the Long Title of the Bill whereby the Act in question is referred to as the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1980. In view of the urgency of this legislation I wish to request the Chathaoirelach to direct the Clerk of the Seanad under Standing Order 121 to make the necessary corrections to the Irish and English Long Title of the Bill.

On a point of order, I would like to hear Standing Order 121 so that I can understand the technicality.

Standing Order 121 states: "During the progress of a Bill corrections of a verbal or formal nature may at any time be made in the Bill by the clerk under the direction of the Cathaoirleach". I direct the clerk to make the correction which has been requested. Before I call Senator Taylor-Quinn could I ask the Deputy Leader if he is proposing a limit on contributions on Second Stage?

Yes. It was not ordered on the Order of Business but I suggest 15 minutes per speaker if that is agreeable.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senators may share if they wish to do so.

I suppose we have no choice in the matter.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will not offer to share my time with Senator Dardis. I will extend such generosity on a future occasion.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome this Bill. Unfortunately, it has arrived very quickly, having just left the Dáil. Because the Bill has been introduced here immediately a technical misprint such as the Minister has referred to is inevitable. This Bill's passage through the Dáil has been extremely helpful to the parties directly affected. When the Bill was first published many people were unhappy with it. It was disappointing that the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources had not engaged in more detailed consultation or had not at least heeded the views of various organisations and groups until the last minute. The Minister met the parties concerned for two hours the morning before the Bill was taken in the Dáil and ironed out many of the difficulties that surfaced with regard to various aspects of it. The Department's officials should remember that matters concerning their Department can cause a lot of difficulties and aggravation and that it is not wise to play puck with fishermen at any stage. It is wiser to listen and respond positively. I am delighted that the Minister has seen the wisdom of taking that line during the course of the debate in the Lower House and has made amendment accordingly to the Bill.

This Bill is important because fisheries, including lakes and rivers, have always been an important factor in Irish life, both within local communities and in more recent years as a source of economic development, particularly in the tourism sector. For that reason it is important that a proper structure and accountability is put in place with regard to the various bodies concerned.

The fisheries boards were established in 1980 within the ambit of the Central Fisheries Board. The reality is that the Central Fisheries Board never stood for or did a lot. Only one or two reports emanated from it over intervening years despite legislation recommending that it should report every five years.

The need to devolve power to the local regions is extremely important. Involvement of local people and people who have a direct interest can only work to the best advantage in the long run. I hope the structures that the Minister has put in place in this Bill will work to the mutual benefit of all concerned.

The powers of the Central Fisheries Board have been diluted as a result of this Bill. That is no harm. I note that it is accountable, to a degree, to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and to the Minister. It can advise the Minister on policy relating to the conservation, protection, management, development and improvement of inland fisheries and the efficient and effective performance by the regional boards of their functions. Definition of the functions of the regional boards needs to be clear. There has been a looseness and a lack of accountability over the years. I hope a more vigilant approach and closer interaction will take place between the Department, the Central Fisheries Board and the regional fisheries board.

If we compare the regional fisheries board and the Central Fisheries Board to health boards the level of interaction is not comparable. That is the reality. They just get on with their business and not many people know about them or what they do. Hopefully, that will change. I am delighted the Minister saw fit to amend the Bill to take into account the specifics relating to the representatives elected to the boards. Maintaining the existing levels of representation for the salmon, trout and coarse anglers is extremely important. These people know their own region, they know exactly what is happening and appreciate the value of fishing locally. Their understanding can assist the administrators and bureaucrats and, working hand in hand can, both parties can work efficiently to expand and improve the inland fisheries across the country.

There have been difficulties. The economic take from inland fishing tourism has declined in recent years due to a number of factors. One is that there has been much pollution, particularly in some of the lakes. Coarse angling and trout angling on some of our rivers and lakes has diminished quite dramatically. In many cases tourists have not come in recent years to rivers and lakes traditionally fished by nationals and non-nationals alike because the level of fish stock has declined so considerably.

I am disappointed that while there will be involvement from the Departments of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and the Environment and Local Government, there will be no representative from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. This Department has a huge input to make in how inland waters will be maintained. It is vital that it should be closely involved. I ask the Minister to examine the involvement of a representative from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development on the boards because many of the present difficulties arise from the agriculture sector.

They also arise from sectors relevant to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Many small towns and villages have no proper sewage treatment systems, no tertiary treatment plants and pollution is caused directly by local authorities. That matter is being addressed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government and much work was done in recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

A lot of work has been done on Lough Derg, for instance, and the water quality has improved. The House debated a report in that regard recently. This matter also concerns Bord na Móna, which is not mentioned in the Bill, yet it is a major contributor according to various reports on pollution in Lough Derg.

These public bodies need to be closely involved because if there is to be development in the rivers and lakes, we must ensure that there is high water quality which is conducive to the life of fish stocks. It is as simple as that. If that is not achieved then we will go nowhere.

It is interesting to note the decline in angling tourism in economic terms over recent years. I am quite familiar with a number of local communities where there was a good tourism sector years ago but where there is now no angling tourism. This is very unsatisfactory. The parties concerned need to be very vigilant to ensure that the tourism continues.

I am delighted that the Minister has stepped back from the position of appointing the chairpersons to the regional boards. Democracy should always take precedence over diktat and in this instance the Minister has wisely seen the need for local democracy and for the local members of the regional boards to elect the chairmen. I commend him on that decision. In this case the Minister left it to the last minute, but at least he responded positively after consultation and he must be commended for that.

In referring to prescribing organisations, the Minister is obviously talking about agricultural organisations. I presume he means ICMSA or IFA or representatives from these organisations?

Teagasc.

Teagasc is included. It is good to have it involved and, indirectly, one comes close to have departmental involvement by having Teagasc advisers involved. That is commendable. I had great concerns about that matter.

On the provision for the angling clubs, the Minister recognises the unique contribution they make to angling and inland fisheries. Their contribution cannot be underestimated because many of these club members work on the rivers and in various hatcheries and spawning grounds, doing all the necessary work, which nobody ever hears about but which can take hours of their time. Angling clubs often spend weekends and even Christmas holidays looking after spawning grounds. This work is not always recognised. One cannot put a cash value on it, yet it is vital to the development of inland fisheries. Over the years these associations have done wonderful work and made a wonderful contribution to their own clubs, to the wider community and to the national economy. It is important they get full and due recognition.

I also hope that in the course of these clubs communicating with the Minister's Department they will meet a less bureaucratic response and approach than they do on some occasions. There should be a recognition of what is involved by the people concerned and that when these people, who are acting on a voluntary basis, contact the Department they should be received in a way that is not too formalised. I am aware of a number of instances when there has been a very formal bureaucratic response. That does not work in these circumstances and I appeal to the Minister to ensure a more understanding and co-operative approach is adopted by his Department. I will not go into the specifics now but I will give the Minister details later.

The enhanced consultative process relating to the salmon tagging is very welcome and has been discussed for quite a long time. Hopefully, the recommendations will be made shortly by the salmon commission.

Share certificate holders will be allowed to elect five members to the committees. This is very welcome. I am delighted that the Minister has seen the wisdom in allowing the share certificate position to remain an option rather than make it compulsory. There was a long history of compulsion in this area which did not go down well and was not successful in he past. The Minister has seen the wisdom of the non-compulsory approach.

Overall the details of the Bill are welcome. We must not underestimate the importance of co-operatives and it is important that the existing structures relating to fisheries, particularly trout and coarse fishing co-operatives, remain in place. It is extremely important.

Section 30 of the Bill amends the Marine Institute Act, 1991, and gives it an additional power or responsibility with regard to shipping and shipping services. This is a very wise move and I am delighted the Minister has taken this initiative. Shipping has been left to various harbour authorities in the past and has been in no man's land. Giving specific responsibility to the Marine Institute is very wise. I hope the Marine Institute will adopt a proactive approach in defining a specific Irish shipping policy and shipping related services. It could be a great industry for the country but it has been an industry for a very select few. It was not considered attractive for many other interests to get involved in. This may have been due in part to the fact that EU funding for mobile assets versus fixed assets had an impact on how people decided to invest their money.

We are the only island nation in the EU. When the EU Commissioner with responsibility for transport addressed this House, we put this point to him. I hope it will be seriously addressed because there is a potential for huge development in this industry. The institute should outline specific policy in regard to shipping. Ireland is increasingly an exporting nation and we need to develop methods of transport. To a large degree, our transport costs define our competitiveness.

We must also examine the type of shipping services which are provided to ships docking here. Ireland has lost a great deal of potential shipping services business to Scotland and northern England. I hope the Marine Institute will address this issue to make Irish shipping services more attractive. I hope that in ten years' time, we will see a definite improvement in the shipping and shipping services industries. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to speak for the 15 minutes stipulated by the Deputy Leader.

The time constraint was agreed on by the House.

It was agreed by the House because we did not have an option to do otherwise. We will continue our discussions on Committee Stage.

I am glad to see the Minister in the House following the indecision of the past 24 hours. I welcome this long awaited Bill which has been in preparation for up to two years, a fact which led to the deferment of elections to the regional fisheries boards on two occasions. Not long ago, the contents of this Bill threatened to evoke scenes similar to those which resulted from the infamous rod licence dispute in the mid-1980s. The main concerns expressed came from the regional boards and the fisheries representative organisations and related to the balance and mix of the elected representatives. Happily, the difficulties which existed have been overcome through consultation by the Minister and his officials over the past month with representatives of the angling associations which outlined the changes their members would like to see to strengthen their role and involvement in the boards' work. Many of these changes were incorporated in the Bill through the amendments tabled by the Minister at the Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The fisheries boards were established in 1980 and, in the past 20 years, they have been involved in the management of the inland fisheries and sea angling sectors. The Bill attempts to redress the many deficiencies which have existed in these sectors for the past 20 years. The system's weaknesses were identified and reviews were carried out. Coopers & Lybrand produced a report in 1994 commissioned by the Central Fisheries Board. A further report was prepared by Price Waterhouse in 1995 in which the organisation and management of sea and inland fisheries was reviewed. Many of the problems identified in the Price Waterhouse report will be rectified through the provisions contained this Bill. The problems identified related primarily to the confusing overlap between the roles of the Central Fisheries Board and the regional boards, the lack of clear direction and cohesion in the service, the size and composition of the boards and the lack of adequate accountability in the system.

The Bill's overall objective is to provide proper management and conserve and develop our inland fisheries to the highest possible standards. The Bill recognises the vital contribution to be made in the future by local fishing interests in the development and conservation of the inland fisheries. The role of the Central Fisheries Board will primarily be one of providing specialist support and co-ordination services to, and on behalf of, the regional boards. The board will be responsible for the preparation of national fishery development plans in conjunction with the regional boards. It will also advise the Minister on the policy and effective performance of the regional boards of their functions.

The size of the Central Fisheries Board is to be reduced from the current complement of 13 members which includes the chairpersons of the seven regional board chairpersons and five ministerial appointees. The new nine member board, including the chairperson, will be appointed by the Minister. Two of the nominees will be drawn from the chairpersons and chief executives of the regional fisheries board. The number has been increased from eight, as originally intended, to nine members to include a member of staff of the Central Fisheries Board to be nominated by the staff. Two further members will be appointed on the nominations of the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. The other three nominees will have relevant management and business competencies. Section 23 also provides that at least two board members shall be women and at least two shall be men.

The board of the Central Fisheries Board will no longer be dominated by the chairmen of the regional fisheries boards, as happened in the past. The inclusion of a regional board chief executive officer in addition to a regional board chairman is very important to ensure that decisions taken at Central Fisheries Board level reflect the requirements of the regional fisheries boards in operational terms, given the specific role of the Central Fisheries Board in the provision of specialist support services to the regional boards.

The Bill devolves primary responsibility for conservation, development, management and promotion of the inland fisheries and angling to the regional boards. In addition to the clarification of their existing brief, the regional boards are to be given new roles in the co-ordination and development of catchment management plans, acquisition and management of fisheries and the issuance of eel fishing authorisation. This authorisation was formerly issued by the Minister.

The size of the regional boards has varied between 20 and 21 with seven members being appointed by the Minister. There will be 16 members on the new boards, at least four of whom will be men and at least four of whom will be women. The reduction in the number of members on the boards is a positive development as the regional fisheries boards in particular were too big to operate effectively. In the past, the major criticisms of the boards were that they were too narrowly focused, had little or no representation from the wider community and were dominated by fishery interest groups. Arising from the amendment of section 7, the regional boards will comprise a number of elected members as set down by ministerial order with eight ministerial appointees. Of those eight appointments, one shall be a staff member of the board concerned and the others shall be nominated by organisations outlined in the Bill.

The demands of the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland, with which I have a particular association, have been recognised by the Minister through the maintenance of the current levels of representation for salmon, trout and coarse anglers and life members of the Inland Fisheries Trust. The chairpersons of the regional boards will, as heretofore, be elected by board members in line with the clear preference of the boards and the various interests represented. It is not clear whether the Minister agreed to TAFI's demand to have a member of the organisation appointed to represent anglers on the Central Fisheries Board. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that point.

I have been contacted by members of the sea angling fraternity in regard to representations. To date, they have been represented as life members of the Inland Fisheries Trust but have never been represented on the board in their own right. No mechanisms existed through which sea angling representatives could be elected on to the seven regional boards in the same manner as drift net fishermen, coarse anglers and club members. Perhaps the Minister could consider this matter when he reviews the new boards' membership.

The central and regional boards have jurisdiction over sea angling, an area which has developed rapidly. There is great potential for further development in this area. Sea angling is becoming increasingly important as a recreational activity and a tourism revenue earner. It is timely that we look at this valuable resource which must be conserved, protected, managed and developed. The Minister has acknowledged this through his provision of a safety grant for sea angling boats.

The Minister has also met the demands of the angling associations by agreeing to the clearly expressed preference of the development co-operative society members to continue with existing arrangements whereby shareholders elect their own representatives to the committees, one nominated member being the development officer of the regional board staff and one being a ministerial nominee. It has been left to the co-operatives to decide whether the holding of share certificates should be compulsory. The Minister has agreed to maintain thestatus quo in this regard in spite of the fact that the co-operative review group report recommended change. Under the new arrangements, both the central and regional boards will have the statutory power to appoint committees which may include persons who are not board members. This is important, particularly in the case of the regional fisheries boards as the establishment of local committees at river catchment level is an essential element of the catchment management process in which the boards will now be required to engage and which is widely acknowledged as the way forward for inland fishery management.

The devolution of responsibility to the regional boards must be accompanied by accountability. The Bill sets out clear arrangements for provision of timely reports and accounts, audits of accounts, etc. Each regional board must prepare an annual report within three months of the end of the year and, based on these, the Central Fisheries Board must produce an overall report for all the boards within four months. The Bill also contains detailed financial and accounting arrangements. The regional boards must submit annual statements of accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General within three months of the year end.

The Bill also provides for the establishment of a salmon commission to advise the Minister on salmon management policy and the setting of a total allowable salmon catch and quotas for the taking of salmon, in line with the recommendations of the Salmon Task Force Report. I note that the tagging system will be brought in only in consultation with this commission. The tagging system will be of benefit to all because it will provide information.

Another source of valuable information has been the funding of fish counters. In all, 35 have been introduced, with grant assistance through TAM. I thank the Minister for the initiative on behalf of the Rosses Anglers' Association which is in my area. They have received funding through TAM for a counter at the entrance of Dungloe Lake where we brought the Minister to show him the situation and where he met with the members of the association. They have developed a fantastic leisure and tourism resource in north-west Donegal. This has been development mainly through their own resources. I would like to see more funding available to the fisheries board to assist organisations like the Rosses Anglers' Association to develop their resource and to provide additional tourism infrastructure.

The 1998 Bord Fáilte report showed that while visitor numbers have risen over the previous five years, the number engaged in angling has declined. We have huge potential in our inland fisheries and marine leisure to attract many more tourists to our country. This Bill will help to develop our inland fisheries to their full potential to attract tourists, to create jobs and give long hours of pleasure to many anglers, such as Senator O'Toole.

The role of the Central Fisheries Board and regional agencies will be strengthened by this Bill. The concept of regionality with devolved powers being given to State agencies to act regionally and locally in support of the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources is being greatly strength ened by this proposed legislation. It is essential that all State agencies are qualified to make maximum use of available EU funding aid in Counties Donegal, Cavan and Leitrim. The Northern Regional Fisheries Board is best placed to gain maximum advantage for fishery development in two areas.

The first is through participation in Border, midlands and western operational committees. The post of regional fisheries board chief officers is now being designated chief executive officer and will allow six chief officers of the boards to sit on the operational committee. Under the Local Government Act, 1991, and the 1999 order setting up the two regional assemblies and operational committees, these officers will have a critical role in formulating work programmes and grant applications for EU funding to carry out the work of these programmes. The Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1999, will greatly strengthen the ability of regional chief executive officers to act on an equal footing with other chief executives on the operational committee, and further strengthen Ireland's claim of creditable regional and local government.

The second area of fishery development is through the INTERREG II Erne salmon management programme. The Northern Regional Fisheries Board is the applicant and grantee of £1.77 million to fund a major restoration programme for wild salmon on the Erne. The chair of this large inter agency steering group of fishery authorities North and South has been vested in the Northern board. The Northern board's ability to devise new schemes and create their own resource base necessary to draw down the EU funds will be greatly strengthened by the passing of this Bill.

The eel fisheries provisions are set out in section 27. Eel fishery on the River Erne is funded through the peace and reconciliation programme. A number of those operating eel fisheries on the Erne have contacted me about their present difficulties. In 1997 the price of silver eels was approximately £2.60 sterling. Today's price amounts to between 80p and £1. The collapse in the price is causing severe hardship to these fishermen. The reason I have been given for the collapse of price is that many silver eel farms on the continent have collapsed and have flooded the market with cheap silver eels. The Erne system has received a major investment over the past two years under the Erne eel enhancement programme funded by the peace and reconciliation programme. The Minister launched the programme in Ballyshannon and expressed hope for the future of the industry. The programme is investing just under £1 million in the industry which is confined to the development of the eel population in the system. However, unless something is done urgently, there will be no silver eel fishermen in the system. Is there anything the Minister can do?

The next peace and reconciliation programme will have £5 million available in the Republic of Ireland for suitable cross-Border projects. The ability of the Northern Regional Fisheries Board to participate and compete with other agencies for these funds will be greatly strengthened by the new legislation which will underpin the bona fides of regionality within the fishery sector.

I congratulate the Minister on the various initiatives he has introduced during the past two and a half years. He has given long overdue recognition to our fishing industry. In the past ten days he has succeeded in increasing our mackerel quota for the year 2000 by 10,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes. A week before that, he succeeded in having the proposed 130 per cent replacement tonnage rule scrapped. He improved the situation of our whitefish fishing fleet with the investment and tax incentives given to that sector, coupled with the grant assistance for safety improvements on vessels. We have also seen the development of piers, harbours and slipways. The Minister has encouraged the development of marine leisure and associated facilities.

This is the last Bill to be passed in this House during the present millennium. It is a comprehensive blueprint for the structure, management and organisation of our inland fisheries services into the new millennium. I commend the Bill to the House.

In welcoming the Minister to the House I have a sense ofdéjà vu. I was sitting in this seat the last time a Minister for the Marine came here with rushed legislation relating to fisheries which had to be signed before a Christmas recess, and we were paying the price for years after. I take a dim view of legislation being rushed through in this way. I do not believe it is necessary. There are issues which we need to have spelt out and clarified.

I recognise that the vast majority of the measures in this Bill are hugely welcome. The Bill is doing something which needs to be done. There can be no argument about that. However, there are a number of things about it which I do not understand. I do not understand – and I would like a detailed explanation – the relationship between the regional and central bodies outlined in this legislation, and the relationship between them and the new Inland Waterways North-South Implementation Body. It certainly seems, in terms of the authority which the implementation body has, that this cuts across aspects of the role of the regional boards as outlined in section 8 of the Bill and similarly that of the central board. I would like to know whose writ runs in such situations. There are very broad responsibilities given both to the regional boards and to the central board. We need to find out who will have authority in that area.

I listened to Senator Taylor-Quinn who outlined that the regional boards have the autonomy to select, appoint or elect their own chairperson. I could not find that in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister would draw my attention to where it is.

Some of the fishing interests wanted it done otherwise for their particular reasons. The majority wanted to appoint their own.

I appreciate that. The other issue is the question of ship registration, in which I have a great interest. There is a passing reference to ship registration at the end of the Bill and in the Minister's speech. I have been discussing with quite a number of people over the past two years how one can get a ship registered here without going through a process appropriate to a ship the size of theTitanic. It just seems impossible at the moment. I have never been through the process but I have spoken to people who have imported craft from other countries and tried to have them reregistered here. I intend raising on the Adjournment in the future why we do not make this simpler, more streamlined and more appropriate. There are many boat owners here and in Britain who do not have proper written proof of their ownership. This is particularly difficult for people who travel between here and the Continent, particularly France and Portugal which have very strict rules in this area, and I would like to hear what the Minister has in mind. I fully support his proposal, but I do not understand how it might work or how he intends it to work.

A significant part of the legislation is concerned with the responsibilities for and importance of salmon fisheries. I have no problem with this – indeed, I support it – but I intend tabling amendments to ensure the interests of people who fish for eels are taken into account. I have a number of reasons for doing this, one of which is the need for representation. Many would argue there is a conflict between eel and salmon fishing. Commercial eel fishermen on the Shannon claim they have lost out through the authority which groups such as the ESB exert on salmon fisheries. Eel fisheries, which are mainly located around Ardnacrusha, east Limerick, north Tipperary and the Clare border, feel their interests are not being represented in the legislation. The conflict, which is similar to that concerning the badger on dry land, is age old and I do not pretend to present myself in any way as an expert who can solve it. Certainly there is a view that commercial fishermen feel their interests are not being properly protected, represented and advanced in the Bill, and it is important that this is recognised. For this reason I will be asking the Minister to examine a proposal to include under section 7 organisations involved in the promotion and development of commercial eel fishing. I will return to this on Committee Stage, but I hope that the Minister will respond on Second Stage and give an indication that he will take account of what I am saying.

What I say is not meant in any personal way, but there are some very important aspirational sections in the Bill. There is talk about the importance of trout and coarse angling, but in many of our major waterways there is no such angling. This year I was in Banagher for the annual pike angling competition which attracts the best anglers. No pike were caught that day, something which never before happened in the history of the competition. These are the realities. I would like to know when a salmon or brown trout was last caught on the Shannon – I suspect it was a long time ago.

In terms of accountability people who make a living from and who love the environment should be represented. The Bill lists many organisations in this context. However, I am asking the Minister to include representation for people with a commitment to the development of commercial eel fishing, which will be of major interest to those involved in the inland waterways. I am certain that if the Ulster Canal is reopened the issue will have a North-South dimension in terms of Lough Neagh. Eel fishermen in particular should have representation.

Those who have more knowledge than I describe eels as the prince of fish, a view which has been held for centuries by many people. It is certainly important that eel fishermen and eels are at least mentioned in the legislation in terms of inland fisheries. Section 8 says a regional board shall "encourage, promote, market and develop angling for salmon, trout, coarse fish and sea-fish and, for the purposes of any or all of those kinds of angling, provide such facilities and amenities, if any, as it thinks fit". This excludes commercial and leisure interests which have existed for a long time. Those involved in eel fishing feel they have been left out of the loop. There is no need to keep them out of the loop. Rather we should ensure they are involved and we should make appropriate changes to the Bill to ensure eel fisheries, which have always been excluded from fisheries legislation, take their rightful place. Some priority should be given to this species which seems to be ignored all the time.

In one part of Clare people felt strongly enough to stop the development of a golf course because of concern for a very minor element of the local fauna while the Minister is well aware of the concern expressed by people in south west Clare when it was proposed to put a huge mast at the end of Loop Head. I now put the case for east Clare and ask the Minister to examine the issue. These people along the Shannon deserve our support. They are a small body of people who will never win or lose an election. They will not be on the Marian Finucane or Joe Duffy radio programmes for half an hour and there are no tax credits for eel fishermen. Not too many people will speak on their behalf and a huge amount of credit will not accrue to the Minister for taking my suggestion on board, but as somebody who cares about the environment I ask him to listen to the Shannon eel fishermen. Including them in the Bill will not mean representation, but it would at least give them a voice and they could then find their own space within the broad community of committed people.

I hope to hear a very positive response from the Minister and hope it might not be necessary to discuss this on Committee Stage.

I welcome the Minister, Dr. Woods, to the House and commend the legislation. I commend the Minister on the flexible and open way he has approached the legislation, particularly the way in which he has dealt with the representations made to him regarding improvements and how comprehensively those improvements have been included in the amended Bill as passed by the Dáil. If it were otherwise far more amendments would have been tabled in this House.

I empathise with Senator O'Toole's recollection of the difficulties in which we can find ourselves as a result of rushing legislation through the House. On the most famous occasion which led to the rod licence dispute, not only was the legislation rushed through the House but it was not considered in detail by either House, with the number of contributors being very few. Hopefully we will not find ourselves in such a situation again.

At the outset I wish to declare, as I am required to, that I have a vested interest. I am a landowner, a riparian owner on a stretch of the River Liffey and I am also a trustee of the North Kildare Trout and Salmon Anglers Association.

I could bore the House and the Minister, as I have done in the past with his predecessors and other Ministers, with my angling odyssey around the country since the 1950s and my accounts of the deterioration in water quality since then, particularly the devastation of the River Shannon through the activities of Bord na Móna. I am one of the people who caught a trout in the River Shannon in the late 1950s. One also fished for salmon at that time above Banagher. Only someone with a lot of time on their hands and not much expectation of catching either species would try to do that now. It has even become difficult to catch pike. We must remember what a local authority did to Lough Ennell, what happened to Lough Sheelin as a result of pig farming and the more recent example of Lough Leane in Killarney. The great western lakes are also threatened.

Protection of this resource is the critical issue and that message must be got across to the Minister and the central board. In some ways that is secondary to the arrangement of the administrative structure, which is dealt with in the Bill. However, that is not to say the arrangement is not important. We have a resource of such environmental and economic magnitude it is criminal the way successive Administrations have failed in their responsibility to protect it.

The Minister must be congratulated on his flexibility during the consultations. The original Bill was almost like a White Paper which was amended considerably. I commend the Trout Anglers' Federation of Ireland, the National Association of Rod Anglers and FISSTA on considering the Bill in detail and submitting its views which the Minister took on board. I commend the secretary of the National Anglers' Representative Association, Mr. Paddy Byrne, who is a member of my club in Newbridge, on his detailed study of the Bill.

Perhaps the role of the Central Board under section 5 should be specified in more detail. If responsibilities are devolved to regional boards, which should be done so they can regulate their affairs, one of the difficulties is that the central board could become an irrelevancy as the regional boards would then report directly to the Minister. It would be unfortunate if the central board lost its co-ordinating and development roles. The central board has looked after the fisheries under its control over the years. I do not have a problem with the fact the River Erriff will become the responsibility of the regional board rather than the central board. However, we must be careful to strike a balance between the various organisations.

In the past the boards have managed the fisheries and they have protected the fish as well as they can, given their resources, but they have failed to protect the water. It is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and the Department of the Environment and Local Government under the water pollution Acts to ensure the water is protected. If the fisheries boards had a stronger and more active role – I know they have officers who look after incidents of pollution – there might have been fewer incidents where water quality and fish life were seriously affected.

I welcome section 5(6) which deals with partnership. A strong partnership between the fisheries boards, the private owners and the angling clubs is essential. The best improvement to the Bill was the provision to ensure that the angling representatives got their full place in the sun in terms of representation on the board. However, there are fundamentally conflicting interests represented on the boards. Some of those interests are not disposed towards angling and the protection of the resource. Section 7 (B) states: "organisations which, in the Minister's opinion, are representative of persons whose professions or occupations relate to agriculture". I have no difficulty with Teagasc being represented. However, as a practising farmer, I am not sure that farmer representatives are the appropriate people to have on a fisheries board.

There are also many cases where the aquaculture activity is inimical to the development of the fishery. That is what happened to the sea trout in the west. That was an environmental crime of monumental proportions but they still insisted they had nothing to do with it. As a scientist, the Minister knows it is difficult for science to establish an empirical connection. It is like what happened in the case of Merck Sharp & Dohme where the High Court found that what came out of the chimney stack was the only possible explanation for what happened to a herd of cows.

Angling clubs must be brought into the system of protection, development and management of the fisheries. The angling clubs have been to the forefront in protecting the resource. Angling clubs in my county have brought incidents of pollution to the attention of the fisheries board which has tried to rectify the situation. However, the angling clubs are left to pick up the pieces and to restock the water when a fish kill occurs.

My local angling club has used the joint funding system extremely efficiently in recent years. We have improved access and stiles along the river bank. Some £18 million was allocated in the last national development plan to angling, while £118 million was allocated to golf. I know golf is more expensive to develop and it is beneficial, but there is a certain imbalance when one looks at the value of the resource.

I applaud the Minister for allowing elected members of the staff of the central board to be members of the board. This issue was discussed on Committee Stage in the Dáil. I wondered why the chief executive of the central board was not a member of the board when someone from the regional board could be a member.

The reporting of the accounts is important. The central board must report within four months of the end of the year and the regional boards within three months. That suggests that the central board has only a month between the last day on which the accounts of the regional board could be received and the presentation of its own accounts. That is a short timescale which might cause some difficulties.

As a life member of the Inland Fisheries Trust, I welcome the election of shareholders. I can claim some of the credit for the fact that the previous legislation protected the life members of the trust. For a small amount of money our rights have been protected in perpetuity.

Catchment management has been controversial. It is the way forward but it must operate in partnership. There are many catchment schemes which involve angling clubs, private owners and the State. There must be some element of co-operation to ensure each part of the catchment is protected and developed. That must be done in partnership on a voluntary incremental basis.

Catch and release must receive more consideration in future, although there are question marks about its value for the protection of fish stocks, particularly in the case of salmon. That raises the question of resources for staff and research. If the administrative system is good but there is an inadequate level of staff, resources and research, the whole thing will fall to pieces. Mr. Ken Whelan has done marvellous work in the laboratory in Burrishoole but there are not enough people like him. The Minister knows the value of research. The regional boards were guaranteed five staff but they did not arrive. I have heard of cases where the regional board fisheries officers have been paid their salaries but have not been given the resources to look after the water. That is crazy, particularly in the current economic climate.

There is traceability in agriculture. I cannot understand why it is not possible to have the same traceability in salmon. Some of the management practices in salmon farming are extremely detrimental to the environment. Similar practices would not be tolerated in agriculture. If that salmon is stocked on a supermarket shelf, the person buying it is entitled to know from where it came and the circumstances in which it was reared.

The promotion and development of this resource must be examined. Bord Fáilte and the fisheries boards both have roles in promoting it but we are falling between two stools. We have the capacity to attract high spending tourists to the State to enjoy this resource but we have lost many of those tourists who came in the past. If this legislation helps to bring those people back it will be very welcome.

I welcome the Minister to the House. This legislation is designed to establish a new administrative structure. What will it administer? The people working in the industry are committed to the development of fisheries and angling but a serious environmental problem arises as a result of poor water quality in the rivers and lakes. It is not long since this House debated the report of the monitoring committee on Lough Derg and Lough Ree. We all expressed our concern and frustration about the problems with water quality and the effect on the industry. The Minister referred to the importance of the environment. That should be at the top of our list of priorities, not further down. The best administrative structure in the world will not be able to administer anything if we do not address water quality and its effect on fish stocks and the wider industry.

Every year in April and May the anglers of north Tipperary are not to be found there, they are all at the Corrib because there are not sufficient stocks of fish in their own area. That is appalling and should be of great concern to anyone connected with fishing or the tourism industry. Until we address that issue all other efforts will be in vain. I welcome the commitment of the Minister to this area and the attention paid to the issues raised when the Bill was published. I was informed of local concern about representation on the boards. The Minister has since addressed that and I congratulate him.

Inland fisheries catchment management must be examined. I went back to the local angling groups which had spoken to me when the Bill was first published to ask for their views on the amended Bill. This issue arose again and again. The anglers to whom I have spoken accept this is a new concept but there is concern about how it will work. The Killarney experience is a cause for wariness. I was given as a comparative example a legislative imperative that the ICA, IFA and other local interests be represented on the board of the local GAA club. That expresses how people feel about the introduction of catchment management as a result of this Bill. The Minister's objective is positive but I have been asked to urge that there be consultation on the issue to ensure that angling interests are heard.

There is concern about stretches of river which have been under the ownership of clubs for decades. The perception is that a club must produce legal evidence of their ownership of a stretch of river. It may not be possible to achieve that because the ownership has been traditional, has grown up out of practice over a number of decades or because other practices have arisen instead. It may not be as simple as producing a deed. Concern about the requirement appears to arise from the catchment management concept. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on this point.

Is there a commercial advantage to be derived from ship registration? We constantly hear of Spanish registered vessels all over the world, especially in Irish waters, although they may be owned by people living in countries other than Spain. It is not an area of which I have any great knowledge or experience. Perhaps the Minister will clarify why this issue has arisen and why registration is necessary or desirable.

I welcome the funding the Minister has allocated under the national development plan for the development of the industry. While funding is excellent and essential to the development of the industry, at what will it be directed? The fundamental question of pollution, the quality of our water and our aqua environment must be urgently addressed. Investment is also essential to ensure the development of the industry, whether it be marketing at local, national or international level, or to develop the infrastructure. What will happen to the infrastructure if the basic product is not as good as it could or should be? We fool ourselves if we do not address the fundamental issue of water quality and the local environment.

I again thank the Minister for his open approach and I congratulate him on the Bill. I hope we will not have to return to hidden time bombs. Given his open and flexible approach to representations, I am sure these will not arise and that all interests are well represented and heard.

I compliment the Minister on introducing this Bill. It is expansive legislation, containing 31 sections. Although it is to some extent overdue it addresses many of the issues facing the fishing industry, including inland fisheries and sea fisheries research. The Bill is primarily concerned with inland fisheries. It is important this area be addressed and that it receives proper funding.

Sport, angling and tourism represent one aspect of the inland fisheries industry. Another aspect is concerned with the development of the industry on a business footing for the purposes of job creation. Both aspects need to progress in tandem. While angling is very important we must ensure it does not dominate the entire industry and we must not fail to recognise the great production opportunities, for example, the provision of the wonderful food in our waters.

On previous occasions I have spoken strongly on water quality and it would be remiss of me not to say something about it here, especially as it affects the River Shannon and its catchment area. The second interim report on the issue, published by Clare County Council and Roscommon County Council, identified massive pollution of the River Shannon and its tributaries, especially Lough Ree. All involved, whether it be the public bodies, industry or farming, must take some responsibility for what has happened. They have all contributed to a very serious situation involving the destruction of one of the finest waterways in Europe.

Over the last 50 years we have used the River Shannon as an outfall for all our waste and in my lifetime nobody has thought it worth their while to undertake an hour's maintenance on the river. Everybody has used it to offload what is of no value to them and we are now paying the price. I am glad the problem has been identified in a report, the compilation of which I was partly responsible for through my membership of Roscommon County Council. I have also spoken about the problem in this House over the past ten years. I am glad somebody listened. I compliment Clare County Council for joining with Roscommon County Council in commissioning this study. I also appreciate the subsequent verbal and moral support offered by other local authorities.

The crunch issues will arise when these local authorities will have to implement by-laws to ensure that the protections necessary will be adequately implemented. The Minister's Department is not the only one involved. The Department of the Environment and Local Government, the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Enterprise, in so far as it is concerned with energy and public transport, are all involved with the River Shannon to a greater or lesser extent. Indeed, there is a plethora of bodies and agencies sharing responsibility for the river but there is no one body with overall control.

Unless our water quality is of a good standard we will not have an inland fishing industry covering the River Shannon, its tributaries and, indeed, other waterways. Instead the River Shannon faces an escalating problem with the proliferation of the zebra mussel. The Shannon Eel Fisheries Association has brought to my attention the massive potential of the eel industry in the river. According to figures from the association Lough Neagh, which has a water size of similar mass, has been the source for the creation of a massive industry with 400 full-time jobs. Some 700 tonnes of eel are removed from the lake on an annual basis. This compares with the removal of only 70 tonnes from the River Shannon, where the industry supports only 40 to 50 part-time fishermen. None of them has a licence and they do not know if they will be fishing next year or the following year. They operate at the behest and under the goodwill of the ESB. Surely a river with the potential to create jobs and an industry requires a more focused and organised control and development plan for the eel industry?

The ESB has done great work since it took over the River Shannon and its tributaries. Some of my own family were involved in the selling of the fishing rights on the River Suck in the late 20s and early 30s. The ESB has managed the industry since but has not developed it and this is a mistake. A fine indigenous industry could be developed in the catchment of the River Shannon, perhaps through co-operation, and its potential should be examined.

In recent times I have had contact with inshore fishermen and their families. Traditional inshore fishermen and fisherwomen are becoming an extinct species. They feel they can no longer make a livelihood at their traditional occupation and are obliged to sign up for community employment schemes. The number of young people entering the industry is diminishing so fast that the average age of inshore fishermen is now over 50 years. This is a big mistake. We are an island country and room should be provided for those families who traditionally made a living from this form of fishing. If anything, we should expand this industry. I support the co-operation system and it is good that grant aid is available for it. However, it should not be developed to the detriment of traditional fishing. Through the all-party strategic management initiative, we have had meetings with these fishermen in Dungarvan and Killarney where we brought together representatives from the south and south-east coasts and they told a tale of woe. This is unfortunate because there is great opportunity in this sector for families who have traditional expertise and we should examine the possibility of helping them.

The fishing industry is the Cinderella of the Irish economy and this became apparent when we negotiated our entry into the European Union. At that time our greatest asset was the sea around our coast but the agricultural lobby won the day and the fishing industry is no longer high on our list of priorities. Figures for our receipts from the European Union are often bandied about but if we compare those receipts with what has been taken from our seas we will see that we have not got very much in excess of what we have lost to the European Union.

The fishing industry has never enjoyed the proper understanding of the Irish people. I am glad the Minister has introduced this legislation to deal with all the areas of inland fishing. The concerns felt by many people must be addressed but the debate on this Bill gives Members of the Oireachtas and associations outside an opportunity to explain their difficulties and their points of view. One of the reasons fishermen are not seen lobbying in hotels near to Leinster House is that they are busy working. They are only at home when the winds are too high or the seas unsafe. Unlike other interest groups, they are not available to come and make their case. Because the fishing industry is so varied, its representation is fragmented and we do not get an overall view of its problems. The general public associate inland fishing with angling and leisure activities. They do not think of it as an industry. It is an indigenous industry whose potential has not been tapped. The debate on this Bill affords us an opportunity to highlight some of the difficulties of the fishing industry. We must continue to address the difficulties of the industry, whether inland or offshore.

The Minister has been in Government for a long time and whatever portfolio he held, he always dealt with it very thoroughly. His unique contribution to the social welfare system must be recognised and in his short time as Minister for Agriculture he took many important forward steps. Had he remained at that Department for longer he might have introduced some important innovations. He is the right man in the right place at the right time. He will reform the fishing industry thoroughly. He has already met many groups and I know him to be a Minister who listens and who likes to take careful note of people's views. I compliment him on bringing this legislation forward. I know it will address many of the problems of the fishing industry and I hope some remaining difficulties can be accommodated on Committee and Report Stages.

I welcome the Minister to the House to introduce this important legislation. I accept the many good things in this Bill but my interest is specific and I will be interested to hear his response to what I have to say.

The Minister knows the many concerns of people in my part of the country. I thank him for his kind reception yesterday of the delegation from Killarney which included the Lough Leane Anglers' Association, the Killarney Salmon and Trout Association, the River Laune Fisheries Association, the Clonkeen Fishing Club and the Lakes of Killarney interest. We are grateful to the Minister for his willingness to listen and for his patience. No doubt he will listen further. I acknowledge the good grace with which he accepted amendments in the other House, particularly from Deputy Finucane but also from Deputy Bell.

The great fear in my area is that the catchment management arrangement would superimpose a club for the entire catchment, that an annual fishing fee would be required as well as the State licence and that people whose forebears have had a boat on the Lakes of Killarney for hundreds of years would no longer be guaranteed the right to fish there. They were most concerned that a democratic state could make such an assault on what they regard as their traditional rights. They were also fearful about the acquisition of fisher ies. What happened in Killarney was a particularly bad experience and, as the Minister pointed out, is merely a pilot project. It did not work out satisfactorily or successfully and it should not have happened. We certainly would not like it to happen again.

There is also great concern about protection. In my part of the country the protection has been virtually non-existent and certainly ineffective. I appeal to the Minister to provide the extra staffing required for this purpose. The prime concern must be the quality of the water. We must ensure that the boards are better able to manage the fisheries in future. The angling clubs must be anchored in the process because they have effectively been doing this job, restocking and so forth.

The Minister has shown goodwill towards permitting a voluntary buy out of commercial salmon fishermen. From the point of view of tourism, that would greatly assist the situation if and when it is allowed to occur. I also understand the Minister made changes to the legislation in the Dáil with regard to the regional boards and the appointment of chairmen. That will provide for a more democratic structure.

There was a particularly bad experience in Killarney and I trust it will not recur. The regional fisheries boards must set down proper guidelines and more consultation is required for the requisite level of resolution. It is also essential that a good relationship is seen to be established between the clubs and landowners along river banks and the boards. In other words, existing rights and entitlements should be respected and security of tenure should be built in and guaranteed.

I accept the good aims of the Bill. Protection, however, is not happening although that is probably a staffing problem which can be rectified. There is a need for first rate co-operation with the interests involved. I am anxious to hear about the tagging scheme envisaged in sections 24, 25 and 26 which, again, fishermen might regard as a huge intrusion on their way of fishing. I am delighted the Minister offered to visit Killarney with his officials in the new year and I look forward to welcoming him there.

Mr. Ryan

I tend to be somewhat ungracious in not welcoming Ministers to the Seanad but this Minister is always welcome. It is many years since he and I first discussed social welfare issues in the dark days of the 1980s when money was counted in pennies and adjustments in social welfare were fought with great pain and sometimes at great cost. One of this Minister's long standing memorials will be his far sighted introduction of a sophisticated computer system. He is a man with a vision for the future in many areas.

I have no wish to repeat the comments of other contributors but one could, although it is probably an exaggeration, talk about the dance band on theTitanic. We are talking about developing inland fisheries at a time when the real possibility exists, given the rapidity of our economic expansion, of a deterioriation in water quality that is so fast that many inland fisheries will become unusable or will be of no benefit. It sounds unimaginable but there is a real possibility of those levels of pollution.

Inland fish and marine life are sensitive creatures. They are sensitive to the presence of metals, to changes in Ph and to eutrophication which destroys the oxygen content of the water. This is not the Minister's remit but it ought to be his concern. A profound problem is developing which involves contradictory issues. Despite the introduction of the rural environment protection scheme, we are trying to intensify agricultural production. The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development attended a recent Seanad debate on agriculture. While he was positive about REPS and the 30 per cent of farmers who participate in the scheme, he did not know what proportion of agricultural production was being produced on their farms. That is the more significant figure. He also did not know what proportion of the entire acreage being farmed was under REPS.

It is possible that the 30 per cent of farmers in REPS might represent far less than 30 per cent of the acreage being farmed and also less than 30 per cent of the volume of production in farming. If 30 per cent of farmers are operating environmentally advanced farms but they represent only 15 per cent of production or less and if the imbalance of production between smaller farmers and industrial farmers gets worse in the future, as it will, the problem of environmental damage by intensive agriculture will get worse. At the risk of sounding pompous, I counsel the Minister to keep an eye on what is happening in agriculture.

He should also keep an eye on Bord na Móna which is regularly criticised for its less than sympathetic handling of fisheries. Sensitive fisheries can often be a wonderful incentive to behave. The sugar factory in Mallow, for example, is particularly careful about its liquid effluent because the Blackwater, one of the country's best salmon fisheries, flows past its premises. It does not want the hassle of causing major damage to the salmon stocks so it tends to be extremely careful. However, there are other areas where there might not be the same quality of fisheries.

Senator Finneran's point is valid. It was made to a number of Senators by interests outside the House. We should not look on inland fisheries as just a hobby. The 400 full-time jobs on Lough Neagh is a significant number of jobs. Jobs in this sector tend to be located in areas where it is often difficult to locate modern industries. There is a need to ensure there is a commercial focus to all this. If recreational and commercial interests come into conflict, the recreational interest should suffer. If there is a possibility of giving people, especially along the Shannon, a proper and worthwhile life, then those who fish at weekends for a hobby will have to fit themselves around it, as is required in other areas such as shooting and hunting which must fit themselves around the commercial needs of agriculture. One must be clear about that.

I am not sure one can argue too much about the Bill's content. I know the points which have been made. I am surprised by the issues raised by the people working to develop a commercial eel fishery and their request to be represented and identified as a separate interest, even though eel fisheries are referred to in the Bill. I am surprised by those who work in this area because it is obviously an area which could be developed substantially. One of our peculiarities in this country is that, for many years, we have never acknowledged that eels are regarded as a great delicacy. In my home town where I grew up, most people regarded eels as fish which came from water which was polluted with sewage and which no sensible human being would eat. In fact, they are and always have been a wonderful delicacy and I am partial to them. I had a deal with my mother for years that, as long as I cleaned them out and skinned them, she would cook them. She was not prepared to handle them because she did not like the look or feel of them. There is a huge market for eels, as the Lough Neagh fisheries have demonstrated, and we need to move in that direction.

Tourism is a good industry and serves a purpose but it is not the best way to give people in rural areas a living. It is the least worse alternative but it is not an alternative to jobs based on indigenous resources. I hope the legislation achieves its purpose. I have a succession of questions to ask on Committee Stage about details of the legislation, but I welcome the Minister's attempt to innovate. I am astonished at the complexity of legislation in this area. The 1980 Fisheries Act takes up nearly 200 pages of one of the volumes of legislation for that year. We seem to have put together extraordinarily complex legislation for what is supposed to be in most people's eyes no more than a hobby. I would have thought that level of legislation would at least have been the basis for an industry.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Bills have been rushed through the House before and we have seen what has happened with previous legislation on the fishing industry. I oppose the rushing of the Bill through the House. That said, I will assist its passage because I am aware of the timeframe involved and that we must be finished before 6 p.m. I will assist the Minister in whatever way I can. I do not intend to speak for too long. Nonetheless, we should not rush the Bill through the House. It has been in preparation for the past two years, yet we must now rush it through. Senator O'Toole has tabled a number of amendments and it will take some time for it to pass through the House.

The Bill was first published about two years ago and, in fairness to the Minister, he has acceded to many of the demands made by various organisations, the Central Fisheries Board and the regional fisheries boards. I am delighted and pleased that the Minister has facilitated most of the people because it is not easy to please everyone. In fairness to the Minister, he has done his best to facilitate most of the organisations and interests involved. Deputies Finucane and Bell in the other House are to be commended on the manner in which they have worked on the Bill to improve it for all involved in the fishing industry and for everyone in the country.

I have been actively involved in discussing this Bill with various organisations in recent weeks. I have had meetings, along with Deputy Finucane, with the Central Fisheries Board, the regional fisheries boards, FISSTA, the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers, and TAFI, the Trout Anglers' Federation of Ireland. In fairness to the Minister, he has gone a long way towards meeting the needs voiced by all those interests and this will ensure the Bill is good legislation. The Bill is welcome and I hope it will improve all aspects of fishing throughout the country, be it fishing on our seas, lakes or other waterways.

I intend to go into some detail on the sections when we are on Committee Stage. However, perhaps the Minister could address some aspects of the Bill when he is summing up. One aspect relates to the formation of the regional boards. Section 7(1)(c) states:

The Minister may by order alter the number of elected members of a regional board.

Prior to that the composition of the boards is set out and the various organisations which will comprise the membership of the boards. However, at the end of the section, it states that the Minister may alter by order the number of elected members of a regional board. Will the Minister clarify that when he is summing up? The measure suggests he can, with the stroke of a pen, abolish the elected members or remove the elected representatives of interested groups from the board. Perhaps the Minister would clarify the matter before I table an amendment to the section. The measure should be deleted from the Bill.

There is no representative of local authorities on the regional boards, although authorities have played a significant role in restoring life to lakes. My local authority, Mayo County Council, put together a study to restore life to Lough Conn and Lough Cullin and it involved all the vested interests, such as the regional fisheries board, the county council, especially the planning section, fishing organisations and farmers. I compliment everyone involved because we can now see the value of what has happened with life being restored to those lakes. I am disappointed that there is no representative from any local authority on the regional boards. I hope the Minister includes a section which grants representation to local authorities. While there could be several local authorities within the remit of a regional board, there should at least be one member designated by them to be a member of the regional board. I am delighted the Minister has changed his mind on the composition of the regional boards and decided to revert to the original format. This will be welcomed by the majority of interested groups.

The local authorities, fisheries boards and the Office of Public Works are all involved in the management of our lakes. Lough Lannagh, on the edge of Castlebar, needs to be cleaned. Responsibility for this and other issues should be transferred to the regional fisheries board or the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. It is currently a problem for the Office of Public Works which may have to construct a weir to maintain the lake water at a certain level. This matter should be addressed in the Bill.

While the Central Fisheries Board welcomes the provisions under which powers will be devolved to the regional fisheries boards, it still has a significant role to play in co-ordinating their activities and making recommendations on funding for works. This is to be welcomed and the Minister is to be complimented on bringing it about. If the matters to which I have alluded are clarified it may not be necessary for me to table an amendment on Committee or Report Stages. Given the interaction between them in relation to planning permissions etc., I am disappointed that the local authorities are not represented on the regional fisheries boards.

I welcome the Bill and compliment all involved. I have no doubt the fishing sector will benefit greatly.

Senator Burke summarised the Bill fairly. He is concerned however that it is being rushed through. It had to be deferred for two years in succession because of our failure in securing agreement. The options were to defer it for another year or proceed with it. The Senator has grasped its importance, not only in terms of devolution but also in terms of a new role for the Central Fisheries Board which has to be elucidated. The devolution of authority and responsibility for rivers, important lakes and State facilities from the Central Fisheries Board to the regional fisheries boards has presented difficulties. Several Senators mentioned the Moy fishery over which a major battle was fought. People now understand what is involved. There was, however, great fear of the proposed changes, which was understandable.

Senator Ryan raised the question of innovation. It is innovation in management. This is the modern way. I wrote a book on the subject in 1970 which was published by the Institute of Public Administration. It has become a big issue internationally in recent years. It is a different form of management where support for the regions is provided from the centre, where the regions are not dictated to and where individuals are encouraged to participate and accept responsibility. One cannot, however, have one without the other. A degree of maturity has to be shown in devolving authority. This is happening quickly. The representatives of the angling associations now recognise that the scenario will be different.

On the composition of the regional fisheries boards, various investigations have been carried out during the years and reports prepared. Senator Bonner mentioned a number of them. The purpose was to ensure the boards would be more businesslike. The review group made similar recommendations. Anglers were of the view, however, that the boards would lack balance with others having more of a say and as a result there was great mistrust. As we do not want to take risks I am happy to retain the current balance. Our first priority is to devolve authority. We can then decide where we should go from there.

Senator Burke said that Deputies Finucane and Bell worked hard on the Bill since its introduction on 5 November. They were constructive and helpful in relation to it. I would have been much happier if I had received it from the parliamentary draftsman much earlier in the year but, as we are all aware, there was pressure to produce the legislation dealing with Northern Ireland. I advised each of the associations in advance that they should look at the Bill as published and convey their views to us immediately. That is what happened. We received many submissions and the views expressed coincide with the Bill.

Senator Burke is concerned that under the provisions of section 7 a Minister may by order alter the number of members. That is in the 1980 Act and it is contained in this Bill. Such an order would have to be laid before the Houses and could be contested if necessary in the normal way. Members can see from the discussions that there might be situations in which it was felt desirable to add another class, representation or member to the board. This provision continues that option if it is needed at any stage.

I can tell Senator Burke that it is the same power that has existed since the 1980 Act. Members can see in section 11 of the 1980 Act where it comes from. All the elections since 1980 are arranged, including electoral classes, under an order. The order will be laid before the Houses. The Senator also mentioned the importance of local authorities. They will be involved in the boards and that can be seen in the Bill.

The composition of the board is now welcomed. I have explained where that came from. We will now have a statutory right to be involved in catchment management. We have been doing some of this on a pilot basis to see if we could get people to come together. We have led the way in dealing with a good deal of the water pollution problems. I said that the water quality is not good for fish and, if that is the case, it will not be good for humans. From that point of view we are in the front line against pollution problems. We took the initiative and people co-operated with us. We resolved some of the problems and drew up plans to resolve others. I accept that this is a huge task and there is a great deal of work to be done in that area.

We discussed the Shannon problem a short while ago while debating another Bill. I have every intention of attempting to do something serious about it but I cannot do so unless I get the co-operation of agriculture, environment and others sectors. I also need their time as well as their goodwill. It is not difficult to get their goodwill but we are interested in their time, investment and action. We hope to follow up here with a statutory backing for our involvement in such actions on the catchment approach. The catchment approach is voluntary. To make that clear we inserted the word "voluntary" in one of the amendments that passed through the other House.

The new and important role of the Central Fisheries Board has been mentioned. I have had some discussions with the board about it and I hope early in the new year to have a full discussion. I want to stimulate and encourage the Central Board to take the lead role, to do the co-ordination and to take a stimulating, supportive, developing role for the other boards around the country. I also want it to do that in practical actions. It will take a little time to work all those things through but at least we will be on the right road and one that I hope will be successful.

Senator O'Toole and other Members subsequently mentioned the eel fishermen. Those fishermen are an electoral class for the elections to the boards. However, problems do exist, especially in relation to the Shannon and ESB dimension. I have met their representatives. The problem is that the ESB holds the licence and, therefore, that category does not come in. Everyone who has a vote must have a licence and because they have a licence through the ESB they do not have the number of votes. That is a serious problem and I undertook to examine it.

One of the things I will do is set up an eels strategic review group to examine all the issues. We are going to do that following discussions with the eel fishermen. We will examine all the issues then, including strategic development as well as the regulation of the eel industry. Early in the new year the group will be set up. The other points mentioned by Senator O'Toole will be covered in his amendments.

Senator Taylor-Quinn raised the need for a representative from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development with regard to water quality. Senator Dardis and another Senator also raised this question. Rather than having a farming representative we changed it to a representative so that we can have someone from Teagasc. If it was left purely as farming we would be limited and it would have to be a farmer. Now there is an option to have people from Teagasc. In some cases that may be the best option. There will be a representative from the Department on each regional board. It is not precluded as a possibility on the Central Fisheries Board.

Senator Taylor-Quinn raised the issue of share certificates. The Senator got it the wrong way around. Originally in the Bill we were making them voluntary. They want them to continue to be compulsory. It was the review group who suggested that they should be made voluntary. We said fair enough, if people want them voluntary then we will have them voluntary. Once the Bill was published and when we came to discussing it subsequently they said they would prefer if they remained compulsory.

Provided they are resolved to have them compulsory.

Yes. They have the option of having them compulsory if they so wish. They can have it either way. There was a desire to maintain the compulsory option.

Senator Bonner raised the possibility of representation for individual organisations on the Central Fisheries Board. They will be comprehensively represented on the regional boards. The Central Fisheries Board will be a different type of board and will be closer to the normal State board. We had discussions with them on that. They felt that as long as they were well represented and had the representation they had previously they would have good representation.

Sea angling is an electoral class for the regional boards. There will be at least one on each board. Funding of £24 million is included in the national development plan.

The collapse of the price of eels arose because to a flood of cheap silver eels in Europe. We have provided funding for the Erne development and it will be very interesting. We will review the eel problem in the context of the eel strategic review group. In that context we will look at the Erne problem.

Senator O'Toole asked about the relationship between the inland waterways body, the Implementation Body on fisheries, the Irish Lights Commission and the regional fisheries boards and Central Fisheries Board. There will be no overlapping of responsibilities between the new implementation body and the boards. There is a complementary relationship and links just as there was between the boards and the Office of Public Works. The inland waterways body is responsible for navigation and development of the water bodies that come under its aegis. There will be a close relationship between the Foyle, Carlingford and the Irish Lights Commission and the regional boards. The last section in the Bill excludes the areas of Foyle and Carlingford from the remit of the board because that involves North-South sharing and the exclusion of Carlingford area from the Dundalk Fishery Board. That area is specifically excluded in the Bill and is a reflection of the sharing which takes place in this legislation.

Senator O'Toole raised the question of eels. The eel strategic review group, which I have mentioned, will deal with the kinds of problems to which he referred. Senator Dardis and Senator O'Toole referred to the importance of differentiating very clearly between the Fisheries Bill, 1987, which was a rod licence Bill, and this one, which is a very different type of Bill. The 1987 Bill introduced a licence and a licence fee for trout and coarse angling. This Bill involves regional and local empowerment, encouraging angling clubs, etc. It is a new framework to be linked with the £24 million provided under the NDP. It is a completely different situation where we are giving out money rather than looking for money from people. Things are very different now.

Senator Dardis also referred to the representation of aquaculture on the boards. Aquaculture includes shellfish farming as well as salmon farming. There will only be one representative from that industry on the whole board and if one is going to co-operate with people in a region and work these things out, it is preferable that they work them out thereab initio. There is a reason aquaculture and inland fisheries cannot be developed in a compatible way, as they are in many places around the country.

On annual reports, the Central Fisheries Board has to submit its own report and those of each regional fisheries board within four months. They can collate the information in advance. I note the point made by Senator Dardis but now all the boards of semi-State bodies are required to submit their reports within six months and this is in keeping with that. Annual accounts are dealt with separately and not within the same time frame. Difficulty with delays on some of the annual accounts involve the Comptroller and Auditor General's office because there is such a volume going through that office, they have some difficulty being up to date. They have them all within a year in any event.

The analogy with the GAA clubs, raised by Senator O'Meara, is not apposite. We are discussing a common shared public resource. The question of ownership, entitlements and legal evidence is not a prerequisite of catchment management. Most of the problems raised, for instance, by the people from Killarney related to a pilot study where difficulties have arisen. The first thing to bear in mind is that the catchment management approach is a voluntary approach, the problem with which is that problems can be unearthed in the course of these discussions. If they are, then it is better that they be faced and solutions found. There are no threats to anybody. On that issue, I have undertaken to go down early in the new year to have discussions with representatives of the Killarney anglers and try to deal with the problems they have had for some time. We will try to find a resolution for some of them.

Senator Coghlan raised the question of catchment management. I stress that this concerns consultation. He also raised the matter of tagging. FISSTA and the other angling organisations were very keen on tagging and the salmon commission will now be introducing these. All the organisations will be represented on the commission. They will introduce the tagging. There are many practical problems and there are various people who do not want it. There have been cases where people said they were not catching any salmon, only one, two or three but when it came to how many tags they wanted, five were not enough. It is going to bring out these kinds of problems in different areas but we will have to deal with them as they arise. The salmon commission will have the task of doing that now.

I have covered very briefly the problem of pollution which was raised by Senator Taylor-Quinn, the questions about chairpersons and so on. I have explained that fairly well. I have no vested interest in any of this. I wanted to do what people wanted and what the reviews and the study groups recommended. When one produces the Bill people say, "That was fine, I said that at the study group but I have talked to more people now myself and I do not want to do it that way, I want to do it a slightly different way". We have had all those discussions and consultations. However, we can progress from there now.

Senator Taylor-Quinn referred to a less bureaucratic and formal approach. We will consider that where possible and we will try to ensure it happens. She raised questions about the IMDO, the Irish Maritime Development Office, and providing the shipping services which she felt was a wise move. A question raised by Senator O'Toole was on the IMDO, which is mainly for the major commercial vessels. We will examine how to relate that to the leisure sector. I plan to bring in special procedures for leisure craft registration and the new IMDO will help me to develop a simplified scheme for these boats in the non-commercial area where they have much expertise. A group is examining that and has given us an interim report. The full report will be produced by the end of February. We will then have an opportunity to examine that urgently for the coming season. We want the necessary degree of regulation without being over-regulated. That is where we will have to find the balance.

A standard European report is needed.

Some matters will be standardised with Europe, for instance, if a boat is brought over to Spain or France, immediately one has to comply with their requirements which are very minimal from a safety point of view and only require the completion of a course. If we have something similar, it will match that. This is the sort of thing the group is examining now. It has submitted an interim report and the full report will be submitted quite soon. I assure Senator O'Toole that his concerns will be addressed. On the registration of vessels, the registration relates to commercial vessels but again the group will deal with that issue, particularly concerning power boats and jet skis. These will be dealt with in the report.

I was asked why there was a need for an Irish register in regard to the IMDO. That would have many benefits in regard to the services which we supply and the fiscal incentives required to employ more people in this fast growing area. Up to 75 per cent of the shipping industry is shore-based and we want to attract more of those jobs in Ireland. This is an area in which we have lost out enormously in the past 20 years. We lost Irish Shipping which was the worldwide flagship for the Irish shipping industry. In any event, we want to get back into that sector and the IMDO will be instrumental in achieving that.

I referred to the implementation bodies. There is an exclusion involved here in so far as Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle will be run by the Implementation Bodies. That is how North-South sharing will operate and the legislation caters for that. We are not directly involved in the inland waterways but the Office of Public Works is involved in their maintenance. As far as fishing is concerned, other than the Carlingford and Foyle areas which will be run separately, there will not be any change in regard to the regional boards.

Senator Dardis referred to traceability which is one of the reasons for the tagging. There is some argument as to whether full tags are required or whether there is some other means by which farmed salmon can be traced. That issue is currently being discussed. There is no doubt that traceability is essential.

Considerable emphasis was placed on eels and their importance. A strategic review group will be established early in the new year to examine that issue. Senators referred to the Killarney pilot catchment scheme. The emphasis here is on voluntary participation. I would be happy to meet with fishermen and those who are concerned about their boats being on the lakes at an early stage in the new year.

This Bill is about the devolution of power and, in time, its provisions will have a major impact on the development of the inland fisheries resource.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

I understand there is agreement to take Committee Stage now.

For the purposes of the record, it was not agreed that we would take all Stages of the Bill today. It was decided to do so without agreement.

I was not suggesting that it was agreed on the Order of Business to take all Stages of the Bill today but I understood that an informal agreement was subsequently reached that it would be appropriate to do so.

Yes, when we were faced with the inevitable.

Agreed to take Committee Stage today.