On the Order of Business this morning, it was stated that rushed legislation is bad legislation. One might think that Members are rushing this legislation through, but this is not the case. As the Minister of State is aware, it has been bandied about for four years. I congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, on expediting the legislation and getting it onto the Statute Book. This important legislation will copperfasten the international compensation fund, with maximum payouts of €350 million with respect to environmental damage and caps of €140 million to be paid out by ships' insurance companies. We are a maritime country with approximately 240,000 square miles of sea and it is important to finalise the Bill. Intermittently, as the Minister of State is aware, nuclear toxic waste passes through our waters from Japan on both legs of the journey. It is important to have measures to counteract this and protect our shores, because the potential risk to our waters cannot be underestimated. I reiterate that we must protect 240,000 square miles of sea. We possess 17% of European waters and it is important to implement protective measures against oil-carrying bulk tankers, because the environmental consequences can be devastating.
Members are in agreement on this Bill. I will turn to another pollution-related issue. I want to raise a small issue concerning bonamia while the Minister of State is present in the House. The Minister of State is familiar with this disease, which wipes out flat oysters. The first case occurred in Cork Harbour in 1987, where the native Irish oysters were wiped out. The disease is also evident in Belmullet, Galway Bay, Ballinakill Harbour and Clew Bay. As the House is discussing pollution, perhaps the Minister of State and I can examine preventative solutions for our own neck of the woods in Moville, where fears exist. We should discuss the development of a management plan to allay the fears of many oyster fishermen on the Foyle. They feel that bonamia is a possibility if preventive measures are not put in place in the short term.
I am aware that this issue is unrelated to the legislation, but as the House is discussing the general topic and the Minister of State is present, it should be put on the record. A group has contacted the Minister of State which wants a consultation with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in order to allay fears and work out preventative measures to avoid the complete elimination of native Irish oysters. We must be careful about this matter. The Galway oyster festival is famous, but it has been some time since it used oysters from Galway Bay. As far as I am aware, the oysters come from Donegal.
Members are happy with this legislation and that it has finally been concluded after four years. I congratulate the Minister on being to the forefront in this regard.