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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007

Vol. 186 No. 17

Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries Bill 2006: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Sections 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. a1a, a1b and a1c, circulated on an additional list today, Wednesday, 28 March, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. a1a:

In page 6, line 19, after "sea" to insert "or an oyster bed".

These amendments were resubmitted because before this was put to the Dáil, there was a general consensus that the native oyster would not be subject to law and that people in the native oyster industry would not be subject to new proceedings. I have tabled the amendment to have it on record, although I do not propose to press it.

The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Gallagher, will be familiar with the Foyle and the serious problems many of the area's major stakeholders and practitioners are experiencing in the areas of mussels or oysters. Many of those involved in the industry find it difficult to develop a sustainable zoned management strategy. Any strategy must be developed from the bottom up.

I am glad departmental officials are in the House. We must focus our efforts on moving forward with the new legislation with all the stakeholders and not just the representative organisations. There are active harbour committees on either side of Lough Foyle but we must also convince practitioners of future plans and strategy. Through his colleague, Deputy Keaveney, the Minister of State, a native of County Donegal, will be familiar with the challenges which lie ahead on the Foyle.

In light of complications which have arisen in the past in areas other than aquaculture, is it possible that private individuals have foreshore or other rights in Lough Foyle or Carlingford Lough, perhaps dating back to landlord times? Would such an eventuality cause a problem? While it is possible the entire area covered by the legislation is in public ownership, the issue of ownership was not properly addressed in another area of fisheries. The question of ownership should not be overlooked in case it creates a difficulty at a later date. I am not as familiar with the Foyle and Carlingford areas as Senator McHugh. Perhaps the Minister of State will clarify the position.

I apologise on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy John Browne, who had intended to attend the debate but for good reason had to return to the south east. Consequently, he asked me to take Committee Stage because I am familiar with these matters, having served in the Department for 15 months during which time I worked with officials on this unique Bill. The legislation requires the consent of this House, having been passed in the House of Commons, and commencement orders will be synchronised in order that it will, when enacted, commence on the same date.

I understand the reason Senator McHugh has tabled these amendments. They seek to ensure the consent of the owner or occupier of an oyster bed or fishery is obtained prior to the granting of an aquaculture licence in respect of such an area. Oyster fisheries in the Foyle are public fisheries and are not owned by any individual or body. It is not necessary, therefore, to seek consent.

Regional fisheries boards may issue oyster licences in this jurisdiction under the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959. However, this legislation does not apply to the Moville area and no such licences have been issued in respect of the Foyle by the regional fisheries board. Oyster fishery orders may be made under the 1959 legislation but such orders do not apply to the Moville area. In the circumstances, the amendments proposed are not necessary.

The definition of the word "fish" in Part 3 was amended by the other House. The amended definition provides that the agency will have responsibility for the regulation of wild mussels, wild oysters and eels, although predominately the first two. The definition should also include all freshwater fish, salmon and other fish which migrate to and from the sea, as well as sea bass and tope.

The amendment was made to address concerns expressed about the definition of the word "fish", especially concerns that the agency would regulate the wild oyster and mussel fisheries. While I fully appreciate the spirit in which the amendment has been proposed by Senator McHugh, it is not necessary. I appreciate his statement that the purpose of the series of amendments is to highlight a point and he does not propose to put them to the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos.a1b and a1c not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 23, to delete lines 11 to 25 and substitute the following:
"(a) is granted under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997,
(b) (i) is in force immediately before the day on which this Part comes into operation as respects the Louth Area, or
(ii) is the subject of an application to which section 53W(2) refers,
(c) authorises the doing of any act in the Louth Area,
but nothing in this section affects the operation of such a licence in relation to any area other than the Louth Area.
(2) Subject to section 53W(2), a licence to which this section applies shall, in so far as it authorises the doing of any act in the Louth Area, have effect on and after the day on which section 53A comes into operation as respects the Louth Area or from which the licence authorises the doing of any act, whichever as respects the licence concerned is the later, as if granted by the Commission under section 53A.".

Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, relate to the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997, which provides for an aquaculture licensing regime in Ireland, albeit one which does not apply to the Foyle area. These amendments have been tabled to take account of the fact that it is possible that licences may be issued in the Louth area under the 1997 Act at the same time as the provisions concerning aquaculture in the legislation are commenced. Aquaculture licences issued under the 1997 legislation do not take effect for a period of one month from the date of the publication of the decision to grant the licence. The reason for this is to allow persons aggrieved by a decision which finds in their favour an opportunity to appeal.

The purpose of amendment No. 1 is to ensure the one-month period is retained to respect the right of an aggrieved person to appeal a licensing decision. Amendment No. 2 ensures that the appeals provisions of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 will apply in the case of licences issued under the Act at the time of the commencement of the legislation. On commencement of the legislation, licences issued under the 1997 Act are deemed to be licences issued by the commission under this Bill. This amendment provides that in an instant where the one-month period for making an appeal is still ongoing after the commencement of the legislation and an appeal is made against the decision to grant the licence, the appeal shall be made in accordance with the provisions of the 1997 Act.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are technical consequential amendments to take account of changes of the numbering as a result of the insertion of the new subsection (2) by amendment No. 2. The amendments, which have been proposed in the interests of those who wish to appeal a decision are laudable and I hope the House will accept them.

If a person applies for an aquaculture licence in another part of the country, will the one-month period within which an objection may be lodged against the granting of a licence apply?

Senator Kenneally's question was broadly in line with a question I intended to ask.

Senator Kenneally is particularly interested in the Louth and Carlingford areas. If the legislation went through as it stands, it would discriminate against those in the Louth area whereas there would be the opportunity for the one-month period in the Foyle area and the rest of the country. This is to synchronise the Bill and not introduce legislation which would militate against those fishermen in the Louth area.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 23, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:
"(2) Where the Minister determines an application under section 10 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 relating to the Louth Area prior to the coming into operation of section 53A as respects the area to which the application relates, and the time for making an appeal under Part III of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 in relation to such a decision of the Minister has not expired at the date of such coming into operation of section 53A then any appeal from that decision of the Minister shall be brought under Part III of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997.".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 3:
In page 23, to delete line 36 and substitute the following:
"(3) Subject to subsection (4), the provisions of".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 4:
In page 23, to delete line 42 and substitute the following:
"(4) Where, before the commencement of this".
Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 5:
In page 24, to delete line 1 and substitute the following:
"(5) Where the Commission is satisfied that".

These are technical amendments to correct drafting errors. They are required to ensure the commission can decide an application which is transferred on the commencement of section 53A of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 6:
In page 24, lines 2 and 3, to delete "for the Minister to decide" and substitute "for the Commission to decide".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 4, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6a:

In page 26, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

"(3) In—

(a) subsection (2)(a), ‘freshwater fish’ means any fish living in freshwater, other than a kind of fish that migrates to and from the sea, and

(b) subsection (2)(e), ‘shell-fish’ means any aquatic mollusc or crustacean having a shell and includes all aquatic bivalve molluscs of the Ostreoida order, particularly members of the Ostreina and Pectinina suborders.”.

Much of the discussion in the Dáil referred to freshwater fishing. The practitioners on the ground and those involved in the industry were very appreciative of the movement which allowed many of their recommendations and suggestions to be taken on board. The Minister has also added fish such as sea bass and tope to this list of definitions. The amendment is similar to that taken in the Dáil. I wish to record the appreciation in this regard.

I thank Senator McHugh for his understanding and appreciation. Senators will be aware of the concerns expressed with regard to the definition of fish following the presentation of the Bill to the Oireachtas last year. The Government proposed amendments on Committee Stage to address these concerns and to give effect to the advice from the Attorney General. The amendments proposed were the subject of negotiations between a number of Departments and agencies, North and South, and represent the agreement reached during those further discussions to address the concerns raised by Members of the Dáil.

These new definitions in sections 4 and 5(2) of the Bill, which were accepted on Committee Stage in the Dáil, reflect the agreed North-South position. As the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, indicated to the House on Second Stage, the scope for making changes to the Bill is restricted to changes necessitated by local law requirements, given that the Northern Ireland Order in Council has progressed through the parliamentary process in the United Kingdom. Consequently, it is not possible to make the amendments proposed.

I emphasise that the legislation, when enacted in the two jurisdictions, will give the Loughs Agency responsibility for the regulation of wild mussel, oyster fisheries, eels and all freshwater fish, and salmon and other fish of a kind that migrates to and from the sea, as well as sea bass and tope. There was a suggestion that all fish should be incorporated. However, the competence of the agency would then be in contradiction with the competence of the EU, which, whether one likes it or not — one might not like it — has responsibility for fish that are quota species. It would mean we were giving the Loughs Agency jurisdiction, which would cause its own problems.

The legislation, when enacted, will give the Loughs Agency responsibility for what we believe are the important species, namely, wild mussel, oyster fisheries, eels and all freshwater fish, and salmon and other fish of a kind that migrates to and from the sea.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to.
Sections 6 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 6b:
In page 28, line 19, to delete "section 10" and substitute "section 8”.

This is a technical amendment to correct a typographical error in the text.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 10 to 31, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 7:
In page 45, to delete lines 29 and 30 and substitute the following:
"(2) Subparagraph (1) (as renumbered by subsection (1)) of paragraph 2 of the Third Schedule to the Act of 1952 is amended by the insertion after clause (d) of the following clause:”.

This is a technical amendment to take account of the renumbering of paragraph (2) of the Third Schedule of the Act of 1952.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 32, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 33 to 35, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Browne, and the former Minister of State, now Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Gallagher, for their co-operation in getting the Bill through the House so rapidly. I thank their officials and everyone who contributed on Second Stage yesterday. I thank Senator McHugh in particular for his co-operation on the issue. This is important legislation and somewhat unique in that it is going through here and in the Houses of Parliament across the water at more or less the same time. I thank all those who have helped ensure it goes through speedily.

I, too, welcome the passing of the Bill. I offer a guarded welcome also to the work of the commission. Its work was difficult because the advisory forum set up on both sides of the Border did not really have the right mechanisms in place due to the fact the Assembly was not up and running. Now we expect the Assembly to be up and running, it is important we have a proper working advisory forum that works in tandem with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, DARD, and the harbour boards on both sides of the Border.

The Bill provides us with the opportunity to develop an effective loughs agency. However, it is important to involve and bring all the stakeholders on board on the issue. There is a feeling of disenfranchisment among stakeholders and it is important to get their agreement and that of all the relevant groups on this. I hope that will be achieved through this Bill. No doubt, our Department officials will ensure this happens. The only way proper licensing will happen is through the commission, but it must work under the authority of a proper working advisory forum.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl don Chathaoirleach, do na Seanadóirí uilig, go háirithe an Seanadóir McHugh agus an Seanadóir Kenneally, agus don Teach iomlán as ucht an chomhoibriú maidir leis an reachtaíocht seo, Bille Iascaigh an Fheabhail agus Chairlinn 2006. Ar ndóigh, mar atá a fhios againn go léir, d'fhás an reachtaíocht seo as Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Is iontach tráthúil é go bhfuil an reachtaíocht ag dul tríd an Teach an tseachtain seo, tar éis an chomhaontú agus an chomhoibriú idir na páirtithe móra a bheidh i mbun rialtais sa Tuaisceart ag tús mhí Bealtaine.

Mar a dúradh, tá an reachtaíocht seo fíor-thábhachtach. Is reachtaíocht faoi leith atá ann ós rud é go bhfuil comhoibriú idir muid san Oireachtas agus an Rialtas sa Bhreatain Mhór.

I thank the Senators and the House, in particular Senators McHugh and Kenneally, for their co-operation and their understanding of this complex and unique Bill which required the consent of both Houses of the Oireachtas and the approval of the UK Parliament in Westminster. The legislation is unique also in that it grew out of the Good Friday Agreement and what came afterwards. As recently as Monday last we saw that two main parties in the North have decided to work together under the d'Hondt system and establish a government at the beginning of May.

I thank both Senators and the Chair. I also acknowledge the commitment and good will of officials from a number of offices and Departments in Northern Ireland, officials from our Attorney General's office and the officials from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. I thank all of them for the work they have done in progressing this legislation. I hope the legislation will be beneficial to the many stakeholders involved in the Foyle region.

Mo bhuíochas arís agus go raibh maith agaibh as ucht an reachtaíocht a chur tríd ina hiomlán an tseachtain stairiúil seo.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 7.55 p.m. and resumed at 8 p.m.