PUBLIC BUSINESS. - BILLE IASCAIGH, 1925—DARA CEIM. (FISHERIES BILL, 1925—SECOND STAGE.)

Ceann de sna nithe a cuireadh in úil go hana-luath dhom nuair a thógas suas an Roinn ná a bhféadfaí iascaireacht abhann do leathnú. Toisc go bhfuil an Saorstát suidhte chó hoiriúnach agus tá ar thaobh na hEoraipe den Atlantic agus go bhfuil a aibhne saor ó aon tsaghas salachair agus go bhfuilid féin agus a locha go hoiriúnach i gcóir breac agus bradán d'fhéadfaí a bhfad níos mó a dhéanamh den iascaireacht san ná mar a lomháltar a dhéanamh fé láthair.

Roinnt bhlian ó shoin tugadh iarracht ar luach iascaireacht ár n-abhann a dhéanamh amach agus fuarthas gur shroich sé suas le dhá mhilleón púnt sa mbliain. Sa tsuim seo áirimhítear an méid airgid a gheibheann tithe ósda, bóthair iarainn agus seirbhísí eile a bhaineas leo so, ó sna hiascairí a thagann d'aon ghnó go dtí an tír seo i gcóir iascaireachta. Sé tá im' aigne-se anois ná an dá mhilleón san do mhéadú más féidir é go dtí go mbeidh ceathair no cúig milleóin sa mbliain ann.

Le linn féachaint isteach i scéal an iascaigh intíre ceist ana-thábhachtach iseá caomhnadh an stuic do chimeád. De ghnáth ní shíolruíonn an bradán ach aon uair amháin. As na 10,000 nó 15,000 ubh a bheireann an bhinnseach, dintear amach ná tagann thar aon cheann amháin sa mhíle chun aoise fásta chun dul thar n-ais go dtí a n-abha féin ar aois a gceithre bliana chun síolrú.

I ngach tír shibhialta cuirtear i bhfeidhm le dlí go gcaomhnófar stuic an éisc a thugann cúrsaí de ghnáth ar fhioruiscí. Sa tSaorstát tá 24 Achtanna Páirliminte i bhfeidhm chun n-ár n-iascach do chaomhnadh. Sa tSaorstát, fé mar atá sé leagtha amach fé láthair, tá 21 ceanntar iascaigh agus i ngach ceanntar tá bórd cimeáduithe curtha i mbun ar a bhfuil dílsithe na comhachta is riachtanach chun caomhnadh do dhéanamh ar stoc an éisc sa cheanntar san.

Do socruíodh córú agus comhachta na mBórd Cimeáduithe seo sa bhliain 1848, 77 mbliana ó shoin, agus do leanadar san go dtí so gan puinn atharuithe do dhul ortha. Ag cur na n-Achtanna Iascaigh i bhfeidhm fuarthas amach nár mhór socrú do dhéanamh i gcóir teangmhaisí áirithe nar bhféidir a thabhairt fé ndeara sa bhliain 1848; na hatharuithe a thárluigh d'Údarás an tSaorstáit le reachtúchán do chur an tOireachtas i bhfeidhm fágaid gur gá atharuithe agus ceartuithe áirithe a dhéanamh ar an sean-reacht agus toisc an luíodú a tháinig i rith na 77 mblian ó 1848 ar an chomhacht cheannaigh atá in airgead ní mór ath-fhéachaint isteach a dhéanamh ar an gcothrom airgid ar a mbeidh na Bórdanna Cimeáduithe ag brath chun a ndualgaisí reachtúla do chó-líona go maith.

An Bille atá anois os bhur gcomhair tugann sé fé sna lochtaí so do leigheas agus fé chabhrú leis an obair tábhachtach san iascach fíor-uisce do chaomhnadh agus do shaothrú.

One of the matters to which my attention was drawn very soon after I took charge of the Department of Fisheries was the possibility of extending our river fisheries. Owing to the position of the Saorstát on the Atlantic border of Europe and owing to the freedom of our rivers from pollution and the suitability of the rivers and the lakes for salmon and trout, those ought to be of a great deal more value to the people of the country than they are at present allowed to be. Some years ago an attempt was made to estimate the value of the inland fisheries, and a sum of £2,000,000 annually was agreed upon as a fair estimate. In this estimate an account was taken of the revenue earned by hotels and railways and such persons by reason of people coming to this country especially for the purpose of fishing. It is my aim, and the aim of my Department, to increase that amount, and to make the inland fisheries of the country worth, if possible, £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 per annum. In considering the subject of inland fisheries, the preservation of our river stock is a matter of supreme importance.

Salmon spawn only once, as a general rule, and scientists estimate that the female salmon produces in spawning 1,000 eggs for each pound of its weight, so that a fifteen-pound salmon would produce 15,000 eggs. It is further estimated that only one out of every thousand of these eggs reaches maturity, and returns to its native river when four years' old, to spawn. That would seem to apply also,, and with certain modifications, to eels and sea-trout, as well as non-migratory fish, like brown trout, pike, and so on.

The preservation of the stock in rivers is effected in all civilised countries by laws, and in the Saorstát at present there are twenty-four Acts of Parliament directed to fishery preservation. Under that Code the country is divided into districts, and in the Saorstát, as at present defined, there are twenty-one such districts. In each district there is a Board of Conservators, vested with the necessary power for the protection of the rivers in their districts. The constitution and powers of these Boards of Conservators were fixed in 1848, seventy-seven years ago, and these have continued with practically no alteration up to the present. Experience in the working of fisheries, within the last few years, have shown that certain contingencies have arisen that could not have been foreseen seventy-seven years ago, and it is necessary now that these should be provided for. The changes, for instance, produced in the Judicature in the Saorstát have called for certain alterations and modifications in old statutes, and the decrease in the purchasing power of money during that period renders it necessary to review the financial basis from which these Boards of Conservators derive their incomes to enable them to carry out their statutory duties. The aim of this Bill is to remedy these defects, and thus to facilitate the work of preserving and developing the river fisheries.

Coming to the details of the Bill, Deputies will see that it is divided into four parts. The first part deals largely with the constitution and election of the Board of Conservators. It will be seen that it is proposed in Section 4 of the Bill to hold the new elections at the commencement of the next fishery year after the Bill becomes law. The object is to create uniformity in the triennial elections. At present the elections to the Board of Conservators are held in different years in different districts. Power is also sought to alter the number of conservators in the electoral divisions.

I may explain that each fishery district is divided into electoral divisions according to tidal and fresh water portions of the rivers. Usually there are two electoral divisions in each district, one the tidal estuary and one the fresh water. The number of conservators to be elected for each electoral division was fixed at the time mentioned, 1848, and there is no power under the existing law to change that. The power that we seek to change it is necessary, chiefly, because of the disappearance of the justices of the peace who, in many cases, were ex-officio members of the local Boards. At present, in order to be eligible for election to a Board of Conservators, one has to be resident in or have real property in the electoral division for which he is a candidate. We propose by Section 6 to extend that to the whole district. Thus, if a man is resident in an area, holding real property in the whole district, he is eligible for election in that electoral division in that district. At present the owner of a fishery of a Poor Law Valuation of £100 or over, is entitled to sit on a local Board ex-officio. We propose to extend that to bring in persons who hold fisheries the Poor Law Valuation of which is £50 or over. The proposed alteration in Section 8 as to the number of votes, is consequential upon the alteration of the second part of the Bill by which it is proposed to set up a new scale of licences for rods, nets, eel weirs, and so on.

We have a provision in the Bill that states when a man takes out a licence in one district, if he goes to another district, he has to pay a further 10/- in order to fish in that district, but that further 10/- will not be counted for a vote. Such person will not have a vote in that district. Neither will a person who takes out a fourteen-day short term licence. These persons are usually birds of passage and could not be expected to take as much interest in the welfare of the district as persons residing there. We also hope by that provision to reduce the number of proxy votes, a thing I consider very desirable. The existing statutes do not make any provision for a member of a Board who wishes to retire, or for the filling of casual vacancies. We remedy this by Section 9 (conservators may resign), and Section 11 (casual vacancies to be filled by co-option).

Part II is the most important part of the Bill—Finance. I have already dealt in general terms with the need for preserving river fisheries. It will be generally admitted that the position in most districts at present is very unsatisfactory. I am constantly receiving information about illegalities that are going on: illegal netting in rivers; fixed nets in estuaries; bombing, poisoning, ignoring of bye-laws; fishing without licences; fishing during the weekly and annual close season, and so on. The reason for this is that the rivers are not fully patrolled, even though in most districts the Gárda Síochána have given very great assistance indeed to the Boards' bailiffs. It is only fair to the Gárda Síochána that I should say I am constantly receiving voluntary tributes from the different Boards of Conservators to the Gárda Síochána for the very excellent work they have done. I might mention one specially—the Cork Board—which is a very live Board. In the Lee estuary this year there were 130 nets seized for illegal fishing. The capture of a big portion of that 130 was due to one sergeant of the Gárda Síochána, and all this was done outside his ordinary official duties. However, in spite of the help that the Gárda Síochána has given, the illegalities continue, and something must be done to meet the matter.

We feel that a better type of bailiff is needed. Those employed at present are for the most part unsuitable, but they are the best that the conservators can get for the funds at their disposal. In the year 1923 the total income of the Boards of Conservators of the Saorstát was £10,000. Of that £5,200 was spent on bailiffs and watchers. There were 340 of these employed. That worked out at something less that £16 per man per annum For that remuneration you will not get a very good type of bailiff. The job will not be so good that he will worry very much if he loses it.

The financial clauses of the Bill aim at remedying this by putting more funds at the disposal of the Boards and enabling them to appoint better and more bailiffs than they are able to do at present with the existing funds. The financial proposals fall under two heads (1) increase of the licence duties paid on rods, nets and eel weirs; (2) diverting the rate which is at present payable by private fisheries from the local authority to the Boards of Conservators. The sources of finance of the conservators at present are (1) licence duties; (2) the special fishery rate that I will refer to in a few minutes; (3) grant from my Department and contributions; (4) fines for fishery offences.

The statute of 1848 which created the Boards of Conservators laid down the maximum licence duty which the Boards could levy on the various forms of implements for fishing. That maximum duty has now been levied for over 50 years and most people will admit that the purchasing value of money 50 years ago and to-day would justify an increase now in these maximum duties. It was found after a time that the funds of the Boards were insufficient to carry out effectively the important duties entrusted to them, and it became necessary 25 years ago to make State grants. The amount of these varies from year to year according to the requirements, but the average paid out in this way for the last five years was £3,700 per annum. The Bill proposes to double the licence duties on salmon rods and eel weirs and increase the duty on drift nets proportionate to their catching area. In some districts the salmon drift net which is used extends to about 1,500 yards. The present duty on such a net is only £3. The same duty is exacted for a salmon drift net of only 130 or 150 yards. We feel that a net of 1,500 yards should be made to pay more than the shorter net of a less catchment area. The Bill provides for that.

For the first 400 yards we propose £4 for the drift net and 5/- for every 200 yards after that. So that a net of two thousand yards under this arrangement will pay £6, whereas at present it pays £3. A net of 1,600 yards will pay £5 10s., and so on. I am also increasing the duty on the drift net from £3 to £4, and on the snap net from £1 10s. to £2 10s. It is not proposed to alter the duty payable on other forms of engines, such as bag nets, stake nets or weirs and cribs. The reason for that is that since the maximum duties were originally fixed the duty on these has already been doubled, whereas the duty on the ones I now propose to change have not been touched since 1848.

I alluded a minute ago to the special fishery arrangement which is at present one of the sources of finance; that is the fixed rate of 10 per cent. payable on private fishery rights. A private fishery right is valued in the ordinary way for poor law purposes. It pays its full rate the same as any other property to the local authority. In addition to that, it pays ten per cent. of the rate to the Board of Conservators. By a clause in the Act of 1848, in which this provision was made, a person liable to pay that rate could deduct any licence duties that he paid. In this way the rate was, to a great extent, dodged, because the person who was liable for the rate bought a sufficient number of licences for his employees to avoid paying any rate at all, or only a rate of a negligible amount. In the year 1923 the yield of that rate was only £924 for all districts. The Local Government Act of 1898 provided that a county district could levy a rate not exceeding a halfpenny in the £ on the rateable value of the district to be paid over to the Board of Conservators for the district. This was actually never enforced, through indifference on the part of the local councils, and it was never pressed by the Boards of Conservators because it carried with it certain provisions which would practically swamp the Boards with local representatives.

The proposal in the Bill is to abolish for a period of ten years this special fishery rate of 10 per cent. and to give power to the Boards of Conservators to levy such a rate each year as will be necessary for them to carry on their duties. The private fisheries thus rated by the Conservators will be free from any rating by the local authorities. The total valuation of the fisheries in the Saorstát at present is only a very negligible amount in comparison with the valuation of the whole Saorstát. The amount is £18,884, whereas the total rateable valuation of the Saorstát is something over £11,000,000. Therefore, the loss of revenue which will be sustained by diverting the proceeds of this rate from the local authorities to the Boards of Conservators will be negligible. Going with that I have a provision, in order to ensure that an adequate rate is struck to meet the requirements of the Board in each district, that the central authority will be empowered to supervise and approve of such rates as the Boards may propose to levy in the year, while if there is default on the part of any Board to strike a rate, it may be fixed by the central authority. If a Board tries to get away without striking a rate at all, I am asking for power to strike a rate myself. At any rate, I will supervise, because my intention is that this provision will not let private fisheries off any lighter than they would get off if they were still liable to pay rates to the local authority. That means there would be no less rates on the fisheries under this provision than if they were under the local authority. As a whole, the loss of revenue makes very little difference to the local authorities. There are a few cases where it will. These are special cases, such as Galway and Ballina, where there are very valuable fisheries, and where, if the rates were taken away, an unfair burden might be thrown on the other ratepayers. In the Bill provision is made to meet that. Where the taking of the rates for the Boards of Conservators means an increase of more than 1d. in the £ in the local rate, my Department will meet out of grants anything more than 1d. in the £. The best way to illustrate that will be to give an example. If you take an urban district where the Poor-Law Valuation is £120,000; that there is in that urban district a private fishery valued at £1,000; and that the poundage is 15/- in the £, the rates derivable on £120,000 would be £90,000, and from the £1,000 fishery rate £750. £750 on a total rate of £120,000 works out at 1½d. in the £. What would happen there is that the first 1d. in the £ would fall on the local people, and the amount over 1d.—that is the halfpenny—would be contributed by my Department to the local authority. That means that £250 would be paid by my Department to the local authority.

Will the Minister say how, in the first instance, these private rights were acquired?

In many varied ways. Some, I suppose, by conquest.

And you are going to perpetuate that?

The Bill also provides for the audit of the accounts of the board of conservators by an auditor from the Department of Local Government and Public Health. That is a matter of convenience, as the auditors will be going around the country and it will save duplicating officials. Members of the boards will be liable to surcharge in case of improper expenditure just as in the case of any other local authority.

So far, the clauses I have been dealing with refer to the machinery for carrying out the work of preserving the salmon rivers, and also the provision of finance. These measures would, more or less, fail to accomplish the object in view, if some steps were not taken to hit the poacher and the illegal fisherman. It is not enough to improve the policing of the rivers. We must, at the same time, try to make it extremely difficult for the poacher to get rid of his catch. Up to the present there has been no machinery for putting a stop to the traffic in poached and illegally caught fish. It is well known that on some proprietary rivers, year after year, the quantity of salmon sent to the markets by poachers exceeded the quantity sent by the owners.

In Part 3 of the Bill, I propose to have all dealers in salmon and trout licensed, and anyone not so licensed who sells, or offers for sale, salmon or trout shall be guilty of an offence punishable by fine or imprisonment. The licence will be issued by the board of conservators on the certificate of the district justice, who has to be satisfied as to the fitness of the applicant. A person must be of good character before he can get a licence. A licensed dealer will be required to keep a record of his transactions, and this record has to be available for inspection by authorised persons. Failure to keep a record or produce it when required is visited with penalties. In many instances illegally caught salmon and trout are exported to dealers outside the Saorstát in packages which conceal the contents. Power is sought in Part 4, Section 22, to oblige persons consigning packages of salmon or trout to indicate the contents clearly. Power is given to search persons, vehicles or packages suspected of containing illegally-caught fish, also premises, docks, etc. These wide powers were considered necessary to enable us to have a complete check on the traffic on illegally-caught salmon.

The remaining clauses of the Bill deal mainly with the provision of of machinery by which the Fishery Acts will be carried out. The Minister is given powers of control over Fishery Boards not provided for in previous legislation, but which experience has shown to be desirable and necessary. These include power to dissolve Fishery Boards which fail to act, to create new fishery districts and alter the areas of existing districts. This may be necessary owing to the Boundary. The Minister is also enabled to make bye-laws. At present this power exists only with the Department of Lands and Agriculture. This permits certain things to be done in the interests of artificial propagation and scientific investigation.

Section 31 is important. At present we have no power to prosecute or punish persons who give warning to poachers and others doing illegal acts. On many rivers the bailiffs and Gárda are watched by accomplices of the poachers, who are warned in time to remove all traces of their illegal fishing and so evade punishment. Now, this clause is intended to get after these persons who act as scouts. Section 32 remedies a defect in the Act of 1842. That did not impose any penalty for making use of a fixed engine for taking eels in the close season, except in the eyes, the gaps or the sluices of an eel weir. To remove this defect, Section 32 makes it an offence to fish for eels in the close season by any means except a rod and line. Section 33 is intended to remove a somewhat analogous defect in the law regarding an offence in connection with having in possession on the banks of a river, etc. a spear, gaff, or strokehaul in daylight. The existing law makes this an offence only when it occurs at night.

In this brief outline of the measure it will be noted that the main object is to put the local fishery authorities on a satisfactory financial footing, so that they can do the work entrusted to them in a befitting manner. The main principle aimed at is to make fisheries yield the revenue required for their own preservation. On the whole, the Boards of Conservators have done their work well in the past. With the increased funds which the Bill will enable them to raise, and with more precise control over their activities by my Department, I look forward to the steady improvement of our inland fisheries with confidence. I move the Second Reading.

The Bill purports, as the Minister has said, to make better provision for the preservation and the conservation of our inland fisheries. So far as it does that, it will meet with general approval. As to the general principle of the Bill, I am sure it would be more satisfactory to all of us if the Minister, when he was bringing in this Bill, consolidated all the 40 Fishery Acts that he talks about, codified them, and put them all in the one Act. That would be more satisfactory from many points of view—from the points of view of Deputies and those who will be affected by the administration of the Bill when it becomes law. I do not like this system of legislation by reference, of which there is very much evidence in this Bill. I did not know, for instance, what Sections 6 and 7 referred to until the Minister spoke, because I did not go to the trouble of fishing out all the old Acts that he spoke of. It would be more satisfactory if he set down in Section 7 the definite conditions governing the qualifications of those who could be elected, and if, in Section 6, instead of referring to some Act of 1863, he set out definitely the areas from which the member could be chosen. Similarly, in Section 33, if he set out the old section in full, it would be more satisfactory. He might have set out those old sections, so that one could gather, by reading the Bill, what was meant to be conveyed.

As I read the Bill, and listening to the Minister's explanation. I take it that it deals almost entirely with the preservation of salmon and of privately-owned fisheries. Deputy Corish, when the Minister was speaking, asked how those who owned the fisheries came to acquire their rights in the first instance. The Minister replied that that was an old story and was ancient history. I do not suppose it would serve any useful purpose in going into it. It should be noted, in any case, that in the case of land owners who acquired their land, much in the same way, I suppose, as the fishery people acquired their fishery rights, they were bought out in the public interests. A somewhat opposite principle seems to be adopted here, inasmuch as it appears we are endowing the owners of those salmon fisheries in order to preserve the fisheries in their own interests, very largely. Nothing is said, and no definite provision is made, for the preservation of the public fisheries, the free fisheries of the country. There is no doubt that the free fisheries are, in a great many instances, a great source —probably the greatest source—of attraction to the ordinary tourist or angler, the man who comes to fish for brown trout. As regards the type of person who can afford to come here and pay, not only rod licence duties, but heavy rentals in order to indulge in salmon fishing, the number is very small. The greater number of anglers by far come to fish for brown trout in what are public and free fisheries, such as can be found in the lakes of Westmeath, Lough Corrib, Lough Conn, Lough Mask and other places.

It is stated, and it is asserted very strongly by those who are in a position to know, that the boards of conservators in the past have done practically nothing for the preservation of these free trout fisheries.

They have confined their attention entirely to the preservation of the salmon fisheries, their own privately-owned fisheries, and this has led in some instances at least to the formation of voluntary associations of fishermen and of anglers interested in the sport, and the conservation of the fisheries. These associations have been recognised to the extent of giving them grants from the Fishery Department, but I am afraid they have not got very much to say on the question of the preservation of the fisheries. I do not know what representations the Minister has had from them, or whether he has had any from them with regard to this Bill, or whether they have been given any opportunity of making a representation to the Advisory Committee which he has set up in connection with the Fishery Department. I think it is essential that these associations, where they do exist, should have an opportunity of making their views known to the Ministry.

As I said a moment ago, I do not see that there is anything being done by this Bill to help to preserve the free fisheries, unless it is that the Minister has power to force the Boards of Conservators set up in the particular districts to look after, not only the privately-owned fisheries but the fisheries of the whole district. Of course it is doubtful whether he will be successful even if he has power to do that, because it must be remembered that the people who are eligible for election to these Boards, as I understand it in any case, are only people who own the fisheries. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong.

Eligible for election?

Mr. O'CONNELL

Yes.

Any person who resides in or holds real property, no matter what that property may be, in that area, is eligible for election.

Mr. O'CONNELL

But under Section 7, is there not provision for a £50 valuation?

There is a certain number of persons who areex officio members of the Board, without election.

Mr. O'CONNELL

I see; these are members as of right?

Mr. O'CONNELL

It is clear from the system of voting and the ex-officio members, that the owners of the fisheries will control the Boards of Conservators, whether others are eligible for election or not. With regard to the source of revenue, this is derived from the licence duty and it is proposed to increase this licence duty. As I understand the figures, it appears to me that these increases deserve closer examination. The increase, for instance, on fixed engines or weirs, or rather the rates paid by these, do not seem at all proportionate to the licence which is charged on a rod. I think there will be considerable doubt, in spite of what the Minister has said, as to the advisability of diverting from the local authorities the rate which is at present derived from these private fisheries. I think, too,—but it will be a matter for those who are interested in local authorities to say—that they will undoubtedly ask what they are going to get in return for this, if anything. The Minister says it is negligible, but still is pretty considerable from the figures he gave.

A penny in the £ is the maximum—is it not?

Yes, that is the maximum.

Mr. O'CONNELL

I know that some local authorities consider that anything but a negligible quantity.

That is the maximum.

Mr. O'CONNELL

There are many points in connection with this which are matters more to be discussed in Committee than on Second Reading and which I do not propose to refer to at the moment. I think there will be general objection taken to Section 8, in which the scale of votes is set out. I think, too, that there will be general objection to the system which has been in practice for many years of proxy votes. As I say, these are matters which will be more properly discussed in Committee. I would like to know, however at this stage, what is the Minister's intention with regard to the voluntary associations, whether he proposes to give them any representation on these boards or any right to elect members to the boards of conservators, or whether he proposes to encourage the formation of such voluntary associations and to give them grants as I understand has been the practice heretofore to some extent. On that I would say, personally, that I believe that such voluntary associations are of the greatest possible benefit in their respective districts in helping to preserve especially the free fisheries. There is just one other small point. I think that much more importance than it seems to get in this Bill should be given to the preservation of trout fishing. It is doubtful if it would not be well that special measures, possibly a special Bill, should be introduced to deal with that very important aspect of our inland fisheries.

Ar an gcéad dul amach, is mian liom focal molta a thabhairt do'n Aire mar gheall ar an óráid a rinne sé i-nGaedhilg ag míniú an bhille seo dúinn. Tá go leor des na daoine a bhfuil bainnt acu leis an iasgaireacht in a nGaedhilgeóirí, agus is trathamhail an rud é, Aire um Iasgaireacht a bheith againn a thuigeas saoghal na ndaoine, agus a bhfuil fhios aige ar nithibh is fearr a rachadh um tairbhe dóibh. Tuigim-se go maith go bhfeileann sé don tír cosaint a dhéanamh ar na h-éisg nuair atá síad ag sgeith 'san nGéireamh. Deantar go leór airgid as iasgaireacht 'san Samhradh agus d'fheadfaí an méad airgid sin a mhéadú faoi dhó nó fó thrí dhá dtuigeadh na daoiní i gceart go mbadh é a leas féin na heisg a chosaint san nGéireamh.

San am tá caithte againn, cuireadh dlíthe i dtaobh iasgaireacht i bhféidhm a bhí ag féileamhaint amháin de dhream beag aithrid san tír, agus níor cheart dúinn anois, leanamhaint do réir an nósa cheadhna. Má fheiceann na daoine go bhfhuil cóir agus cothrom le fághail ag gach dream, cuirfidh síad níos mó suime san sgéal, agus deanfar níos lúgha dochair do na h-éisg le linn sgéitheadh dóibh san nGéireamh.

I have, in the first instance, to congratulate the Minister on his opening speech in Irish. I think it very appropriate that on a question such as this, which is so largely connected with the Irish language, the Minister should introduce a Bill dealing with the fishery laws, in the Irish language.

As Deputy O'Connell has stated, this Bill, on the whole, is satisfactory, but there are some points in connection with it which want to be largely improved in Committee. I, in common with a number of other Deputies, am strongly opposed to the property qualification for voters who elect the boards of conservators. In the past, the people of this country felt that these fishery laws were passed in the interests of one particular class, regardless of the interests of the community as a whole. I deplore as much as anyone the amount of poaching that takes place in the winter season, because I realise that these fresh water fisheries, if properly protected, would be a great asset to the nation. I think, however, that a good deal of the poaching, or some of it at least, is due to the fact that these boards of conservators have not the general support of the people. I think it would help to a great extent the preservation of fish if those boards were elected on a broader franchise. There was one question which caused a good deal of uneasiness in County Galway, especially in Lough Corrib district. On reading this Bill in the beginning and looking over the part dealing with the rating question, where the rates were collected from the owners of privately-owned fisheries, a number of the people were under the impression that money so collected, would not go to the preservation of free fisheries, such as Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, and also Lough Conn in County Mayo. The money, of course, will be common porperty for the preservation of fishing in all areas, and it would be well if the Minister would make that plain when he replies to whatever criticism may be raised on the Second Stage of the Bill. As I stated already, the Bill, with certain amendments, can be made acceptable, and some of us at least propose to put down amendments for discussion in Committee, and we hope that the Minister will be able to accept them. We hope that he will at least accept an amendment abolishing the property qualifications for the election of boards of conservators and that he will get away from those good old days, or, as we might call them, those bad old days, when legislation was introduced in support of one particular class.

I have been a member of a board of conservators for nearly twenty years, and if Deputy O'Maille does not succeed in abolishing me in Committee I shall be abolished under the Bill for six months' non-attendance, so that I can deal with this subject impartially. There are one or two points raised in discussion with which I should like to deal. This is a useful and valuable Bill. Like Deputy O'Connell, I should have welcomed a complete codification of the fishery laws, but I wonder how long we shall have to wait to get it. Failing that, some of the provisions are so valuable I welcome them as an instalment. Deputy Corish asked the Minister, and Deputy O'Connell endorsed his query, as to how some of the existing fishery rights were acquired. I can only speak for the one with which I am connected and for the rights which I own. An ancestor of mine found himself in possession of a river the mouth of which was closed by a waterfall of considerable height, so that no salmon could get up. In 1837, I think, he went to the expense of obtaining an Act of Parliament allowing him to construct a salmon ladder at the mouth of that river. He constructed a salmon ladder at considerable cost, so that a fishery was created where none previously existed. The salmon then went up to spawn, and have been doing so to the present day. I admit that there was a very fair dividend on that expenditure, and in the ninety odd years since then we have had a fair dividend, but there has also been a fair amount of expenditure. Fisheries are not worked for nothing and there is considerable outlay. In the past, but not in recent times, there was considerable outlay on experiments of various kinds. My grandfather established a hatchery. He brought over the ovæ of Rhine salmon and hatched out Rhine salmon. They did well in the river but were not satisfactory from a sporting point of view, as they could not be got to rise to a fly. There are certain vested interests as a result of developments and expenditure in the past, and if you are going to try and check developments and expenditure in fisheries you should also try to check development and expenditure in other industries. In another fishery in which I have no financial interest the rights were bought by a Liverpool firm just in the same way as a British capitalist might buy Pierce's business in Wexford tomorrow, and if you talk about rights, legally held and legally exercised, you will be creating a situation which will be hostile and inimical to the development of industry of any kind. So it does not do to speak too lightly or too easily the commonplaces of the platform, but in the Dáil we should be spared references as to how property was acquired. Sometimes it was acquired by purchase and sometimes by development, and there may be cases where it was acquired wrongly and unjustly, but the danger of dealing with those cases and disturbing the sense of established possession is so great I think we would be wise to leave it alone. This Bill is not perfect.

Like those Deputies who have spoken, I think amendments will be moved in Committee, and possibly as a result of discussions at that stage the Bill will be improved. It has valuable features. I welcome the increased taxation on drift nets. Before the war a situation had arisen in which there was almost a wall of drift nets off the north-west coast of Ireland. These nets were supplied to fishermen by English and Scottish firms, who put the fishermen under a contract to sell the salmon they caught at twopence a lb., whereas the firms sold it at 2/- a lb. The profit, therefore, that came to Ireland was very small, and the harm done to Irish fisheries was very great indeed. The long drift net can pay the rate stated in the Bill, and possibly even a higher rate. Part 3 of the Bill is very valuable, and I do not think that exception was taken, either by Deputy O'Connell or Deputy O'Maille, as regards the registration of dealers, but the danger is that poached fish may go to dealers over whom we have no control, dealers outside the Saorstát, as the bulk of the salmon trade is done outside the Saorstát.

The danger of this is being met by Section 22, in Part IV., but I am not sure that the section is strong enough. The section says:—

"Every person who shall carry for reward... any package containing salmon or trout which is not marked in the manner required by this section shall be guilty of an offence."

Does that apply to the railway and steam shipping companies, because if it does not, it ought to. There is no use going to the stationmaster or the booking-clerk, as he will not be doing this for personal reward but in conformity with his duty as an officer of the company. Unless the steam shipping and railway companies are liable under that section, it is of no value at all. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to look into this before the Committee Stage, because, as I have said, the stationmaster or the clerk is not doing it for reward. On the other hand, companies may be persons in a legal sense but they are not persons in a general or individual sense. I am in agreement with Deputy O'Connell on one strong point he made. He complained that the attention of the boards of conservators had mainly been given to the protection of salmon. That is true to a certain extent, though not entirely true. It is due to the fact that the boards derive practically the whole of their revenue from salmon fishing. Trout fisheries are not rated. There are no licences for rods to catch trout, and it is not unnatural that they should give the bulk of their attention to the preservation of salmon. I am entirely in agreement with the view of the Deputy that a system of help should be given to the various local protection associations which have arisen for protecting trout fishing. These associations have done valuable and useful work, with only voluntary subscriptions to support them.

When a vacancy occurred lately on the board of conservators to which I belong, I used such influence as I to get a person connected with a local association made a conservator, and he was made a conservator. In general, I think, local preservation associations are working in conjunction and in harmony with the boards of conservators, but I should like them to be put in a position to do more. At present they are dependent solely on the revenue they can raise by subscription but they have no power to levy a rate or licence duty of any kind. The conservators get their revenue from salmon. The total means at the disposal of the boards is very small, and they are not in a position to help to any great extent. I am inclined to ask the Minister whether it would not be possible to issue a small licence for trout fishing, at any rate so far as persons not resident in the district are concerned. At present it is possible for a fisherman to come from Manchester, stay a fortnight in a district, fish every day, have good sport, and do nothing for the preservation of the fish whatever. Many of these visitors contribute voluntarily, and many do not. The money they spend is spent on hotels and places of that kind, and the hotels contribute nothing except voluntarily. I do not think the man who comes from Manchester or Dublin to the west of Ireland would begrudge paying 5/- or 2/6 for trout fishing, while the funds levied in that way would be valuable I have no doubt there would be no trouble in getting the boards of conservators to place these funds at the disposal of the local associations. That is bound up with the greatest problem of the lot. The real problem that anyone who wishes to encourage fishing in Ireland, to make sport possible and to get the support of the majority of the people, is faced with is that you must raise enough funds without making sport too expensive for people living in the locality. I have all my life given facilities for trout fishing free. Recently I have been able to place one day a week free for salmon fishing at the disposal of the local anglers association. Many of these people who joined the anglers association, and wished to fish locally, would find a difficulty in paying the £2 licence the Minister has imposed. What we want to do, and it is not by any means easy, is to make sport cheap for the person who lives in the district, and wants to have an occasional day at it, and at the same time to see that the visitor from a distance pays a fair but not unreasonable proportion for the preservation of the fish which gives him sport. That problem is partially solved in the Bill, and I think if we approach this question without too many prepossessions and do not give way to catchwords in our desire for the preservation of the fish, and to improve the sport of the fishermen, we shall in Committee make the Bill better than it is now.

I agree with other Deputies that the Minister has made out a very good case for the Bill. To any person acquainted with this subject there is no question of the importance of this measure. Deputy O'Connell referred to some objectionable features, and these can be dealt with in Committee. I am glad he rejected the doctrine of ransom which Deputy Corish has endeavoured to force upon him. Deputy Major Cooper, so far as that is concerned, has given proof that his own fisheries at least were free from that taint, but I am astonished at one of the objections made by such a well-informed man as Deputy Cooper. He objected to the drift nets, and welcomed the additional restrictions placed upon them. My information regarding this drift net fishing in the north-west of Ireland is fairly intimate, and I entirely disagree with the conclusions of the Deputy on this matter. In fact, the one blot in the Bill, so far as I have followed it from the Minister's exposition, is the putting of restrictions on the drift net sea fishing, and increasing the licence duty. Previously the cost of the licence to these men was £3 per year. Under this Bill for fishing with the Seine net of say 1,500 yards, the licence is doubled. On what grounds are these men licenced at all? They are not fishing within territorial waters; they are fishing on the high seas. We have no more right to control their fishing there than we have to control the English, the Scotch or the European fishermen who occasionally do so. If the Minister took power to prevent these north-west fishermen from fishing for salmon, he could not prevent those from England, Scotland and the Continent from taking these salmon, in connection with which these men are to be penalised in the Bill. There is another side of this question. The main purpose of this Bill, I gathered from the Minister's exposition, is to preserve the inland fisheries. Anything that tends to lessen that preservation is a matter that should be attended by the Minister. How does fishing ten miles from the mouth of a river affect the amount of salmon put into the river? We have it indeed on scientific authority that the damage done to salmon in the high seas by a single boat corresponds to the damage done by a single rod fisherman on a salmon river.

If these men were making a livelihood from this fishing one could understand that they might be asked to pay for the preservation of the inland fisheries. But what are the real facts? Salmon fishing takes place for twentyone days practically in every year, from the middle of June, or thereabouts. The men are allowed to fish for five days in the week between sunset and sunrise. They fish ten miles from the mouth of the nearest river. They are exposed to the peril of the passing tramp steamers which frequently destroy their nets. The cost of the equipment of the boat is very considerable to these poor people. A boat that you could buy for £20 to £25 some years ago costs something like £60 at present. Nets which were easily purchaseable for £40 some years ago now cost £90—that is, the nets that were used, because they use longer nets now. For all this peril and adventure, in risking their money and equipment, during many seasons up to last year, these men did not make sufficient out of the salmon fishing to pay for more than their licences. The average given to me for five years for the best fishing district in the north-west, Gola Island, was £40 a boat, or £10 a man, and when the labour they gave, and the danger to which they have been exposed, are taken into account, that is very poor pay. But the great feature of this salmon fishing is this, that while for the last ten years, as the Minister so well knows, the occasional fishing, herrings, lobster, or other seasonal fishing which takes place on that coast and furnishes the bulk of the incomes of these people, was so bad that the fishermen could not make a living from it; the three weeks' salmon fishing was able to make the difference in their incomes between downright poverty and comparative comfort. Last year was probably the best of the past ten years for salmon fishing on the west coast, and I am in a position to say this from my own knowledge, that had the salmon fishing not been so successful last year we would have had to supply these men all round that coast with public money to keep them alive. It is these men that you ask to pay double the licence. If it were a question of protecting the inland fisheries I might be inclined to support it, but there is no interference with the inland fisheries. It is true that a net licence of some kind is necessary. My proposal is —and I will put it up in Committee— that a flat rate of £1 or £2 be charged for all salmon nets fishing as these men do.

If a very large revenue were derived from this tax—I am talking of the north-west; the conditions are different in other parts—that would be of assistance to the Minister in the arrangements—the excellent arrangements, I must say, that he is making, although I shall have something to say on the finance clause in Committee—I would not raise any objection to the schedule at all, but I find that the average amount derived from these people does not exceed £700 a year. Yet for this sum, which to these men means the difference between penury and comfort, the Minister is doubling the tax and is depriving them of some of their income. I question whether in most of these districts where the fishermen are financed in the manner Deputy Cooper described—their nets supplied by English and Scotch fish salesmen—whether these men would be able to fish at all if the licence is increased in this manner. But to the larger number of fishermen in Gola, Tory, and the islands along that coast who own their own boats and gear this will be a greater hardship. In my opinion it will be an unfair tax, and I must oppose it.

The importance of this Bill, I think, is realised. The destruction of salmon and inland fish of all kinds was appalling during the last few years. We know, and the Minister has made reference to it, that the value of these inland fisheries at present, about two million or two and a half million pounds, may easily be raised with these precautions to bring in a revenue of five or six million pounds, or treble the present revenue. As a matter of fact, I think that the Minister has been very modest in his estimate. Lord Dunraven, who published a letter on this matter, calculates that a revenue of at least ten million pounds could easily be obtained from this source. If you take ten million pounds as the sum we might derive from these inland fisheries with increased protection, and if you develop the potential value of the deep sea fisheries, you will have established for the Saorstát a revenue only second perhaps to that of the great agricultural industry on which it now depends. Inland and deep sea fisheries, which are at present in a state of chaos, would yield an immediate income which would transform the whole face of this country. I hope that before the Committee Stage the Minister will be so good as to look into the question I have raised regarding the net fishing, and if he can see his way to do so that he will strike out the line in the First Schedule charging for a licence at the rate of £4 for the first 400 yards of net and 5/- for every additional two hundred yards, and that he will substitute a flat rate of £2.

The question which I asked during the Minister's speech seemed to give some people an idea that I had something revolutionary in my mind. I want to assure the House that there is nothing of the kind. I asked how did some of these people under discussion acquire their private rights, and Deputy Cooper made an attempt to answer. The case put forward by Deputy Cooper is an entirely different one from that which I have in my mind. My interpretation of the case he put forward is the control of what might be considered to be a tributary of a river, or something that was almost a lake. That is entirely different from what I have in mind. The case I have in mind at the moment is the river Slaney, which derives its source from somewhere in the Wicklow Mountains, flows through the whole County Wexford, and empties itself into Wexford Bay. Practically half of the river is controlled and is owned by certain people in Co. Wexford. The Minister says that that is a right. I say that it is an alleged right, because I do not think that any private person should control our rivers. These people acquired certain rights at certain periods—I have asked for information as to how they did so—while the people on the banks of this river have to stand idly by in view of this control.

They are not permitted to use a rod, or net, or anything else to take fish out of the river which is immediately adjacent to their land. I consider that this is not a proper thing. I believe that what these people consider to be their rights are not their rights; that is, the confiscation which took place in the times when we had not a Government of our own, and I think the Minister and his Government will agree that it is not right and that he will confess that he believes deep down in his heart that it is not right. In bringing in this Bill, he is perpetuating these alleged rights, because I do not consider them rights. Having said that, I want to congratulate the Minister upon bringing in this Bill, because many of its clauses were certainly wanted for the preservation of the fisheries. In the first place, it is desirable, as he has said, and I agree that it is necessary, to place the different boards of conservators in a position to employ proper bailiffs. The amount of money that up to this has been at the disposal of the different boards of conservators, functioning all over the country, has not been sufficient to enable them to procure the right kind of man, and in many cases I have heard it said that the wages of some of the people employed as bailiffs were so small that they themselves spend some of their time poaching. That is because the boards have not been able to get the proper sort of man and to pay for him. I think it can be proved that in many parts of the country the bailiffs engage in poaching.

Like Deputy O'Doherty, I want to say that I disagree altogether with the increase upon nets. If you increase the licence upon nets you will strike a blow at the poor man. The man that uses these nets uses them for only half the year, and he is trying to get sufficient money in that portion of the year to enable him to live for the twelve months. I think, therefore, it is inadvisable to increase the licence on him. If there is to be an increase at all, it ought to be an increase on the licences of those who use the rivers for sport. The man who uses a net does so to obtain a livelihood for himself and his family, and I do not think it is desirable that it should be increased.

With regard to the election of conservators, I am sorry to say that the Minister has not brought forward something to do away with the proxy vote. Under the state of affairs that prevailed up to this and that is still going to continue under this Bill, people who control certain parts of the river issue a licence to people coming across from London, or Manchester, or Liverpool and from other cities across the Channel, and when the election of the conservators comes along these people are able to appoint proxies here and to secure a majority on the boards of conservators in the different parts of the country, to the detriment of people who are dependent upon the fisheries for their livelihood; and the result is that the ordinary net fisherman is not able to secure more than one-third representation on the board and the rivers are worked in such a way as not to be in his interest. I think, if we develop the fisheries and if we develop them in the interests of the people who are making their livelihood out of these fisheries, it will be more desirable than to develop them in the interests of people who come merely for sport.

I resent also that portion of the Bill which enables people to become members of the boards asex officio members. I do not think that is a desirable state of affairs. I do not think there is anything else I need say on the matter. I intend to move some amendments, especially in connection with the proxy voters, and with regard to the supposed rights upon the river. I think the time has arrived when this Government should free the waters from landlordism, in the same way as it freed the land from landlordism.

I wish to say a word about the free fisheries of Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, which are in the very happy position that they are not troubled either by landlords or river-lords or lakelords. They are free fisheries. Every man can go down to Lough Mask and fish in it, whether he is from Mayo, Galway, or any other part of the world. I would be glad to see a great many other lakes in that happy position. But there are drawbacks to Lough Mask. Though the salmon come to Lough Corrib they do not come to Lough Mask. Lough Corrib and Lough Mask are joined together under one board of fishery conservators, and the present income derived by that board is mainly derived from the salmon fishery in Lough Corrib. Consequently the people living around Lough Mask are rather uneasy as to how they will be looked after by men whose income is entirely derived from salmon, seeing that there is no salmon fishing in Lough Mask. That being the case I would like to get an assurance from the Minister that Lough Mask would be protected. It is one of the most valuable brown trout fishing places in Ireland, if not anywhere else. It is subject to a great deal of illegal fishing. The little rivers that empty themselves into the lake are watched throughout the three months of the winter by men who injure the fish to a great extent by illegal fishing, and do a great deal of damage. In any case there is netting going on, and this netting is illegal. Eels are also illegally taken. It is absolutely necessary to have some protection. I would like to get an assurance from the Minister that he will make provision, and as to how he is going to make provision in this matter.

Deputy Cooper spoke of brown trout fishing, and said that men came from England to places like Lough Mask and Lough Corrib and fished, and that these should pay a licence. How are you to distinguish between the man coming from Dublin or Galway or Westmeath and the man coming from England? I think there will be a great deal of difficulty in asking these men to pay a licence. If you do ask these men to take out a licence, the alternative is to ask every man who fishes for trout to take out a licence. I think the Minister for Fisheries would find that that would not work in Lough Mask. He would need the services of all the Gárda Síochána to collect these licences. So I think he will have to drop the suggestion of a licence for these. He will, under the new arrangement suggested in this Bill, have ample means of protection. There was a voluntary association of anglers on Lough Mask up to about twenty years ago. They collected money to pay for a bailiff. They saw that two or three bailiffs would give adequate protection to the lake. This little association fell away about twenty years ago and is not in existence. I suggest that it could easily be revived. I do not see where the income would come from, and I suggest that an association of that kind, which would appoint bailiffs and look after them as fishery conservators would do, if it got a little assistance from the Minister, could easily give adequate protection to the lake.

I must say that the Bill is welcomed by everyone interested in the inland fisheries. There is a great possibility of making inland fisheries in Ireland something like they are in other countries. I think this is a foundation on which the industry can be built up. They must first be protected. I sympathise with what Deputy O'Connell said about those who are fishery owners. Even if they got the rights like Deputy Cooper's ancestors got them, still a large number of them got the rights in very doubtful ways, and I think the people will never be satisfied until they are bought out. A lot of the grievance against them is compensated for by the fact that a number of these old owners did a great deal to protect the fisheries. They established hatcheries. As a general rule that work was not done well by them. If you compare the work done by owners of rivers in Scotland with that done in Ireland, you will see that the work done in Ireland is poor and inadequate. I think the Minister should consider the advisability of buying out those people altogether. The people will never be satisfied with the present system. The rights ought to be bought out and given over to the State or the county councils. The State could have representation on the fishery boards in proportion to the rights they bought out. I welcome the Bill, and think it will do a great deal for the inland fisheries.

I join with Deputy Cooper in regretting that Deputy Corish has thought fit to raise the question as to how the fishing rights were acquired by several of the existing owners. That is a question, as we all know, that was raised with disastrous results in connection with land, and I sincerely hoped, for the good of the country, that we had heard the end of it. I am sorry it has been raised here again to-day. Deputy Corish also complained that the fishery rights along many of those rivers were not given to the persons holding the land immediately adjoining that portion of the river. I am not sure whether Deputy Corish was a member of the last Dáil or not, but in the last Dáil a Bill was passed, known as the Land Bill. Under that Bill power was taken to purchase a number of large holdings and to divide up these holdings amongst a number of smaller owners. When purchasing a number of those holdings they purchased with them the fishing rights. The principle that was adopted in the Dáil, of which, I take it, Deputy Corish and others approve, was that the fishing rights of that property were in the future to be vested in the State, and the State was to rent or deal otherwise, as it thought best, with those rights. Those rights were not given under that Bill—in fact, they were refused under that Bill—to the different owners adjoining. If that principle were approved by the last Dáil, it is hardly fair to be raising the question again now with regard to the rights of those owners, because, to anyone who has inquired even in a most casual way into the subject, it is quite obvious that no other arrangement could have been made. Some of those small owners would possibly have a right of less than one hundred yards along a river on one bank and another small holder would acquire the corresponding rights on the other bank, and the rights would be distributed up amongst so many small holders that they would be really no use to anyone. Even looking casually into the question, it is quite impossible to support any idea of that particular kind.

Deputy O'Maille has referred to the question of the qualifications of voters for the conservators. As I understand the Bill, votes are limited to those who have an interest in fishing—that is, to those who make some payment. I do not know whether I am correct in that, but that is so as I read the Bill. There seems to be an objection to that principle. In other words, I take it that what is advocated is that the many who have no interest at all in fishing, and who possibly know nothing at all about it, are to be brought in to vote for conservators in whom they have practically no interest. Even a casual enquiry would have made clear that practically any other than the present franchise would have been exceedingly unwise. The voting for those conservators is confined to those who pay something and have some interest in the industry, and the maximum number of votes, apparently, under the Bill that can be possessed by any one voter is, I think, four. Quite irrespective of what the payment is, and in some cases it is a fairly large one, the maximum number of votes any such payee can have is four. I think the interests of what we might call the smallholder have been more than carefully watched in the Bill under consideration.

While the Minister, in his opening statement, was most lucid as to the different provisions of the Bill, yet there were some aspects that I was anxious he should have touched on. The Bill, as I read it, practically deals with what we might call inland fisheries. I was hopeful that we might have had from the Minister a comprehensive Bill dealing with the whole of this complex question as included in some twenty different Acts of Parliament, as he explained to us. I hoped we would have had one Bill dealing with the whole of this large question.

Apparently, it is to be dealt with in sections. In this particular section we only deal with inland fisheries. How far it is intended to include in this Bill jurisdiction regarding coast fishing is not made clear. In connection with salmon along our coasts, there is a great deal of damage done. I do not know whether salmon fishing along the coast is sufficiently protected by the existing Acts. It is, I think, a matter that calls for revision.

There is another aspect of this matter on which I would like to offer a few observations—that is the charges to be made. I notice in the schedule that the charges for salmon fishing are £2 per rod. Though it does not say so specifically in the schedule, I gather that that is not a general licence but is confined to one particular river.

It is a general licence. Where a person goes outside the district in which he gets the licence, he has to pay 10/- additional, under the provisions of this Bill. Up to the present, if a person came from England to Dublin for fishing, he paid £1 in Dublin and went down, perhaps, to Connemara. He need not necessarily have contributed anything in the district in which he actually fished.

The Minister, I presume, means that he did not contribute anything directly. Of course, he contributed indirectly. The Minister has informed us that the Free State is divided into 21 areas, and I take it that this payment of £2 would simply cover the fishing on one area. If the person fishing went into another area, it would mean the payment of an additional 10/-, I presume. That may or may not be desirable. It is a matter that will have to be considered. But it is well to bear in mind that, as the Minister has pointed out, a great many visitors come for the fishing, particularly to the West of Ireland. A number of them stay for no more than a few weeks. That would be, I think, the average duration of a visit. It seems hardly fair that a person coming for that period, or for a shorter period —as many of them do—should be called upon to pay a sum of £2. I take it that the licence is issued quite irrespective of the period.

There is a short-term licence available for £1, to cover a period of not more than 14 days. That is provided for in Section 12, sub-section (2).

That reduces the licence for 14 days to £1?

That is in the discretion of the board.

I read that clause, but I did not quite understand it. If the applicant for a licence has to submit his application to the authority, then there may not be an opportunity for so doing while the visitor is here. It does not seem to be an operative clause. It does not state that, for a period of 14 days, a licence will be issued for the smaller amount without any other formalities. The provision in that clause is conditional. In view of the number of visitors who come here for fishing, it would be desirable that we should make the procedure as simple as possible and that licences should be as easily obtainable as possible.

While it is desirable to get a considerable revenue from these rivers, the Minister should bear in mind that, as he increases the charge for net or rod fishing, he increases the desire to poach. People will try to avoid paying the tax. I would ask him to consider the question whether it would not be desirable, instead of getting a large payment from a small number, to try and get a small payment from a large number. If that course were adopted, I think the desire to poach would be considerably reduced, if not entirely done away with. Where fishing is indulged in by what one might call the poorer classes, it is undesirable to make the licensing fee too high and deprive them of what they and their families may have found a source of enjoyment for many years.

Now that the Minister has introduced a Bill dealing with inland fisheries, I hope that we will not have to wait for the same period for a Bill dealing with the sea fisheries. I hold that there is a great deal that could be done for the sea fisheries that is not done. I do not know if the Minister will agree with me—though I know a little about sea fisheries—that there is just as much room for development in connection with our sea fisheries as there is in connection with our inland fisheries. I hope we shall have some measure from him in the near future dealing with this important section of his work.

The Minister can, I think, congratulate himself upon the satisfactory reception which this Bill has got. On the whole, it is a very conservative Bill and does not attempt anything very remarkable. The question of fishery rights was raised by Deputy Corish. Deputies Cooper and Good defended existing rights. It is, nevertheless, true, as Deputy Corish stated, that these existing rights are very nebulous in character. On the other hand, I admit that to hand over these rights to the ordinary riparian owners would be very disastrous to the fisheries of the country. The right principle, as Deputy Good pointed out, was adopted in the Land Bill, in which fishery rights were retained to the Government. I hope that in the future that course will be continued and that the Government will obtain more fishery rights in other parts of the country. On the other hand, I hope that fishers will combine in associations in order to rent those fisheries from the Government each year. I think that is the only solution, because, in most cases, the rivers are in the nature of being an organised whole and have to be treated as a whole, and it would be disastrous if they were split up amongst a large number of riparian owners. I doubt if the Minister fully realises or fully understands the effect of his Bill upon boards of conservators. Under Section 7 of the Bill, it is proposed to increase, very considerably, the number of these conservators by reducing the valuation of their fisheries from £100 to £50. While their number is increased under Section 7, it is more than probable that the Minister will remove them from office in a greater number of cases under Section 10. I do not exactly know what the effect will be on the personnel of the Boards. It is more than probable that a very large number of these owners, men like Deputy Cooper, will be expelled for non-attendance. It is difficult to see exactly what effect the Bill will have upon the Boards as at present constituted.

Deputy O'Doherty deprecated any increase in the licence duty. I am afraid it is inevitable that that increase should take place. The number of people involved in keeping the boards of conservators in being is not very large, and consequently their contributions have to be proportionately so. Deputy O'Connell rather objected to the fact that the existing boards, and the Ministry in general, have done very little for trout fisheries. I am afraid that is the fault of the trout fishers themselves. Deputy O'Connell referred to these voluntary associations which have been formed, but they have refused, and have expressed their refusal, to participate in paying their share of the expenses of the boards of conservators. When this Bill was in the air, these associations began to pass resolutions protesting against the idea of a tax on trout rods. Deputy Sears suggested that the Minister would never dare to try to impose such a tax, and stated that it would be impossible to collect it. I disagree. I think it will be comparatively easy to collect it. There are other taxes which are equally difficult to collect. There is, for instance, the dog tax, and there are regulations, such as the one to have a light on a bicycle at night, which are equally difficult to enforce. I certainly think that the Minister, if he wished to be Napoleonic, and it is not easy to be Napoleonic in matters affecting inland fisheries, might have inflicted a tax ruthlessly on these trout fishers and so relieve the burden on the unfortunate salmon fishers who have to bear all the cost of preserving the fisheries. There are various matters in the Bill which can be corrected on the Committee Stage.

With regard to Part IV. of the Bill, I wonder if the Minister can give us any information as to the present position with regard to the export of salmon during the close season. There is an Act, I think, of 1869—it is not the main Act of that year, but a small Act —which prohibited the export overseas of salmon caught in the United Kingdom during the close season. It was stated specifically in that Act, I think, that Ireland or England were not to be considered as being overseas in the relation of one to the other. I do not know what effect the Adaptation of Enactments Act had on that provision, but I imagine that at present there is no provision prohibiting the export of salmon overseas during the close season. With regard to Section 33, the Minister explained that the prohibition with regard to holding lights and engines of various kinds on the banks of a river extended to the daytime. I believe that one of the engines mentioned is a gaff. Consequently, I imagine it is definitely illegal to carry a gaff on the bank of a river. How, then, is the ordinary salmon fisher to collect his fish once he has hooked it, if it is illegal to have a gaff? I certainly do not know. I do not think there is any provision in the Act of 1842 allowing an angler to carry a gaff, but I am not clear on the point.

Evidently there are gaffs and gaffs.

As well as I remember in connection with the Act of 1842, the gaff that goes with the salmon rod is specifically exempted from that provision.

I do not think the Minister fully explained to the House the meaning of Section 35. It refers to one-third of the fine as going to the informer, the man who gives evidence at the prosecution. I am not clear as to the second half of the section, and I hope the Minister will explain it. With regard to the general purpose of the Bill, I think the debate has shown that it has met with the general approval of the House, and I trust that the results from it will become manifest in a year or two in the improvement of our inland fisheries.

I confess, at the start, that I am more interested in this Bill from the point of view of the people who fish for a living than of those who fish for sport. In that connection, I agree to a great extent with what was said by Deputy Corish, that we ought to have more water free for fishing than there is at the moment. I was glad to observe that Deputy Good had become a convert to the State-ownership of the fishing rights of the country. Most of the points that I had intended to deal with have already been brought to the notice of the Minister, but there are just a few matters on which I wish to say something. One is in connection with the increased licence duty on drift nets. This, of course, will affect those who endeavour to make a living out of the fishing industry. Some ten years ago the cost of a drift net, 230 yards long, was between £6 and £10. What is the price of one to-day? It is easily double—at least £20. The price of salmon, at that time, was much the same as it is to-day. Possibly the Minister will tell us about it when he comes to reply, but, as I am informed, the cost of salmon has not increased appreciably and in the same ratio as the cost of the nets. You are putting this increased tax now on people who have to pay it out of that work. They are in the main scarcely able to scrape enough money to provide them with drift nets, and the cost of providing themselves with nets has gone up, and there has been no proportionate increase in the price of the produce. Yet you are raising these licence duties.

If we had anything in the way of compensation for that, possibly we could be satisfied. What does the Minister propose to do in connection with the destruction of fish, say, in such places as the Shannon? At Foynes, and further up, we know that seals destroy a large amount of fish. What protection does the Minister propose to afford to fishermen against this destruction? He states that there is a good deal of destruction done by poachers, and people dealing, illegally, in taking fish at wrong seasons, and that sort of thing. But has he considered what destruction is done to the fish by seals in these areas? And if he has considered it, what provision is there in this Bill, and what proportion of the increased revenue that is to be got from these increased licences is to be devoted to the protection of the fish that are being destroyed by seals?

I am informed that the proper way to deal with seals is just as you would deal with every other thing that is destroying anything, and that is to shoot them. But the Minister for Fisheries tells us that the proper way is to follow them into their haunts and club them. But I am told that is impracticable. Practical fishermen tell me that cannot be carried out, and unless some means are given to fishermen to deal with the evil it will ultimately ruin them in their industry. If the object is to put drift nets out of action, as Deputy Bryan Cooper seems to be anxious for, my information is that where there were ten drift nets working three or four years ago, there is only one now. Of course, what I am particularly anxious about, and what I would like the Minister to deal with, is: What provision he is making to secure that the increased revenue will be used for the protection of fishermen where seals are destroying the fish.

Like Deputy Good, I should like to see a more comprehensive measure which would deal with sea fisheries as well. While we are very anxious to, and very capable of dealing with local poachers, it is very regrettable, indeed, that we do not seem to be as anxious to, or as capable of dealing with international poachers who are doing immense havoc to the fisheries of this country. If this Bill focusses our attention on the fishery industry, both inland and sea, it will at least have done something. I should like if the Minister could indicate, in some way or other, what he is going to do in regard to sea fisheries. I think he might couple that with whatever statement he proposes to make in reply, and if he would do so he would at least ease the minds of those who are patiently awaiting for some time past legislation in that direction.

I am bombarded by a lot of riparian owners, on the River Blackwater, to find out what their position will be when this Bill becomes law. Hitherto, they say, they paid rent for half the river and have no access thereto, except to see the salmon jumping or, perhaps, to see a gentleman landing one in the middle of their farm and taking it away with him. There is also a big fishing weir in Lismore. I believe it is a very difficult problem to solve, whether it would be wise to abolish it or whether it would be economical to abolish it. All these farmers all along the line are asking me to push their claims forward and to say that they have the best right to the fishing along this particular River Blackwater. I am certain, if it is not too dear a business, that the Minister for Fisheries and the Government, especially the Department of Lands and Agriculture, will try to get vested in these farmers the fishery rights that apparently belong to them. Having said so much, I will not be afraid to go home and tell those farmers that I have said something for them.

One section of this Bill which interests the people living on the coast is that dealing with the intended increase in the licence of the drift nets. I believe that the whole fishing population, especially the deep-sea fishing population, are unanimously against that. They look on the attitude of the Minister in proposing the imposition of an increased net licence as they would look upon the attitude of a philanthropic gentleman who came along, threw a penny into a blind man's hat, and then stole his dog. The Minister should consider the fact that these people have to get a living with drift nets, and that they have to go out to sea, properly speaking, in waters not belonging to inland fisheries, or anybody else. They fish in international waters, and why they should be penalised by a heavy penalty for the inland fisheries I do not know. If I got a promise that this part of the Bill would be eliminated, I would certainly support the measure.

I will only deal with one or two points which I understand have not yet been raised. Section 23 deals with the power of inspection.

"(1) Every member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police or the Gárda Síochána and every member of a board of conservators and every officer or servant of a board of conservators" may do certain things:

"To stop and search any person conveying or believed to be conveying fish of any kind or any instrument used or adapted for taking fish illegally and to inspect any fish and any such instrument which such person is found to be conveying and for that purpose to open and search any vehicle or package in which such fish or instrument is or may be or is believed to be conveyed;

"At all reasonable times to enter upon and have free access to the interior of ... any ship, boat, railway waggon, motor lorry, cart, or other vessel or vehicle used for the conveyance of goods."

The point I want to make is that if you grant these powers to a member of the board of conservators you are putting him in the place of a policeman and granting him powers that he should not have. It is the most likely thing imaginable that in any little local authority a person who considers himself to be an important person might exercise that authority in a way in which an experienced officer would have doubt and hesitancy about. The Board of Conservators will be a locally elected body however they may be elected. The officers and police will have powers of search and inspection. That may be quite justifiable and easily understood, but to give a member of a local authority similar powers is going beyond reason. One power, for instance, would be to appear before a Peace Commissioner, having detained in his custody fish likely to become unfit for human food, before the matter can be dealt with by a court, and if authorised to do so by the Peace Commissioner, to destroy such fish. This member of a board of conservators may be a little landlord in his way, perhaps an important person in the locality, and the Peace Commissioner may not be at all an important person, may know nothing about fish, and he will defer to the believed extraordinary knowledge that the conservator has of fish and will accept his word that the fish is likely to become unfit for human food. Then the Peace Commissioner gives a certificate and that certificate, issued on the word of the conservator, is conclusive evidence in every court of all such matters of fact as may be stated in the certificate. I think that is going beyond the bounds of reason.

The kind of citizen who would become a conservator may be very useful for his office of looking after fishing in his locality, but he is not the kind of person that should be granted powers of search, so far as I can see, in any part of the country, because there is nothing to confine his activities to his own district. He may go into any place with an appearance of authority and say that certain fish has been illegally taken. He may hold it, or he may do anything at all about it. He is not a bailiff or a policeman, and he has nothing to show he is acting as an officer of the law. He is merely a member of a publicly-elected body. It has come to a nice pass if we are to give the powers of policemen to members of town councils or county councils and the like. I think that that section, at any rate, will have to be drastically amended. I do not want to repeat any of the other arguments regarding the Bill, but I ask the Minister to consider carefully the proposition that it is undesirable to give powers of this kind to conservators.

Nearly all the points that have been raised can be dealt with more effectively on the Committee Stage. Just as much as Deputies O'Connell and Cooper, I regret that it was not possible for me to bring forward a Bill codifying all the existing laws. When I approached the Attorney-General on the matter, he told me that it would take some years to prepare such a Bill, and his office is extremely busy at the moment with other Bills. I thought it better to go on with this Bill in the meantime. Deputies O'Connell, O'Maille and others found fault with the Bill in that it does not specifically mention the protection of the brown trout fisheries. It is the duty of boards of conservators to protect all the fisheries in their districts. It is, of course, quite natural to expect that they will concentrate on the protection of the salmon fisheries, from which they derive the greater portion of their revenue. When I suggested a small licence fee for brown trout rods. there was a howl of indignation from brown trout anglers in different parts of the country.

Has the Minister sought or obtained any representations from the voluntary associations with regard to the matter?

I have had several communications from the voluntary associations. One particular association I think did agree, but the majority of them are against imposing a licence duty on the brown trout rods. In the suggestions that I put before the Advisory Committee, which are mostly embodied in this Bill, I suggested such a tax, but the Committee decided that. it would be inadvisable, and I therefore omitted it from the Bill.

It is entirely wrong to say that the money is devoted to the preservation merely of the privately-owned fisheries. There are a great many salmon fisheries as well as trout fisheries which are free. Once there is preservation of the stock it will affect the whole river, both the privately-owned portions and the free portion.

Deputy O'Connell talked about losses. I will not go into that, except to point out that they can only occur in two districts, and even in these two districts the loss cannot amount to more than one penny in the pound. As to the rates which Deputy O'Maille referred to, the revenue will be applied to the district as a whole. Naturally, the more important portions of the fisheries will have first call on the funds, but the greater powers that we are taking for the central department over the boards will enable us to see that the trout fisheries will have a fair amount of funds set apart for their preservation. Under the Bill, the boards will get more funds and, therefore, they will have more money at their disposal for that purpose.

Deputy O'Doherty and others raised a question as to drift nets. Where a drift net is 1,500 yards long, I think that there should be some provision for taxing that in connection with its catching area. The drift net men to whom Deputy Hogan referred are restricted to 130 yard nets. The Donegal men are allowed to have a net up to 1,500 yards and they avail of that privilege. It is hardly fair to charge the same for a net of 130 yards as for a net of 1,500 yards.

But these nets are used in the Atlantic—in international waters.

They may or may not. The persons that Deputies O'Doherty and McFadden referred to are not altogether such lambs as they led us to believe. As a matter of fact, these drift nets can be used, and have been used, because of laxity in protection in the past, at the very mouths of the rivers where they block up all the salmon trying to get up the rivers. The suggestion made as to the small trout licence has already been turned down.

I agree with a considerable amount of what Deputy Corish said with regard to the proxy vote. By some of the provisions of the Bill the proxy vote will be considerably reduced. That is a matter that can be dealt with on the Committee Stage. I have already promised Deputies privately that I will let every clause of the Bill stand on its own feet. So far as I am concerned, I am not going to have the Whips put on at all. If Deputies can put forward arguments in favour of any amendments which would convince a majority of the Dáil as against any arguments I put up to the contrary, be it so. I am not going to ask for the Whips in this matter.

I agree with Deputy Good that Section 12 seems faulty in drafting. I think it should be made obligatory, so that a single salmon rod licence for a period of fourteen days should be available for £1, and that all that will be necessary will be for an angler to walk into the clerk to the conservators, pay £1 and demand the licence. I can do that on the Committee Stage if Deputy Good does not bring forward an amendment in the meantime. There is a point in Deputy Good's remarks also that perhaps increased licence duty may involve an increase of illegal fishing. The increased duties are based on the decreased purchasing power of money. After all, £1 in 1848 would certainly be worth more than £2 in 1925.

Make it on the cost of living bonus.

Deputy Good also referred to the need for a comprehensive Bill, the idea being to deal with sea and inland fisheries. The sea fisheries could not be developed by legislation.

They could be helped.

I do not think so. I do not think there is any legislation necessary for the development of sea fisheries. That will come from another angle. A question was raised by Deputy Hogan about the protection of sea fisheries. I think the Deputy will have an opportunity of raising that on the Estimates the day after to-morrow more appropriately than on this Bill. Deputy Esmonde raised a point on Section 7. I pointed out already in my opening statement that a number ofex officio members of boards have disappeared with the disappearance of the old J.P.'s The provision in Section 7 will not make up for their disappearance in numbers. It actually makes eligible as ex officio members a further 35 persons. Section 35 refers to the provisions of the Act of 1869 with regard to the distribution of fines.

Will the Minister indicate the method of disposal of fines under that Act?

The Acts say that one-third of every sum of money levied as a fine, penalty, or forfeiture under the Acts relating to salmon fisheries in Ireland, shall be paid to the person who shall be the means of bringing to justice any person committing any offence against any of the provisions of the said Acts, and the remainder of such sum shall be paid to the board of conservators of the district in which the offence was committed, or their authorised officer, and shall be applied to the purposes of the said Acts for such district.

The Limerick Board of Conservators at present give £2 for every seal killed. Fishermen can, on application in the ordinary way for permits get rifles, and wherever we are requested to do so, we recommend to the Department of Justice that permits be granted. I still hold to my opinion that shooting is not the best way to get rid of the seal pest. Experience has shown that the best way to do so is to get at them in the breeding grounds or in places where they bask. Some years ago the Department of Agriculture engaged a Bisley marksman to go down and shoot seals in, I think, the estuary of the Suir. They kept him there for three months, and he expended about 1,000 rounds of ammunition. When he came back he was honest enough to say that he was not sure if he had killed one seal.

Mr. HOGAN

What was he shooting at?

At the seals. He said that the very most he could have killed would be two or three. I think there is something in Deputy Johnson's point about the powers proposed to be given to conservators. I believe the words "every member of a board of conservators and every officer or servant of a board of conservators authorised in writing" cover the point. I think authorisation in writing applies to members as well as every officer or servant of a board. I see certain objections to that provision, and if there is an amendment on the Committee Stage I would be inclined to accept it.

Can the Minister say if there is any prohibition enforced at present against the export of salmon during the close season to Great Britain?

I am not quite sure; I think the Act of last year deals with that.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Tuesday next.