The point was made last night that the total sum provided for fisheries has been reduced by £99,000. May I remind Deputies who think that is so that two very considerable items were dealt with last year and do not arise on this occasion, namely the purchase of the Foyle Fisheries at a sum of approximately £60,000 and the payment of compensation for the prohibition of the right to net trout in fresh waters; these two sums last year amounted to approximately £140,000, and it is, therefore, obvious that the amount provided this year should be less than that provided last year? It is not, in fact, less by a total of £140,000.
Another change in the method of providing money for fishery services should also be noted since it comes into operation this year for the first time: I refer to the provision for boats and gear and the general equipping of fishermen, provision for which is now being made by moneys advanced out of the Central Fund. These sums do not, therefore, appear in the Estimate this year.
I must inform Deputy Blowick now that the over-all figures for imports and exports of fish must be taken into account when an assessment is being made of the value of the industry to the country. It is true that there was an import of £99,000 worth of fresh fish last year. That compares with a figure of £150,000 worth in the previous year. If one wants to get a complete picture for all the imports and all the exports, including preserved fish of all kinds and also exports of our own salmon, one finds that the balance is very much in favour of Ireland; for theyear under review the sum is no less than £346,000 on the right side of the balance sheet.
We will never be satisfied in our Department so long as it is necessary to import any of the ordinary kinds of fish, either smoked or fresh. It is for that reason that the purchase of bigger craft than that normally used here was undertaken by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Casting my mind back, I can remember the prophecy being made that these boats would pauperise the inshore fishermen. Nothing of the kind has happened and the tendency is for the inshore fisherman to produce more and more of the requirements of the home market. Despite the fact that these three boats have been operating since last December it is satisfactory to note that the inshore men produced 16,000 cwt. more fish this year than last year, bringing them an extra sum of £43,000.
I might also inform the House that a comparison of imports for the year under review with 1951 shows that there has been a reduction of £300,000 in the imports for 1952 as compared with 1951. I think that is a very satisfactory trend in relation to imports. We are reasonably satisfied that it will be possible to maintain that trend.
I think Deputies on both sides of the House expressed the view that the requirements as to deposit, and this is a view with which I agree, bear heavily on certain sections of our coast, particularly in the poorer areas. I know that that is so. I know that 10 per cent. on £6,000 is a much heavier burden than the large percentage payable before the war because of the difference in costs.
One Deputy made the point that we should ensure that good fishermen around the coast are equipped, irrespective of whether or not they have the necessary deposit. Generally, I think that is a fair proposition but the experience of the board is that good fishermen seem to find the deposit. We cannot always rely on the number of applications received by the board because it has often happenedin the experience of the board that when it came to making the final arrangements for providing boats the fishermen backed out.
At present there are about 40 applicants on the list for what has now come to be the standard size boat of 50 feet over-all length. Past experience of the board leads them to believe that not more than 20 of these applicants will come to definite conclusions with the board. That 20 would not represent a long waiting list. In a period of about one and a half years it should be possible to clear off that list; that is on the present basis of output of the boatyards.
It is only fair to say also that in the experience of the board about one in four of those who have received this new type of standard boat has proved unsatisfactory. Perhaps Deputies will want to know the standard of satisfaction required by the board. It is not such an easy question to answer because there are various factors arising from time to time that the board must take into account when assessing the effort of a skipper and his crew in the management of their boat, but the board, dealing with these cases continuously, is well able to make up its mind as to whether or not a crew is working in a satisfactory manner.
From the information available in respect of the 24 or 25 of these boats that have been issued since the end of the emergency, about five or six have proved unsatisfactory. The other 20 have proved quite satisfactory. By that I mean that within the next ten years these 20 skippers will be absolute owners of their own boats. Some of them, of course, will own their boats in much less time than ten years.
On the question of protection, as the Dáil knows, that is a function of the Department of Defence and they can only use the equipment at their disposal and, in the matter of surface craft, that is the corvettes. The point has been made on this occasion and on previous occasions that the air services might be utilised for spotting purposes. I do not think there is great difficulty in spotting the presence offoreign boats. The big difficulty is in making effective contact with them when they are spotted. All the complaints that we get arise from visual observation by people living around the coast. The presence of these boats can be detected readily enough.
Personally, I believe the most effective way of dealing with poachers is to have a sufficient number of our own boats on the water. That has been proved to be the case in any place in which we have had a sufficient number of our own boats fishing a particular stretch of water. We do not treat this matter lightly but we do realise that the Department of Defence cannot be expected, having regard to the nature of their duties, to provide a fleet of boats equipped for this purpose and suitable for no other purpose.
The question of the limits and definition of our territorial waters, which is closely bound with this question, has also been raised. That is a matter which is being handled by the Department of External Affairs in consultation, in so far as fishery interests are concerned, with the Minister for Agriculture. Due notice has been taken of the result of the decision of the International Court on the dispute between Norway and Britain. I am not in a position to give the Dáil any definite detailed information about the proposals in this respect but I can safely say that every advantage that can possibly be squeezed out of the decision of the International Court of The Hague will be used for the benefit of this country.
Comparisons which have been made between the industry here and in other countries, particularly England, are entirely illusory. From the speeches, suggestions and recommendations made it is quite obvious that Deputies, either consciously or unconsciously, want the State to step in here and do almost all the things that are necessary to put the fishing industry on its feet. That is not the position in the countries with which I am asked to make comparison. The amount of fish taken from the sea by English fishing fleets was mentioned here last night. Theoutstanding factor there is the size of the market. The market is so large that it has been attractive enough for private capital and large fleets have been equipped because there was money in it and a profit could be made. Here, the position in respect of private enterprise has been quite the reverse. Private enterprise has been moving away from the fishing industry rather than being attracted to it. We have had two or three examples of that in recent years.
The suggestions that have been made for the rationalisation of distribution are matters which are ever present to the mind of the board. The selection of a number of landing places and their utilisation as focal points for distribution is a matter which, of course, is under active consideration by the board.
The type of vehicle in which fish would be distributed is another matter. All these things, the provision of focal points and their proper equipment will take both time and money. Of the two, the money is the easier to deal with. Unquestionably, the Government will provide the money for any good scheme which the Fisheries Board is satisfied will work. When you have an experienced crew and a good boat such as the boats now being supplied, undoubtedly, fish can be landed but the difficulty arises when the fish is landed on the quay.
I have been taken to task because I stated, without comment, the fact that we are not as heavy eaters of fish as most other Western European countries are. That is so. If any Deputy wants to say that that is because the people are not getting the fish, I shall not argue the point with him. That may be true, and I hope it is true, because it is on that basis that we can best build the required development. It is along the line of satisfying the demand which we presume exists and which is not yet satisfied that we hope to base the success of further efforts.
I do not think that there was anythingvery new mentioned this year. Some points are always mentioned such as poaching, imports, and better distribution. The use of the high seas boats has been criticised. Well, if you find that in normal weather your own boats can fish and supply the reasonable amounts which are necessary for the home market but that if the weather is unusually rough that type of boat is tied up in harbour, then you look for a solution of that particular difficulty, and you try to find out exactly how you can continue home supplies when other countries are in fact fishing, and the only answer, of course, is to get a boat that can stand up to normal bad weather. These three boats are an attempt to tackle that particular difficulty in the matter of regularity of supply.
I think I had occasion to say in reply to parliamentary questions that we had difficulties in manning these boats. There are special qualifications necessary for the skipper and the second hand of boats of this size, and the fact that we did not have a sufficient number of these qualified persons in the country is in my opinion sufficient evidence that the fishing industry here was not as well with us as it should have been.