The first thing that strikes me about this Estimate is that in an overall Budget of £163,000,000 we can apparently only afford £380,000 for the development of fisheries. Any Deputy associated with a maritime county will appreciate the fact that fisheries form one of the facets of our economy that can be considerably advanced. While the Parliamentary Secretary may have done his best to get the money out of the Government it seems to me that expansion within the confines of that amount must be considerably limited.
In his opening statement in the House made some weeks ago it seems to me that the Parliamentary Secretary indicated that a certain amount of progress had been made with the inland fisheries which, incidentally, were started by Deputy Dillon when he was Minister for Agriculture, but I cannot see that any advance has been made with sea fisheries. That is due to the fact that they are undercapitalised. It is also a known fact that when we have heavy fishing here, a heavy flow of herring off the coast, we have all the fishing vessels of the world competing for that harvest. One of the reasons why we are not able to compete with these other countries is that we are undercapitalised.
To capitalise our fisheries properly we have to start at the other end of the story. Fishermen cannot increase the size of their boats unless they have safe anchorage. So that the first thing necessary is to have extensions of safe anchorage for the fishermen not only on the coast but in the places where the fish are. In recent years there has been a very rich harvest of fish particularly around the coast of Wexford and Waterford and along the south-east coast generally. Successive Parliamentary Secretaries have come to Wexford and interviewed fishermen and local representatives and expressed sympathy but nothing has been done.
I questioned the Parliamentary Secretary last week with regard to the provision of safe anchorages in Wexford, where there is no safe anchorage at all, and I am glad to know that Kilmore Quay is at last being considered. It is five or six years now since the Kilmore fishermen took the initiative and formed a co-operative; they catch their own fish, transport it and sell it themselves. The people of Kilmore are very up-to-date and go-ahead. There are a good many fishing boats in and around Kilmore but, again, they are limited as to size because there is no safe anchorage. Indeed, there is no safe anchorage anywhere between Dublin and Waterford. It is an appalling state of affairs that no one has given active consideration to that aspect of the situation. The Kilmore fishermen, and others who fish in that area, have been complaining and making representations to their local representatives and to succeeding Parliamentary Secretaries and Ministers in charge of fisheries in reference to the lack of safe anchorage. Nothing has been done. I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary is now giving sympathetic consideration to that, but, if he wants to increase the production of fish, and it should be very easy to increase it here, and prevent foreign trawlers taking so much away from us, then several essentials are called for.
As I have said, first of all, there will have to be better harbour accommodation. If better harbour accommodation is provided, it will be possible to operate bigger and better boats. A few years ago, I spent a holiday in Ballycotton. While I was there, a big foreign trawler came in with all the latest equipment. I think it was a French boat. That boat was able to anchor in the harbour. We have no harbour in which any trawler of any size could anchor, no harbour into which a trawler could come for the night. I do not mean to say we should encourage foreign trawlers to come in; I am merely making the case that we have no proper anchorage for any decentsized ship at all. That is the first essential.
The second essential is a matter that has been referred to extensively on this Estimate, although it is really a matter for negotiation and germane to the Department of External Affairs rather than the Department of Lands. I refer to the three mile limit. If we continue with the present three mile limit, the fish breeding grounds will inevitably be destroyed. The big foreign trawlers coming in are destroying the breeding grounds with their powerful nets and the time will come, if some steps are not taken now to remedy the situation, when there will be no fish at all off the south-east coast. Everybody will then be wondering why that should have happened.
I understand that the negotiations in this matter have broken down because of objecions raised on the other side of the Atlantic. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary should, through his Minister, make representations to the Minister for External Affairs to have this matter raised again in order that some bilateral or multilateral agreement may be reached among the European nations for an extension of our fishery limits in order to save our breeding grounds. It is agreed that we have one of the richest fish harvests in Europe. That is true not alone of my part of the country but also of Donegal. There the same situation obtains. Representations should be made immediately and some agreement reached at an early date. If that is not done, in another few years, that rich harvest will have disappeared. These are matters worthy of consideration by the Parliamentary Secretary and I ask him to give his attention to them.
With regard to the allocation of boats, whenever questions are asked here—Deputy Lynch is very active in asking questions in relation to the protection and furtherance of the fishing industry in his area—the experience is that we get, at most, one boat. It does not make sense to me. It goes back to the argument again as to why, when we have the fish, we should not also have the boats. We have, as I said, an active co-operative society very interested in the development of the fishing industry. These are worthy of consideration. I often have representations made to me on behalf of people looking for a boat. I pass those on, but there always seems to be some snag or other to prevent them getting a boat.
It is very important for us to develop our potential. In this particular facet of our economy, we have the raw material. In order to develop the industry, vast sums will have to be invested in it. It is just as important to invest money in the fishing industry as it is to invest money in heavy industry. Development of our fishing industry would be a natural development. Less than .5 per cent. of the overall income of the country is invested in fisheries. If any other country in Europe had the potential we have, they would invest vast sums in its development. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to assert all the authority he has with his Minister and the Government to see that there is a substantially increased investment in our fishing industry.
Many Deputies have referred to the question of the distribution of fish throughout the country. I understand Bord Iascaigh Mhara are, in the main, responsible for the buying and, to a large extent, for the commercialisation of fish here. It is a well-known fact that it is practically impossible to obtain fresh fish anywhere in rural Ireland. Two things strike me with regard to the distribution of fish. First of all, we must be able to get the fish and, secondly, the fish must be properly cooked. Of all the things man eats, fish is the one thing in regard to which it is absolutely necessary to have really first-class cooking in order to make it palatable. As I have said before on so many occasions, apart from the fact that it is necessary to have ice plants and refrigerators in order to preserve the fish, it should be possible to distribute fish throughout rural areas in co-operation with the Irish creameries. The Irish creameries have ice and storage facilities available. If that suggestion were adopted, I believe fish could be made readily available all over the country.
As far as I understand the situation obtaining at the moment, the bulk of the fish comes to Dublin. It is bought in Dublin by those who want it and sent back again down the country to the particular areas interested in having fish. It may be a matter of 24 hours, sometimes 48 hours, before the fish is available. To me, that is a quite unnecessary time-lag. Any fish that does not come to Dublin is the spent fish or the poor quality fish. That is the only fish immediately available in some rural towns. If we intend to develop our fishing industry, we will have to have a proper domestic market—a market is the first essential for the development of any industry—and the fish will have to be properly distributed.
Deputy P. O'Donnell, speaking here a fortnight ago, made a scathing indictment of the whole system of fish distribution here. The Minister would do well to consider the facts Deputy O'Donnell put before the House because he displayed a first-class knowledge of the subject. It is an education to read the speech he made. With regard to the cooking of fish—I mentioned this before—there should be some liaison between the Minister's Department and the Department of Education to ensure that some instruction is given in the vocational schools on the preparation and cooking of fish. In other countries, one can get all types of fish, really palatable and well cooked. Here, that is virtually impossible except in certain first-class establishments. In the countries I refer to the fish has often to travel a long way before it reaches the table. I do not see why, island nation as we are, we could not do something about serving fish here, varied and well cooked, to encourage people to eat it. Only when it is really palatable will people be encouraged to eat it. If steps are taken to remedy the present situation, I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will find that he will have a much bigger domestic market, a market hungry for fish. Such a market would be a tremendous fillip to the fishing industry as a whole.
With regard to inland fisheries, we have shown considerable progress. Inland fisheries are extremely helpful from two angles. There is the coarse fishing that has been developed as a very useful off-season tourist potential. Apart from that, one of the greatest dangers to our freshwater lake and river fish has been the marauding of the trout and salmon by pike. Coarse fishing is useful in cleaning up these rivers and lakes and allowing small trout to breed and multiply.
That in itself is very desirable but I wonder, in regard to the co-operation between Bord Fáilte and the Fisheries Division, whether there is sufficient advertisement of the fact that these coarse fisheries are available here. Admittedly, quite a few Continental people and British people have been coming here for this purpose. There is a tremendous shortage of fishing grounds of any sort in practically every country in Europe. We seem to be able to offer these fishing facilities. I do not think the advertising of these facilities is a matter for the Parliamentary Secretary himself but I understand from his opening statement that he has a relationship with Bord Fáilte in trying to promulgate the existence of this amenity. Larger sums of money should be spent for this purpose, to the advantage of many sections of the community.
In my opening remarks, I referred to the harbours in my part of the country. I do not know what the outcome of the examination of Kilmore Quay will be. If it is anything like the outcome of the previous examination there, there will be a negative result. However, we hope for better things from the encouraging reply the Parliamentary Secretary gave the other day to a Parliamentary Question. In the event of the experts deciding that it is not possible to make an all-weather harbour out of Kilmore Quay I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider a place called Beg and Bun which, according to my information, has all-weather, deep anchorage. I believe that in the First World War fighting ships went in there where they had a safe anchorage and were protected from all weathers. It is a famous place. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give that suggestion due consideration.