Ar an chéad dul síos ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire ins an job oll-mhór atá roimhe leis an tionscal iascaireachta a chur chun cinn sa tír seo uilig. Tá a fhios agam nach do bhunadh iascaireachta atá sé agus nach bhfuil baint aige a thuilleadh le ceantair iascaireachta, ach ní hé sin le rá nach ndéanfaidh sé a dhícheall san job seo agus ba mhaith liomsa a insint dó anseo go mbeidh mise sásta cuidiú leis an tionscal seo a fhorbairt ar gach aon dóigh. Ba mhaith liom freisin focal comhgair-deas a dhéanamh le Donncha Ó Gall-chóir anseo as a cheapadh mar spokesman ar an taobh seo den Teach. Tá sean aithne agam air ó bhí sé in a Aire Ghael-tachta agus tá a fhios agam go mbeidh sé bríomhar, ionraic agus nea-pholaiticiúil san méid a bhéas le rá aige ó thaobh cúrsaí iascaireachta agus forbairt an tionscail.
I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on his appointment and also our spokesman, Deputy Gallagher. I appreciate the enormity of the task facing the Minister in trying, as others have tried, to develop an industry which is becoming more and more difficult to promote. We have had successive Ministers for Fisheries, and I am sure anything said in this House today was said here 30 years ago about the wishes and aspirations of those interested in the fishing industry.
I want to be constructive in whatever criticism I offer and to be helpful to the Minister and his Department. I do not wish to cover all the aspects of the fishing industry because my colleague Deputy Gallagher, will cover the aspects to which I will not refer. As I said, I will be constructive and helpful, contrary to many of the speeches made here before. When Deputy Power was Minister for Fisheries the Opposition spokesman made a sca-thing attack on him rather than proposing a constructive policy on fisheries. That is not my intention and never will be.
I should like to refer to stocks of fish, control of fisheries and the in-thing, mackerel fisheries. Let there be no doubt about where I stand. At the moment we are enjoying a bonanza in mackerel fisheries, but I do not believe it will continue. How long it continues will depend largely on the ideas and policies we develop, or even the changes we make. Let us be honest. Mistakes have been made. Nobody in this House is infallible, although there are a few who think they are. If policies are wrong and if development courses are wrong, with goodwill they can be changed. This is the attitude we should adopt. I have spoken to many fishermen in the area I represent, south-west Donegal, in which two of our major ports are located, Killybegs and Burtonport.
These people are prepared to discuss the development of fisheries at any time with politicians or Department officials. However, almost every proposal put to the Department of Fisheries is met directly or indirectly by the contention that it is contrary to EEC regulations. In the absence of a common fisheries policy —nor can I see one around the corner—it would appear that we are endeavouring to be the best Europeans of all in relation to fisheries. I realise that the achievement of a common fisheries policy will entail an amount of negotiation and hard thinking and that we shall have to suffer because we may be contributing more than we shall benefit from that sector, although we have gained on the agricultural side. I appreciate that at present the common agricultural policy is encountering difficulty in its operation but it is a long way ahead of the fisheries policy. If we are endeavouring to be great Europeans in relation to fisheries then I contend we are succeeding but at an enormous cost to our fishermen.
My concern primarily would be with the development and protection of the natural resource, coupled with the long-term or short-term guarantee of approximately 1,000 jobs in fisheries in my area. One thousand jobs, if lost, would be a disaster to south-west Donegal. When one leaves Ballyshannon and Bundoran until one reaches Burtonport there are not many employment areas—with the exception of a couple of factories in Donegal town—outside the fishing industry. Every family, almost, every young boy, living within ten or 15 miles of Killybegs or Burtonport is associated directly or indirectly with fishing. If we were to be in any way instrumental in allowing our fishing industry to deteriorate it would have disastrous consequences for my area. More importantly, fishing has been a way of life for these people for generations; these people know no other way of life but fishing. Therefore should the fisheries industry collapse the question of their retraining or deployment in other industries does not arise. Also, many of the people involved are getting on in years, are set in their ways, and there would be nothing for them but the dole queues.
The stage has been reached now in Killybegs and Burtonport where the shore industries set up with the help of the IDA and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are at a well developed stage and beginning to expand. I was amazed to hear Deputies Deasy and Sheehan say that we were not doing our best in this field. I must contradict that. I must compliment Department officials, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the IDA on their endeavours in the development that has taken place to date in my constituency, and particularly in Killybegs. It is indeed a good sign that the industry there is beginning to expand. The whole question of the continuation and expansion of this industry in the next few years will be dependent on some form of control being exercised in relation to fishing. Here I am talking about over-fishing where the key word is control.
Of course there are other areas of infrastructural development requiring attention. Perhaps this is not the appropriate occasion to develop that side of the matter because it is primarily a matter for the Department of the Environment. I appreciate that the Minister has sufficient headaches in relation to his Department and I shall confine my remarks as far as possible to that Department. In mentioning control I must refer to the quota system operating at present. I shall not quote any departmental figures but I should say that I am in close contact with fishermen, that there are six members of my family associated with fishing. It must be said also that there are very few tricks of the trade about which the fishermen do not know.
I might well ask the Minister when was he, or one of his officials, last out in one of these fishing boats, or has he or his officials any personal knowledge of the problems and difficulties encountered by these men leaving the bay each day? These are the men I represent. It must be remembered that the investors, the luggers, the whiz kid operators who may come in for the kill, can, if anything goes wrong, leave and go back to their homeground. The people I represent and to whom I refer are those who will remain in Killybegs, Burtonport and other areas like that and who are totally dependent on Killybegs and its continued development. I understand the present Scottish quota is approximately 150,000 to 160,000 tonnes. This is a type of United Kingdom-imposed quota which is not being adhered to at all. I understand that for the season ending 1981 the Scottish fleet fished over 350,000 tonnes. Their fishing bases at Ullapool and Mallaig do not have development on-shore industries such as we have at Killybegs. Ninety per cent of their fish is sold to luggers. They do have processing facilities at Fras-erburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow but they handle about 10 per cent of their catch only. Therefore it is very convenient for them to dispose of their catches to luggers at Swilly or anywhere else around our coast.
Incidentally, I should make the point that there is no follow up on over-quota fishing and that we are providing them with a guaranteed facility for cooking the books. It must be remembered that fishermen are human like the rest of us, and that as long as the pounds come in at the weekend nobody worries about the regulations. It is when the pounds cease to come in that one hears the uproar. I have heard the rafters of this House being raised in relation to the school entry age for children and the Tuam sugar factory and I noted the amount of interest those subjects generated here with the gallery packed, but nobody seems to care that in south-west Donegal 1,000 jobs could be wiped out by wrong handling or lack of control in respect of what can be classified only as the cleaning up of our waters. The Dutch fleet which operates at approximately 40,000 tonnes quota last year caught in excess of 120,000 tonnes. The fishermen in the area see ships that can process 10,000 tonnes per day — I speak here of the Dutch fleet — at sea without ever coming ashore. At present this produce is being shipped to Nigeria without these ships going into any of their own ports, or without there being any checks on their quotas either. Here again we must raise the question of the great Europeans. Those people are not too worried about regulations. The other fishing fleet which operates off our coast around Donegal is the German one. It is admitted by the fishermen in Donegal that, as far as can be seen, that fleet operates fairly strictly within the limits of the quotas imposed on them. This brings one back to the thought of being a good European. There was a time when Germany was not considered to be a very good European. It is like the old proverb: if one gets the name of being an early riser one can sleep until it is late.
The Irish quota is approximately 70,000 tonnes. If we combine the Irish, French, West German, Dutch and the Scottish fleets and their catches, we are talking approximately of 550,000 tonnes per year. I wonder if any Member here has an idea of what 550,000 tonnes of mackerel looks like? In the past three years the catch has been in the region of 1,500,000 tonnes. I ask the Minister how long he and his experts think that can continue. My belief, which is based on local information, is that this cannot be sustained.
We had a clear example of what happened to the mackerel fishing off Cornwall. It was exhausted after five years and now the mackerel being caught are no larger than cigars. There was no development of onshore-based industry there and 80 per cent of the catch was exported to West Africa. There was no permanent development. There was also the depletion of the Minch herring fishing. As a representative from south-west Donegal, I could not associate myself with a policy leading in that direction. Even the mackerel stocks will decrease. I hope we will try to prolong the fishing for mackerel but the only way we can do that is to exercise some form of control.
It must be clear to the Minister and to the Department that some form of control is essential but successive Ministers have not taken steps to implement such measures of control. I remember when Deputy Lenihan was in charge of Fisheries, as were Deputy Power and the former Deputy Donegan. At the moment Deputy Fitzpatrick has responsibility in this area. There was never the determination, either politically or even from the point of view of the civil service, to tackle the problem.
Other countries overcame the problem. For example, in Canada they introduced a coastal state control. This could be implemented here without contravening any EEC regulations. The people who are reaping the harvest of our waters will never formulate a common fisheries policy. They would be stupid to introduce such a policy. A person does not cut a stick to beat himself and when the going is good the temptation is to wait to see what develops. The measure of coastal state control could be implemented in the interest of conservation of an endangered species. It could be closely monitored. The Minister will probably say that this would be a very expensive operation. I remember attending a seminar at the Let-terkenny RTC shortly after I became a member of Donegal County Council. Deputy Lenihan was present and the Commissioner who was with him spoke at length about our fisheries policy. On that occasion we were told that an abundant sum of money would be made available to exercise control and to assist us in protecting our stocks. I should like the Minister to follow up on that point.
In the Book of Estimates there is a provision in the Estimates for the Department, or in conjunction with the Department of Defence, for some form of additional surveillance. I should like the Minister to elaborate on that. The foreign fishing boats could be brought into port occasionally for inspection regarding the way they are operating and to check if they are operating within the quotas as laid down. This operation could also be carried out at sea by the Naval Service. It would not require too much intelligence to figure out the tank capacity of the vessels and the amount of catch on board. If these people knew there was a prospect of their being questioned and prosecuted or of a fine being imposed, it would act as a deterrent. Eminent scientists associated with the Department of Fisheries and Forestry have sounded many warnings in relation to the depletion of stocks but it seems nobody will cry halt. It may be too late to do anything in three or four years.
The Minister should surround himself with advisers and officials who have not a vested interest in the fishing industry and he should implement measures that will be in the best interest of a long-term fisheries policy or even prolong the existing regulations. I have often wondered if the importance attached to the fishing industry is measured by the GNP of that sector. If that is so, then God help the people of south-west Donegal, of Killybegs and Burtonport. As a country, we are scarce in natural resources but the resources we have, and fishing in particular, should be protected by every available means. It may be argued that the shore side of the industry at present is not capable of handling the catches and that was borne out today by Deputy Deasy and Deputy Sheehan. I say that is a very good sign. If the reverse were true, if we had factory after factory with nothing to do, we would be in a worse position. We have an example in Donegal in another sector where seven or eight advance factories are idle. I am not worried about the onshore side of the industry. The people in private enterprise will be able to develop their enterprises. Deputy Deasy was disappointed that BIM have got out of that sector but I believe it was the right decision. We should encourage the people of Killybegs, Castletownbere and in the small ports around the country to do something for themselves and not expect the State to provide every facility. Therefore, a certain number of luggers would be required during peak periods. The assessment could be cut down to a fine point if controls were exercised. A very good pattern could be established and we would not have wholesale dumping of fish.
I suggest that some form of licensing must be introduced in respect of these luggers. Of course the Department will say that it would be contrary to EEC regulations. I say that we should introduce a licensing system for a period. Let the operators be brought to court but it would take three years to bring them before the court, and if we do not take the steps I have been advocating, at the end of three years there will be nothing left to assess. Deputy Deasy correctly spoke about a period this year when there were 36 overseas luggers operating off Rathmullan whose skippers were not worried about complying with quotas. One would not need to be very bright to appreciate that. However, in the past three or four years successive Governments have stood by watching all this happening because they did not want to rock the boat. If this sort of thing is allowed to continue the results will be disastrous, a situation whose gravity neither Deputies nor fishermen could have foreseen.
When I started to teach in Killybegs in 1962 the children came in in the morning talking about their fathers having got £6 a cran for herring the previous night. In a short time the price was £52 per cran, but I am afraid we are back to the £6. Three or four years ago mackerel were being dumped wholesale. I saw 13,000 cran of mackerel being dumped. We have come a long way since, but we have arrived at a stage where we must adopt a restrictive policy and stringent controls. Unfortunately, nobody wants to call a halt, particularly the fishermen. I do not blame the hard working fishermen in Killybegs and Burtonport for having a go. They have to meet heavy repayments on their boats. They cannot decide to leave their boats tied up for a day. They are enjoying a bonanza now and we do not hear very much from them but we should not allow them to hang themselves. We have seen what happened to the small boats.
At the moment we are providing facilities for Scottish people who have exhausted their own stocks. The Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism, Deputy Kelly, once referred to the rhine-stone cowboys from the west. The type of fishermen I have been talking about can be described only as overnight cowboys. They have reaped the benefits of their own stocks and are enjoying ours while they are giving a rest period to their own.
We must be given answers to a number of questions. For instance, what is the BIM investment? What has it been in the past few years in respect of boats in Killybegs and Burtonport? What commitments did the IDA and Gaeltarra Éireann enter into during the years? How can the Government justify such investments annually, on the one hand, yet offer no protection to the resource on the other? As I said earlier, one has only to look at the pattern of herring fishing to see the obvious dangers. I attended meetings in Killybegs with the then spokesman of Fisheries, Deputy White. We met up to 30 fishermen who were faced with the problem in relation to white fish takes. It was costing them £200 to take a boat out for a night. They might get some fish but not nearly enough to make it worthwhile — they might as well have left their boats tied up. They were looking for price supports.
A new problem has arisen now in regard to mackerel fishing but there is no common fisheries policy and consequently no controls, and the only conclusion one can reach is that there is free-for-all fishing in regard to all species. Those engaged in processing are in perpetual doubt about whether to expand or to sit back, wait for the fishing to collapse and then to fold up. I have great admiration for those people because they are in a risky business with enormous amounts of money tied up in construction, the provision of freezing equipment and so on. They have to ask themselves is it wise at a time when they do not know what will happen. Nobody honestly could say their investment is guaranteed because of the element of chance and uncertainty. I am not referring specifically to the Minister here now when I say that successive Governments did not have the right attitude in this respect. There are fears and uncertainties among those business people as well as among fishermen. They need price supports. It is a case of these people having their backs against the wall. On the other side of the coin, in regard to the question of control, if the United Kingdom decided to place a conservation order on the Minch in relation to all fisheries we would have the entire Scottish fleet and luggers fishing in our waters. They would fish us out in a couple of seasons and then return to their own white fishing. We would be left to carry the baby while their stocks would have enjoyed a complete recovery. These matters are causing concern to my constituents and all through this we must try to cope with the attitude of the Department in relation to EEC regulations. Deputy Higgins, who is present, attended a seminar in the Abbey Hotel in Donegal town prior to our accession to the EEC and spelled out then all the dangers and loopholes that existed. Members on both sides of the House saw the big cake, the development of agriculture, fruit markets and so on, but nobody worried about the fisherman or the fishing industry because there were only 6,000 or 7,000 votes involved altogether. However, as far as my constituency is concerned, that industry is the lifeline of half of the area. That fact has fallen on deaf ears for many years. I may be accused of being too parochial when I refer to processing in Donegal, but those who are endeavouring to develop that industry can either take this gamble or jump on the bandwagon and sign a contract with a couple of luggers that would be anchored off Killybegs. All they would need would be a couple of two-way radios and a telephone and they could do all the business they wished. That is the choice they have. The easiest way out, and the one that has a guarantee, is the latter. But for the development of our area, the success of Killybegs and the continuation of the 1,000 jobs, the State must help out that weak section of the community. The State must help those who are involved in the industry at a low level. We have a total fleet of 65 or 70 fishing boats in Killybegs and Burtonport and about 12 or 14 of those boats are uneconomical. They are too small to fish for mackerel and do not have the power to compete. They would not survive at white fishing, support price or not. These fishermen have gone to the wall with their wives and families and their crew and their families with them. Those fishermen face another difficulty in that their interest rates and repayments are mounting. I could rattle off the names of those people now because I write consistently to the Department and officials on their behalf in an effort to keep off the dogs. That cannot continue; somebody must cry halt. It would not be an unwise decision for BIM to buy out those boats — it may cost £3 million or £4 million — and reequip them so that those fishermen have proper boats to go sea fishing. Alternatively those boats could be sold to countries that are at present developing their fishing industry. The main thing is that those fishermen should not be allowed to accrue more interest and repayments. They face a very embarrassing situation. Fishermen are a unique type of people in that they do not know any other type of life except fishing. They would not survive one week in a factory but we are allowing them to hang themselves. They cannot compete and do not have the boat power to go into the mackerel business. We are talking about £40 million in relation to this legislation and it would only cost 7.5 per cent of that figure to put that fleet to sea again. The foreigners have outsmarted us in that area by modernising their fleets. We have allowed our fishermen get into difficulty. We can rescue them and the State has a duty to do that. There is little point in introducing a Supplementary Estimate for the purpose of writing off interest rates. That is only fooling them. It is like putting them on a list of 10,000 for an SDA house we know will never be built. We would be only allowing them to fool themselves. It would be better if the boats were recovered from them and re-equipped so that they could compete and make a living.
The unique thing about fishermen that I admire is that they want to work. They do not want to stay ashore and draw the dole and in 1982 that is a scarce commodity. Those people are mad to work and they would not cry if they had a bad week. Their frame of mind is right and the Minister should seriously consider the suggestion I have made to help them. I am aware that such help would not be popular in the financial corridors but it is the only genuine way to tackle the problem. Such fishermen could be given medium sized tank boats to fish mackerel and once again become economic. As it is, some of them carry only about 500 boxes. They also use wooden boats, and that raises another problem. The Department were very slow in relation to the boatyard in Killybegs. For many years it must have been clear that that project was in difficulty and the decision the Department arrived at should have been reached earlier. If that was done some of the fishermen I am referring to would have been able to invest in the better type of fishing boat for mackerel fishing.
The policy of keeping the boatyard open was wrong. Make no mistake about it, if someone offered me a car for £10,000 which I could buy elsewhere for £7,000, I would not pay the £10,000. That was just what was happening in Killybegs and in the boatyard. It is unfortunate that those fishermen now have to suffer for wrong Government policy, regardless of what Government were in office. They are being refused conversion grants, because the board want to examine their books and, if the fishermen are not making money, the board are not interested. These fishermen cannot make money because of the way they are operating and the Department cannot sit back and allow them to get into further debt. The whole thing could be written off and made economical again. One basic element on the fishermen's side is that they are anxious to work.
I would possibly disagree with Deputy Power in relation to a gentleman's agreement and hope he will accept that disagreement in a gentlemanly way. This was a very hot potato when he was Minister for Fisheries. Unfortunately, it was not tackled then and may prove very expensive now. On the other side of the coin, I must give credit where it is due. I am delighted with the Killybegs development. The place has greatly changed in ten years, not alone in the fishing fleet but in the industrial site. A lot more is needed, but we have been patient over the years.
In recent months, Killybegs has seen the completion of many great harbour facilities. A synchro-duct has been provided and the dredging of the harbour is almost complete. A new ice plant and auction hall have also been provided, in answer to a profound need of the fishing industry in Killybegs. In the best interests of the project it was unfortunate that the auction hall was placed where it is rather than at the head of the pier, but it is easy to talk with hindsight. It has totally encroached on access to the pier. As regards its design, at first sight it looks more like a synagogue than an auction hall. I wonder if a prize for the design was involved. However, it is a fine structure, but in the wrong place. It must be stated publicly that interested parties approached the Department of Fisheries and the Board of Works before construction was begun with a view to having the auction hall relocated but the officials involved could not agree to this. This building is used for white fish only and could have been located anywhere, since all the handling is done by forklifts.
I think it was Deputy Power who mentioned co-operation between politicians, fishermen and the Department of Fisheries, but the Department officials determined where this auction hall was to be situated.