In the recent discussion document on the management and development of the fishing fleet, the Department set out proposals for the introduction of a new fleet licensing policy, which it is hoped will improve fleet management and allow for the development of the Irish fleet to its maximum potential.
The purpose of the discussion document was to ensure that the fishing industry had every opportunity to assess the implications of these proposals so that the widest possible consultation could take place.
The document has been discussed both with fishermen at a series of meetings held around the coast and with fishermen's organisations. It emerged during this process that fishermen were concerned, in particular, that the proposals could result in the loss of traditional fishing rights and lead in some cases to a drop in the value of boats within the fleet.
These very real concerns are being examined as part of a full scale review of the proposals currently taking place in the Department. While every effort will be made these concerns in any revision of the proposals, the necessity to meet Ireland's Community obligations in respect of fleet capacity must also be taken into account. Failure to meet the capacity targets set out in the Multi Annual Guidance Programme for the fleet could endanger the allocation of structural funding to the fishing industry as a whole.
Since the Department's discussion document has been published, new regulations introducing a Community licensing system have been adopted at the Fisheries Council. In addition, the Commission intends to bring forward proposals providing for Community fishing permits. As these developments could have implications for the new licensing policy, they are being assessed in the context of the present policy review.
Once the review has been completed, I intend to consult with the industry representative bodies and would then hope to be in a position to take final decisions in the matter. I can assure the Deputy that no decisions will be taken in advance of such consultations.