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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 22 Feb 1995

Vol. 449 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Drift Net Fishing.

Peadar Clohessy


21 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for the Marine the present position regarding the EU proposal to ban drift-netting for salmon. [4011/95]

Mary Coughlan


25 Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for the Marine if he supports the EC Commission's proposal to phase out the use of drift nets by community vessels by December 1997; and his views on whether this will have a serious effect on the salmon and tuna fish industry in Ireland. [3954/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 25 together.

Current EU regulations require that drift nets used in the fishing of tuna must not be more than 2.5 kilometres in length. At the meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers last April, the Commission presented a proposal on drift nets which had the following elements: all drift netting, for tuna, salmon, and certain other species, to be phased out over a period of four years; during this four year period, nets of up to 2.5 km could be used, but their use would be reduced each year; boats which previously held the derogation to fish with nets up to 5 km could continue to do so, for 1994 only.

In addition, the Commission indicated that funding might be made available to assist fishermen who fish with drift nets to change over to alternative methods of fishing. The Commission's proposals created difficulties for a number of member states, including Ireland. I am particularly concerned that the phasing out of all drift netting would have very serious implications, economic and social, for Irish fishermen involved in these fisheries.

At the Fisheries Council on 28 September 1994 it was agreed that the matter be referred back for scientific evaluation prior to its being further considered at Council, possibly in December 1994. In the event, there was no substantive discussion of the issue at the December Council. I support fully the Council's action to refer the matter for further scientific evaluation so that any future decision will be underpinned by the appropriate biological justification.

I am determined to ensure in any further discussions at Council on this issue that the long term interests of the Irish fishing industry will be secured and safeguarded to the maximum extent possible. I am satisfied that there is no immediate prospect of the Commission's proposals being adopted.

Will the Minister encourage phasing out monofilament netting?

This is a very complex issue and there is little consensus on it between the various interests in the inland fisheries sector. I intend to have a thorough look at the position. I expect an internal report on the matter from my Department by the beginning of next month.

There is a constant chorus of complaint from inland fisheries that the mouths of rivers such as the Shannon have been dominated by monofilament fishing and the run of salmon is greatly curtailed. This has an effect on the tourist industry in Limerick, Castle-connell, Killaloe and other areas along the river. I would be grateful if the Minister would use his good offices to ensure fair play for inland fisheries.

I am conscious of the Deputy's concerns and will bear them in mind.

I am glad to hear the Minister say there is no immediate prospect of phasing out drift netting and I hope he will continue to pursue that policy. Will a meaningful effort be made to ensure fair play in drift netting for salmon? The areas around the south coast and east coast in particular are not getting a good run of salmon, as they are fished out by the time they reach those areas. Something must be done about this if the livelihoods of fishermen in those regions are to be preserved. What plans has the Minister in that regard?

This is a very complex issue. Terms such as "fair play" have different meanings for different groups. The Minister of State and I are very conscious that this issue requires resolution and we are determined to do our best to find a solution that will be seen to be fair to enable our fisheries to grow.

It is reassuring to hear the Minister say there are implications involved in the banning of drift net fishing and I am sure he will keep that in mind in further negotiations. Salmon fishing was mentioned by my colleagues. There are conflicting, if not competing interests in this area. Many small coastal communities in the west have survived because they were able to avail of drift net fishing. When considering drift net fishing the Minister should consider the interests of these people.

I will do that.

The Minister is aware of the conflict in this area, as has been outlined by other Deputies. When will the review of drift netting legislation and the scientific studies into this area be completed? When will the legislation be finalised and a policy put in place? The Department of the Marine, through the Central Fisheries Board who own some estuary fisheries, is netting salmon in enormous numbers which, if allowed breed could lead to a successful salmon angling tourism business.

The Deputy is embarking upon a speech rather than asking relevant questions.

There is a conflict in this regard. I welcome the recent move in regard to Ballina. That measure should be extended to other areas.

I agree there is conflict in this area and we are anxious to tackle the issue. A report will be produced next month by the experts in my Department and decisions will then be made. It will not be a simple matter.

I am aware of that.

The Minister of State and I are anxious to address this issue.

If the Minister brings in a generous scheme he may be surprised with the support it will receive along the coast. I agree with Deputy McGinley that this is a particularly important issue in Donegal because of the huge numbers of salmon caught there. Unfortunately around the Galway coast the practice is dying out.