Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 12 Feb 1997

Vol. 474 No. 7

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1996 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Yesterday evening before we adjourned I made the point that in places like Carlingford other aspects of the aquaculture industry have seen tremendous development in recent years. Oyster cultivation and mussel farming are two areas in which significant progress has been made. There has been significant investment in the oyster sector, in particular. While there was an element of trial and error as far as many of the entrepreneurs who became involved in the sector were concerned, they eventually got the formula right and the sector is doing well at present. It is our wish that that growth rate continue.

As we could glean from the Minister of State's speech yesterday, fish have become an integral part of the consumer's diet and there is clearly a growing market which needs to be supplied from home. Lobster development has also taken place along the Louth coast. The sector is progressing with the development of new production techniques. We are talking about areas where the room for development was significant and where people saw opportunities and are proceeding to develop the various projects.

Mussel cultivation is the longest established aquacultural activity in Carlingford where there is a significant number of jobs both in the primary sector and onshore. Many of the producers who have been there for generations have small farms on the side of the Cooley Mountains where they run simultaneously small sheep herds but the mussel cultivation provided the principal portion of the family income. In recent times the position of many of those producers has changed dramatically.

A licence covering some of the most productive areas in the lough was issued to an applicant from outside the area. It is an understatement to say there is considerable tension locally as a result. I ask the Minister to outline the implications of this legislation. We are talking about people who effectively have been displaced from an area of activity where a family tradition is involved. While I realise the new licensing structure will bring a more ordered approach, inevitably the transition period will pose difficulties and problems. People who have been dependent — in some cases totally dependent — on mussel production in Carlingford Lough are effectively excluded from the industry. I am not sure any licensing arrangement envisaged that happening. Given that the Minister has taken a keen interest in the development of the aquacultural industry he could bring a sense of fair play and justice to bear in the examination of such situations. He might even consider the possibility of visiting Carlingford to meet the displaced producers at first hand with a view to producing a formula to overcome their problems.

I have dealt with the various points I wished to make in relation to this legislation as it affects my constituency. I join with the other speakers in the House in welcoming the legislation. Clearly the provisions of the Bill reflect the developments taking place around the coast. I do not pretend that putting a new licence arrangement in place and dealing with people who have established production rights through the traditional method will be easy but there is a certain inevitability about it. Again I ask the Minister to examine the position and the particular difficulties as they appertain in Carlingford Lough with the view to resolving the problem there.

I wish to address a particular aspect of this Bill but before doing so I welcome the Bill. There is a need for order in the development of our aquaculture which generally has brought great benefits but there are downsides and problems in relation to the siting of mussel farms. These problems are accentuated where there is not local support for the venture. From that point of view the approach adopted by the Minister is the right one and the result will be balanced development and the interests of the local community will be taken into account and judged alongside the interest of the developer. It is even better if there is a coincidence of interest between the local community and the developer. Ideally the local community should be involved in these areas as part of the undertaking so that they have an ownership of the development.

It is fair to highlight a particular application since a major community voice has been raised in relation to it. I am concerned that the application which was lodged prior to the Act should be covered by the Act. I refer to an application to place long lines within an area of the foreshore at Dunnycove Bay by people who had and have no connection with that locality. It is purely a commercial operation without any support whatever from the local community. It is clear from my discussions with them that that application has no merit whatever from the point of view of being an addition to the local community. On the contrary it has huge drawbacks. There is a problem from the point of view of road access and safety since there is no proper road network to carry trucks or lorries dealing with mussels. There would be major interference with the amenities of the area, the existing fishing activity, the sea and bird life. Without going into detail on the Dunnycove application, it is entirely unsuitable. It has united the local community totally and unanimously against it.

What will happen applications of that kind when the Act comes into force? I am concerned that the protections under the Act should be available to deal with applications of that kind which so far have not been decided, that is where an application has been made and there are serious objections. Will applications, such as those at Dunnycove and near Ardfield, Clonakilty, be dealt with under the protections of the new Bill or will some effort be made by the applicants to force the application through under the old procedure? As I understand it, the old procedure involved an aquacultural licence vetting committee within the Department who obviously tried to do the best they could but did not have the same open transparent procedures as will be provided under the Bill. I am concerned that the protections now being provided should be available to those who wish to object to existing applications. I am concerned to have reassurances on that issue and if it is not covered I would be keen to have amendments made to the Bill to deal with those points.

There are some other matters that I will raise on Committee Stage. I am concerned that there should be openness and transparency about operations under the Act. It is important for interested parties to have an opportunity to make their case in regard to applications. There must also be proper appeal procedures and, as in the case of the planning process, all reports must be available to the public. There must be as much openness and transparency as possible under the Bill, and I will follow the Committee Stage debate very closely to ensure this is achieved.

My main concern relates to existing applications which have not been granted, as highlighted by the Dunnycove Bay case. The voices of local communities must not be stifled and legitimate objections must not be overruled without first giving people an opportunity to express them.

I congratulate the Minister and the Whips for facilitating the speedy introduction of the Bill. The only representations I received were from the aquaculture industry which referred to the need to have it passed as quickly as possible. During the past decade the development of the industry in my constituency has been contentious. We are very fortunate in County Mayo in having a large number of internationally known inland fisheries which have the potential to create great wealth for isolated rural communities provided they are further developed. I will refer to this in greater detail later.

The development of these competing but complementary industries in County Mayo has led to much stress and strain and I would like to think they could work together, coexist, be viable, prosper and contribute to the economies of isolated rural communities. In order to achieve this they require a clean environment and must be in a position to promote themselves without the fear of damaging advertising or unfounded malicious allegations that one industry is damaging the other. For far too long the Department of the Marine has been the poor cousin in terms of funding. I appeal to the Minister to do everything possible to secure the necessary resources to assist scientists in developing wildlife fisheries and aquaculture so that they can further contribute to the creation of badly needed jobs.

Deputy McCormack suggested indirectly yesterday that the legislation could lead to a dispute similar to the rod licence dispute. I do not agree with him as there will be continuous monitoring of both industries. Those involved in inland fisheries will probably continue to believe that the mariculture industry damages inland waters because of sea lice and wild trout. However, I would like to think the Minister can play an active role in this area by furthering scientific information which will help develop the industry and ensure good practice is followed. The conditions attached to licences must be rigidly enforced and a clear warning given that a breach of them will lead to the immediate revocation of the licence.

Coastal communities endeavour to create jobs through the development of natural resources and the tourism industry. The Minister may not be aware of an advertisement on the Internet which is used by millions of people throughout the world. This advertisement by a group called Icarus which is supposed to come from County Mayo lambastes the environment of the county and states it does not believe the quality of water in a group scheme is satisfactory. The advertisement adopts such a broad brush approach that potential tourists will think it refers to all aspects of the environment in County Mayo. One can only imagine the impression it gives of the county.

I hope angling and mariculture interests work together in further developing their industries and promoting the country in a positive way. We have an international reputation for having excellent fishing waters and some of the campaigns pursued in recent years have led to a reduction in the number of tourists coming here. As a result of self-generated bad publicity and campaigns pursued by competing interests the number of anglers visiting County Mayo has declined in recent years. I am not sure these campaigns were valid.

I am very concerned about the future of the industry. The Government was very successful last year in attracting overseas companies to set up here. However, we knew those jobs would be created following the measures taken by previous Governments to stabilise the economy. It is important to point out that only 0.86 per cent of these jobs were located in Connacht and counties Donegal and Clare, which account for 20 per cent of the population. This had led to a feeling of discrimination among the people in these areas. I am pleased that during the first week of January the Government and the IDA woke up and recognised the necessity of spreading jobs equitably throughout the country, particularly rural areas, if they were to prevent Dublin bursting at the seams and ensure young people had the option of staying in their local areas. People in rural areas who have not been successful in securing new industries cherish their jobs and want to see them preserved, supported and expanded.

I am horrified at the Minister's unilateral decision to implement one of the recommendations of the salmon task force report without listening to the views of Opposition Deputies. We are public representatives, the legitimate democratic voice of the people who return us to this House, yet the Minister did not ask our opinions on any changes to the draft and drift net regime which has benefited approximately 800 coastal families. Those part-time fishermen, invariably small farmers, who live a traditional way of life collecting seaweed in winter and salmon fishing during the salmon season, use that regime to supplement their incomes.

The changes the Minister made may suit the absentee landlords and other vested interests resident here but he has totally ignored the legitimate concerns of many small fishermen who are not sophisticated lobbyists or members of any representative group. However, when they organise themselves, the Minister will have to take notice.

The Minister has substantially curtailed the potential of these fishermen to live a traditional way of life. If the Minister believes the changes he has made may be beneficial to the overall industry, why has he not offered compensation to these fishermen? He has not put anything on the table and it appears to be the thin end of the wedge to follow what has happened in other countries, namely, the abolition of a traditional way of life without anything in exchange from government.

On the question of the curtailment of the 12 mile limit to six miles — I appreciate the Minister will refer to base lines — I am reliably informed that in the Achill area in particular this may affect the safety of fishermen who will now be required to operate in curtailed hours.

I will quote from a letter I received from the West Mayo Fishermen's Development Co-Operative Society which has welcomed the salmon task force report and many of its recommendations, particularly in regard to the overall management of the salmon stock. However, the society strongly disagrees with two of the recommendations, one of which is the proposed reduction of the 12 mile limit to six miles. The letter states:

Since drift net fishing became established in the early seventies, the sea area between 7 and 12 miles offshore produces over 70% of our catch in the Bangor District of North Western Regional Fisheries Board.

The reasons the Task Force gives for closing this area are capture of foreign salmon and capture of fish going to rivers further South in this country.

Since the early eighties the West Mayo Fishermen's Development Co-operative Society has taken part in decoding salmon tags under the control of the Department of the Marine during the salmon seasons. Thousands of salmon are examined each season. Returns from these reports show that as high as 90% of fish captured are from rivers in our own district mainly Burrishoole, Bunowen and Bundorragha with very little catch from the Moy or Corrib. The catch of tagged fish from foreign rivers has varied from 1-9 fish for a season. Tagged fish account for between 5% — 11% of overall catch.

The reasons the Task Force give for closure do not hold up. To deny us access to the 12 mile limit would be the same as telling anglers they could not fish on the Moy river and the consequences for tourism.

Inside the six mile limit the currents are much stronger and the sea much rougher, this combined with the onshore prevalent South West wind and closer proximity to shore will make gear more difficult to fish and fishing more dangerous.

The area between Achill Head and the Stages of Broadhaven would be a no go area for drift netting owing to the number of crab pots and static gear set there.

The people advising the Minister do not accept the figures I put forward. I accept that the people in the West Mayo Fishermen's Development Co-Operative Society and many others produce accurate records. People who suggest that records of the number of tags examined are being suppressed and that a false picture is being given are trying to ensure that the voices of those involved in drift net fishing will not be heard.

I am particularly concerned about the curtailment of the 12 mile limit to six miles in my area. Local fishermen say their lives are being put in danger and I will not tolerate that. I will hold the Minister personally responsible if any boats get into difficulty in the forthcoming season. As I said, these fishermen are not an organised group such as the aquaculture group which has joined the IFA and which the Minister meets on a weekly basis. I wish they were more co-ordinated in their approach to fighting recommendations which may affect their industry.

In the further development of the aquaculture industry the Minister has received many requests both from native fishermen and people involved in the industry to curtail the number of seals along our coastline. I appreciate there is a growing consciousness of our environment and I am to the forefront regarding environmental concerns in my constituency. As a member of Fianna Fáil I do not believe others such as the Green movement have a monopoly on protecting the environment. One must always take a balanced approach in matters concerning the environment.

A balanced approach must be taken to ensure a selective seal cull. Seals are causing substantial economic damage to salmon fishermen, whose incomes are uncertain, and others involved in the aquaculture industry who have a high risk element in their work. I appreciate many young people regard seals as small, cuddly mammals which should be allowed to flourish as part of nature, but some seals can weigh up to 20 stone and are capable of doing untold damage to salmon cages in one night.

The people calling for a selective seal cull are responsible and reasonable. They are not advocating the widespread destruction of seals but want a sustainable population consistent with fishing and aquaculture interests. The Minister has put off making a decision on a cull because he does not want to be accused of lacking compassion, but he should not fear a reasonable approach. A decision should be made on this matter.

The purpose of the Bill is to regulate the aquaculture industry. This important industry has potential but, for various reasons, it has stagnated over recent years. The aquaculture industry plays a major role in Mayo and Galway. Its potential has not been tapped. Additional jobs can be created onshore as well as offshore. The manufacturing of meal sustains a number of jobs in Westport. Trou Ireland buys the raw material in Killybegs, manufactures it into pellets and distributes it to many fish farms around the country. The industry is expanding and will create more jobs and wealth in remote communities in the west. While the suggested 3,600 jobs in the industry by the year 2000 may be somewhat optimistic, it should be supported.

Inland fisheries have suffered greatly from sea trout fishing in recent years, a matter to which few speakers referred. I have received a large amount of literature from both competing groups advocating the wisdom of their scientific research. As I am not in a position to distinguish between fact and fiction, I am guided by the Minister and his officials who advised him on the best form of legislation to introduce to assist the long-term prospects of the aquaculture industry while not causing damage to a native resource such as inland fisheries.

The Minister has addressed many of the concerns in this legislation, but I urge him to continue to heed the concerns being expressed so that they can be addressed on Committee Stage.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Rialtas a thug deis dom labhairt ar an mBille seo.

While I agree with the Minister that large press advertisements are over the top, I hope he addresses the valid concerns of the aquaculture industry. Hysteria should not be allowed play a part in such concerns.

Members of the Green Party on the west coast have a particular interest in the Bill. Section 15 of the 1959 Act has not been changed. The Minister spoke about his responsible role in granting aquaculture licences. This conflicts with the judgment in the Mulcahy v. Minister for the Marine case in November 1994 which held that the Minister should not be given such power and that the manner in which licences are granted should be carefully reviewed. Licences are open to abuse. I have been informed that Fanad Fisheries should be closely monitored in this regard. As it is only natural that licences will be used to the maximum extent possible, strict controls should apply when granting them so that aquaculture activities do not adversely affect the wider environment.

The proposals for an appeals procedure is a definite improvement. However, attention should also focus on the granting of licences in this area because, as Deputy Molloy stated yesterday, it seems to favour the interests of the aquaculture industry. In supporting that industry, it is crucial that tourism, angling and wider environmental concerns are also taken into account.

Sea trout anglers believe their concerns are not being met. As the Minister appeared to support the conclusions of the report of the Sea Trout Working Group, they believed their concerns would be addressed. I hope consultation will take place following this debate and that the necessary changes are made on Committee Stage.

The use of chemicals, particularly nuvan, in the aquaculture industry has been a matter of concern for people in the Green movement for some time. I am pleased the Bill provides for a reduction in the use of that and other highly toxic chemicals in aquaculture. However, while we want to reduce the use of chemicals in the industry, the growth of the industry will probably result in their increased use. The use of chemicals in aquaculture has been declared a matter for the National Drugs Advisory Board. The Environmental Protection Agency should be given a more official statutory role in this area because of the impact of such chemicals on the environment. As chemicals dilute in water there will be a temptation to use them. They should be strictly controlled because they pollute the natural environment. I do not want to say much more. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an Teachta Ó Cuív ag fanacht chun teacht isteach. Ag an am gcéanna, is gá éisteacht leis na daoine atá ag plé le cursaí iascaireachta i gcoitinne.

I realise the Minister will be concerned about the reports from Sellafield on the east coast. Whereas that is something we hope is a minimal problem it clarifies for us that, when we talk about Sellafield, we are not simply talking about dangers to the human health and well-being of this population but the economic fabric of the country which is closely tied to our success in fighting the nuclear industry in Britain. One hopes there will not be an accident or serious incident. I hope that the evidence which exists to date and the real risk in the future will ensure the Government puts the issue of Sellafield at the level of political activity which knows no higher level. To that extent, I hope that the Anglo-Irish conference and other international opportunities, legal or diplomatic, are used to the fullest extent. This Bill brings home to us that we have a heritage which can all too easily be lost and, with it, the potential for keeping people in rural areas and maintaining the fabric of rural communities.

Fáiltím roimh an prionsabal atá sa Bhille seo. Tá sé thar am go mbeadh córas oscailte agus intuigthe ag an bpobal faoin a dhéanfaí ceadúnais le haghaidh cúrsaí feirmeoireachta éisc a cheadú.

É sin ráite, is léir go bhfuil imní, b'fhéidir imní gan bunús, ar dhaoine faoin mBille seo ach is dóigh liom go bhfuil imní ar daoine freisin agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil bunús le cuid dá n-imní. Ní dóigh liom go bhfeileann sé do cheachtar den dá thaobh san argóint seo, sé sin, an dream in aghaidh feirmeorachta éisc agus an dream ag plé leis, go mbeadh conspóid, agóid, míthuisceant nó imeartas poiblí ag baint le feirmeoireacht éisc. Mar sin, an chéad rud a d'iarrfainn ar an Aire ná a bheith foighdeach, éisteacht go cúramach agus, má tá gá le leasuithe ar an mBille seo, go mba cheart dó a bheith oscailte do leasuithe. Déarfainn freisin leis an dream atá ag plé le feirmeoracht éisc, go mbfearr go mbéadh córas an-oscailte ann mar, ag deireadh an lae nuair a cheadófar ceadúnais, ba dheas an rud é a cheapadh go nglacfaidh chuile dhuine leis an gcinneadh agus go mórmhór go nglacfaidh na pobail sna háiteanna ina bhfuil na feirmeacha éisc suite le cinneadh cibé córas a bheidh ann.

I welcome this Bill in principle. The system of licensing of aquaculture projects has been most unsatisfactory in the past. It has been characterised by unspecified periods of delay, sudden decisions, a total lack of transparency and a feeling by people that objections might or might not be considered seriously. I accept that objections lodged were fully and totally considered but there was no system in place to reassure the public that this was so and we know how destructive suspicion and mistrust can be in situations like this.

I live in Connemara, in which there are two clear schools of thought about fin fish farming. I accept that this Bill covers all aquaculture development. There are two schools of thought, especially relating to fin fish farming, and, furthermore, within Connemara, there are two distinct areas. One strongly favours fin fish farming and stretches mainly from Bertraghboy Bay along to Leitir Mór, Leitir Mealláin and Ceathrú Rua. The other area in north-west Connemara has huge community resistance to fin fish farming. It is extraordinary that, within a short space of coastline, two totally opposing views would be held by communities. It is important to recognise the rights of the communities to hold views and that must be taken on board.

I was involved in significant industrial development in the timber industry within the area in which I live. One point I have always made is that it would not have been possible in the long term to sustain what has since become a huge development without the goodwill of the local community. Therefore, local community views must be taken into account when decisions are being made on aquaculture licences. I know there are provisions here for the Minister to give general directives and make regulations but, before this Bill is passed, the type of directions which will be involved must be clarified. A Bill which does not provide for general community acceptance in some form or another will be totally flawed. We will return to the same point which has existed all the time, that there is a fear that big corporations can get licences against the wishes of the locals who will have no say in the development. This would not suit fish farmers who are serious about their business and local commitment and it would be another way of telling local people that their views do not count. In passing this Bill, this aspect must be tackled in a much more specific way. A Bill which does not recognise this reality would be totally flawed.

The second major point is that it must be clarified if there are general areas which are off-limits. I would like the Minister to clarify whether he accepts that, for example, Lough Mask, Lough Corrib and their water system are off-limits for the development of aquaculture. That is a major issue in the area in which I live. The people there would argue succinctly and with great validity that the greatest potential of the lakes and all rivers feeding into them lies in ensuring that there would be no aquaculture development of a commercial nature on the lakes or their systems. Maybe this is covered in regulations here and there, but we must be reassured that there can be no question about certain fundamental things. I understand that one of my colleagues will make specific proposals about it, but this reassurance is needed.

Furthermore, I was slightly disappointed as a TD representing Galway West to find that huge advertisements were taken out in the newspapers last Thursday and that no one had bothered to contact me regarding whatever worries and fears there are about this. The only written communication I received from local lobby groups against aquaculture was a letter in the post which arrived in my Dáil office on which there was no telephone number and only a PO box number to which to reply. This is a pity because, although I was not an elected representative at the time of the rod licence dispute, I live in the lake area in Connemara and know the trauma, suffering and difficulties caused by that dispute. Whatever the merits of the arguments made, the one thing needed at this stage is dialogue. I am slightly disappointed at the method adopted by the lobby groups because it is not conducive to real dialogue. I would like to see the people who have difficulties and who are seriously concerned sitting down, studying the Bill, formulating their own detailed proposals, discussing them and making suggestions.

I am disappointed with the method adopted in this instance as it is not conducive to real dialogue. Deputies receive representations on all legislation that comes before the House. People who are seriously concerned about a proposal will study it and approach their public representatives with detailed proposals and suggestions. I hope the groups which published these advertisements will contact us and furnish us with their names, addresses and telephone numbers to enable us to contact them. They should be willing to meet the Minister of State and his officials and the local representatives of the areas affected to discuss their worries so we can represent them and their views. We will discuss with them how this Bill might allay their fears.

Their worries cannot be dismissed even if their method of publicising them might not be the most conducive means to proper dialogue. One fishing club approached me in the past week to bring its concerns to my notice. I will read its submission carefully and voice those concerns on Committee Stage. I have tried to make contact with the groups which published the advertisement and I hope we will be able to discuss the issues they have raised. Their points are valid.

The press release of the Minister of State is reassuring but he should consider a number of points. There is a non-aquaculture and non-technical but equally relevant community support issue, without which no local industry can survive. It is peculiar that this Bill provides that a decision of the Minister can be overturned by an appeals board. I would prefer if an independent board would conduct the first analysis, after which the Minister, if there was overriding local opposition to a proposal, could take such opposition on board. It is a political decision and the Minister could decide, if he is satisfied that there is overriding local opposition, not to grant an aquaculture licence. There is a genuine fear that local views which are not expressed in technical language cannot be taken into consideration. That could lead to conflict and difficulty and do more damage to the fin fish farming industry than anything else. This issue should be debated and examined in an open manner.

Another important matter is involved. There is a very good system in local authorities at present whereby a member of the public has the statutory right to see a planning file. After a decision is made a person can look not only at the decision but also at the internal notes that were made with regard to the decision. One can follow the thought processes of the officials who handled the file and see the basis on which a decision was made. Up to now that was not the case in the aquaculture sector. Even if a decision was valid and correct there was no means by which people could follow the system of thought prior to the decision being made and decide, regardless of whether they agree with the decision, that it was made through a valid and systematic process.

In the aquaculture licensing and appeals system it will be most important that the documentation on which the decision was made and the reasons for the decision will be made available to those who have an interest in it. That would generate great confidence in the system. We all are afraid of situations where every side is listened to, but where minds are made up before their cases are heard. That is a great fear in the community and it is something we must tackle.

I do not agree that trial licences should be granted without a system of appeal. A huge change has been made with the imposition of time limits on making decisions about the granting of aquaculture licences. I welcome that change as it suited neither the applicant nor the objector that this process could continue ad nauseam. However, an appeal cannot be made against a trial licence because of the extra time involved, but the extra time involved would be more than justified in view of the public confidence it would create in the transparency and openness of the system.

The Bill appears to provide for granting licences in perpetuo. There is also reference to a time period of not longer than 20 years. Nothing should be granted in perpetuo. I cannot see why provision cannot be included for seeking renewal of licences, particularly in the case of fin fish farming where technology could change dramatically. There should be a renewal provision and, if necessary, a stipulation included that the licence will be regranted unless the grounds on which the original decision was made in terms of technology and so forth changed or new information came to hand about the dangers of the technology or the operation. There must be regular review periods for fin fish farming.

Other types of aquaculture are growing in importance in the west. There is a thriving shellfish farming industry in my constituency and I hope it will grow rapidly in future. Shellfish farming has the great advantage of not being dependent on chemicals or feedstuffs and the dangers they create. I hope there will be greater emphasis on the potential of that industry. Killary Harbour is a massive resource in my constituency but, because of licensing difficulties, the restrictions that have been imposed and difficulties in arriving at a proper development plan with the local co-operative, the mussel farming industry has not developed to its full potential. The possibility of developing that industry and investing resources in it should be examined further. I hope we will see a new phase of development throughout the range of activities in aquaculture.

This Bill was published last November so any charge that it is being rushed through the Oireachtas is untrue. However, I was concerned last week when people claimed it was hidden from view. Long before the Bill was published, the Minister of State outlined its main provisions in a press release and I give him full credit for his action. I and most people were aware that aquaculture legislation had been considered for some time. Nevertheless, it appears that some people did not become aware of the legislation until recently and they fear, rightly or wrongly, that it will be rushed through the Oireachtas.

Time is on our side. We have waited a long time for this Bill and, while I do not believe in unnecessary delay, those who have voiced reservations about the legislation, including those involved in the aquaculture sector, should be contacted and asked to make submissions. They should be shown an open door policy and it should be made clear that anything they wish to say that is reasonable and sustainable will be considered seriously. In this way, we will have a Bill that provides for balance between competing interests in aquaculture. I hope that when the Bill is passed it will receive broad support from all people interested in fishing and from the communities in which the industry is based. If, as a result of further consultation, it takes an extra three or four weeks to get the Bill through, it will be time well spent. It would be better to spend an extra few weeks working on it now than to have a Bill that causes controversy, doubt, concern and acrimony and that does not solve the problems which this Bill sets out to solve.

Tá mé go mór i bhfábhar an Bhille seo i bprionsabal mar níl mórán faidhbe agam leis an bprionsabal. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil sé go maith; tá gá le córas achomhairc agus tá gá le córas oscailte. Ach tá rudaí áirithe ann a thaitneodh le chuile dhuine da mbeadh leasuithe iontu. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire sásta na leasuithe seo a chur i bhfeidhm nuair a thiocfaidh an Bille faoi bhráid Choiste na Dála.

Tá súil agam, áfach, go mbeidh na dreamanna atá ag casaoid in aghaidh an Bhille sásta teacht chun tosaigh, suí síos agus pé imní atá acu a phlé go hoscailte agus dul tríd an Bille líne ar líne. Caithfidh go bhfeiceann siad go bhfuil buntáiste i mBille nua mar seo.

Maidir le tionscal na feirmeoireachta éisc de, tá go leor daoine fostaithe i gConamara sa tionscal seo. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach do go leor den phobal. B'fhéidir go bhfuil cuid den fhostaíocht ar cheart a bheith i gConamara agus atá tógtha as Conamara le cúpla bliain anuas ag cuid de na comhlachtaí móra agus is trua é sin. Ach tá féidearachtaí móra ag feirmeoireacht éisc i gConamara. Tá go leor den phobal agus ní deireadh le feirmeoireacht éisc ach tuilleadh feirmeoireacht éisc atá ag teastáil uathu. Tacaím go mór leis an phobal sin agus leis an cheart atá acu obair sa tionscal.

Creidim, le leasuithe cuí go mbeidh an Bille seo mar áis le cur leis an bhfeirmeoireacht éise agus go ndéanfaidh sé cinnte de go ndéanfar an tionscal a fhorbairt ar bhealach atá inghlactha ó thaobh an chomhshaoil de.

Molaim an Bille i bprionsabal agus tá súil agam go mbeidh plé iomlán cuimsitheach air gan aon guillotine ag Céim an Choiste. Ba thrua liom dá ndéanfaí an plé a ghiorrú mar ag deireadh an lae is tré phlé agus eadar-phlé a dhéanfar na ceisteanna crua a réiteach.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Coughlan and McDaid.

I am sure that is agreed. Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this most important Bill. Much of Ireland is heavily reliant on three industries, agriculture, tourism and fisheries. The agriculture sector is experiencing severe hardship as a result of the crisis in that industry, but today we are talking primarily about the fishing industry which also has an impact on tourism. In the fishing industry there is a great variety of skilled labour, production and so on. Such a primary resource, however, be it sea or fresh water fish, cannot exist to its optimum potential without regulation and legislation. That is borne out in areas such as the Foyle where people are striving to maintain flat oyster stocks without the support of legislation. In those circumstances the sustainable nature of the product is not guaranteed.

Everybody in the industry favours conservation, protection mechanisms and pollution awareness, which are essential to the future of our fisheries. With the enactment of legislation that embraces the basic principles, we look forward to a successful future. Proper regulation of licensing and environmental protection mechanisms are necessary not only to maintain the resource but the hundreds of thousands of jobs created directly and indirectly in the industry.

In my constituency there is a variety of fishing, with fish farms in Fanad and anglers working primarily from rivers such as the Crana. In his response last night the Minister said that one of his primary concerns in the drafting of the Bill was to strike the necessary balance between essential developmental needs of the aquaculture industry and acknowledgement of the concerns of other parties. It is essential to get that balance right to ensure the development of aquaculture is planned and regulated in a sustainable way. I welcome the Minister's comments in that regard.

A substantial part of my constituency is not covered by the Bill. The Foyle area awaits similar legislation, but that is an issue for another time. Many jobs have been created — 3,000 in 1995 — through investment in the industry. There have been difficulties with escapement and the use of chemicals, matters which primarily affect people involved in wild salmon fishing, and the restrictions on licensing will result in improvements in that regard as well as in the whole area of fishery management. Investment in research is necessary to ensure an environmentally friendly approach is adopted in the interests of our eco-system.

There is a strong angling club in my area and its commitment to the development of rivers and protection of stock is second to none. Recent developments of onshore facilities have improved recreational and working conditions.

It is important that wild salmon and other species are protected under the Bill, as anglers have striven to do up to now despite the lack of legislative support. All aspects of fishing are of tremendous importance to rural coastal areas such as mine. Each has potential for job creation, recreational enjoyment, attracting visitors and producing a product that can be sold worldwide. Conservation and protection of all species is important and legislation must treat all forms of fishing with an equal degree of rigour in the interests of the common good.

Much concern has been voiced about the Bill by anglers. Like many other Deputies, I have been approached by anglers concerned about the issue of a trial licence without recourse to appeal. Such a practice poses a huge threat to traditional recreational and amenity areas as well as to rivers. There are difficulties with the 20 year licence and area designation is being replaced by a system where anything goes. At a time when local planning is becoming more centred on the designation of areas as high or low amenity areas, one wonders whether these classifications would be of assistance to the applicant and enforcer alike.

While the Minister dealt with some of these matters in his opening speech, I trust he will consider the issues of concern I raised and give further clarification on them at the close of the debate. Does the Minister envisage legislation on the recreational use of rivers and seas, specifically in regard to safety, and would such legislation duplicate any of the provisions in this Bill? There is much more use made of our rivers and recreational activities on rivers have increased substantially. With more people, more demand and different equipment on the rivers, we need an awareness of safety. We should encourage such activities within our remit. We also must look to safe access for all. Can the aspect of safety on rivers be considered in this legislation? Perhaps the Minister can inform me of the feasibility of incorporating some reference to the safety aspect on Committee Stage.

I welcome this legislation. It is important for the true development of our resources. The Bill should be sensitive to all aspects of fishing, to other river users and to our environment. Research should continue to maximise the eco-friendly aspect of development on rivers. Those creating jobs should get sufficient support to help them in this research and their further development. All those with concerns should have them addressed. Through doing this, the Minister will move towards a unity which is the best way to make a Bill truly effective.

If the issues of concern are dealt with, before the Bill is finalised, we will have a Bill which will work. This will not happen if we ignore the concerns of the people or do not fully explain that the Bill is not what they think it is, as the Minister stated last night. The Minister said the aquaculture industry has been poorly served by out of date legislation and a licensing programme which has failed to deliver decisions in a reasonable timeframe. I welcome the Bill but ask that the concerns raised are addressed and that the Minister thinks about safety on rivers.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire a rá go bhfuil lúcháir orm go bhfuil an Bille seo ós comhair an Dáil. Silím go bhfuilimid ag fanacht cúpla bliana anois agus is mor an trua nach raibh an Bille ós ár gcomhair roimhe seo. Ach, is cuma faoi sin anois, tá sé ós ár gcomhair agus fáiltím go mór an Bille i dtús báire.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss this legislation because we all agree it is difficult to develop an industry properly and have proper regulations without a statutory instrument and legislation. One of the biggest problems with fisheries is that there are so many sectoral interests which do not seem to listen to each other or want to agree or compromise. We all know that our waters belong to the nation and are for the good of the nation. We should always be aware of that.

I have experience of many types of fishery development; angling, drift and draft-net fishing and fish farming. There are four fish farms in my village of Inver. Compromise, working together and a proper local management structure has meant that people have been able to live amicably in recent years.

Local management structures are most important for the development of aquaculture. In my village there would not be as many people in full-time employment if we did not have fish farms in Inver and Killybegs. It is unfortunate that the more traditional types of fisheries are no longer viable. As a consequence, I was glad to see that many local people who were formerly part-time fishermen and farmers were able to get fulltime employment with fish farms in my village. We have spent an astronomical amount of money on the promotion of angling and angling tourism. The North Western Fisheries Board has spent a considerable sum on the promotion of the Eany, the provision of new stock and proper facilities for fishermen.

As the Minister is acutely aware, there were hiccups in the development of spats and some of the larger fisheries. There is conflict between the promotion of angling tourism, the traditional drift and draft net fisheries and aquaculture. It is important, therefore, that there is a proper structure to allow the development of a sea or estuary fishery to be looked at by everyone. I hope such a structure can be provided for in this legislation.

I welcome the establishment of the licensing appeals board as it will allow for greater transparency in granting licences. I am glad that those with a grievance will be able to avail of an appeals procedure similar to that provided for in the planning Acts.

On membership of the board, the Minister proposes to appoint a chairperson and others with a specific interest in various sectors of the industry. It may be more prudent, however, to allow various organisations to elect nominees who could then be appointed to the board. As a consequence, they would have greater standing in processing appeals.

The Bill provides the board in hearing appeals with the power to extend the time limits. As the Minister is aware, during the years there have been many complaints about the length of time it takes An Bord Pleanála to make decisions. It would be prudent to emphasise the need to make decisions as quickly as possible, recognising that oral hearings result in delays. On Committee Stage the Minister should lay down stringent guidelines as investors cannot afford to wait six months to a year for a decision while those who object to the provision of an aquaculture licence need to know that their views will be taken into consideration and that a decision will be made as quickly as possible.

My eminent colleague from the west, Deputy Molloy, does not agree but there has been much misinformation about the legislation. The Minister should clearly outline its objectives. The only representations I received in my constituency were from those involved in the aquaculture sector who are anxious to ensure that the Bill is enacted. If angling associations are concerned about a particular matter, they always go to their local Deputy. Having said that, I received representations today from one or two national organisations. All organisations should have an opportunity to obtain answers and to have their concerns allayed.

Polarisation is not the way forward. There is a need to create employment in isolated areas. My colleagues from the west mentioned that males in particular find it difficult to secure full-time employment in the north west, they are dependent on the fishing, farming and tourism sectors for part-time employment. There is, therefore, a need for compromise. We have to marry economic development with environmental concerns. I am concerned that this polarisation does not hinder development of the industry.

The fin fish sector has been mentioned. Insufficient research has been carried out into new species, fish diseases and alternative methods of fish farming, while insufficient attention has been paid to aquaculture, in particular shellfish, which has proved very popular.

On fish promotion, there has been a decrease in the price of salmon in particular. While this is good for the consumer, I hope the Minister will address the issue of dumping large quantities of fish on the market by non-EU member states, particularly the Norwegians, which causes huge problems for those involved in the industry here. There is a need for regulation. Local management structures are the best way forward in the development of the industry.

I compliment the Minister on bringing forward the Bill and on answering the queries of those concerned about it in Athlone this week. Advertisements were placed in local newspapers last weekend spelling out the reasons it should not pass through the Dáil. The Minister is prepared to make any changes necessary on Committee Stage to allay the concerns of the sectional interests involved.

There is room for the angling organisations and those involved in the aquaculture sector to work together. Trou Ireland, based in my home town of Westport, has a large staff. In addition, there are many fish farms in the Achill-Clare Island area which provide full-time employment in a region of high unemployment.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

I am disappointed members of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have not come into the Chamber. They, as well as Members on the Government side, have an obligation to ensure there is a quorum. It should not be necessary to call a quorum every few minutes.

I compliment the Minister of State on bringing this Bill before the Dáil. It is important that the two groups work together. The Minister of State is trying to achieve that by ensuring all sectors are represented. In the past he has met representatives of interested organisations to ascertain the problems they encounter.

I welcome the Government and EU funds allocated to fisheries boards in the west. The work carried out on our lakes and rivers is excellent. For many years I attended public meetings throughout County Mayo at which the main complaint was that the Government was not serious about the angling or other sectors and did not provide funding. Such groups do not say that any more. Funding has poured into the Western Fisheries Board for many years now and I compliment the Minister of State on the fact that we have beautiful lakes where people can fish such as those in Kilmeena, Aghagower and other places in the west.

There is much concern about fish farms. I welcome the introduction of this legislation. The Minister of State is prepared to reconsider it on Committee Stage in light of concerns that may be expressed by the angling sector. Those sectors are creating employment in a disadvantaged area in the west where previous Governments failed to provide employment. Those working in fish farms are committed to them and to protecting the environment. They do not want to destroy the angling industry but to co-operate with it. That is what the Minister is trying to achieve and I welcome that.

I am pleased this Bill is before the Dáil and it can be considered in detail on Committee Stage. The draft and drift net fishermen are somewhat annoyed that their fishing season has been reduced. Will the Minister reconsider that decision on Committee Stage and extend their fishing season, which is very short, by a week? The Minister of State has met representatives of many of the organisations concerned. Some small farmers in the west engage in fishing to supplement their income. The Minister of State wants to protect the fish stocks. I ask him to meet the representatives of the organisations concerned again and to reach agreement on extending the fishing season by a week. There is some conflict between the draft and drift net fishermen about the times they fish and the Minister of State had consultations with them. He will have further consultations with them and I hope agreement will be reached.

We have been waiting 17 years for this Bill. I will consider its provisions in detail on Committee Stage. I will meet representatives of some of the organisations concerned over the weekend who wish to put forward suggestions. There is no need for conflict. The Minister of State is trying to get agreement from the interested parties. The fish farming and angling industries have a contribution to make to the economy in terms of employment. They are valuable industries and should be able to work together. There is no reason the industries cannot be regulated to ensure their needs are catered for. We support the two industries. There is no need for scare-mongering. This is a democratic State. Representatives of the two industries are prepared to meet, discuss and iron out any problems.

I compliment the Minister of State on the amount of money given to the west in past two and a half a years. The angling and aquaculture industries appreciate it. I wish the Minister of State well with this Bill. I will monitor its progress and I know he will introduce the necessary amendments on Committee Stage. I will meet certain organisations over the weekend and take their criticisms on board. It is important that everyone works together as this industry is important for tourism and employment.

Trou Ireland is a major company in Westport which depends on fish farming and employs many people. It provides good, steady full-time jobs. In terms of angling, it attracts many people to the county who spend a great deal of money. The Minister of State has created the right balance in this Bill and any major difficulties can be examined on Committee Stage.

There has been criticism of the Opposition for calling quorums. As Deputy Ring said, this is important legislation, yet only two Government spokespeople have contributed to the debate. It is the duty of the Government to debate this Bill. I have been calling for this legislation for some months and I give credit to the Minister of State for introducing it. We have to tease this Bill out and, unfortunately, the Minister of State encountered a problem in the past few days. The publicity given to this Bill recently has been unfair, particularly untruths which have been published. In his speech, the Minister of State gave guarantees that freshwater areas will be protected and that it will require the authority of the Minister and the Department to do that. The Government has been lacking because, come the general election, this legislation may turn out to be very important in certain areas of the country. Many Government Deputies have paid little or no attention to it.

If we want to be regarded as a maritime country we should pay more attention to the Department of the Marine. It has been shabbily treated down through the years by successive Governments with regard to its budget allocation. At a time when there are problems in agriculture and other industries in rural Ireland we should turn more to the marine industry as it is a natural resource. It receives possibly the lowest budget allocation. A huge untapped potential exists in this industry. Future Governments will have to pay more attention to it if we are to be regarded as a maritime nation.

This potential is extremely important for rural areas, particularly in Donegal where unemployment is such a problem. Fanad Fisheries, now known as Hydro Seafoods, started off in the Fanad peninsula and provides massive employment in an area which would be devastated otherwise. People stay in the peninsula as a result of the aquaculture industry. I support aquaculture.

Will the Minister of State consider setting up a Lough Swilly port authority to monitor activity there? It is a huge lake which has been totally neglected environmentally, as other Deputies said. Large, foreign vessels are able to travel up Lough Swilly as far as Inch Island and Rathmullan where they discharge offal etc. Fianna Fáil may put down an amendment on this on Committee Stage to see whether it is possible to incorporate it in this Bill. The issue has been pressed at meetings of Donegal County Council by my colleague, Hugh Conaghan. Donegal County Council, through its engineers, has been in touch with the Department of the Marine. Perhaps the Minister of State will comment on this.

Fianna Fáil welcomes the Bill, especially the section on the reduction of smoults. Also, the implementation of the sea trout task force is vitally important. It is complicated legislation but not as complicated as indicated by the publicity it has received over the past few days. It is vital for the industry that this legislation is passed quickly because it has seasonal connotations.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí eile a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht, do na tuarimí a nochtadh anseo agus don fháilte ghinearálta a thug Teachtaí don Bhille.

I thank the Members who contributed to this debate and, in particular, for their suggestions as to how the Bill can be improved. I have made it clear to all interested parties that I welcome observations on the Bill and that I introduced it in a spirit of openness and readiness to listen to worthwhile suggestions for its improvement. The most appropriate place to examine the detailed provisions of the Bill is on Committee Stage and I look forward to doing so. The acquaculture industry and those communities that are home to the industry deserve the best possible Bill that the combined wisdom of this House and the Seanad can deliver. I am glad there is a broad welcome from all sides of the House for the development of acquaculture which, as has been proved, has the capacity to deliver jobs in our coastal communities. The Bill is ultimately designed to underpin these jobs and provide a platform for the further environmentally sustainable development of the industry.

A number of points were raised by Deputies to which I wish to reply. Deputy Smith, in a very thoughtful speech, raised the question of the delay in publishing the Bill. Although the Bill has been in gestation for some time, the critical importance of consultation in getting it right was a primary concern. Neither is the Bill exclusively modelled on planning law. For example, Part II is specific to acquaculture.

Deputy Smith asked about licence applications outstanding, and the figure of 800 that he quoted is substantially correct. However, experience has shown that many applications are not ultimately pursued by applicants. Great care is taken by the Department to ensure that licence applications are dealt with as expeditiously as possible, having regard to third party rights which, as many Deputies highlighted, are of vital importance. The Bill provides a statutory target of four months for determination of licence applications in an effort to bring more certainty to the licensing process. The outstanding applications include both fin fish and shelfish, the preponderance of applications being for shellfish.

I also assure Deputy Smith that Bord Iascaigh Mara and the Marine Institute are very much involved in research and development for the acquaculture industry. Other statutory bodies, such as the regional fishery boards and local authorities, are consulted on every single licence application before decisions are made, and this will remain the case following the enactment of this Bill.

Deputy Smith also raised the important question of added value. The fish processing industry, in tandem with acquaculture, is supported by the operational programme on fisheries. About 30 per cent of fish processed in our fish processing plants comes from acquaculture production, so we are mindful of the interdependency between fish farmers and processors.

A number of Deputies, particularly Deputies Molloy and McCormack, raised the ghost of the rod licence dispute. This Bill has nothing to do with rod licences, the ownership of lakes or anything of that sort. I am aware of the concerns expressed by angling groups in recent newspaper advertisements which, as Deputy Sargent acknowledged, go somewhat over the top. I took the opportunity of addressing these issues at the annual general meeting of the Trout Anglers' Federation of Ireland in Athlone on Sunday last. I also addressed these concerns in my introductory speech on the Bill to the House yesterday.

This Bill greatly enhances the rights of existing users of our water resources to have a say and to have their views taken into account before licensing decisions are made. The licensing Authority is specifically required by section 61 of the Bill to have regard to these matters.

It is worth recalling what this Bill specifically provides for. It provides, first, that one cannot engage in aquaculture without a licence. Second, if one does engage in aquaculture without a licence one will be prohibited from applying for a licence. Third, it provides, for the first time, for an appeals mechanism against licensing decisions. It is worth recalling that in addition to the aquaculture licence that is provided for in this legislation, it will also be necessary to obtain a foreshore licence in the case of aquaculture at sea and to obtain planning permission for any land based aquaculture activity.

Deputy Molloy referred to the sea trout issue, a matter which is of very considerable concern to me, as I have specific responsibility for inland fisheries as well as for aquaculture. The combined efforts of State agencies and private groups, particularly through the Whitaker Task Force on Sea Trout, the Scientific Working Group on Sea Trout and the Sea Trout Monitoring and Advisory Group, have led to the significant recovery of stocks of sea trout in many of our rivers and lakes. Fisheries such as Waterville in County Kerry and Casla and Ballinahinch in County Galway, now have good returns of these sporting fish. I accept that there is no room for complacency and that considerably more work must be done to ensure that our sea stocks are fully rehabilitated.

Deputy Molloy raised several other issues of details with which I wish to deal generally and which I will be happy to address more specifically on Committee Stage. The trial licence provisions in this Bill tighten up the existing temporary permit regime which is already provided under the Fisheries Act. This is not, therefore, a new proposal, but it circumscribes the use of trial permissions while recognising the role of trials for fallowing and for testing new sites. There is some misunderstanding about the purpose of the trial licence provision. There is already provision in existing fisheries legislation for granting licences for trials but, unfortunately, in some cases, the permit for the trial tends to extend for much longer than anybody intended. This Bill circumscribes the trial permit, puts a time limit on it, makes it clear that it is not renewable, and that if somebody carries out a trial on a particular site, it is found suitable for aquaculture purposes and they want to engage in aquaculture on that site, they will have to apply for a licence in the normal way.

Attention has been drawn to aquaculture licences of 20 years' duration. The industry has been drawing to our attention the need to have security of tenure in regard to licences. I have listened to the concerns expressed about the perpetuity provision in the Bill. Again, it is worth recalling that the existing legislation provides for licences to be issued in perpetuity. This is an issue that I am quite happy to consider and examine on Committee Stage, and I will certainly bear in mind the observations of Deputies McCormack and Molloy in that regard.

Deputy Molloy also spoke about the appointment of the appeals board. The proposed composition of the appeals board is even-handed and fair and is neither prejudicial against nor baised in favour of any interest. However, this is an issue, among others, that I am prepared to examine on Committee Stage and I will consider suggestions from Members about how it might be improved.

The question of existing licences has been raised. There is a need to ensure that existing licences are brought fully within the regulatory framework of this Bill. If existing licences were not addressed in this way, Deputies might well have good grounds for complaint that a two-tier system was being introduced with lower standards required of existing licensees. That would clearly be undesirable. Existing licences are, therefore, being brought within the terms of this Bill so that the enhanced controls which this Bill provides for can apply to existing licences as well as to new licences.

Deputy Deasy rightly referred to the deficiencies of the 1959 and 1980 Fisheries Acts under which aquaculture has been licensed to date. The Acts predated the major development of aquaculture and, with hindsight, it is clear that the more detailed provisions to govern licensing, regulation and appeals are needed if aquaculture is to be both developed and controlled.

Deputy Deasy also raised the question of identifying suitable areas for aquaculture. BIM is heavily involved in assisting potential fish farmers with this task and with considerable success. The Deputy also asked about how the foreshore is allocated. The initiative rests with the applicant. Applications for use of the foreshore are dealt with under the Foreshore Act and will continue to be following the enactment of this legislation

A number of Deputies, including Deputy Browne and Deputy Coughlan, referred to the important question of cheap Norwegian salmon products. The Department and the industry have been active in addressing this issue. I travelled to Norway last year to meet the Norwegian Minister on this matter. I emphasised the need for control of production by the Norwegian salmon industry. I also raised the matter at EU level and the Commission is at present examining whether anti-dumping measures are required. The Irish industry has been engaged in trilateral discussions with the Norwegian and Scottish industries under the auspices of the three Governments.

I am glad to say prices for farmed salmon stabilised and, indeed, increased on the EU markets in 1996. Irish farmed salmon, in particular, has enjoyed a premium price — a clear indication of its superior quality. Credit is due to BIM for recently introducing a quality code of practice for farmed salmon and to Irish salmon farmers whose good husbandry has produced dividends in the marketplace.

Deputies McCormack, Molloy and Ó Cuív were particularly concerned about the great western lakes. I share their appreciation of the magnificent part of our heritage which the great lakes of Lough Corrib, Mask, Carra and Conn represent. Let me say unequivocally that these lakes will continue to be maintained and developed as premier world wild sport fisheries lakes. Indeed, considerable investment under the tourism angling measure has been approved for the development of the wild brown trout stocks in the lakes. There will be no commercial fish farming on those lakes.

As regards fresh water aquaculture in general, planning permission is required from the local authority and a fish culture licence from the Department of the Marine. Decisions on planning permission are appealable and, when this Bill is enacted, decisions on fish culture licences will also be appealable. In practice, most new fresh water aquaculture takes place on land based units and an effluent discharge licence from the local authority is required. Deputy McCormack can be reassured, therefore, that the Bill does not diminish the local authorities' role as regards planning permission and effluent discharge permits.

Deputy Kirk referred to Carlingford Lough where there are two operations, one involving a local co-operative and the other a private operator. As he will know, a case is being taken in relation to the licence which prohibits me from speaking in detail about it other than to say that, following the enactment of this legislation, it will be open to a third party which has a concern or a complaint about a licensing decision to pursue it through the aquaculture licence appeals boards rather than the courts.

Deputy Jim O'Keeffe raised the question of applications lodged before the Act comes into effect. Applications made prior to the Act, if not determined before the commencement date, will be determined in accordance with the Act under section 74. The particular application to which he referred is at an early stage. Deputy Hughes raised the issue of the revocation of licences. As I stated yesterday, a number of penalties are provided for in the legislation, including penalties of up to £1,000 per day for breaches of conditions of licences. In addition, there is a provision whereby the Minister may revoke a licence which is not being complied with by the operator. I agree with the Deputy that aquaculture and inland fisheries need to be fostered. Under section 61, the licensing authority is required to take into account wild fishery interests before making a decision on a licence application. He also raised the issue of the salmon task force report. I referred the report to the appropriate committee last October and I am available to consider the matter with it, when invited.

Deputy Sargent made a reasoned contribution. I agree that the approach we must take to the development of the aquaculture industry should ensure it is developed in a way that is sustainable and in keeping with the environment. That is the approach and thinking behind this Bill. I am willing to consider strengthening or tidying up aspects of the Bill on Committee Stage to achieve that object. Deputy Keaveney referred to research into environmentally friendly techniques for salmon farming. I agree research is important and the establishment of the Marine Institute facilitated the research and development needed to underpin the aquaculture industry as a sustainable one. She referred to the need to strike a balance between the development of aquaculture and the protection of the environment and wild fisheries. Deputy Coughlan referred to the appointment of the appeals board which, as I mentioned earlier, I am happy to examine on Committee Stage.

It would be regrettable if polarised positions were taken on this legislation and it is not my intention to do so. I was disappointed that persons and organisations who have had considerable access to me and my Department should adopt a particular approach to voicing concerns about the Bill which has been published for three months. As I said, I responded in general to those concerns. I accept, however, that there are genuine concerns and fears and I hope that, as the Bill progresses through the House, I will be able to allay many of them as they are groundless. If a case is made for strengthening or improving the Bill, I will be open to considering it on Committee Stage.

I have received some submissions from interested bodies on certain aspects of the Bill which I am considering. I undertook to consider some observations made in the Seanad before the Bill was fully considered in the Dáil. I am happy to address the concerns raised by Members during the course of the Second Stage debate. The most appropriate way of doing that is when we examine the Bill section by section on Committee Stage. One or two Deputies feared the Bill is being rushed. It is not being rushed, it was published in November. I have no intention of rushing it. I believe in the full use of the parliamentary process to examine legislation. I am happy to have the Bill thoroughly examined by the committee and to address amendments tabled by Members and specific concerns raised in the course of that debate.

The Bill before the House, in its present form, is not acceptable to the Progressive Democrats and I will oppose it.

Question put.


Will the Deputies who are claiming a division please rise?

Deputies M. Fox, T. Foxe, Harney, Molloy, O'Donnell, O'Malley, Quill and Sargent rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. The names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Question declared carried.