Amendment No. 1 is a drafting amendment in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 2 is cognate. We will take amendments Nos. 1 and 2 together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1999: Report and Final Stages.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, line 2, to delete "the".
Amendment No. 1 is a technical amendment to section 2(1) to delete the word "the" before "Fisheries Act, 1980". The amendment has been suggested by the parliamentary draftsman as being the correct wording.
Amendment No. 2 is a second technical amendment, to delete the word "the" before "the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources". Again this has been suggested as the correct wording by the parliamentary draftsman.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, line 4, to delete "the" where it firstly occurs.
Amendment No. 3 in the names of Deputies Finucane and Bell arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are alternatives. Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 12, to delete lines 12 to 20.
The catchment management issue and the composition of the board are probably the two issues in the Bill on which much of the discussion has focused. The Minister is well aware that Deputy Bell and I fully support the spirit of what is happening regarding catchment management. In the European context, catchment management has been accepted as an ongoing feature of fisheries development. There are six pilot programmes ongoing for which the different regional fisheries boards have ultimate responsibility. The progression of those are focusing on many interesting facts.
One pilot project of which the Minister, the officials and all of us are aware at this stage has caused a certain amount of controversy, that is the catchment management policy for the Killarney Lakes. We met the representatives involved and we were made aware of their concerns and those of the other angling organisation, FISSTA, on this issue.
Having discussed the issues and seen at first hand the reactions of many of the other stakeholders – the regional fisheries board, the Central Fisheries Board, etc. – to catchment management, I do not know what special meeting took place in Dublin last Thursday but my telephone was certainly hopping over the weekend. The message seemed to emanate from that dinner or meeting that I am against catchment management, and that Deputy Bell and I were making it difficult for the Minister in this regard.
In the original speech I made on the Bill, I fully accepted the principle of catchment management and I said I hoped fishermen would have a pivotal role in that area. I made it clear that I was not opposed to catchment management and when I moved the relevant amendment on Committee Stage I said it would be moved again on Report Stage. If we were opposed to the idea and wished to be negative instead of being constructive with regard to the Bill, we could have forced the issue to a vote on Committee Stage, but we did not. We exercised the right to table the amendment again on Report Stage to give the Minister and his officials a chance to meet the representative organisations and others concerned in order to reach some accommodation by inserting a different wording in the amendment to meet their needs and wishes.
On Committee Stage the Minister indicated that he and his officials would meet the people involved. That committee meeting took place on a Tuesday and on Wednesday the departmental officials waited for the anglers to arrive, but they did not come. Later that day they issued a statement indicating they were opposed to catchment management. Since then there have been many developments in the area. I am aware of the Minister's discussion with the Killarney lakes fishermen and the Oireachtas representatives yesterday. He had a fairly long discussion not only on catchment management but also on other issues of concern that may not be encompassed within the Bill. I understand the Minister indicated that, in order to tease out the specific problems with regard to catchment management in the Killarney lakes area, both he and his officials are prepared to meet the fishermen in the new year.
The matter of acquisition has emerged in recent times and forms part of the fishermen's concerns. Private angling clubs are afraid that they will cease to exist because they may be acquired by other groups under the terms of the Bill. In such a situation emotive language can often be used. I have a copy of a letter sent to D. J. Riordan by the Department assuring him about the issue of acquisition. The Minister said they need have no concerns over acquisition because he will have the final say, and I accept the spirit of what he has said. In such situations the Minister will evaluate the merits of cases and the various organisations involved. The Minister has indicated to them the position with regard to security of tenure and acquisition, and I hope he convinced them in his discussions yesterday that they have no need to fear outside concerns.
The Bill has been amended considerably. It now fully recognises the consultation process for dealing with concerns about legislative details, not alone on catchment management but also regarding the composition of the fisheries boards. All three angling organisations and other interested parties recognise that they have been fully accommodated within the membership of the new regional fisheries boards. The Bill has gone a long way towards meeting their earlier concerns. That is because Deputy Bell and myself have adopted a constructive approach to the Bill and did not oppose sections in order to gain kudos. We were anxious to tease out all aspects of the legislation to ensure we could obtain improvements in it for the people who approached us with genuine concerns, whether they were from the regional fisheries boards, angling organisations or netmen. The Minister will acknowledge that changes have taken place in the legislation due to a vigilant Opposition tabling amendments on a constructive basis.
The Bill provides an insight into a segment of the fishing fraternity that may not have been dealt with in the past. I have had discussions with many people—
You seem to be moving away from the substance of the amendment.
I will return to amendment No. 3. I am taking time to contribute because we can only speak once on the amendment and there is nothing else within the Bill that concerns us as much. I will be concluding soon if I am given a chance. I think we have 45 minutes to tease this out but we will certainly not be using all that time. With regard to the departmental officials, it would be remiss of me—
On a point of information, the question will be put at 11.45 a.m.
I will have a chance to—
No, it is not 45 minutes, the debate concludes then.
The time ran on, earlier.
I understood there were 45 minutes for the discussion.
No, there are not 45 minutes for the discussion. The question will be put at 11.45 a.m., that was the order of the day.
We will try to achieve that timeframe. I could say much more about the matter but the time allocation has been constrained. There was always a certain pressure because we hoped to get the legislation before Christmas and we have co-operated with that objective. I acknowledge the help the departmental officials have given us during the passage of the Bill. The assistant secretary of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, Ms Sara White, and other officials ensured that Oireachtas representatives were fully familiar with what was happening. They understood our concerns.
We will not be proceeding with this amendment because the Minister has inserted in the section aspects concerning catchment management to incorporate the concerns of voluntary organisations. The word "voluntary" has been inserted along with the wording "have regard to the circumstances which pertain in each of the catchment systems within this region". I know that goes beyond amendment No. 3 which Deputy Bell and myself moved, but it is within the spirit of catchment management. I hope that wording will deal with whatever concerns exist.
In the spirit of the enhanced role of the regional fisheries boards and the principle of subsidiarity enshrined in the Bill, I hope there will be full discussion concerning the boards regarding any catchment management programme in their areas. It will come down to the management of the board itself. If this plan is to be implemented on a long-term basis, regional fisheries boards should be issued with catchment management guidelines by the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. In that situation, it should be monitored on an ongoing basis by the boards themselves. Problems often arise if the elected members of those boards are not consulted. It is important for the word "consultation" to be included in this. If this Bill and the changed direction of the regional fisheries boards are to succeed, it will be done by virtue of consultation and co-operation rather than leaving people wondering if they have proper authorisation, who is in charge of the catchment management and so on. Those aspects can undo much of the good work that can be achieved by catchment management.
We will not press this amendment because we support the spirit of the Minister's subsequent amendments on the catchment management area.
I gather we are discussing amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 together.
My colleague, Deputy Finucane, covered most of what I wanted to say. As he said, we tabled the amendment in the hope that an agreement would emerge from the discussions the Minister had with the various groups. I am pleased our judgment was correct in that regard.
I chaired the all-party committee which dealt with the salmon task force report, the recommendations of which focused strongly on the catchment areas. Therefore, it would have been a pity if we had had to force a vote on an issue which was fully supported by an all-party committee prior to publication of the Bill. The insertion of the word "voluntary" will allay the fears in some areas, from which the Minister has met representatives, that they were being forced into something.
It is a very complex area and there have been difficulties in my county in reaching agreement with the various interests in the catchment areas, even on the one river. I fully understand and appreciate that. I also understand the problems my colleague, Deputy Moynihan-Cronin, had in Killarney. She spent an enormous amount of time discussing the Bill with me and I fully understand her fears.
However, I am satisfied with this, as are the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board and other boards which have contacted me and Deputy Finucane. These boards have the operational responsibility for all fisheries, including inland fisheries. They strongly support this section and emphasise the importance of maintaining it in the Bill.
As Deputy Finucane said, agreement was reached on about 35 amendments and the Bill was largely rewritten as a result of our discussions here and with officials from the Department, who worked very hard to facilitate and advise both the Minister and the various bodies they met. I want to put on record my gratitude for that on behalf of the Labour Party.
This very important aspect is the nub of the Bill. The insertion of the word "voluntary" should eliminate any fears. I have no doubt that, as Deputy Finucane emphasised, the various interests distrust not only the Department but also each other. There are warring factions in every catchment area, which I do not underestimate. This needs to be consistently monitored and they will want to be consistently consulted. We will not push our amendment and will support those of the Minister, which meet the case we made.
Deputies Finucane and Bell covered the area very thoroughly. I want to clarify the point Deputy Finucane made about the involvement of the boards and the need to consult them on the catchment management. The section gives the function to the boards, not to the managers. Therefore, there is no need to be concerned about that because, by definition, they must be involved in catchment management plans. I agree with the point made by the Deputy in that regard.
Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 relate to the development of the inland fisheries catchment management plan. Section 8(a) of the Bill includes paragraph (g), which deals with the functions of regional fisheries boards, which are to encourage, promote, organise and co-ordinate, together with inland fisheries, owners, bodies and organisations, the development of inland fisheries catchment management plans.
Amendment No. 3, as Deputies Finucane and Bell said, is an amendment to section 8(a) of the Bill and involves the deletion of the paragraph. The Deputies explained they tabled the amendment to ensure further discussion of that issue at this point, which I accept and recognise. Both Deputies said they support the inclusion of catchment management.
The problem is that when one wants to provide enabling powers for something new or different, people sometimes do not understand what "enabling powers" actually means. It just means there is a power in statute if people are prepared to work together voluntarily and that the Department and its officials have the power to take the actions requested by the boards and people in those areas. Deputy Bell pointed to one of the major difficulties, which is that individuals and groups will differ with each other in any catchment area. That is very true in this regard. We had to spend a great deal of time explaining that these are voluntary provisions and can only be proceeded with if there is agreement.
In the middle of that, there is also confusion locally about leases and so on. Those issues have nothing to do with catchment management directly but need to be sorted out. A number of those issues arose in relation to the Killarney anglers. For that reason, I said I would meet them to discuss their problems which have emerged in the context of an examination of the catchment. When one examines any catchment, one begins to see the problems in it. In that regard, one either buries one's head until something blows up in one's face, which is what happens with these legalities, or one identifies them, deals with them, looks after the interests of the anglers and anticipates what might happen. Such issues have come to light in that area and will have to be dealt with.
The Bill gives the regional fisheries boards responsibility jointly with all local fisheries interests to encourage voluntary development, where possible, of catchment management plans, involving and consulting with other interest groups. Catchment management is about encouraging, not forcing, local interests to work together. The six pilot projects to which Deputy Finucane referred are being assessed at present. They have confirmed the need for a flexible and open approach to specific local situations. These can be highly complex, given the traditional issues of inland fisheries ownership, management and access.
One of the issues put most forcefully by a representative of the Killarney anglers was that, as far as they are concerned, not enough is being done about poaching. That is part of examining the problems and needs in the catchment area. However, the Bill does not deal specifically with poaching.
More staff are needed for the fisheries boards.
That is the other side of it. In effect, through the catchment management, they have discussions with local gardaí and made better arrangements, as they saw it themselves. However, there are many issues which need to be addressed. Deputy Bell correctly stated that one will get this kind of situation and it is time we addressed these issues.
Amendment No. 4 seeks to insert the word "voluntary" so that the provision would read "The voluntary development of inland fisheries catchment management plans". By definition, all such plans will be developed on a voluntary basis. The catchment management process itself is based on principles of communication, co-operation, compromise and consensus, as reflected in the proposed wording. This amendment emerged from our discussions and will make it clear in the legislation that the development will be on a voluntary basis.
Amendment No. 5 will require the regional fisheries boards to have regard to the distinctive circumstances which pertain in each of the catchment systems in their regions in the development of catchment management plans. This amendment results from the intensive consultations we had with angling organisations and other interested parties. The requirement is inherent in the catchment management concept but I am pleased to propose the amendment to make it clear that specific and unique factors in catchment systems, such as Killarney, are taken into account. I met representatives of the Killarney Anglers Federation yesterday to discuss their concerns. I stressed the voluntary nature of catchment management and explained that the present process is a pilot scheme. I will meet the Killarney anglers in the new year to discuss their specific problems.
I thank Deputies for their constructive and helpful approach to the Bill which deals with an issue which can be quite complex. There are various recommendations. For example, as regards the membership of the boards, there were strong recommendations from groups who carried out the revisions, but others wanted to leave it more broadly based. That is what we have done.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 12, line 14, after "the" to insert "voluntary".
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 12, line 17, after "purpose" to insert "have regard to the distinctive circumstances which pertain in each of the catchment systems in its region and".
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 are related and may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 13, line 11, after "board" to insert "concerned".
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 are technical amendments.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 13, line 14, to delete "A regional board" and substitute "The regional board concerned".
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 13, line 16, to delete "A regional board" and substitute "The regional board concerned".
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 21, line 44, after "he" to insert "or she".
This is a technical amendment.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 22, line 42, to delete "to".
This is also a technical amendment.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 22, line 50, to delete "are" and substitute "is".
This is a technical amendment proposed by the draftsman.
Amendments Nos. 11a and 11b are related and may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 11a:
In page 23, line 29, to delete "officer," and substitute "officer".
I move amendment No. 11b:
In page 23, line 31, to delete "applies" and substitute "applies,".
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 23, line 37, to delete "£50" and substitute "£100".
This is an amendment to section 25 which I agreed to move on Report Stage in response to an amendment proposed by Deputy Finucane on Committee Stage. The amendment increases from £50 to £100 the amount applicable in the case of on-the-spot fines in respect of an alleged offence. I thank the Deputy for his proposal.
As it is now 11.45 a.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil: "That Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."
I thank Deputies for their contributions throughout the passage of this Bill and wish them a happy Christmas.
I also wish the Minister a happy Christmas and bon voyage.