Other Questions. - Salmon Fishermen.

Brian O'Shea


11 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the examination by his Department of the pro posal by the Irish Fisherman's Organisation regarding the provision of safety days to remove pressure on salmon fishermen to go out in adverse weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17398/01]

I refer the Deputy to my reply on 8 May last to Question No. 12748/01 on the matter. On that occasion I informed the House that I had received a document from the Irish Fishermen's Organisation entitled the "Safety aspects of salmon fishing regulations" and that it would be considered by my Department in consultation with the National Salmon Commission. This document calls for the introduction of safety days which are explained as extra days which would be allowed at the end of the drift net fishing season to compensate fishermen for days during June and July when fishing is not possible due to bad weather. The case made for the introduction of safety days is to remove the pressure on salmon fishermen to go out in adverse weather conditions. Other interests in the salmon resource take the view that this would in effect amount to an extension of the drift net fishing season and an increase in the level of commercial fishing effort.

The current limitations on the drift net season were introduced as part of a range of vital measures in 1997 to conserve our vulnerable salmon stocks following the publication of the report of the Salmon Management Task Force in 1996. These measures, including the length of the commercial season, were put in place as part of a package of measures to address a serious decline in salmon stocks generally. As part of the package, the prohibition on the use of monofilament nets was lifted. As the Deputy will appreciate, this process of consideration of this proposal requires that all perspectives on the impact of the proposal must be taken into account, including, the views of other interests and the impact on existing conservation measures and on salmon stocks generally. It is unlikely that that this proposal would be acceptable to all interests except in the context of other fundamental changes in our salmon conservation strategies. I have therefore asked my Department to consider it further in the context of the current strategic analysis of future directives for the commercial salmon fishing sector which I signalled in my reply to Question No. 2 earlier today.

I do not want to give the impression that I favour drift net fishing, I am totally opposed to it in any form. The Irish Fishermen's Organisation made a submission, the question was asked on 8 May and the Minister replied to it. Is it not reasonable to assume that a sufficient period has elapsed to allow a decision, either favourable or unfavourable, to be made on that question?

The Deputy is aware that there are many interested parties involved, all of which have to be contacted. He referred to drift net fishing and, living on the Hook Peninsula, I know drift net, draft net and snap net fishermen who all want to continue this tradition and obtain, by whatever means, the right to fish on a number of additional days. I am not suggesting that they are trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, but even in the sunny south east there are days in June and July on which bad weather prevents fishing.

We want to ensure this matter is put to rights. Salmon conservation measures are vitally important to the country, from many points of view, including that of the economy. In order to get it right we must consult will all interested parties. A target date has been set and we will, I hope, be able to arrive at a solution to the problem in the near future.