In my reply to a previous question from the Deputy on 8 May, I indicated the precise number of fishermen engaged in fishing at sea on a full-time or part-time basis in specified years since 1969. While the number of fishermen in 1998, the latest year for which records are available, was about 20% less than it was a decade ago, it is broadly similar to the number engaged in fishing 25 years ago. Nevertheless, I am con scious that the fishing industry like other sectors is experiencing labour shortages and that there is a tendency for workers to be increasingly drawn to the larger urban centres.
This Government, through the whitefish fleet renewal scheme and the current investment programmes under the national development plan, is assisting the largest ever programme of investment in the seafood sector. These investments will secure a competitive, sustainable industry going forward and will help underpin the future development of coastal communities.
A variety of licensing conditions have existed for a number of years which restrict many larger vessels from fishing inshore. In line with the Government's commitment to promote the development of inshore fisheries, I have made significant funding available to underpin initiatives on the management and conservation of inshore fisheries.