I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am sharing time with Deputy Martin Ferris. The Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill 2017 is designed to put in place a licence specifically for those fishermen who live on our offshore islands and who gain their incomes from island fishing. It is a small number of people in the context of the overall fishing fleet. Small-scale fishing is carried out by vessels with a length of less than 12 m, which do not use towed fishing gear, as listed in table 3 of Commission Regulation EC26-2004. We are talking about small-scale coastal fishing which occurs within a six-mile territorial limit, including the baseline. Most fishing in the six-mile zone involves fish that would not affect the quota and it is expected the quota required would be less than 1% of the overall national quota. The licence would be non-transferable and the holder would not be able to lease it or transfer it to any other person. The licence holder would have to be on board the vessel while fishing so worries about abuse in this respect are taken care of in the Bill.
We are trying to bring about the introduction of a non-transferable community island quota. I am delighted that the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Andrew Doyle, is present because this comes from an earlier cross-party Dáil committee of which he was Chair. I congratulate him on his work to bring the Bill this far and, now that others have brought it further, I am sure we will be able to welcome the support of the Minister and the Government, who were there at its conception.
The quota is for appropriate species within the six-mile limit. We are talking about artisan fishing, which happens in many parts of the world in small coastal communities that depend on fishing. It is not about the big vessels. The people who engage in small-scale fishing look out to the sea and they notice that the fish stocks are getting smaller and smaller as the huge vessels, especially the supertrawlers, clean them out. Around this time last year I attended a conference at the United Nations on the sustainable development goals for 2014, which was about keeping our ocean environments clean and pure. One of the big issues was protecting the rights of artisan fishers across the world and clipping the wings of large fishing vessels with regulations of some sort. Many fishermen find they cannot catch the fish they have traditionally fished for, sometimes for centuries.
This Bill deals with island fishermen because small coastal communities are under huge pressure. The proposal first came from the committee because island communities are being decimated by depopulation. Between 1986 and 2006, Arranmore Island lost 206 people, Bere Island in Cork is down by 63 people in the same period, and there are almost 120 fewer people living on the Aran Islands. They are losing their populations with every generation and the cross-party committee recognised that we needed to do something to help arrest that trend. We hope this Bill can be developed speedily to Committee Stage so that the Government can issue fishing licences to people who live on, and fish off, the islands for their livelihoods. It would use a very small portion of quota but would ensure their livelihoods were maintained and sustained into the future.
Some people have said it is difficult for the Government to divide the quota in this manner because the island fishermen do not have the necessary track record but article 17 in the regulations of the Common Fisheries Policy makes it clear that it is within the competency of the member state to decide how it uses the quota it is given, stating that member states shall use "transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature". The Government does not have to base the quota on previous actions by fishermen but can base it on the specific environmental, economic and social context in which these fishermen make their living. We are trying to ensure island fishermen can make a living into the future.
I come from south Leitrim, which has a very small coastline and no habitable offshore island. I am close to Longford in the midlands but people from all over Ireland have huge empathy with our fishing community. They understand that they go out on small boats to make a living, taking huge risks in the process. When people are lost at sea there is huge sympathy for the people in the community, who work hard to make a difference for their families.
This Bill is about a specific quota for island communities so that we can make a difference into the future. Many Deputies support the Bill and I appeal to the Minister, who was there at its conception, to work with his colleagues in government to make the Bill a reality. I appeal to him to support it going to Committee Stage and being passed in the Houses so that we can do something concrete for island communities.