Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Nov 1962

Vol. 55 No. 17

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1962— Second Stage.

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

I bring this Bill before Seanad Éireann in the course of the promised overhaul of the fisheries statutes following on the consolidation of those enactments in 1959.

As the provisions of the Bill are necessarily of a miscellaneous character, an explanatory memorandum has been circulated indicating their effect section by section. The amendments and new provisions are arranged in the same order as the relevant subjects are dealt with in the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, which is referred to throughout the Bill as the Principal Act. For convenience of consideration, I propose to refer to a few of the main categories into which the more important sections of the Bill may be grouped.

One category consists of provisions revising the administrative or enforcement machinery of the law relating to both inland fisheries and sea fisheries. Of particular significance on the inland fisheries side are Sections 5, 6 and 7— which prepare the way for reform of the procedure governing the elections to the Boards of Conservators—and Sections 3, 13 and 33—which are designed to make more flexible and more effective the long-standing provisions for making fishery bye-laws. It will, I feel sure, be generally agreed that it is in the interest of the preservation of our fisheries that the machinery for making bye-laws should lend itself to taking speedy action where the circumstances require, always with the proviso that, where restrictions are sought to be continued for an extended period, the views of all interested parties can be obtained through a public inquiry. On the sea fisheries side Section 19 revises the definition of "Irish sea-fishing boat" for the purposes of the provisions relating to our exclusive fishery limits and imposes the additional requirement of registration of boats exceeding 35 feet over all in length under the Mercantile Marine Act, 1955.

Sections in another category are concerned with relaxing statutory restrictions which, in the light of experience or the growth of knowledge, have become unnecessary. Among these are Sections 11 and 12 by means of which provisions originally intended for the protection of salmon fisheries may be relaxed in the interest of development of eel fishing, subject always to conditions imposing adequate safeguards. One of the repeals to be effected by Section 37 abolishes the statutory annual close season for eels in recognition of the conclusion reached in recent years that eels do not spawn in Irish waters nor indeed elsewhere in Europe.

A further category of sections in the Bill is concerned with tightening up certain regulatory or penal provisions; included is Section 32 which undertakes a rationalisation and general upward revision of penalties. Present day poaching of salmon and trout waters can lay no claim to comparison with the activities of the quasi-romantic poacher image of the past. Poisoning, dynamiting and large scale netting of resting pools in rivers, if allowed to go unchecked, could do lasting damage to our fish stocks; they must be repressed with the utmost rigour of the law, and that is the purpose of particular sections in the measure before the House. Under Section 16 the maximum penalty for poisoning or dynamiting is being increased to £100 or 6 months imprisonment or both if convicted summarily or £500 or 2 years imprisonment or both if convicted on indictment; in either case, the Court will be debarred from applying the Probation of Offenders Act. The strengthened definition of "deleterious matter" contained in Section 2 will apply not only in relation to poisonous matter used for the deliberate destruction of fish but also to harmful effluents which can cause grave damage to fisheries. Penalties on a similar scale apply to the offence, created by Section 24, of using a boat or vehicle as an aid to commission of another offence. As regards forfeiture, while a boat will stand forfeited as an automatic statutory consequence of conviction, a vehicle will be liable to forfeiture only by Court order after conviction on indictment.

Also in the "tightening up" category are Sections 14, 15, 25 and 28 which will serve to strengthen the control by the conservators over the disposal of salmon or trout illegally caught. I need hardly say that effective control over dealings in salmon will go a long way towards solving the problem of poaching. I should like to point out that the powers being taken in Sections 25 and 28 for the purpose of keeping a check on purchases by hotels and other catering establishments are in the nature of minimum precautions. Rather than propose more detailed regulation which might impose burdensome duties on the tourist and catering business, I would, in the first instance, ask for the co-operation of all concerned in making these provisions effective.

The final category to which I propose to refer consists of two sections —29 and 35—which are entirely new provisions required to keep pace with developments affecting the seas around our shores. Section 29 will make it possible to take action, if necessary, to prevent the growth to a dangerous extent of the practice of large scale drift netting for salmon such as has been experienced elsewhere in recent years. The controls envisaged are designed to operate selectively so that allowance can be made for traditional drift net fishing: it is not intended— I should like to emphasise this—to interfere with long-established drift netting for salmon as carried on by our fishermen in certain areas. Section 35 is an enabling provision in general terms and is required for the purpose of implementing conservation measures which cannot be specified in advance but may be recommended under the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Convention of 1959 which is to supersede a somewhat less satisfactory Convention of 1946. Orders made under Sections 29 and 35 will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and be subject to resolution of annulment.

In this Bill it has been possible to deal with the more urgent of the many matters under consideration for reform of legislation dealing with fisheries. On the inland fisheries side in particular I have been pressed to undertake many reforms and I have been obliged to select those meriting first priority. It will, I believe, be of advantage, before tackling further reforms, to have some experience of how the present measures work out.

Finally, I should like to acknowledge the considerable assistance and advice received from the various bodies interested in fishery development and conservation throughout the country. I look forward to a constructive debate and shall be glad to furnish any further information that may be required regarding this measure which I confidently recommend to the House.

I welcome the Bill because I believe it will improve fishery administration and tighten existing fishery laws but I hope it is only the forerunner of the many improvements in these respects that are required.

Having regard to our situation as an island, possessing numerous lakes and rivers, the fishing industry should be a major national asset but it must be agreed that after 40 years of native Government the regrettable fact is that fishing has not acquired that status. Deputy Dillon as Minister for Agriculture was responsible for the setting up of the Inland Fishery Trust. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that wonderful work has been carried out by that Trust over the last 10 years. As a result of their activities, tourists were attracted to this country. Apart from the establishment of that Trust, little else has been done in regard to the fishing industry over the last 30 years.

I should like to stress upon the Parliamentary Secretary the importance of providing facilities for the greatest possible number of our people in relation to fisheries in general. To-day we find a new type of landlord is growing up in Ireland. Tourist literature and propaganda published abroad would give the impression that fishing in Ireland is free. Yet, tourists who come here find that that is not the case. Notices are posted up on the banks of lakes and rivers, of even the lordly Shannon, to the effect that fishing is prohibited. This matter was discussed at various meetings and I think the Parliamentary Secretary did something about it and some of these notices have been removed. We do find that more and more land is being sold to foreigners. That applies particularly to the midlands where ownership of thousands of acres adjoining lakes and rivers has changed hands, especially in the last year.

There are beautiful lakes in Westmeath but people from the locality or tourists who go to fish there find notices erected that the fishing rights are reserved, that trespassers will be prosecuted or "No Fishing" notices. In the case of one lake the shore of which comes within a mile of Mullingar a person would have to go three or four miles in order to fish because the land adjacent to the town has been bought by foreigners and these notices have been erected.

I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary in conjunction with the Land Commission, should arrange when ownership of land is transferred to foreigners, that at least a right of way to lakes and rivers shall be preserved so that local people could fish. One would have thought that under native Government antiquated laws governing fishing would have been amended so that Irish persons interested in fishing could engage in this very healthy pastime and would have easy access to fisheries. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many parts of Ireland to-day. The person who is wealthy enough can enjoy exclusive fishing rights on the best waters but I suggest that these rights should be available to all.

I am glad to see that in this Bill steps are being taken to bring up to date the election of members of boards of conservators. That is a very good idea. In future, if the election is carried out according to the rules and regulations laid down in the Bill, it will be done in a much more democratic way than was the case in the past. That, possibly, will engender more confidence in the new boards and the rules and regulations laid down by them will be obeyed. The people had no confidence in some of those boards. They thought elections were rigged, with the result that many people were inclined to go out openly to break their rules and regulations.

Section 28 in my opinion goes too far. It means a person will be prohibited from buying salmon or trout, even to give as a gift, without a licence. Under the section, such a person shall be guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of £100. Perhaps I am wrong in my reading of the Bill, but I think it also provides for an upward trend in penalties for other fishing offences. However, we who have stood for strict law and order for the preservation of our fisheries in the past are fully behind the Parliamentary Secretary in any action he feels necessary to take to safeguard the fisheries, the fishermen and all others concerned with the enforcement of the rules and regulations.

We know that in the past bailiffs were beaten up. Indeed some were thrown into rivers and got away with their lives only because they were able to swim. But when the people responsible were taken to court they were let off with nominal or at any rate small penalties. In some cases the courts did not even apply the Probation of Offenders Act. Therefore, I agree with the new penalties provided for here because we must be more severe with those people.

I doubt very much if the Parliamentary Secretary has yet come to grips with the most important part of our fishing industry. Has he, for instance, considered the desirability of extending our territorial waters—I think it is three miles at the moment —to either six or 12 miles as Iceland has done in order properly to protect our sea fishermen and their fishing grounds? If we want to secure better conditions and more secure employment for our fishermen, many people who should know better than I do claim we should have extended our territorial water limits long ago.

As I said at the beginning, because we are surrounded by the sea and have so many good lakes and rivers inland, there is no real reason why our fisheries should not be one of our most important industries. Yet our fisheries bring us in a mere £3,200,000 approximately annually. Of that, salmon exports account for £1,000,000, exports of sea fish, £1,200,000 and we are estimated to earn a further £1,000,000 from angling tourists. That is very small for an island that has such natural facilities. I often wondered why, instead of inviting all those foreign industrialists here and subsidising them to the tune of millions of pounds, we do not exploit more fully our natural resources and raw materials in the fishing industry.

It is my opinion that money made available in that direction would be very well spent and that it would pay dividends in the years ahead. I have always advocated that where you have natural resources and the raw materials, it is much better for any Government to spend the money developing them instead of getting in industries from abroad, more especially when the raw materials for such industries must be imported. The question of providing greater financial security for all those engaged in the fishing industry was discussed at length in the Dáil and the Parliamentary Secretary said he was examining the question in detail. I think we can leave that matter for the present. I conclude by again welcoming the Bill.

Níl a lán le rá agamsa. Taitníonn an Bille liom agus molaim an iarracht atá ann chun leasú a dhéanamh ar ár dtionscal iascaireachta agus chun cosc a chur leis an ngadaíocht sa tionscal sin. Tá riachtanas ann leis na rialacha agus leis an dlí agus leis na pionóis a bhaineann le cúrsaí iascaireachta intíre. Tá a lán le déanamh go fóill a bhaineann le cúrsaí iascaireachta intíre, ach ní sa taobh sin den tionscal atá an chuid is mó de mo shuim ach sa bhfarraige, ina bhfuil príomh-ghné an tionscail sin sa tír seo. Bíodh go bhfuil na dúichí sin agus a lán eile de chósta na hÉireann ar imeall na farraige agus iasc, de réir gach tuairisc, le fáil go flúirseach, níl an t-iasc á mharú ná á thabhairt i dtír. Ar chuma éigin níl an gnó á dhéanamh i slí a dheimhneodh go mbeadh iasc le fáil go tráthúil ar mhargaí na tíre gach lá, gach uair a theastódh iasc. Sé an chúis is mó, dar liomsa, faoi ndeara é sin ná an gléas nach bhfuil in ann ná in inmhe an obair sin a dhéanamh agus a dheimhneodh go mbeadh soláthar éisc le fáil i rith na bliana gach lá a bheadh iasc ag teastáil.

Tá cósta na hÉireann go mór faoi thionchar na gaoithe, na stoirme agus na droch-aimsire. Sin é, is dóigh liomsa, faoi ndeara nach bhfuil éirithe i gceart ná ar fónamh le gnó na hiascaireachta mara go dtí seo. Tar éis an tsaoil, na báid atá againn—bíodh gur báid fiúntacha iad—dá mbídís i bhfarraige níos ciúine, níos socra, bheidís níos fearr chun an obair a dhéanamh. Ar chósta na hÉireann, ar chósta Chorcaí, Chiarraí, na Gaillimhe, Mhaigh Eo agus Dhún na nGall, tá báid níos troime ag teastáil chun go mbeadh deimhniú ann go bhféadfaí dul agus iascaireacht a dhéanamh fiú amháin le gaoith nó le séideán leath-gharbh, lá go mbeadh séideán cuíosach láidir ann. Ní mar sin atá. Fiú na báid 55 troigh, níl siad mór go leor, trom go leor ná sábháilte go leor chun obair a dhéanamh. An t-easnamh san faoi ndeara gan iasc a bheith le fáil i gcónaí nuair a bhíonn sé ag teastáil. Is dóigh liom gur bé préamh na deacrachta ná neamhéifeacht agus neamhchumas na mbád atá ag gabháil do thionscal na hiascaireachta ar chósta thiar, ar chósta theas agus ar chósta thuaidh na hÉireann. Sé fuascailt an scéil go mbeadh báid ann a bheadh neamhspleách ar shéideán cuíosach láidir agus a dheimhneodh de bharr a saothar go mbeadh iasc le fáil ag pobal na hÉireann.

Gearántar nach bhfuil dúil ag muintir na hÉireann in iasc ach ní hionadh liomsa san. Go han-mhinic nuair a bhíonn iasc ag teastáil ní bhíonn sé le fáil. Ar fud na tuatha, i gCathair Saibhín, i dTrá Lí, i nDaingean Uí Chúise, i gCill Airne go minic, ní bhíonn breac éisc le fáil toisc séideán beag a bheith le cúpla lá roimhe sin ar an gcósta.

Ba cheart don Roinn atá i mbun iascaireachta agus atá ag iarraidh í a fhorbairt ath-mhachtnamh anois agus triail a bhaint as cúpla bád nó trí, báid tráiléireachta, báid iascaireachta níos fearr, fé mar atá ag na Sasanaigh, na hAlbanaigh, na Spáinnigh agus na Francaigh. Ba cheart dóibh an saghas céanna báid a fháil, cúpla ceann nó trí mar thriail ag féachaint cad é an toradh a bheadh air sin. Fé mar atá faoi láthair, caithfidh na báid atá againn fanacht cois cuan. Ní théann siad thar deich nó 15 míle amach ón gcósta agus dá thoradh sin ní théann siad amach aon lá a mbíonn corraíl sa bhfarraige, nó séideán a dhéanfadh neamhchothram na báid bheaga.

Táim críochnaithe. Ba mhaith liom an moladh sin a chur i láthair Rúnaí na hAireachta: machtnamh a dhéanamh ar chúpla bád nó trí a sholáthar mar thriail ar iascaireacht níos fearr. Níl aon ní eile le rá agam. Molaim an Bille. Tá a lán nithe fónta ann. Tá súil agam go gcuirfear ar aghaidh é gan an oiread cainnte is a rinneadh ar an mBille eile a bhí againn anocht.

Would the House be prepared to give the Second Stage now?

If there are no further speakers. There are two.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If there are two, first of all is there agreement?

I do not think so.

Debate adjourned to Wednesday, 5th December, 1962.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 5th, 1962.