Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Jul 1983

Vol. 101 No. 9

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1983: Second Stage.

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

This Bill is intended primarily to stop a recent development whereby the owners of Spanish fishing vessels have been getting round existing legislation by registering their vessels in the United Kingdom. To date attempts to register such vessels here have been discouraged by the need to obtain a fishing licence from my Department but since the enforcement of the conditions of such a licence outside our waters could be extremely difficult there is an urgent need to adopt more stringent measures.

The recent development involving the registration of Spanish fishing vessels in the United Kingdom emerged as a direct result of the extension in 1977 of the fishing limits of EEC member states to 200 miles from baselines. Prior to that several hundred Spanish vessels fished regularly in the waters around Ireland, Britain and France, but under an EEC/Spanish agreement only about 100 Spanish vessels are permitted to fish in the fishery limits of member states and in the case of Ireland they can fish only outside a box the limits of which are 50 miles at least from the coast.

The means adopted by the owners of certain Spanish vessels to register their boats in the United Kingdom have been met by recent British legislation whereby British vessels may fish only subject to restrictions concerning the nationality of crews. In effect, this means that British registered vessels cannot fish within British limits unless the crew consists of, at least, 75 per cent EEC nationals. As a result of this the vessels in question may avail themselves of British rights to fish in our waters. In fact, proposals to that effect have already been made.

Furthermore fishing by such vessels could seriously diminish stocks of fish which our own fishermen may require to exploit either now or in the future. Claims that landings here by such vessels would enhance the national or local economy are not supported by the British experience where the effect of landings by such vessels on the local economy was insignificant.

The main aim of the Bill, therefore, is to provide against the registration here of vessels owned by nationals of third countries and also to provide against the registration of such vessels in other EEC member states with a view to gaining access to resources of fish in our waters.

In order to ensure that the foreign vessels will not be able to re-register here, provision is made in the Bill for the licensing of Irish fishing vessels prior to their registration here. Powers are also being provided in the Bill to enable the Minister for Transport to revoke the registration of a fishing vessel in respect of which a licence has been withheld or cancelled. The Bill also contains a provision whereby the Government may exclude fishing vessels from reciprocal registration arrangements with certain other countries including the UK.

All of these measures which I have mentioned will enable the Government to reserve the benefits of EEC quotas allocated to Ireland under the Common Fisheries Policy to genuine Irish fishermen and will prevent the re-registration here of other countries' vessels to enable them to fish our quotas.

I am taking this opportunity to include in this proposed legislation a provision for the bringing into effect of one of the more important features of the Common Fisheries Policy, that is the provision concerning access by certain EEC member states to the six to 12 mile band around the coast. Existing legal provisions concerning this matter are open to doubt and the provision here should eliminate any question of doubt in the matter.

There is an internationally agreed ban on fishing for salmon outside 12 miles from baselines but there is some doubt as to the efficacy of our present legislation to enforce it. I am proposing therefore to amend the relevant legislation. The proposed amendment will also enable me to apply controls, if necessary, to boats connected with the fishing industry, such as transporters and vessels which carry out processing on board. The need for such controls has become evident in recent years especially in relation to the mackerel trade.

I recommend this Bill to the House.

This Bill has been promised for some time. Apart from the recent controversy regarding the landing of catches from third countries and the need to legislate in this area, there has been concern in the fishing industry at some development with the Community itself. This may mean that events will have further overtaken this legislation and our prospects for further fisheries development may be seriously undermined. This Bill in effect may be too little, too late and may well be overtaken by events in the EEC.

Recent efforts by the Community to bargain away fish from our waters to the Norwegians is a total capitulation on the Common Fisheries Policy. While we have stated from the outset that we will support the Government's legislation to consolidate the Irish fishing industry, in my view there are objectionable features in this Bill on which we will need clarification if we are to give it our total support. The Minister claims that the Bill is mainly aimed at the Spanish fishing boats. This may be so, but the effort is a very weak one and there is no definite line in the Bill which in any way can prevent the Spanish or any other boats from landing here.

This legislation enables the Minister to make regulations but we have not seen any of these regulations and there is no indication what they are likely to be. This is a blank cheque which may bounce badly on the Irish fishermen in the long run. Many sections of this Bill refer to Irish boats. Section 2 says that all Irish boats must have licences. How will the Minister classify the boats which will be excluded? Is this another effort by the Government to collect revenue? If so, the Minister must remember that Irish fishermen are badly hit already with rising costs, bad fishing, low prices, poor catches, threats from foreign boats and crippling loan repayments. They are facing enough difficulties at this stage without a further imposition of licence duties.

In relation to section 2, which proposes to require that Irish fishing vessels may fish only in Irish waters according to the terms of a licence issued by the Minister, this is a very serious matter because by implication — and I hope the Minister will clarify this — we are suggesting that Irish boats may fish only inside the 12 mile limit. Will pleasure boats have to be licensed? This is a source of revenue for the Government because anyone who can afford a boat for pleasure car be considered a rich man but under this legislation fishermen who need their boats for their livelihood will also have to have licences.

I cannot let this opportunity pass without mentioning salmon. Salmon stocks are threatened. Netting, pollution and diseases have affected stocks. This year and last year due to the efforts made by the previous Minister, Deputy Daly, when he brought the Naval Service fully to the protection of salmon, there has been a slight improvement in stocks. It would be a tragedy and a disaster if that slight improvement led to a free-for-all. It would wipe out the work which has been done to halt the decline in salmon stocks. The only way to conserve salmon stocks is to allow fishermen to fish during the day and to prohibit fishing at night and at the weekends. They should have a five-day week and control their gear. It is interesting to note that the Minister said the most effective types of net which could be used were the multi-slant and super-nylon. I hope in relation to conservation, especially of salmon, that the Minister will invite representatives from the fishing organisations to discuss this serious problem. I am sure most problems will be overcome during the discussions to be held from August onwards. Fishermen have as much right to be interested in conservation as the officials and the Minister.

The Minister should be aware that the salmon and lobster fishing seasons are not two different seasons — they largely overlap. I should like to refer generally to other aspects of the industry. The general conservation programme must be employed to the fullest, particularly in regard to mackerel and herring. Quotas must be uniformly enforced and monitored by the EEC. All boats from here and other countries should have observers aboard to monitor all catches to ensure that quotas of mackerel and herring are not exceeded. Ireland is not taking the amount of mackerel that would seriously affect our stocks. The fishermen could possibly take more than the 82,000 tonnes without affecting stocks. I was disappointed to read that the talks in Brussels broke down yesterday but I will deal with that later.

I want to point out that the Irish are not causing any damage to stocks and if the quota has to be reduced that would have a very definite effect on the livelihood of our fishermen. We must protect and conserve out stocks but we must be realistic also. A salmon war at sea is the last thing we want and all those involved must realise that damage will be done if this happens. There is a risk that lives may be lost. This is a frightening prospect and no amount of salmon will pay for the human tragedy, suffering and distress that will result if anything like this happens.

The protection service have a very difficult job to do and they get no pleasure from it, but there have been serious incidents where the protection service have been criticised for over-reacting to situations. A recent incident off the Donegal coast is an example. The fishermen have to make a living and the protection services over-reacted. It was disappointing that on the occasion the Fianna Fáil spokesman on Fisheries, Deputy P. Gallagher, raised this matter in the Dáil he was suspended. I want to put it on the record that I thought it was most unfair that the democratically elected representative who tried to protect the rights of his constituents should be treated in such a manner. Fishermen should know that their livelihood depends on the protection of stocks. They must observe the law. There is no way they can flout the law any more than any other person. There are other areas in fishing where they can have opportunities to fish without risking their lives, gear and boats in illegal fishing.

Section 3 provides for the making of regulations by the Minister specifying conditions and the nationalty of crew members. There is a loophole in this section — it is vague and weak and the percentage of crew members should be stated more clearly. It also suggests that the company may register here and operate from this country. I am anxious to ascertain whether this permits any of the third countries to register a company here and allow them to fish from here. If so, that section should be amended.

Section 4 refers to the conservation of fish stocks. The importance of conservation cannot be overstressed. I said earlier that we had been ill advised in relation to herrings, having been given the distinct impression earlier that there were no difficulties as far as herrings were concerned. But we found a few years ago that their stocks had been depleted. I think the Minister mentioned in the course of his remarks:

The recent development involving the registration of Spanish fishing vessels in the United Kingdom emerged as a direct result of the extension in 1977 of the fishing limits of EEC member states to 200 miles from baselines.

I understand it is proposed to amend the legislation so that protection vessels can operate 200 miles from baselines. I should like to see them operate from the baseline and not from the 12-mile limit, that they would operate from the baseline to the 200-mile limit ensuring that our stocks are conserved.

Section 7 has to do with fines and forfeiture of boats and equipment. I notice that the fine will not exceed £10,000. That fine should be more severe. Also the circuit courts have no jurisdiction over vessels valued in excess of £2,500 when dealing with offences committed by the owners of such vessels. In this connection the relevant sections of the Principal Act should be amended to ensure that our courts would have jurisdiction in order to deal with offences by the owners of such boats valued in excess of £2,500 when they fish illegally.

I might refer to the breakdown of the fisheries talks in Brussels yesterday evening. That is not good for the morale of our fishermen and fisheries industry generally. Judging by comments in today's Irish Independent the breakdown of those talks will mean that increased vigilance will be needed by our fisheries protection vessels to police our waters. This industry is akin to agriculture and we know how the delay in reaching agreement in the talks on agriculture damaged that industry, further exacerbated by the bad weather and so on. There were millions of pounds lost to our industry because of those delays in reaching agreement and the same will apply to the fishing industry. While I am sure the Minister does his best on behalf of our fishermen, nonetheless it is demoralising for them and the industry as a whole that there has not been agreement reached among member states.

The ban on fishing outside the 200-mile limit should safeguard stocks in the 12- to 200-mile zone. I should like this to operate from the baseline to the 200-mile limit and that the provisions of this Bill would cover that situation. However, no amount of legislation, of heavy penalties, enforcement procedures or conservation measures will work unless there be goodwill and co-operation between our fishermen, the protection services and the Government. I appeal for order to be restored in this connection and the Minister has a responsibility to ensure that is done.

Overall we are prepared to give the Bill a chance. I hope the regulations promised will be implemented. On that basis we shall not oppose the Bill but give it qualified support.

The weather being so nice one might prefer to be sampling the beauties of Burtonport, the roaring seas of Rathmullen, the colleens of Killybegs, the gracefulness of Greencastle, the fisheries of Fanad or even doodling around Downings, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, all of which are in my constituency——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

What about Dungloe?

I welcome this Bill. However, it must be remembered that the purpose of legislation is basically to protect ourselves from ourselves. Fisheries legislation, of its nature, it to protect ourselves, first of all, from third countries, secondly, from our EEC partners and, thirdly, from ourselves. The provisions of this Bill do all of those things.

We must conserve our stocks if the fishing industry as such is to continue. In my last contribution on fisheries in this House, on the Foyle Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, I mentioned the possibility of introducing a tag and quota system. The Minister said then he would examine the possibility of so doing. I see real possibilities for such a system, both in doing away with illegal fishing of a poaching nature and illegal fishing of the nature with which the Minister and the Department have had to deal in recent weeks. The quota system would do away with one and the tagging system with the other. There would be a quota for a particular fisherman or boat and the quota that that fisherman or boat would fish would then be tagged — indexed tagged or by whatever other method Departmental officials might devise — and only recognisably tagged fish would be used. Once a fisherman or boat reached that quota he must cease operation or, if allowed under the terms of the legislation, use up the unfilled quota of another fisherman or boat. It would mean that a certain quota of fish would be caught by all our fishermen, subdivided amongst them and, when that had been done, there would be an end to fishing.

The issue of the monofilament net is a difficult one. I know the problems the Minister has had in recent weeks. Senator Kiely referred to the difficulties being experienced in Donegal. I know those difficulties only too well. Senator Kiely referred to Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher being sent out of the House because of his concern——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Loughrey, I did slip up where Senator Kiely was concerned and it was not because we are of the one party. But I have to check you because I should have checked Senator Kiely, and I am not doing it because you are from the other side of the House. We are not entitled to name Deputies or persons of the other House in this Chamber. I want to stress I am not checking you because you happen to come from the other side of the House.

May we refer to them?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


I was going to say the younger of the Fianna Fáil Deputies from Donegal.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not think so.

I apologise, I withdraw those remarks.

All our public representatives in Donegal and around our coasts generally were concerned. Deputies representing coastal constituencies unfortunately were trying to find a balance between supporting their local fishermen and yet not advocating breaking the law. The use of monofilament netting constitutes a breach of the law. Therefore it should not be used. However, it is acknowledged that it has widespread usage. In a recent television debate on the activities of our corvettes off the Donegal coast, representatives of the fishermen and processors admitted openly using monofilament net while endeavouring to advocate that no action would be taken by the corvettes. I appreciated the difficulty facing the Minister at that time and I admired the courage with which he faced it. I know the Minister for Defence found it difficult to order the corvettes into our fishing waters to curb fishing by our fishermen. However, if the law is broken that matter must be dealt with.

In a previous contribution in the Seanad I advocated that the Minister should do one of two things and I repeat that statement now. Either he should legalise monofilament netting or ban the importation of those grades of monofilament netting used for salmon fishing. The reply given on a previous occasion was that monofilament netting is used in agriculture, and in other types of fishing. To me, the solution is to ban the mesh sizes that are used specifically for salmon fishing or else to legalise the use of monofilament netting completely.

One of the advantages of monofilament netting is that it lasts longer. The killing power of that netting is probably somewhat more than that of super-nylon. The advantage is that it lasts three times as long and thus it reduces costs. The other advantage of monofilament netting or super-nylon netting is that it allows day fishing: thus we can have safer fishing and less loss of life.

The fishing industry will last only if stocks are conserved throughout the world. If we are to curtail catches in Ireland without job losses we must ask ourselves where we can create further jobs. In the fishing industry the obvious answer is processing on shore. This is where the industry can advance. At the moment we export £50 million of fish products but, at the same time, we import fish to the value of £25 million.

Until recently Rathmullan had been going through a bad period. At the beginning of the century there was herring fishing in that area but that diminished. In recent years there has been mackerel fishing and last year harbour dues of £18,000 were paid to Donegal County Council. I ask the Minister when he is visiting Donegal in his capacity as Minister for the Gaeltacht——

I will go when I am invited.

I now invite the Minister to visit Donegal in his capacity as Minister for the Gaeltacht and I hope he will visit the little Gaeltacht area beside me where I went to school. I also invite him to see Rathmullan pier. If he notifies me in advance of his intention to do this I will organise a group of people representing business, fisheries, fish processors and buyers to meet him. They will point out the real possibilities that exist to develop the harbour.

I welcome the legislation. I know what the Minister is doing in trying to protect Irish fisheries. If the fishing stocks are depleted throughout Europe, the whole industry could end. Legislation alone will not protect our fishing stocks. The fishermen have a vested interest in this, although recently they did not show quite as much interest as they might have done. If stocks run out their jobs are gone. At the end of the day, the Minister with the Irish fishermen, with his European partners and the EEC with the third countries must discuss the whole policy of fishing and the conservation of stocks. Only then can real advancement be made in the industry.

I welcome the Bill and I congratulate the Minister on the speed with which he acted. I think the Seanad should know something about my background. I am not claiming authority to speak but I am claiming some knowledge of the subject. I was brought up in The Rosses, on an island to the northeast of Aran. I grew up in the midst of currachs, punts and yawls. At the top of a 500-foot cliff, as a boy I watched Spanish and French smacks as they were called in those days. They had no engines, they sailed. As a boy this was most intriguing to me and I thought often about boats and sails. I heard the fishermen talk about the foreign people who came in to fish but in those days there was no problem about herring, salmon, crayfish, lobster or any other species of fish.

Senator Loughrey has made most of the points I was going to raise. I concur with him especially on the question of a survey of the fishing potential towards eventually doing much more in the area of processing. I mentioned this on the last occasion I spoke. The Senator mentioned Rathmullan, as I did. This morning Senator Robb said he had a few acres in The Rosses. In that area we would call him an "import". I can tell the Senator I am a Rosses man; I belong there and I speak with some knowledge of what is required for the fishing industry.

On one occasion I remember making a radio broadcast from McGee University College. At that time I was pressing, through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, for the control of natural resources in Ireland, not only fishing but minerology and many other items. The items included cross-Border co-operation, electrification and the nationalisation of the railways. I remember at that time saying that if our fishermen did not build bigger boats to enable them to catch more fish and to process it, the fish would die of old age.

I welcome the Bill from the point of view of conservation. I add my voice to that of Senator Loughrey. We must act quickly and we must also watch our own people in their own interests. If it is necessary to spell that out publicly it should be done. Illegal fishing and poaching are not in their best interests. In other words, our communications system must be geared towards educating the people who wish and those who depend on the industry for their livelihood.

The Minister is to be commended on his action. The Bill is necessary. It is not protectionism in the selfish way: it is justified and intelligent protectionism. It would be wrong for anyone to think we are doing it for selfish reasons. We have to conserve stocks in an intelligent way. If a person spends his capital he is left with nothing. If he abuses his land, if he does not use fertiliser on it and if everything is taken from it, much damage will be caused. It is not an intelligent or an orderly way to work. In this instance we are endeavouring to bring to the fishing industry some order and intelligence for the future. I commend the Bill.

First, I should like to thank the Senators who participated in the debate. I will try as best I can to comment on the points raised and answer the questions that were asked. I will be seeking the remaining Stages of the Bill today and perhaps we could deal with the more nitty-gritty aspects on Committee Stage.

Senator Kiely made a complaint that no specific measures were enshrined in the Bill zoning in on specific problems. This is not altogether true but in so far as it is true, and there are areas about which this could be said, the Senator will understand that this is basically enabling legislation. There are reasons for this and I am glad to note Senator McGonagles' praise for the speed with which I succeeded in getting the Bill to the House. Up to now the view has been that I have been very late in coming to the House. I presume Senator McGonagle — having given us a brief outline of his background which was informative and somewhat sentimental — realises the difficulty of drawing up a Bill of this type. It did cause serious drafting problems and would have been before the House long before now if we had not encountered these problems.

We are talking about a Bill which must get the blessing of our EEC partners. We are dealing with a situation which is totally different from that which my UK counterpart, Mr. Walker, had to deal with. He legislated for English fishing boats and obviously nobody else could interfere, intervene or get involved in that. I, in the same way, could legislate within 24 hours if I were concerned with Irish boats or boats flying the Irish flag, but my problem is somewhat more complicated in that I had to deal with boats flying the British flag in waters where the UK have fishing rights and which, together with the complication of our EEC membership, leads to an amalgam of factors requiring complicated legislation which had to be carefully drafted. I am glad that somebody has seen the difficulty and I compliment Senator McGonagle on that.

In relation to the specific matters raised by Senator Kiely, this is enabling legislation which will be followed very quickly by regulations dealing with what the Senator referred to as something that ought to be dealt with in the Bill. The advice, both from my Department and from the Attorney General's Office, was that it would be much more beneficial and safer to draft the Bill in this way. For example, if you got down to the nitty-gritty of suggesting a 75 per cent EEC crew membership as a requirement for a licence, you found that in trying to operate that ratio it was not sufficient. If this came to light quickly then you would be in the position where you would have to introduce amending legislation through both Houses of the Oireachtas and through the third element of our constitutional procedure, the Presidency, to get the amendment passed. If a regulation is found unworkable or inadequate you can redraft an amending regulation within a matter of 24 hours and have it effective immediately. That is the kind of flexibility which regulations give which legislation or having specific matters in the Bill do not give.

Senator Kiely suggested that licences were an effort to raise revenue. I assure the Senator and the House that there is no suggestion that the introduction of licences is a back door method of raising revenue; the licences will be free. The reason for introducing a licensing system is that while we all know that there is no great need in normal circumstances, for demanding that Irish boats be licensed, the problem is more complicated. We now have — which is the basis for this legislation — a threat of boats flying the British flag in waters where the UK have fishing rights. That is one side of the coin. You can put through a Bill, followed by regulations, to prohibit that kind of activity. As things stand, these people would have a perfect right to re-register here and fly the Irish flag. The end result of that would be somewhat more serious for us in that at present the Spanish boats flying the English flag at least have their catches deducted from the UK quotas in our waters. But if they registered here and flew the Irish flag they would then be fishing our quotas. As things stand there is nothing to stop them doing that. In order to have an omnibus cover to ensure that this can be blocked, we are now obliged to introduce the safety net of a licensing system. All it means is that it will give the Minister of the day the opportunity to scrutinise the application and grant or refuse to grant a licence, as the case may be. I hope that my successor will act in the way I would wish myself to act, that is at all times to protect the interests of Irish fishermen within the framework of a Common Fisheries Policy, which is an EEC measure. We must show some commitment there too. I am speaking here about third countries. You could not apply a licensing system to one category of Irish registered vessels without applying it to another. The end result of what I am saying is that all boats from now on — Irish boats included — must get licences.

The question was raised by Senator Kiely and others about the kind of restrictions which might be enshrined in that kind of licence. The Senator mentioned restricting Irish boats to fishing within the 12 mile limit. I could spend a long time assuring the House that there is no intention on my part or. I am sure, on the part of any future Minister, to impose such a restriction, as anyone who would do so would not be worthy of being Minister for Fisheries. God knows, we spent long enough fighting for what we have at the moment. We have a 200-mile limit with certain restrictions applying down to the 12-mile limit. We have a 12- to six-mile band, with more restrictions applying, and we have a six-mile exclusive limit, which means that only Irish registered boats can fish there. We are trying to encourage our industry to move out beyond the 12-mile limit and beyond the 50-mile limit into deeper waters where it has been established other member states and third countries find a very lucrative fishery. The sooner we, first of all, broaden our fishing base from the few species of fish we now concentrate on, together with literally extending our horizons and going further afield, the better, more lucrative and more expansive our industry will become in the future.

There will be no charge for the licence. It cannot be seen as a revenue-raising device. While the Minister of the day has powers to apply restrictions, I have no intention of applying any such restrictions either in geographical terms, in regional terms in the case of area or in the case of species of fish. Salmon was mentioned by Senator Kiely, Senator Loughrey and by Senator McGonagle. This has been a very live issue, as Members are aware, particularly in the past few weeks. Senator McGonagle and Senator Loughrey made the point that we must save ourselves from ourselves. That is in the context of overall conservation and it does not apply only to salmon. In the case of salmon, for traditional reasons, this is brought to attention very starkly at certain times of the year. We come up against this salmon problem annually. As Senator McGonagle mentioned, that is justified protectionism without being narrow-minded about it or doing it from a self-indulgent point of view. It is the sensible, logical thing to do. If you eat all your seed potatoes today, you will not have any crop next year. That is what is happening at the moment. We are dipping increasingly into the seed potato category so far as fish are concerned.

As Senators probably know, I spent the last two days in Brussels in what turned out to be an abortive attempt to come to some arrangement for quotas and other matters for the current year within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy. One of the matters discussed, on which we hope agreement will be forthcoming in a fortnight's time when we go back to Brussels, is a "mackerel box", which is in the English Channel and extends to the south-east of this country. The reason for that suggestion is based on scientific data made available by ICES, the agency which establishes scientific facts about the availability of stock, whether it is on the increase or diminishing, the age of fish, the distribution patterns and so on. These are the people on whom we are dependent for scientific data on which we can base policy. This box has been suggested by the Commission as a result of scientific data available. The suggestion was made simply for the reason that 90 per cent of catches there in recent years are of juvenile mackerel. There is a market for this kind of fish, but it is bordering on criminal for any country or any group of fishermen to indulge in the catching of juvenile fish of any kind. That affects us directly, because we are talking about western stock mackerel, and we are all west of Scotland in the Atlantic. The North Sea is a different kettle of fish, if Senators will excuse the pun. It has a direct effect on our future stocks. We hope, as a member state, to phase this agreement in relation to the total prohibition on fishing in that so-called "mackerel box". There are pressures to narrow it off somewhat from the French but, as they say in other places, sin scéal eile. That is the kind of self-discipline being engaged in within the framework of the EEC and we hope we will get that through.

We have a very serious problem in relation to the conservation of salmon. While Senator Kiely said that we must conserve our salmon stock, he also said that the Naval Service had to do their job, which is not a very nice job at times. It is not easy for them because of the opposition, the traditions and the emotive aspect involved. I detected some curious ambivalence in relation to what happened a few weeks ago. I will not name colleagues in the other House, but there is that curious ambivalence in relation to, on the one hand, the need for conservation and, on the other hand, the kind of shut-eye approach to people who are in breach of the law. Somebody said the law is an ass. The law may not be workable to the extent that we would like it to be. There may be anomalies there in relation to the kind of nets and so on, but this House is a party to laying down certain regulations in relation to the kind of nets to be used. The Seanad is directly involved, as is the Dáil. It was the Houses of the Oireachtas who laid down the regulations. If citizens insist on breaking laws agreed to by the majority through the democratic methods of these Houses, if there are people prepared to defy these regulations, then the State has a duty to take action and to ensure that the laws are upheld. That is what the Naval Service did on that occasion and will continue to do in relation to that specific problem until such time as the regulations are changed. I would not in any circumstances be prepared to condone breaches of regulations to which I am party as a Member of either House of the Oireachtas. I hope that no Member of this House would have an attitude different from that.

The Naval Service have been maligned. They have been accused of overreaction and I have heard fairly strong statements made about their activities. The Dáil was suspended over a stance on this. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Naval Service for the way they operate a very difficult remit under very difficult circumstances. I would like to thank them publicly, not for the first time, and the officials of my own Department in the protection service who also have a very difficult job to do. Two figures bear out what I have said previously, that we must save ourselves from ourselves. Eight short years ago the total salmon catch in this country amounted to about 2,200-odd tonnes. Last year that was 900 tonnes. These two figures are a damning indictment of all of us that we allow the destruction of the only major wild salmon fishery left in the west of Europe to take place before our eyes. We have a duty to ensure the survival of that fishery, not only for the time being; we owe it to our children and to our children's children that that resource is not depleted to a stage where it just dies away. It has been put to me that we are not the only culprits, and of course we are not. Because of the migratory nature of this species, people like the Faroese, Greenlanders and Canadians are also involved. My predecessor and I have been very forceful in our EEC activity in trying to get the Faroese and the Green-landers in particular to take account of the condition of the salmon stock and to get them to introduce somewhat restrictive regulations on their activity and not only for their own sake; much of the benefit will rub off on us because we are talking about the same stock. Let us be fair about it: they have taken note and taken action. The Faroese today are operating under the strict control of ICES officials who are out there overseeing the salmon fishery in the Faroes. In relation to Canada, only yesterday I raised this matter at the Council of Ministers in Brussels where negotiations for an international salmon convention have been finalised and agreed, and we now await the ratification of the provisions of that agreement. Canada will play a very important role in this international convention. I understand from the reply I got that there is high expectation that the provisions will be ratified by all countries, including Canada, before very long. The Commission of the EEC see no great difficulty at the moment in having ratification put forward.

Senator Loughrey mentioned the monofilament net. It has its advantages in its capacity to catch fish, in daylight without being detected by the salmon. It has its disadvantages too. It can be damaging to the stock. There is no point in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It is going to scoop up everything in sight and it has a damaging effect even on other fish that swim through its meshes. I have been told by fishermen other than salmon fishermen that on many occasions where mono-filament net is being used extensively — I will not name any area — umpteen cases of fish other than salmon are caught in their nets with the fins torn off and so on. The only explanation for that is that they have passed through the mono-filament net, not being able to see it in the water in daylight.

The regulation is there in relation to mono-filament. Anybody using it is breaking the law and will be treated as a law-breaker. There is no point in being ambivalent about it. We in this House are responsible for seeing that our regulations are observed. I would like to tell Senator Loughrey that about a month ago I put a public notice in the newspapers declaring my intention to ban the sale of monofilament net. There are certain procedures through which one must go. As far as I can recall, there is a period in which one must await submissions. I think 27 July is the final date for the receipt of submissions on this issue. After that the submissions will be scrutinised to see what case has been made for the abolition or retention of monofilament net. We are doing that for the simple reason that there are anomalies in the present situation. People have said to me, rightly, both privately and publicly, "You are prepared to allow this for sale and the Minister for Finance is prepared to collect VAT on its sale, but the minute you put a few corks and rope on it you are deemed to be acting illegally. The owner can be brought to court". That is not unique, but that is not to say that it is not anomalous.

It is not just a question of being able to ban the sale of monofilament net, because it is being used for other types of fishing quite legally and it is very effective. We must jump certain fences when we come to them, having established the public reaction to the proposal to ban the sale of monofilament net.

Processing has been mentioned as an area of interest and great benefit to the industry. I am going outside the limits of the Bill, but these matters were raised in the debate. I would crave your indulgence, Sir, so that I can reply to them. We have a natural resource of great potential in out fisheries. We are taking steps elsewhere through this Bill and at EEC level to try to protect that resource as far as we can within EEC regulations. This industry lacks the commitment necessary to bring it up to the standard obtaining elsewhere in the EEC. We now find ourselves, having been a party to the CFP, in the position when our industry is not in the same league as fishing industries in other EEC countries. One area where this is most evident is in the processing of fish. That is not to say we do not have the nucleus of a good processing industry.

There are 17 processing units attached to Killybegs Harbour. It is a joy to go around there and see what is happening. In many cases we are talking about primary processing. It is a head and tail business. It means whole fish are transported abroad when we could have greater added value by having secondary processing. One of the problems we have had is that we did not give sufficient thought to selling fish as a commercial venture. We had a simple view of fish — it was caught in the sea and eaten. It was not looked upon as a worthwhile commercial product with job creation potential.

We must start at the consumer end and establish what the consumer wants. We must provide that fish as and when the consumer wants it. In the last fortnight we set up a committee in the Department to deal with marketing. The first meeting was held last Monday week. Such a committee was badly needed. All interested parties are involved in the committee and I hope we will be in a position to improve marketing in the near future. Members will realise that this is tied in closely with processing.

Mention has been made of the level of fines and the fact that they are too low. There was provision for a fine of £100,000 on conviction plus confiscation of catch and gear for a first offence. That was increased to £200,000 at the behest of the Opposition in the Dáil. People have asked why it is not £½ million. We must be seen to be reasonable. There is no point in providing for fines if they will not be applied. We are talking about maximum fines, which are rarely applied by the courts. It would make bad law and bring the legislation into disrepute if we had an outlandish level of maximum fine and only had 5 per cent of it imposed. It is better to keep it at a reasonable level and hope it will deter people from breaking the law.

In relation to third countries, this Bill prohibits the fishing, landing and transshipment of fish. I have been advised that in order to batten down on the activities of potential intruders these three areas must be covered. We could provide for a prohibition of fishing but if an intruder evaded the protection vessels they could land and trans-ship. That is why the prohibition includes fishing, landing and trans-shipment.

I think I have covered all the points raised but if there are any further details Senators wish to have clarified I will do so on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.