Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2000: Second Stage.

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

The primary purpose of this Bill is to give full technical effect to the provisions of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, relating to the national salmon resource. The 1999 Act, enacted in December of last year, provided for a complete overhaul of the management, organisation and service delivery of the inland fisheries sector. In the period of almost one year since the commencement of the Act, the new boards are in place and full rollout of the new framework is under way.

Senators will recall that one of the principal innovations of the 1999 Act was to provide for the establishment of the National Salmon Commission on a statutory basis. The commission has the function of assisting and advising in relation to salmon conservation strategies and management. On coming into office, I moved immediately to put the commission in place. In March I signed the order establishing the National Salmon Commission and appointed the chairman and 20 ordinary members. These members are representative of all the stakeholders in salmon, that is, the commercial sector, the recreational angling sector, the aquaculture sector and processors. It also includes the fisheries boards, the Marine Institute and the ESB.

The purpose of the salmon tagging scheme is to provide information on the catch of fish by the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. The real time management information provided by the tagging programme will help us to quantify salmon in a new way. The data provided by tagging and a radically upgraded national fish counter programme will critically inform future salmon conservation and management strategies. Section 24 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, provided for the making of regulations to underpin the salmon tagging scheme following consultation with the National Salmon Commission and 30 days of public consideration.

At its inaugural meeting in April the commission agreed the publication of the draft regulations. Following detailed consideration by the commission and the 30 day consultation period, the commission advised that I should sign the regulations with an effective date for implementation of 1 January 2001. In giving its advice the commission had also consulted the fisheries boards and the Marine Institute. On receipt of this advice and in light of the public consultative process, I decided to sign the regulations and move ahead with the preparations for the introduction of salmon tagging from 1 January. Prior to final settlement of the regulations in the summer, the Parliamentary Counsel advised that it would be legally necessary for offences and penalties to be provided for in primary legislation rather than by regulations which had been provided for in the 1999 Act. This advice was subsequently endorsed by the Attorney General. Accordingly, preparation of this Bill was immediately put in hand. I signed the overall regulations in August with a commencement date of 1 January 2001.

I would like to take this opportunity to brief the Seanad on progress made and matters arising from the 1999 Act. My predecessor undertook to establish an eel strategy review group to report and advise on the strategic development and general regulation of the eel industry. Terms of reference for this group are being finalised and I will be appointing the membership of the group shortly. The 1999 Act provides for revised composition of the central and regional boards. While maintaining existing boards of elected fisheries representatives on the regional boards, the Act provides for nominations and appointment of key sectoral stakeholders. I invited nominations for appointed members of the boards in March. More than 180 candidates were nominated for seven regional boards by 33 organisations.

The 1999 Act provides also for closer links between fishery co-operatives and regional boards. I have already finalised appointments of the membership of the management committees of the eight co-operatives and I look forward to a new era of effective local initiative by anglers working through the co-ops, together with the regional boards.

My immediate priority has been to secure the co-operation of all players in the tagging and counting of wild salmon as an essential management tool. The tagging system is simply a data collection scheme designed to provide a verifiable count of all the national catch. Tags and logbooks will be available free of charge under the regulations and additional tags will be made available to holders of licences subject only to compliance with the regulations. The data will inform conservation and management strategies. Tagging is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, which is decision-making based on real and comprehensive information.

My principal policy objective is to increase returns of salmon, thus enhancing the availability of stocks for tourism and domestic sport angling to the national benefit. It is without question, however, that all sectors must play their part where catch and escapement data show that stocks are under threat. No sector will be relieved of the obligation to reduce their share of mortality in salmon in catchments at risk. I emphasise that tagging is only one practical step on a new road to restore salmon stocks. There is a great deal more to be done on a range of complex challenges facing the salmon resource. Accordingly, I invited the salmon commission in early summer to give me advice and analysis on the following key priorities: expanding and upgrading the national fish counter programme; enhanced spring salmon conservation strategies; catchment management strategies; the water quality challenge; incentivising reduction of commercial fishing effort and predation. We need to move ahead with this wide-ranging agenda and other salmon conservation priorities informed over time by the accurate statistics which tagging and counters will provide.

There have been reports recently on proposals for a buy-out of commercial salmon licences for six figure sums. These proposals have no official status. There is a long-standing body of opinion here and abroad which sees the buy-out of commercial licences as the key to restoration of stocks. The situation is far more complex in reality. Experience internationally is mixed, frankly. I am awaiting the consensus advice of the commission in the first instance but I underline that overall policy will be informed by all the factors at work. It must also reflect the legitimate entitlements of commercial fishermen as stakeholders in the resource. Significant restrictions have already been imposed on seasons and fishing days for drift and draft nets.

At present we are co-financing two pilot schemes at catchment level for voluntary set-aside of commercial fishing engines for salmon. These two schemes are based on matching contributions by other stakeholders and I have asked the regional fisheries boards to encourage the development of similar projects based on consensus and local contribution. Funding is available for such schemes subject to value for money considerations, local stakeholder contribution and demonstrable benefits for salmon stocks.

I also commend to Senators the long-standing salmon management model in place in the Foyle where, based on real time stock data and spawning targets, fishing effort by commercial and angling interests is managed each season.

Section 2 of the Bill provides for a system of on the spot fines in relation to fisheries offences. This system will operate in a similar fashion to the on the spot fine system for minor traffic offences. It will result in more efficient use of resources and reduce the costs and administrative burdens associated with taking prosecutions for minor offences. I am taking the opportunity presented by this Bill to provide for a comprehensive system of on the spot fines building on the provisions in the 1999 Act which provided for such a system in relation to the tagging scheme.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill provide for the necessary technical amendments to the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, and the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, to create offences and penalties in relation to the salmon tagging scheme. The more serious offences which attract higher maximum penalties are provided for in four new subsections. Necessary consequential amendments are provided for in relation to on the spot fines and consequential disqualification orders.

Section 5 provides that the next year for elections of members to regional boards shall be 2005, which restores the standard five year period. It is intended that the elections in 2005 will be held in December which has been the norm, for practical administrative reasons, since the establishment of the boards under the Fisheries Act, 1980.

Section 6 provides that the terms of office of the appointed members can be extended up to the time of the next election thus providing for continuity of board membership.

Section 7 is an amendment proposed by the Attorney General in relation to staff members of boards who are appointed board members. Under the 1959 Act, no member of the regional board shall be eligible for paid office with the board. The amendment clarifies the position of staff appointees in this regard.

Section 8 provides for the restoration of several subsections of the 1980 Act which were inadvertently deleted by the 1999 Act.

This short Bill provides primarily for technical amendments to give effect to what was intended in the 1999 Act in relation to the salmon tagging scheme. I hope the Seanad can agree that the tagging scheme, backed up by effective and reasonable sanctions, will deliver vital management information to inform conservation strategies from now on. The information on the catch of wild salmon will be used as an input to the sustainable and equitable management of the salmon resource involving all the legitimate interests.

The national salmon tagging scheme is the most innovative and the single most important initiative in the conservation of wild salmon stocks. I hope the House will endorse it with enthusiasm. On the spot fines will be introduced. Everyone who is genuinely interested in the salmon angling resource wants to end poaching and other illegal activities which have been tolerated for far too long. This scheme provides a mechanism for the rigorous enforcement of the law with regard to poaching and other offences. The money collected in on the spot fines will go directly to providing resources for the fisheries.

I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome some aspects of this Bill which are overdue. The control of salmon stocks has been a major problem for many years.

The River Moy in Ballina is one of Europe's outstanding salmon rivers. For decades, there was considerable netting by a private commercial company on that river but due to local and anglers' opposition to netting, the activity was discontinued three or four years ago. It was generally believed that the amount of salmon being caught by anglers would increase dramatically as a result because thousands of salmon were being netted on the Moy every summer. For several years, the Minister reduced the period of netting until it was finally discontinued completely. Nevertheless, the number of salmon caught by anglers in the last two years has decreased. No one can give an explanation, scientific or otherwise, for this. When netting was discontinued it was assumed that anglers would enjoy a bonanza on the River Moy but this has not happened. If nothing else, the Minister's efforts to introduce tagging may throw some light on what has happened and this aspect of the Bill is welcome.

The establishment of a commission to look at salmon and salmon stocks is also overdue. It has been left to voluntary and other organisations to control the salmon system and salmon management has been neglected. I do not know if mismanagement has caused the fall-off in salmon numbers. I can only speak of the river with which I am closely associated. However, I understand a similar pattern is emerging throughout the country.

The Minister is wise to alert everyone to the possibility that this depletion of salmon stocks could continue and have an adverse effect on our angling tourism business. Angling is a major tourist attraction. In the Moy valley region, which encompasses the River Moy, tourism is a major element of the local economy. Many hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments would not be in existence were it not for the number of angling tourists who come every year from Germany, England and throughout Europe. We must preserve this valuable resource.

I also welcome the introduction of on the spot fines for offences, although I have always been sceptical about them. One of the problems is enforcement. It is fine to introduce laws and regulations, but their enforcement is a problem. Enforcing traffic laws, for example, is much easier than enforcing laws on the high seas and rivers, but even that is difficult at present.

The history of enforcement leaves much to be desired. We read reports of local court cases where fisheries officers have been intimidated and harassed. The whole system has gone from bad to worse, although it is possible that on the spot fines could regularise the position. In the past some fisheries officers were badly injured in the course of their duty. This is intolerable and should not happen, but I know of particular cases where it happened. The Minister's innovative approach in this area is welcome and I hope it will be successful. It will only be successful if the enforcement matches the commitment. Ultimately, what happens on the ground will determine the future of the industry.

Although the Bill only deals with technical aspects of the fishing industry, it contains a number of important elements. Unfortunately, it will not do much for the general fishing industry about which many of us are concerned. The commercial fishing industry is in a state of chaos. Some small fishermen are giving up fishing and there is an increasing number of huge fishing boats. This is welcome, although there is no major benefit in their fishing off north Africa. A Mayo man, Kevin McHugh, has one of the largest boats in the world and he and his family deserve great credit for the initiative they have taken in the industry. However, due to the laws in Ireland, he is forced to go to the other side of the world to fish. It is doubtful that this will bring any benefits to the Irish economy.

We want, as I am sure the Minister does, a situation where an increasing number of smaller fishermen have viable livelihoods. However, this is not happening because of the depletion of stocks, particularly salmon stocks. The livelihoods of smaller fishermen are disappearing. There is a huge coastline in counties Galway and Mayo, and elsewhere in the west, but the number of families who were sustained in the past by the fishing industry has never been quantified. Many people have taken up other employment and this is commendable, but most of them are from families who were traditionally involved in fishing over many generations. Unfortunately, many of them are now disillusioned with fishing.

The Bill, which is designed to make some modifications to the current legislation, is welcome. The Minister has the interests of the fishing industry at heart but he needs to engage in more radical thinking. The Bill is not intended to be radical, although the on the spot fines are a new development. We will have to wait to see their effect on the illegal activity that has always gone on in this industry.

The Minister referred to the possibility of eliminating poaching. I will be the first person to congratulate him if he achieves that objective because poaching is endemic in society, particularly in certain areas. It is not as prevalent as it was because the Celtic tiger economy has diverted people's energies elsewhere. The need for money is not as great as it was because there are other forms of legitimate employment. Poaching as a profession is losing its appeal and this initiative from the Minister could sound the death knell for large-scale poaching.

I referred earlier to the reverse law that appears to operate in the salmon business. The end result in this area never appears to be logical. I asked a fisheries officer last week if he could throw any light on the dichotomy that exists. He said that the run-off from hills and mountains as a result of deforestation into rivers is upsetting the spawning beds. This aspect also needs to be considered because spawning beds have been dislocated in many areas.

A few years ago the North Mayo Fisheries Board created three new pools in the River Moy in Ballina. The famous ridge pool is world renowned as a fishing pool and the thinking was that if more pools were created on the same basis, they would be equally prolific in terms of salmon. However, that has not happened. The ridge pool remains the premium pool while the artificially created pools have not attracted any salmon. Nobody can throw much light on this phenomenon or explain why pools that were created to be identical to the ridge pool have not been as prolific.

It is a difficult science and the Minister is making a brave attempt to come to terms with some aspects of it. Fishing is of vital importance to people along the west coast and tourism areas, such as Mayo and Galway. It was the lifeblood of the tourism industry. Once April arrives, one will meet angling tourists in all parts of County Mayo. It is one of the few resources we have and we need to preserve it. I am sure this Bill will help in that regard.

I commend the National Salmon Commission. I am sure this body, which has a dedicated brief, will put forward good ideas. We also have the fisheries boards, but the election system leaves a lot to be desired. We all know the members of these boards are elected by vote but some of the candidates seem to have little experience in the areas they are trying to represent. Perhaps the Bill will help to regularise that position. I know that 80% or 90% of the members of the regional fisheries boards are committed to their jobs. However, a percentage of them seem to be passengers who have no interest in or commitment to the industry.

There is no clearer example of the vagaries of the democratic system than what is happening at present in the United States. Such vagaries also extend to local organisations and sometimes they throw up rare results. The Minister does not intend to make far-reaching changes to the election procedures of the regional fisheries boards.

I left home yesterday at 2 p.m. and I did not arrive here until 11 o'clock this morning, so I did not have time to study the implications of the Bill.

The Senator could have come by boat.

I could have. I will table amendments on Committee Stage. This Bill is an attempt to deal with some of the current contentious issues.

The attendance of the Minister and the Minister of State in the House over the past four weeks shows the importance of the fishing industry to the economy.

Senator Caffrey mentioned the fisheries boards and said that while most of the members are highly qualified, some are not. The Minister said there were 180 nominations from 33 organisations. He may recall that in my part of the country one highly qualified member failed to be nominated by the Minister. I hope this man will be accommodated in the future because he has a wealth of experience in the fishing industry.

The primary purpose of this technical Bill is to amend the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, and the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, to provide for offences and penalties in respect of the new tagging scheme which is due to commence on 1 January 2001. The Office of the Attorney General examined the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, and advised that offences and penalties should be provided in primary legislation rather than by regulation, which was the basis of the fines and offences in the 1999 Act. Consequently, the Bill provides for an amendment to incorporate the Attorney General's advice.

The offences covered are in respect of the wild salmon and sea trout carcase tagging scheme, which is due to commence on 1 January 2001. Regulations to provide for the tagging scheme were made in August 2000 under the enabling powers of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999. The Act provides that regulations may provide for offences and penalties in respect of breaches of the regulations. The legal advice suggested it was preferable to provide for offences and penalties in primary legislation rather than secondary legislation. The power to provide for these offences and penalties was exercised in the making of the regulations. It became necessary to introduce this Bill to provide for these in primary legislation.

The tagging system was introduced after the Minister appointed the National Salmon Commission to consider, consult and recommend to him the introduction of the tagging of all angling and commercially caught wild salmon and trout. The commission was appointed in April 2000 and is representative of all the main players in the salmon industry, including the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers, representatives of rod anglers and trout anglers, the Irish Salmon Growers Association, the Irish Fishermen's Organisation Limited, the Irish processors and exporters association and the net inshore fishermen. The membership also includes fisheries boards representatives, the Marine Institute, the ESB and the cross-Border body, the Foyle-Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.

The chairman, Professor Wilkins from the National University of Ireland, Galway, also chaired the salmon management task force whose report in 1996 set out the blueprint for the salmon conservation and management strategies. Among the many recommendations of the task force was the introduction of the wild salmon tagging system to achieve time conservation and manage ment of the salmon resource and an equitable share of salmon stocks. The commission agreed to the publication of the draft salmon regulations with a 30 day statutory period to allow for public consultation and for detailed consideration by the commission of the framework for implementation of the tagging of rod and net salmon caught during the licence season.

The preparatory work for the national salmon tagging scheme was ongoing for three years and it was time for decisions. At the end of the consultation period, the commission supported the tagging system. The purpose of the wild salmon tagging scheme is to provide for a verifiable system of counting catches by the commercial and recreational sectors. The information provided by the tagging schemes, together with other information sources, will inform the development of policy on the management and sustainable development of the national salmon resource.

Among other measures used was the provision of the fish counter programme on many rivers assisted by grant aid from TAM. Some 35 such counters were introduced up to 1999. The initiative was introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Woods. The Rosses Anglers Association was fortunate to receive funding to provide such a counter which will give valuable information about the number of fish going up the rivers and into the lakes owned by the Rosses anglers.

I pointed out during my contribution on the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, that this association had developed a great leisure and tourism resource in north-west Donegal. This has been developed mainly through its own resources. I call on the Minister to ensure that more funding is made available to the fisheries boards to assist organisations, such as the Rosses Anglers Association, to develop their resources and to provide additional tourism infrastructure.

When I spoke on the Dumping at Sea Bill a few weeks ago I pointed out that the Northern Fisheries Board had carried out a survey of the water quality in Dungloe Bay. It showed increased pollution in the bay and this led to a genuine fear that e.coli would move up the river into the Rosses anglers' lakes. I have continually called on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, to provide funding for a sewage treatment plant for Dungloe sewerage scheme. This plant would help the water quality in the bay. Apart from protecting public health standards and the different leisure facilities in the bay, it would protect the fish stocks and the Rosses anglers' lakes and would provide further development of aquaculture in Dungloe Bay. I am glad that is one of the items on which the Minister has asked the National Salmon Commission to advise him.

Despite my pleas, the Department of the Environment and Local Government still refers to the priorities and needs set out by Donegal County Council, which are out of date, being almost two and a half years old. I ask the Minister to impress on his colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, the need to cut out this bureaucratic behaviour, to take political decisions and not to wait for guidelines by local authorities and officials. When a genuine need arises there should be some way of providing funding.

The Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1999, provided for the establishment of a commission to advise the Minister on salmon management policy and on setting a total allowable salmon catch and quotas for the taking of salmon in line with the recommendations of the original task force. The tagging system will be of benefit because it will provide valuable information which will underpin future salmon conservation and management strategies.

Anglers and commercial salmon interests have a part to play in the protection and management of the salmon stocks. The protection of the wild Irish salmon stocks is in our hands. The tagging system will help to conserve our stocks and create a quality brand for wild Irish salmon and raise awareness of the uniqueness of this resource. The report of the reform of the CFP, published last week, states that we need sustainable development of our fish stocks and fishery resources. Many fish stocks are being over-fished, which is not tenable. Short-term gain will create long-term pain for coastal communities that depend so heavily on the fishing industry. We cannot achieve what is required on our own with regard to many species, but I hope it will be possible with regard to salmon stocks.

Many people are anxious about the tagging scheme. Senator Caffrey referred to the fears expressed. The main reason for the tagging system was to stop poaching. The Department wants to use the scheme as a good national information tool to gather information on the number of salmon going up river to spawn. The scheme is based on a catchment management principle. Senator Caffrey said that in the past poaching was a very important part of the economy. What fines will apply to the public? With the reduction of stocks and the price of salmon in recent years the public's only access to wild salmon stocks may have been through supplies from poachers. What is the position on offences in this area?

The tagging system will be introduced on 1 January 2001. It will apply only to the wild salmon and sea trout. A gill tag will be used and it will be an offence to be in possession of untagged wild salmon or sea trout. Logs will have to be kept detailing the daily catch and the disposal of same. Imported salmon will have a tail rather than a gill tag. I welcome the scheme and hope it is a success. However, we have been a long time trying to catch up with developments elsewhere and finding ways to conserve stocks.

The area I come from, together possibly with north County Mayo, would be synonymous with salmon, especially ten or 20 years ago. As a child I remember the buzz in the fishing port of Burtonport during the months of the salmon catching season. Unfortunately, that has virtually disap peared and consequently Burtonport has been reduced in status, mainly because of the fall-off in the salmon stocks and possibly also by the development of the pelagic fleet.

Burtonport and the surrounding islands off the County Donegal coast had huge traditional fishing, especially in salmon. That developed into the white fish industry, but in recent years very few fishermen are fishing out of Burtonport. Of those who have continued to fish some have progressed to using super trawlers and are fishing from other ports, especially Killybegs. Consequently, Burtonport was left behind. I would like to see it revert to previous glory days because it had an important part to play in the economy of the surrounding areas, such as Gweedore. In recent years these coastal communities have had to turn to tourism more than the fishing industry. Unfortunately, they have received very few resources from the State or the EU.

The cost of diesel is also badly affecting the fishing industry. I am glad the Minister met the representatives of the association. I hope he will be successful in persuading the Minister for Finance to provide some way out in the budget for those fishermen who are still fishing. The price of diesel is three times higher than a year ago. This, together with the quota system and the lack of supply of fish, is causing difficulties. I hope we can continue to develop and ensure a continuous supply of fish to the factories, especially those in Killybegs, Burtonport and Kincasslagh. They provide the bulk of employment in west County Donegal.

A member of the National Salmon Commission circulated to drift net fishermen a survey on a number of issues, especially the level of stock contributions, a request for their views on the future and their options with regard to the continued fishing of wild salmon stocks and a set aside or a buy-out system. The number of salmon caught in recent years has fallen dramatically. It is uneconomic for a small fishing boat to go to sea for the one month in the year when a salmon licence is available. Many fishermen answered the survey and I am sure the preference that will emerge will be for a buy out scheme.

A fisherman's life is difficult and dangerous and he must work unsociable hours. EU restrictions have curtailed the activities of traditional fishermen. They see the buy-out scheme as a pension for the future without having to sustain long hard hours at sea with little return. I am glad the Minister referred to the scheme and that he has asked the commission to advise him on an incentive system for fishermen.

The commission members I have spoken to have expressed a preference for the set aside scheme. The Minister mentioned two private schemes, one in County Kerry and the other on the River Blackwater in Munster. The purpose of these schemes is to check the numbers of fish going into the rivers and to get an accurate record for catch purposes. The regional fisheries boards are encouraging other private schemes. While I accept the need for management and conservation, some kind of buy-out scheme should be introduced to provide for small on-shore and drift net fishermen who have traditionally fished our waterways but are now faced with the loss of their livelihoods.

Many reasons have been given for the reductions in salmon stocks. The Atlantic salmon stock has fallen to 15% of the population of the early 1970s. The trend will continue unless remedial action is taken. Apart from possible over fishing, other reasons have been given, such as the building of wharfs and dams on EU rivers. ESB records at Ballyshannon show a huge drop in the number of salmon swimming up stream.

Acid rain has also been blamed for the disappearance of the Atlantic salmon stock, especially in Norway. In addition, salmon have contracted disease from escaped farm fish. Farm varieties also risk endangering the genetic and ecological integrity of their wild cousins.

Seal culling has also become a dramatic issue in County Donegal, especially around the Killybegs area. Many Irish in-shore fishermen blame seals for the reduction of salmon stocks. This has been extensively covered by articles in the Marine Times by George Gallagher, its special correspondent. He is also a draft net representative on the Northern Regional Fisheries Board. He is fully supported by the other members of the board. He raised the matter with the Minister when he recently attended the Fish Ireland 2000 exhibition in Killybegs. Mr. Gallagher and many fishermen who sent letters to the editor of the Marine Times have called for a proper organised seal cull to protect their livelihoods, gear, nets and hundreds of tonnes of top quality seafood. I have read some articles in which Mr. Brendan Price of the Irish Seal Sanctuary disagreed with that, questioned the reason that the seals are so close to shore and wondered whether there are other reasons. I am glad the Minister mentioned that aspect in his contribution.

It is time for a mature debate on the best way to manage the fishery to ensure the survival of both seals and the livelihoods of those living in coastal communities who depend on fishing. If difficult decisions are not made soon, we are likely to see the seal population ravaged by famine and a complete disappearance of a way of life. The in-shore fishermen of Donegal and Mayo are awaiting the response of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources to this serious issue.

Various other technical matters are referred to in the Bill, such as the on the spot fines for offences. The enabling provisions for on the spot fines for fishery offences will result in more efficient use of the fishery boards' resources, particularly in the area of the State's legal costs associated with taking prosecutions for minor offences through the courts system. I welcome the Minister's statement that any funds collected from these fines will be reinvested in the fisheries. This is unlike the use of the £50 traffic fines. We are all caught on a regular basis now and we would like to see that revenue put back into the roads structures, particularly in the counties along the west coast which have roads of a very poor standard.

Mr. Ryan

It is the Senator's patriotic duty to adhere to the speed limit.

Unfortunately, we do not have a train system to take us to the north-west. With such long distances, we cannot avoid the traffic corps on many occasions.

I do not have time to raise some of the other points I wanted to make. The date set for the commencement of the wild salmon tagging scheme is 1 January. The advice of the overwhelming number of members of the National Salmon Commission is that it is vital that the Bill is enacted quickly, certainly before the end of the year, to ensure the enforcement of the tagging scheme. I commend the Bill to the House.

My contribution will not be a long one. I commend the Minister on the Bill, which I welcome, but I also criticise him because he is not aiming high enough. He said, "Tagging is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, which is decision-making based on real and comprehensive information." That is great as far as it goes but picture what could happen if the Minister aimed higher. If he were to say that tagging is aimed at lifting the Irish salmon business to a category which is much higher than anybody else. I was in Germany yesterday with a group of supermarket interests and the one Irish product they talked about was salmon. I was in France two weeks ago with a group of supermarket interests and the one product they were talking about was fish, not just salmon but a whole range of seafood.

We have a marvellous opportunity here. What can we do to lift the Irish fishing business into a different category? I want to give an example of what happened in the case of beef. In the 1980s, some of us in the business recognised customers' concerns about beef. Those concerns came about because customers, particularly city dwellers, were hearing advertisements on the radio from pharmaceutical companies suggesting products that could be injected into an animal, whatever it was, to improve their health. Some of us in the business tried to find a way of tracing the origin of those animals, and those companies were able to include the name, address and photograph of the farmer who supplied that beef. When the BSE scare occurred some years later, those companies benefited enormously because customers trusted them. They knew more about the traceability of the beef.

Imagine what could happen if we were to do something similar in regard to salmon. I know that will not be easy and that it will not be achieved in one Bill. It will not even be achieved with the stroke of the pen in law, but it is something at which we could aim. Imagine the reaction of restaurateurs and fish mongers in France, Germany and elsewhere if they were able to state the origin of the fish on their menus and display boards. That is possible.

Some of us who have been tagging whole fish for the past year know it is an expense. We know it is difficult but we found that the customers' response to whole fish being tagged is very favourable. It tells them a great deal more than they would have been told previously. We should set that as a target here. I mention that because I do not get a sense of the Minister aiming high enough in this area. I approve of everything he is attempting to do but I would like him to set higher objectives for Ireland as a whole. We should reach for the stars. We may not get there quickly but we will get some of the way on that basis.

I want to touch on some of the problems the Minister will face. The biggest problem is the old-school view of fishermen who say that computers are worthy but that they do not want to go that way. That is similar to those who say that they know plastic bags do not help the environment but let somebody else do something about it. This is a job of convincing those fishermen who are of the old school who are not into computers or tagging or anything of that nature.

We have to push very hard on technology. I talked to some of those involved in the fish business and they tell me that the tagging guns are slow, cumbersome and difficult to handle. They also tell me that the clip on to the gills system is not reliable, therefore tagging is the right system. It is possible to do the other but it is not reliable and it is too easy to get out of control. We should invest in determining whether there is a better system so that we can come up with one that is faster. An example was given to me of somebody coming into Burtonport on a Monday night with a load of fish whose customer in Dublin was asking for it as soon as possible. That fisherman had to delay the delivery by four or five hours because he had to tag all the fish.

That has not been the case for many years.

There may be various reasons for not being able to move fast enough in this area but in the case of fish, speed is of the essence. Fishermen cannot delay four or five hours and miss the plane to Paris or wherever. The people who are in the business in Europe are fussy about what they want. They know that if they do not get the right fish, particularly in the case of smoked fish, they will get a musty smell from it if they are not careful. They will get a sand taste from it if it is from certain rivers.

As a nation we have to set higher targets. The Minister has taken the first steps but I would like to hear him say that this is only the first step towards the higher objective of lifting the fishing industry to a level that will be unique in Europe.

It was interesting to hear other speakers, who are much closer to the sourcing of fish than I, talk about that this morning. It is achievable to reach a level in Europe whereby customers will set out to buy Irish fish because we have set standards higher than anywhere else in the world. That is possible and the Minister should indicate at this stage that this is where we are going, even if this is only a first step.

I congratulate the Minister on the Bill. There is a lovely seanfhocal that I remember from school days that I like to quote on occasion: Éist le fuaim na habhainn mar gheobhaidh tú bradán – listen to the sound of the river if you're going to catch a fish. The Minister has been listening to the sound of the river and the sound of the industry but I would like him to listen to the sound of the market places. If he does that he will find the fishing very good and the fishing industry will benefit from it.

I was half expecting Senator Quinn to burst into The Sound of Music.

I welcome the Minister and the Bill. I am pleased this Bill has been initiated in the Seanad and it derives from the previous, more substantial legislation. I come to this issue unashamedly as a game angler which informs my perspective on the Bill. I have fished most of the waters in the west, south-west and midlands. During the summer I fished the Erriff and Lough Beltra which are premier locations and I am always treated well in Mayo. I also fished the Blackwater outside Kenmare and Lough Caragh.

A statement was made on the Order of Business yesterday regarding flooding to the effect that if anglers were allowed a substantial input into catchment management they would prevent arterial drainage from taking place. Arterial drainage was seen as the way to prevent flooding but that is not the case. It can make flooding worse as it brings water to places at a faster rate and flood plains are not allowed to operate. Apart from getting into the technical area, fishing is a resource of great magnitude in terms of the national economy and tourism. In addition to its economic value, fishing is also a spiritual resource and there is a serious obligation on us to protect and enhance it and to ensure we pass it on to the next generation.

It is unfortunate that within a generation greed was allowed to destroy some of the premier resources which had stood unchanged and in pristine condition since the ice age. Pig farmers in Cavan and other areas were able to destroy these resources through greed and the State has a serious obligation to ensure that cannot continue to happen.

It was always argued that the imperatives of providing jobs and economic development in depressed rural areas were such that one could sacrifice the natural environment. That approach was understandable but times have changed significantly and the culture must catch up with that change. The obligations are being imposed on us by the EU in terms of environmental standards and that is to be welcomed.

I could go on at some length on the impact of fish farming but I am sure that would not be helpful to the Minister given his constituency. There is no reason fish farming and game angling cannot live side by side but unfortunate lapses have had significant environmental consequences. If this issue had been properly managed some of the penalties paid and the job losses in the tourism industry would not have arisen. In some respects, the way this issue was managed was similar to how BSE was handled in Britain. I am not suggesting that the risk to human health is of a similar magnitude but there was a process of obfuscation to avoid responsibility and not to allow the scientific evidence to come to the fore.

I welcome this Bill. The issue of tagging has been raised but I wonder how it will operate. When we went to the Erriff this year the literature advised us that the tagging system was coming into operation. Game anglers will have to carry their tags and that is worthwhile. I agree with the Minister's views on tagging and counting which provide the scientific support to implement the required management, but I have some difficulties about the practical operation of the system, taking into account some of Senator Quinn's comments.

The Minister referred to the spring salmon which has been one of the greatest tragedies. There are very few places left where one can fish for spring salmon. Lough Beltra, the Blackwater in Cork and the Slaney are some of the few places left and the stocks of spring salmon are very low. There is a scientific or perhaps an international political question as to how this collapse in the stocks of spring salmon took place. This is not just evident in Ireland but in other countries, including Scotland.

Senator Caffrey spoke about the Moy and asked why, when nets were removed, the number of fish caught by rod and line did not increase. This involves a broader issue in terms of what is happening on the high seas and internationally. In that context, one must applaud the work of Orri Vigfusson of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund and others in trying to introduce some coherence. There is a case for more significant international co-operation and effort but that is a wider question.

Catchment management has been a contentious issue. I was in favour of such management when few others were, even those in angling circles. I support this idea as there is a need to bring some coherence to the issue. There is also a need for an objective set of guidelines as to how catchment management should operate as there are wide differences between how different catch ment areas are managed. We accept that there are physical and practical differences.

Anglers are among the primary stakeholders in any catchment and it is essential their views are taken on board when it comes to management. Many angling clubs are poorly organised and have traditional rights to waters on an ad hoc basis going back many years. However, it would be unfortunate if, because of this situation, it was decided that some big brother could take the water from them and lease it back. The potential for serious conflict is evident if such an approach is taken and I would hate to think that big brother could take away from angling clubs interests which have existed for generations. I do not think this is what the Minister has in mind but it is important to ensure it cannot happen. Traditional rights are at stake and were it not for the vigilance of local angling clubs – I have to declare an interest as I am involved in such a club – some of the excesses which local authorities and other potential polluters wished to carry out would have taken place unhindered and more serious damage would have been caused. Fisheries boards are also vigilant in this respect.

Many clubs operate on an ad hoc basis but that does not mean they have not been important in terms of the vision of what fisheries should be and how it should be managed. As a landowner with land adjoining the River Liffey, I am aware that angling clubs are among the greatest custodians of riparian rights. If one lives close to an urban centre it is becoming increasingly difficult to farm land because of vandalism and other anti-social behaviour. It has always been the case that a member of the local angling club out fishing the waters informed farmers about problems, animals stuck in rivers or fences being down. Anglers have performed an important function in that respect. In the past there has been a great synergy and a great association between landowners and angling clubs and I would hate to see that being taken away.

There is also a widely held perception that anglers do not want to pay for anything. The origins of that perception are evident and it is easy to see how it arose, but it is totally wrong. Many of the angling clubs charge their members fees and they have been very involved in the use of European funds to develop access and to develop the waters for which they are responsible. They have dipped heavily into their own pockets to do that and, therefore, it is not correct to say that anglers want their sport for nothing. They are prepared to pay for it provided they can see that the sport will be maintained.

There are many conflicting interests at play in the catchment with which I would be most familiar, that is the River Liffey. At the top end of the catchment there is a requirement to provide Dublin city with drinking water. That is obviously important but one gets to the point of asking at what stage is it wrong to extract ever greater volumes of water to fulfil a need in the knowledge that some 30% of that water is being lost through the system? This brings us back again to the economic requirement to up-grade the facilities to ensure that the water is not wasted.

The other point is that there is no penalty for wasting water. If it is a frosty night in Dublin and everybody decides to leave on their taps they can do so with impunity, but it does have an environmental effect and there is the question of sustainability of the catchment and the flora and fauna in the catchment.

Further downriver the River Liffey is regarded as a discharge point for waste. The local authority sees it as a source of water and a dustbin for waste. It receives discharges from sewerage systems, which were inadequate and, thankfully, are being up-graded. In the middle of all that there is a general commitment to retain the fish life within the water. It seems to me that, if the two positions are not inconsistent and irreconcilable, at least there is a difficulty about it and that brings us back to the will with which we approach these matters.

I have had some experience of angling in Rotorua, New Zealand. One aspect of angling there, which struck me forcefully, was the degree to which there was an obsession with the health of the fish life and with the quality of the water and with ensuring the resource was properly managed. When an angler arrives in New Zealand, his or her angling equipment will be disinfected at the airport. One must declare such equipment and it is an offence not to do so. If one catches fish, they must be gutted at the waterside and all the waste disposed of safely. One cannot sell fish, which is a critical aspect of all of this. If one is a game angler in New Zealand, it is impossible to sell the fish. One may bring the fish back to the hotel, guest house or wherever one is staying or give them to friends, but one cannot sell them. That is related to the question of the prevalence of poaching, which obviously has to do with the commercial value of the fish. There may be some recreational poaching. Thankfully, that is one of the more welcome side effects of fish farming, that perhaps it has removed the incentive to clean out a pool or fishery. Therefore, there are useful international models which could be looked at and implemented in Ireland.

Returning to water with which the Minister would be familiar, I have made the point before that 30 years ago on the Corrib I can recall people who came to this country, hired a car at Shannon Airport, stayed a month, had a gillie every day on the lake and spent large sums of money at a time when there was little money around. My point is that that is extremely mobile tourism investment. If the sport is good, they will go to Alaska, the Falkland Islands, Russia or New Zealand. Particularly in those poorer areas along the western seaboard with which the Minister will be very familiar, those visitors are of enormous benefit. Not only are they the big spenders but they will not leave environmental degradation in their wake unlike some large movements of tour ists into Ireland, although that is obviously a matter for another day.

There is a minor point which is worth mentioning. It is only a textual point but it is important because frequently we have got into difficulties even about the position of commas and their significance in legislation. In Part I of the Schedule, the description, under reference number 5, is, "Unauthorised entry on several fishery". I suspect it should be a plural noun, although I may be wrong. I suspect it should read "fisheries", but that is only a minor semantic point and perhaps it is something at which the Minister can look.

The question of catchment management is summarised well in the autumn edition of the newsletter of the National Association of Rod-Anglers, which refers to the essentials based on the experience of the Vartry Catchment Committee. It is worth itemising what it stated. First, the involvement of angling clubs is essential to the process and it should be voluntary. Second, there should be an emphasis on fishery management within any catchment regime, while accepting and respecting the rights and interests of all stakeholders. Third, no stakeholder group within the project should be allowed dominate by reason of economic or political influence – that is an important aspect. Fourth, to be successful, the project must improve the quality of the water as well as lifting the quality of angling.

That point relates to an issue which was very evident on the River Liffey when we discussed the water quality management plan for the river at county council level. At that time I tried to include putting a lid on extraction from the River Liffey as an objective of the plan because it did have an effect on the quality of the water. Lo and behold when the consultants reported on the greater Dublin water management system, they said that the primary management of the River Liffey should be to do with water extraction, which is a reality but which is disappointing.

The fifth point made in the NARA newsletter is that the ultimate responsibility for catchment management lies with the regional fisheries board. I would agree with that. Sixth, catchment management should be driven by the conservation, rather than the economic imperative. That point is similar to one stated earlier. Seventh, anglers, because of their experience and expertise, should be actively encouraged to be involved in the process. Finally, compromises and concessions to advance the process of catchment management are best decided within the project group and in a spirit of solidarity and most stakeholder groups should seek such concessions through political lobbying, as was the practice in the past.

That is a reasonable presentation of the angling perspective on catchment management. For instance, one of the areas where much of the work has been done by Dr. Ken Whelan of the Marine Institute is the Burrishoole fishery and that is another one of the places I was fortunate to visit during the year. That is a marvellous example of what can be done by positive State intervention, as indeed is the Errif fishery. It is worth recording that that was a State initiative. These are two of the prime fisheries in the west which are well managed by the State. There is a high level of scientific input, they provide excellent sport and are well organised. The people involved in those initiatives are to be congratulated. That activity is covered in the Bill, where it states that the central board can delegate to the regional board those types of activities and on the River Errif I think it has been transferred from the central board to the Western Regional Fisheries Board.

I welcome the Bill. I hope the Minister will take into account some of the points made and ensure that the resource is protected, which is the primary objective. We must ensure that successive generations can enjoy that resource to the benefit of society as a whole. Then everything will be in safe hands.

Perhaps there is a case, to return to what I said at the outset, to be made for the establishment of a set of guidelines. I note that in his speech the Minister spoke about implementing provisions by primary legislation rather than by regulation. I can understand that because there have been difficulties in the past where the courts have intervened and said that they should be implemented by primary legislation, but this is not what we mean. We mean a general set of guidelines which inform the people involved in these catchment bodies in order that at least they have some parameters within which to work.

I commend the Minister. I hope the legislation is successful and that the objectives he set will be achieved.

I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him well in his portfolio as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, especially since he is a man from the west and understands the fishing industry. This is a short technical Bill and I will keep my contribution short because a number of other speakers wish to contribute.

This Bill follows from a previous Bill that was before us 18 months ago. I would like to be associated with the congratulations to the Minister for bringing this Bill, which I support, to the House. I am delighted we are only taking Second Stage today and that we will have more time to reflect on it before Committee Stage when it will come back before the House. I compliment the Minister because it is a very important Bill. I come from a county which has great fishing rivers, probably among the best fishing rivers and lakes in Europe.

This is important legislation and I would like to dwell on the election of regional boards, the tagging of salmon and on the spot fines. The Bill mentions specifically that on the spot fines will be ring-fenced and the money will go back into the system. The explanatory memorandum states:

There are no exchequer costs or staffing implications associated with the Bill. The enabling provisions for on-the-spot fines in relation to fisheries offences will result in more efficient use of the resources of the fisheries boards and will reduce the State's legal costs associated with taking prosecutions for minor offences through the court system.

I do not understand how this extra work will not be a cost at some stage to the fisheries boards, the fishermen or to somebody. On Committee Stage we might be able to go into that in more detail. I believe this will have cost implications. If the provisions of this Bill are rigorously applied, there will be fewer court actions and there will be less strain on the resources of the fisheries boards. There will, however, be a cost in implementing the provisions of the Bill.

I congratulate the members and staff of the regional and fisheries boards on the tremendous work they have done over the years. They have had to take some difficult decisions and everything has not been rosy for them over the years. It is only now that the majority of people appreciate the work they have done and are doing. One only has to travel the length and breadth of the country to see the work they have done on the spawning beds and on the tributaries to the lakes and rivers. We see the fruits of this work in our trout stocks and the way in which the stocks are being built up. In addition, we now see that in some parts of the country fish life, which was no longer evident in some lakes, has returned. The fisheries boards, both the central and the regional, are to be complimented and congratulated because they have done tremendous work over many years and have not got the credit they were due.

We are not only talking about fishing but about a whole industry which includes accommodation, boats, gillies, fishing tackle shops, transport and seafood. This is a huge industry. The Minister was right to bring this Bill before us. As Senator Quinn has said, maybe he is not aiming high enough but it is a start. This legislation is highly commendable and we will only see the fruits of it in the years ahead.

I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister on bringing it before the House. Maybe at some stage, he might be able to explain to us the costs involved as a result of the extra provisions in this legislation because, I believe, there will be a strain on resources, whether those of the central or regional boards, the Exchequer or others. The implementation of this legislation will involve a large amount of work. While there may be a cost involved, it will be a very worthwhile exercise. I would like to be associated with the welcome to this legislation.

Fáiltím an tAire chuig an Teach agus molaim an Bhille. It is gratifying to see that in the short time he was in this House, he recognised that it is a good place in which legislation can be thrashed out and that is what I intend to try to do today. Although it is the Minister's legislation, we cannot always agree on everything.

I would like to say at the start – confession is good for the soul – that I have caught salmon using every method known to man, legal and illegal, all my life. Why would I not?

Mr. Ryan


The same thing happened in Mayo and elsewhere—

Did the Senator eat them?

—where the landlords owned the rivers and the rights. The poor people along the side of the river, like my family and hundreds of families like us, were deprived of catching even one salmon for their basic needs – a bit of food. Back in the mid-1930s, my next door neighbour got a year in jail because the bailiff came in and found a salmon cooking in the pot. To this day, that man has not returned home from America. He went straight from jail to America. The family was so ashamed that he had got a year in jail. It was absolute codology. That is the situation we came from and I would like to see legislation address itself to the ordinary people who were trampled on because they took a few fish from a river.

I remember about 12 years ago there was a review of fisheries in County Kerry. A gentleman from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources was the chairman of that review board – it was not a review but I cannot think of the proper name for it – which was assessing whether it would expand the salmon fishing industry or cut it back. We put our case forward. The people with the licences for draft netting and netting the rivers put forward their case. The one thing which became clear was that it was the small timers like me who had continually put back money – small amounts admittedly – by putting small smolt back into the river.

Not one penny was ever put back into the rivers by the landed gentry. Some 35 years ago boatmen employed by those who owned the fishing rights on the River Laune in Killorglin received 6p for every salmon caught. There were four men in each of the eight boats on the river and these people were making £50 per week. One can imagine the number of salmon being taken from the river. The nets were so full that the men could hardly pull in the salmon. I have no sympathy for these people for whom the rivers were being protected.

I caught salmon by every method possible because I grew up beside a river. My father loved to angle and fish for salmon. We also fished by other methods to which I have a number of witnesses. I was approached at Mass on one occasion by a man who said that there was a fine salmon over in bun a dá abhainn. What a nice name for a pool in a stream of water. There were two rivers, the Landers and the Goulanebeg, and there were always salmon in the huge pool where these two rivers met. The pool was deep at the top and shallow at the bottom. It was called bun a dá abhainn which means the bottom of the two rivers. I said to the man that when the Mass was over we would head over there. He asked should I go home to change my clothes. I said I would not because I knew the place, there were rocks in the middle of the river and we would see where the salmon was lying. He asked if I had a pike and I said I had not. That man was surprised to see me take off my shoes, roll up my trousers and creep into the river. After approximately five minutes, the salmon was out on the bank. That man is alive today and can tell that story. I loved tickling salmon, because that is how it was done. Many people from the Senator's part of the country were able to tickle salmon. A famous woman from the Minister's part of the country used to tickle salmon.

One could fish legally for just £3, which was ridiculous. I got my first draft net licence for £3 to prevent others from taking the salmon in a certain manner. If something is to be done about tagging and replenishing salmon the netting of rivers must be stopped, no matter what the means. Netting in a confined space in a river, regardless of the supervision, will clean out that river. We are still concerned about the landed gentry who own stretches of our rivers and have the titles to these rivers. The River Laune in Killorglin is still owned by one family who have the total netting rights to that river, which is wrong. If no salmon are being caught in Lough Lein or up the River Laune, there is no point blaming the Ballydavid or Dingle fishermen. There is a great difference in having a mile of net at sea. Does Senator Ryan believe a mile of net off Ballydavid will prevent every salmon from going up the River Laune? The Department might say that fishermen are using 20 miles of net. That is a physical impossibility. A civil servant in the Minister's Department said to me that fish were blocked from coming up the Shannon by a huge salmon net. I never heard such rubbish. If one had a net long enough to put across the mouth of the Shannon, one would not have gone 200 yards before part of the net would have either drifted up or down with the tide. By the time one was half way across, the net would have one pulled either up or down the Shannon. It would be impossible to spread a net across a tide.

I want to put the Minister on the right track in this regard. The landlords and landed gentry also controlled the old boards of conservators. Ordinary people such as myself, Senator Chambers and Senator Caffrey were not on these boards.

Mr. Ryan

Why would I not qualify?

In 1979 the then Minister, Mr. Power, set up the regional fisheries boards. I was a member of one of the first boards for a year and saw what was taking place. Slowly but surely these boards have changed and are now better boards. They are controlled by ordinary people who appreciate the value of our fisheries.

This is not the first occasion we have discussed salmon tagging. There have already been two dismal efforts to tag salmon. First, they let go the smolt and inserted a small sharp tag in the middle of the forehead. When the salmon was caught and passed through a machine it would bleep if the tag which was inserted was in the salmon. The tag was then removed and put in a jar. This contained a mine of information. Thousands of pounds were spent on that scheme which was eventually forgotten about. The next time the procedure was tried, a real tag was inserted in the fin of the fish. I saw these tags fall into the sea. When a salmon was pulled out of the net, this tag, which was approximately half an inch square, would catch in the mesh and fall off the net. The Minister should ensure that proper tagging facilities are put in place.

I welcome on the spot fines. All fishery offences should be included, not just those for salmon and trout fishing. Bringing fishermen in 200 miles and charging them if they do not have a proper ladder on board or if the name or licence number of their boats are too small is unreal and should not be tolerated. The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources made a mistake and brought a fisherman in 200 miles to Galway. The man lost three days fishing for which the Department did not even apologise. This was a disgrace and I referred to this incident here on several occasions. The man did not have the proper paperwork on board his boat because the Minister's Department had not issued him with the proper paperwork. He had been fishing for six months without the proper paperwork. That man should have been fined £100 on the spot, but given the right to appeal. The Bill does not appear to grant a right of appeal to people who receive on the spot fines. Fishery inspectors and Department officials are not always right. A period of 21 days is allowed for the payment of on the spot fines. There should also be a right of appeal.

No one in this House could criticise Deputy Fahey's achievements since he became Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The fishing community is behind him in everything he is doing. He is a fair-minded, common sense Minister.

Mr. Ryan

I agree with much of what Senator Fitzgerald has said. However, I am not convinced of the wisdom of on the spot fines for unscrupulous Spanish fishermen fishing 200 miles off the Irish coast. I am sure they would be quite happy to pay £200 or £500 and never be seen again.

I was referring to Irish fishermen.

Mr. Ryan

We must protect our waters 200 miles off-shore from all abuses to our diminishing stocks.

Between now and Committee Stage, will the Minister clarify whether angling, as defined in the Schedule, includes tickling? I suspect that what Senator Tom Fitzgerald and other skilled people can do may not be defined by the Bill as an offence. I cannot see how tickling can be called angling. People with the extraordinary skills of Senator Fitzgerald are probably immune to the law as it stands. Perhaps we should, in the interest of preserving rare skills, make an exemption and allow anyone who can tickle salmon or trout to do so. It is an extraordinary skill, the existence of which people do not believe until they have actually seen it. However, in spite of Senator Fitzgerald's attempt to portray himself as a law breaker, I suspect he did not break the law.

We can all identify with the theme of Senator Fitzgerald's remarks. For most of my adult life the anomaly has existed that those who live adjacent to some of the best inland fisheries in the country were not allowed to fish there because fishing rights remained with families whose members, in some cases, had not set foot on this island for two generations. They used these fishing rights commercially, to sustain themselves without ever visiting the area or doing anything to sustain the fishing stocks. Fishing rights were seen as part of the inalienable, God-given right of that class to make a living at other people's expense.

Issues arise in a debate such as this which are worth examining. I have no reason to take issue with the technicalities of this Bill, nor am I competent to do so. The subject of fishing, inland or marine, raises issues concerning how one should behave and the question of rational economic man which is much beloved of the officials in the Department of Finance who produce our models. Many of those involved in the commercial fishing of salmon did not believe there was any point in conserving stocks and refused to recognise the evidence that what they were doing was about to end their livelihoods. While no one is sure why Atlantic salmon stocks have dropped so dramatically, the fact that Senator Bonner says they are down to 15% of what was there 25 or 30 years ago ought to give us a grave warning. The resources of this planet are finite.

The Irish fishing industry has built the largest fishing boat in Europe which is operating off the west coast of Africa and doing to African fisheries what we have already done to our own. I do not begrudge the man who had the enterprise, resources and vision to buy that boat but the principle of using such a boat off Africa is as wrong as doing so off Ireland would be. Fisheries cannot be protected without regulation.

Senator Dardis lauded the value of positive State regulation and much of what he said is true. However, his party leader is most eloquent in decrying the idea of regulation as an interference with the free market. If we had allowed the principle of the free market to apply to fishing we would have no fish left. Senator Dardis was correct in saying that our salmon fisheries have been almost destroyed by greed. A party which is driven by telling people they can have more in their pay packets by reducing tax is very close to endorsing greed as the central driving force in Irish politics.

Senator Ryan will not land me. I will not take his bait.

Mr. Ryan

It will be the first time he did not. Like myself, he must be quietening with maturity. Senator Dardis is right in what he said about greed. In a hundred areas of life it is clear that systems do not work without State regulation. Fishing is a classic example of this. It may be said that fishing is a commonage but this is only the case if we do not give ownership of it to someone. The problem with fishing in Ireland has been that those who had an interest in it did not have ownership of it. Recreational anglers are a wonderful force for conservation because their principal motivation is not maximising catch to make money. They have an interest in sustaining stocks.

While Senator Fitzgerald had many wonderful things to say, the degree to which he ignored the depredations of large-scale drift net fishing was disingenuous. Drift net fishing caused harm and would have done more harm without regulation. It still poses a threat and must be regulated and dealt with. The conservation of salmon stocks is extremely important and must be dealt with. It will not be possible to satisfy everybody. The lifestyles of many who are involved in fishing cannot be allowed to continue if there is to be a future for fishing.

A number of people have mentioned water. The country's enormous economic development has placed huge burdens on our water environment. The cause of the problem is not industry. It is urbanisation and the use of our surface and ground water as a free resource. It is irrational to spend a fortune treating water which is to be used to flush toilets. This practice could be changed by proper building regulations. One should not used water which is intended to be drinkable to flush toilets or wash dishes. It is possible to put together a system that prevents that and it should be done.

More people want to contribute to the debate on the Bill than was originally envisaged. If the House agrees, perhaps we could conclude the Insurance Bill today and then return to the Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. The Minister is willing to come back to the House at the conclusion of the Insurance Bill if time is available. This would save Members having to hang around for an hour later, but I cannot put a specific time on it.

At the conclusion of No. 2.

Yes, around 4.30 p.m.

Mr. Ryan

Would it be possible for me to continue for another five or six minutes and finish the debate? Do other Members wish to speak?

A number of other speakers have indicated.

There are more speakers.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.