Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 Nov 2010

Vol. 205 No. 10

Fisheries Protection

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Connick, for taking this matter. To synopsise it in a nutshell, Garnish is a little fishing hamlet in the Beara Peninsula, about 15 miles west of Castletownbere, facing primarily onto Kenmare Bay. Beara, Castletownbere and the general area are renowned for their fishing activity and in the small community of Garnish there are in the region of 20 or 25 small vessels. These are not ocean-going trawlers but small half-deckers or fully decked vessels that range from 20 feet to 40 feet at maximum. They traditionally fish for mackerel on a seasonal basis and provide significant income for the fishermen, some of whom are part-time farmers or small fishermen. This activity has been under scrutiny and there is some doubt as to its future.

The purpose of my motion is to ask the Minister of State to recognise that this is a traditional mackerel fishing area with fishermen who go back generations. This is not a recent activity. I ask the Minister of State to confirm that the quota for these fishermen will be maintained into the future and that they will not have the situation they had this year, and possibly other years, of starting the year not knowing their fate for the future. They would like to know on a year to year basis and well in advance that the traditional fishery will be maintained and protected by the State and they will have a certain amount of the mackerel quota, which is small even in Irish terms and certainly in European or global terms. I hope the Minister of State will have positive news for me.

I thank Senator O'Donovan for raising this issue. I visited Castletownbere recently and had a very pleasant visit in the area. I am very familiar with the area around Garnish which is a beautiful part of the country and am glad to have the opportunity to address the issue the Senator raised.

The need for a review of the polyvalent mackerel quota has been evident for some time, due to an increasing number of vessels taking part in the fishery. In 2009 my predecessor, the then Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Tony Killeen, initiated a prolonged consultation with the industry on the matter. He wrote to industry representatives on 24 July 2009 advising that he intended to undertake a review of mackerel management and pelagic licensing policy for the polyvalent segment of the fishing fleet.

Following that letter the Minister of State received submissions from the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Irish Fish Producers Organisation, the Irish South and West Fishermen's Organisation, and the Irish Fish Producers and Exporters Association. He also received letters from individual companies and operators setting out their individual positions. No agreed position was put forward by the industry and the views expressed were divergent on many aspects of the reform. Given that situation, the Minister of State invited the industry representatives to a meeting on 18 December 2009 to discuss the issue. It was very clear at that meeting there were substantially divergent views within the industry on changes to the mackerel management arrangements. The Minister of State finally decided to retain the existing quota management arrangements for spring 2010 as they were in spring 2009, pending the evaluation and consideration of long-term arrangements as part of the current mackerel review.

In July 2010 I made a formal proposal to the industry followed by a public consultation process in August 2010. It was during this consultation process that a submission was made by the Garnish traditional net fishermen's association, setting out their history and the nature of their endeavours. The method of mackerel fishing employed by these fishermen is quite different to that of other fishermen pursuing the fishery in that the Garnish fishermen use gill nets rather than trawl nets or hook and line. The hook and line fishery is an inshore fishery developed in recent years with BIM support and an annual allocation of 400 tonnes of mackerel is set aside for the fishery.

The Garnish traditional net fishermen's group explained that the gill net fishery has been in existence for over 100 years and that in the 1960s 40 boats and 200 people were employed in the fishery, using gill nets. Over the years many of the fishermen switched to hook and line fishing in deeper waters. The submission advised that today there are 11 boats involved in this fishery, ranging from 34 foot to 16 foot in length, all still fishing by the traditional gill net method. In that respect it is very much a localised inshore style of fishing and is focused on bringing a high quality catch to the local processors. The Garnish traditional net fishermen's association has sought support for the gill net fishery on a national basis although I am not aware that gill net fishing for mackerel is practised to any great extent elsewhere in the country. I firmly believe that this type of artisan fishery should be supported where possible and this is what I intend to achieve by accommodating these fishermen in the polyvalent mackerel policy and arrangements put in place this autumn.

In coming to a determination on the revised polyvalent mackerel policy, I decided to take account of the request of the Garnish traditional net fishermen's association by accommodating the fishery within the general 2.5% of polyvalent quota available to under 18 metre vessels. The mechanism used to do this was the inclusion of gill net fishing as an acceptable gear for mackerel fishing within Determination No. 15 of the Need for an Authorisation for Certain Fish Stocks.

In the submission made by the group, a number of approaches were suggested to ring-fence a percentage of the quota for that style of fishing. I do not believe that such an approach is warranted. Following on from Determination No. 15, I have issued fishery management notices, under section 12 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, for October and November of this year. I permitted such vessels to land up to five tonnes of mackerel for October and increased this allocation to seven tonnes for November. The allocation will accommodate the existing landings of these small inshore vessels and I do not believe that ring fencing and demarcation of a specific quota allocation is required in this instance. I will listen to the views of industry representatives in regard to setting the maximum catch levels within the allocation set aside for under 18 metre vessels on a periodic basis during next year.