Fish Quotas: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann supports the Government in their endeavours to improve fish quotas for Irish Fishermen in light of the annual review due this week; and supports the Minister and Government in their negotiations in the review of the common fisheries policies.

In order to facilitate Senator Carroll I propose allowing him to speak first and I will use my 12 minutes at the conclusion of the debate.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Connick. He has had a hectic few hours and I thank him for his hard work on this issue. Quota for the fishing industry has been a hot topic for the past number of decades because there is a sense we are missing out on a potentially great opportunity going back to when we acceded to the European Union. In many respects, that ship has sailed and we must deal with the reality of how the Minister of State is dealing with issues. Senator O'Donovan has a wide variety of issues he wishes to raise.

The final agreement that was announced will deliver quotas that are a substantial improvement and a substantial investment in local economies around the country. The prawn industry is a major one for many people. Many other elements are concerned. I wholeheartedly welcome the 10% increase in quota for the mackerel industry and the two thirds share of the boarfish industry for Irish fishermen. I have been in the House for 12 months but the Minister of State has been a Deputy for three years and is now doing a very good job as a Minister of State. I can imagine how difficult it is to negotiate with hard-nosed negotiators across the Continent. It has never been a more pertinent issue. The agriculture and fishing industries can make a difference to the economy and can set in place the foundations for the economy to turn around. These two areas, coupled with tourism, cannot be copied anywhere else in the world. They are unique to Ireland. We must work with our colleagues in member states but we must be selfish on this point and focus on where we are going in the future.

I welcome the increase in haddock and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea. In many areas there is grave concern about the reduction, as outlined in the recovery plan, for these stocks. We must consider where we are going as a country and how we will market these. I have met fishermen in Clogherhead, County Louth and one of the issues they raised with me, which is linked to the IFA and the farming community, is the feeling we have that the Irish product is a good quality product widely respected throughout the world. However, this is not necessarily the case. I discovered this through some international dealings I have had. It will be key for the budget and the national recovery plan to make an effort to market ourselves with our best foot forward across the world. This is a matter for beef farmers and others who regard themselves as sellers of food stock on the export market. This will make a difference to the economy.

I am sure the Minister of State will be able to articulate the various issues that arise. It is good to highlight the good news about the boarfish and the difference it will make to the economy and the industry. Other elements will affect where we are going with allowable catch and where this can be achieved. So much science is now brought to bear on this compared to the early 1970s and the 1980s in respect of what our fleet can catch and what it is possible to achieve. The scientific research by the industry and other elements focuses on this. We have an opportunity to open a new fishing stake in this industry, particularly in respect of boar fishing, as referred to by the Minister after the successful outcome of the negotiations. Any new revenue stream is good news and we must focus on this.

In this House we are talking about job creation and job retention day in, day out and it is the number one objective for all of us as we approach the general election next year and as we are laying out the plans for the next four or five years. The Minister of State, Deputy Connick, is building on one element of this and it is key that we build a sustainable fishery based on this stock.

When talking to different fishing communities, different plans are being drawn up around the country. The Louth economic forum is focused on a nine-point plan on job creation in County Louth. One of the points concerns agriculture and fisheries, which will involve close work with the Minister of State, but also the marketing end of things to attract people to fishing communities. Last August, the Clogherhead prawn festival took place and there was a great marketing aspect to it. We attracted a major number of visitors to sample the local quality food produced, harvested, brought ashore and sold in the community. We should focus on this as a tool for the fishing industry all around the country. One element is catching fish and selling it but also marketing it to communities. This is particularly true when one sees the major sales pitch made in Europe when particular cities are designated the main port or heartland for a particular country or part of the Continent. This is something on which we, as a nation, a Government and a community, can focus. It is a development I would welcome throughout the country.

There are issues in Carlingford and at Port Beach in the north east. I have had dealings with fishermen who have struggled in the past 12 to 24 months because of the catch allowed and the costs involved in being a fisherman compared to a number of years ago. They consider they are being regulated and chased out of employment. This is the key issue I would like the Minister of State to address, if he can. They consider competition from fishermen from other countries is not as tightly regulated and there are not as many obligation on them. They have significant quotas and are eating into the market. Issues also arise in the case of non-EU countries.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House after such a long day. I know he could have sent somebody else and appreciate the fact that he has taken the time to come. I look forward to listening to Senator O'Donovan's contribution and formally second the motion proposed by him.

Senator O'Donovan may speak now, if he so wishes.

I thank my colleagues for being so magnanimous. I also welcome the Minister of State and express my sincere thanks and gratitude to him for the successful outcome of the negotiations in Brussels. It is an annual event and when our Ministers go they carry the goodwill of the fishing industry, the Federation of Irish Fishermen and all those living in coastal communities. In this instance, the Minister of State did himself and the fishing industry proud. He mentioned various measures such as the increase of 15% in haddock and whiting quotas which is very good news for the south west, as Castletownbere is the largest whitefish port in the country. He also mentioned the prawn quota which until recent years was a non-quota species. Although a substantial reduction was suggested by the Commission, he secured a 3% reduction. He succeeded in obtaining a 10% increase in the mackerel quota, which is important because it is a valuable asset. He also succeeded in obtaining a substantial bore fish which must be recognised. He has, therefore, has done extremely well.

The fishing industry is a natural indigenous industry which can act as a catalyst in the creation of jobs. As the Minister of State is well aware, I have an issue with the divvying out of the mackerel quota throughout the country. He has inherited a cumbersome and most inequitable system, whereby 87% of the mackerel quota is allocated to fishermen in the north west, primarily in the general area of County Donegal, with the remainder, 13%, being allocated to fishermen in the southern half of the country, from Galway along the coastline of counties Kerry and Cork and on to County Wexford and up to County Dublin. The undertones are not great. I have spoken to the Minister of State about this issue and know he is seriously examining the various sections.

I know section F was abolished in recent weeks, but there are anomalies. A father and son in Castletownbere both have trawlers and are dedicated pelagic fishermen. One of them will be entitled to an increase of 160 tonnes, while the other will be entitled to 36 tonnes if the figure of 10% is divided fairly north and south. The big crib of mackerel vessels — I stress this predates the term of office of the Minister of State and his predecessor — is that in 1999, in the famous section F, four dedicated pelagic vessels had a quota of 1,000 tonnes of mackerel. Because of their dedication, prior to the latest increase, they built this quota to a figure of approximately 7,500 tonnes which will probably rise further. When whitefish vessels were being renewed and substantial grants were available, they were told they were not entitled to receive any grants. However, they stuck to their guns, went out and caught fish.

A most important point is that these vessels were always aligned to onshore processing facilities. Until five or six years ago, we had 13 pelagic fish processing factories throughout the country. Now, there are four — one in Rossaveal, one in Dingle and two in west Cork in Castletownbere and Baltimore. Processing mackerel and herring onshore adds value. It is unfair and unpatriotic that more than 75% of mackerel is landed in either Scotland or Norway because the bigger vessels can travel that distance. It is admitted that they receive an extra amount per tonne, which is important if one has a quota. However, in landing our mackerel raw in Scotland and primarily in Norway onshore jobs are created there. I utter a word of caution because if we do not protect the factories in Rossaveal, Dingle, Baltimore and Castletownbere, they will eventually close because they need a continuity of supply. The four vessels I mentioned, with other smaller vessels, because of the famous and perhaps now redundant section F, landed fish on a weekly and monthly basis to ensure continuity of supply and processing in the factories.

If the Minister of State had his wish, he would tear up the mackerel quota system and start afresh on a new playing field. He may not be able to do so. I do not want to hark back to those who went before him, but approximately seven or eight years ago the four boats mentioned had a mackerel quota of between 900 tonnes and 1,200 tonnes each. Other boat owners had no interest whatsoever in it. These four vessels now have quotas of less than 400 tonnes. In other words, despite the increase, their quotas have been reduced by one third, which is regrettable. Their argument is that to be viable, they need a quota of approximately 800 tonnes per vessel. That would be less than what they had seven or eight years ago, but they need such a quota to be financially viable to keep their boats, pay insurance and make repayments.

I am aware of boats that are mortgaged to the hilt. Many of those involved in the industry are in serious trouble. I know we have our issues with the banks, but recently I spoke to two fishermen who told me that they were grateful to the banks in west Cork which were doing their utmost to provide interest only loans and trying to sustain them through this very difficult period. There was a notion in the 1970s and 1980s — it might have been true then — that fishermen were multimillionaires who were doing extremely well. I know very few such fishermen now. Those who are fishing — I speak in particular for those in west Cork and County Kerry in the south west — are fighting for survival and working extremely hard in a difficult climate to try to make a living.

I have a view on the Cawley report and the issue of decommissioning which I know is foremost in the mind of the Minister of State and subject to finance being available in the kitty. I am aware of a number of smaller vessels in the 15 m to 18 m category, perhaps mainly in the Minister of State's territory of County Wexford, west Cork and County Kerry, some of which are 35, 40 or 45 years old. The notion of spending €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000 doing up these vessels probably makes economic sense. The Cawley proposal was to decommission a particular number of vessels and the first tranche of decommissioning was reasonably successful. There is a niche here the Minister of State might look at, subject to finance being available, and I am sure he will fight this cause. I am aware of at least half a dozen of these smaller vessels in my area of west Cork and I am sure there are more that fish out of Dunmore East and places like Rossaveel and Kilmore Quay. The sensible thing for the industry would be to decommission some of these vessels. For instance, I am aware of a family that is not allowed take its vessel to sea because it has not got its certificate of compliance. The family is not in a position financially to borrow the money to do the work required. The vessel is old and one would wonder whether it would make economic sense to refurbish it, even if the family could borrow the money. I know of another man who told me he had started the work and had spent €20,000 on his vessel to comply with the Marine Survey Office, but unfortunately the banks would not give him the extra €15,000 he needed to complete the work. He is caught in a bind. The work is half done because he thought there was a future in the industry and he wanted to invest in it. Will the Minister of State touch on this issue in his response? Perhaps he may not be able to respond today, but I ask him to take on board my views in this regard.

I have been looking for a debate on the fishing industry for the past 18 months and would like to raise another issue now that I have the floor. This issue concerns the small number of fishermen who fish for crayfish. These are expensive fish and most of them are exported live to Spain. Currently, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, requires that landed crayfish must be a minimum of 110 mm measured across the back. The minimum in Europe is 95 mm. I have been told that if the same rule applied here, that would create extra jobs and allow fishermen retain more of the fish they catch. Currently, they must throw back fish less than 110 mm and cannot land or export them. One small operator with a 36 ft. vessel told me he was boarded four times last year and checked and scrutinised to ensure he had no illegal fish. I am concerned we do not have a level playing field in this area and it would be important to deal with this.

By their nature, fishermen are slow to credit the Minister of State for the work he has done in Europe in recent days. I have never attended the negotiations but I have no doubt it is a Russian roulette type of situation trying to carve out the best deal possible for Irish fishermen. The overall increase in quota of 2.5% for whitefish is exceptionally good in these difficult times. The Minister of State has to balance the scientific data — on which I compliment the Marine Institute in Galway — and the ever-growing lobbying by Europe to curtail fishing. There is an element, including among elected Members, that would love to put the handbrake on the fishing industry. The Minister of State, in working with the scientific data, for example, the closing of the Celtic Sea for herring, has proved that the herring stock has recovered. This is good and it is vital this is sustained.

We can always look at the negatives and I have touched on some of those, especially the situation with regard to mackerel. It is ludicrous how the mackerel quota is allocated. I have also mentioned decommissioning and cray fishing and could mention several other areas. However, I compliment the Government on tabling this motion and the Minister of State on what he has done. I am sure my colleagues on the other side of the House will point out the deficits in this area, of which there are some, as I, who grew up in a coastal area, know better than most. I know the hardships encountered by those living off the sea. I am prepared to listen to my colleagues and will take the opportunity to wrap up on this issue at the end of the debate.

I wish to share my time with Senator Paudie Coffey.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this important issue. I join my Government colleagues in congratulating the Minister of State and his officials on the work they have done to achieve a reasonable outcome to the Brussels negotiations.

This motion is probably an action replay of similar motions we have had over the years. It is the norm at Christmas time for the fishing negotiations to take place in Brussels. Sometimes the news from Brussels is reasonable, but other times it is disappointing. The response from fishing organisations to what has been agreed this time is reasonably balanced.

It is interesting that there are fishery negotiations annually, unlike the broader talks on farming issues and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which take place on a much more irregular timescale. We have an annual opportunity to argue for and secure the best possible deal for Irish fishermen. No matter who is Minister or the composition of the Government, however, our hands are fairly tightly bound by long-standing agreements and, in a sense, by the core agreement of Ireland's original entry into the then European Economic Community in 1973. Obviously, the horse bolted long before the stable door was locked and anytime one speaks to people involved in the fishing industry, they bemoan the fact that during our accession negotiations in the early 1970s, farming seemed to get strong political and economic protection while the same did not apply to the fishing industry. As a result, our coastal communities, which are strongly represented in this House by Senator O'Donovan, feel disadvantaged and marginalised. Therefore, any time we have an opportunity to try to bring about some degree of change and progress, we must try to do so. For that reason, I welcome the little baby steps forward the latest agreement allows us take.

The comments made by Senator O'Donovan on the issue of processing are pertinent. Every sector, Department, agency and policy must seek to have job creation at its core, because if we are to recover from the current economic crisis, jobs must be created. We must consider, therefore, how we can use our restricted fishing quotas to produce jobs and create economic activity. Processing in the fishing industry is very important in this regard. Senator O'Donovan has pointed out the need to ensure processing facilities are available, expanded and developed in order that we have the opportunity for the maximum processing onshore of fish caught by Irish fishing vessels off our coasts. Grant aid must be made available where possible, along with technical support for both fishermen and processors. This must be encouraged because we are not in a position to make any dramatic or radical changes to the parameters of EU fishing policy. We can certainly try to ensure the fruits of the sea caught by Irish fishermen are, as far as possible and practical, processed onshore in the Republic of Ireland and that the maximum economic activity is generated from them.

I thank the Minister of State for his efforts in the fishing area. The longer term review of the industry and the various agreements will be very much the business of the next Minister and Government. I hope we will try to ensure the fishing industry gets a reasonable crack of the whip in this regard. There is broad, all-party political support for the fishing industry. Sadly, for 30 years or more our hands have been tied.

Now the question of review and change will be up for debate. We must do our best to secure an improved facility for Irish fishermen. Fine Gael will not oppose the motion and I think everyone in this House would wish the Government well in its efforts to support the fishing industry. I commend the Minister of State on the progress he was able to make but we have more to do. The next Government will have to pay heed to the concerns of the industry.

I draw the Minister of State's attention to the fact that a vote has been called in the Dáil.

I will be called if I am required.

I thank Senator Bradford for sharing time and welcome the Minister of State to the House on his return from stiff negotiations in Brussels on behalf of the fishing industry. I acknowledge Senator O'Donovan's efforts to keep fishing on top of the agenda in this House. As someone who comes from a coastal community in County Waterford, I try to do likewise.

Fine Gael supports the motion because we share a common interest in achieving what is best for the fishing industry. This is an island nation and the fishing industry has the potential for making a major contribution to Ireland's economy. Food production and exports of fish can play an important role in our recovery.

For several years I have consulted extensively with Waterford fishermen based in Dunmore East, Helvick Head and Boatstrand. I recently had the pleasure of meeting fishermen in Killybegs and learning about their concerns and frustrations regarding fish quotas and the agreements to which Ireland has been bound in the past 30 years. I also met a lady in her early 30s who is skipper of a vessel for which she has mortgaged her entire future. These negotiations are important in terms of giving young skippers and fishermen hope that the industry will sustain them over their careers. This is why it is important we increase our fish quotas by the greatest extent possible. We are all agreed that past quotas have decimated the fishing industry.

I acknowledge the increase in quotas for whitefish and shellfish and the huge potential of aquaculture. Senator O'Donovan spoke about mackerel quotas, in respect of which significant concerns have been expressed. Ireland should not be made to suffer for the activities of countries such as Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The Minister of State is fighting for the Irish fishing industry with the able support of his officials and the scientific evidence supplied by the Marine Institute. Our MEPs have also played an important role at European level. The Fine Gael MEP for Munster has been particularly active in this area.

Turning to the bigger picture, the review of the Common Fisheries Policy offers the Government a great opportunity to renegotiate the restrictions referred to by other speakers in order that we can fully exploit the potential for the fishing industry. It is in our interest to do our best in these negotiations.

I wholeheartedly agree with Senator O'Donovan that fishing is a labour intensive activity. In addition to fisherman, onshore jobs can be developed in processing and transporting fish and preparing and serving seafood in restaurants. If Fine Gael gets into government, we will do the best we can to restore confidence in the future of the fishing industry and enhance the economy as an island nation.

I commend the Minister of State on his ongoing efforts on behalf of the fishing industry. This is an extremely important industry in my area. I am sure he has heard about the need to complete the harbour in Greencastle. I encourage him to take the right option by completing the harbour breakwater and restoring the historic shore walk which was closed during the harbour's reconstruction.

I acknowledge the recent deaths of two fishermen, Eddie Doherty and Robert McLaughlin. The trauma that has been visited on fishing communities around the country is only partially helped by the efforts of the Irish Coast Guard and volunteer rescue services. The co-operation in evidence for several weeks is testament to the closeness of people in fishing communities. It would be encouraging if a mechanism could be found to speed up marine accident investigations, which often take up to three years.

My area has seen the loss of onshore jobs as well as employment in fisheries. The change in the salmon regime has had a significant impact on fishing. When I was first elected the major issue for the industry was the fact that boats were 15 to 20 years old. We successfully fought for the renewal of the whitefish fleet but unfortunately many of these boats have had to be sold due to the change in quotas. The retention of what we have is thanks to the efforts of the Minister of State. The week before Christmas was always the period I hated most because I was inevitably hauled in by the fishermen of Greencastle to be told what was wrong about the conclusions to the negotiations. This year I suspect I will be lectured about the 25% reduction in the Irish Sea quota.

Our decisions must be based on scientific data. Fishermen will admit that much of the small fry caught in the past should have been allowed to escape. However, anecdotal evidence suggests the situation is better than some would claim. It is important that we are able to adapt to new scientific information as it becomes available. If fish were not there they would not be caught but the issue of discarding catches has to be addressed. It is a scandal that dead fish are being thrown back into the water to be fed to nothing.

The current quota will be worth €223 million, of which €116 million will be for the whitefish quota and €54 million for prawns. That money will benefit my area. The 10% increase in the mackerel quota will probably benefit Killybegs more but I hope there are opportunities for local boats to draw down days at sea for research activities with the Marine Institute.

Responsibility for the marine is spread across six or seven Departments and agencies. How is the co-ordinating group managing these functions?

I see great potential for the industry. People who have been laid off from the construction sector have great skills for making things and they want to work outside. McDonalds, a company which has built boats in Greencastle for several generations can offer employment opportunities to people who are skilled with their hands. We should give them these options and support them. There is Leader funding for this but how do we awaken this interest in people that there are jobs there?

There is twining project potential. Recently, someone showed me a Norwegian explorer's boat. It was absolutely identical to boats built by McDonald's in Greencastle during the years. There must have been some connection at some point. We should try to link up different countries in mutually interesting projects.

I refer to added value onshore. Many industries have closed in my area. I do not believe it was due to a lack of potential. Perhaps the reduction in the minimum wage will change things in terms of competitiveness. However, we are still sending too much raw material abroad and are not adding the value to it in our own area and getting the economic return from it.

I mention the management plans, supporting fishermen and listening to their advice. We have talked about industry-led research. In the coming years, the Clipper Race will stopover in the north west. There will be another stopover prior to that on the Foyle. There is much potential in terms of marine tourism. I could talk to the Minister of State about marine tourism potential but he might say that is for the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport or the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport. We need to tie up the potential because it is considerable. We will not be thanked in the future if we do not try to maximise our potential.

I could speak for half a day on the Foyle Fisheries Commission. It is very important we try to expand the facilities and capacity it has and revamp it. There might have been a submission to the St. Andrews Agreement review. Currently, even if we give aquaculture licences, the Crown Estate can potentially make a claim on who gets a licence or who does not. All activity on the Foyle, whether planning permission or otherwise, should come under the remit of one agency so there is continuity, co-ordination and a realistic approach.

I commend the Minister of State and do not underestimate the tough time he has. I agree with Senator Coffey that we should start to see increases in our quota at some point given that this is an island nation. The Common Fisheries Policy will have to yield that to Ireland. I could say so much more on the topic. Although it seems only a limited number of Senators are interested in this topic, those who are here recognise that this is a vital cog in terms of our economic potential which is unrealised in many respects.

I welcome the Minister of State back from Brussels. I heard him on "Morning Ireland" this morning. I say well done to him. We must praise the bridge as we cross it. Significant and important work was done. Nobody underestimated the task the Minister of State faced when embarked on the trip, I presume, on Sunday.

The news is good. It is very important we state we are happy with developments and initiatives. Much has been said about this industry. As I have done, Senator O'Donovan has spoken consistently about our area of the south west and communities which depend on fishing and marine activity for survival. I have said consistently in recent years that in terms of the economic challenge and the unemployment crisis facing this country, this is one of the areas that can actively encourage local, rural and coastal economies in particular. There is a tie in there in terms of marine tourism. From Kinsale to Dingle right along the south western seaboard, there is a huge natural resource on our doorstep and we need to maximise our potential.

The Minister of State will be very well aware of the Bord Iascaigh Mhara seafood development unit in Clonakilty. It is a wonderful facility which seeks to establish a very high quality product. It seems to diversify from the general perception of what is available in terms of the fish market and it looks at ways to promote and develop this area in conjunction with marine scientists, food scientists and those involved in the area. It is indigenous and local and it provides jobs. It also establishes a brand. Unashamedly, I will name a few brands such as Bantry Bay Premium Seafoods and Union Hall Smoked Fish.

I refer to the manner in which it subscribes to tourism activity in the area and the high end product that goes into restaurants and is exported abroad. We have built up a very good reputation in terms of an industry which is serious about what it does, job creation and the standards provided in our eateries and restaurants, etc.

A number of points were made about the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006. One Member of this House would be more experienced than others on that and probably paid an electoral price as a result. The severity of the penalty was the issue. Nobody disagrees that we must preserve fish stocks and nobody agrees we should actively encourage illegal activity in any area. However, we must consider the offence proportionately. I did not use the word "crime", although under the interpretation of the Act, it would be criminal activity. However, one should consider what has happened in this country, including the cocaine haul off the west Cork coast in 2007. The drugs would probably never have been detected if somebody had not poured the wrong type of fuel into a generator. We should consider the criminality in the banking sector and ask how many people have been brought through the justice system. One can rightly understand the huge issues people have in regard to this.

We discussed this at the committee and considered the idea of administrative sanctions. What is the advice available to the Minister of State? Can other areas be considered? Is there a ray of light for people in the industry who have campaigned on this issue in recent years? In terms of violations of the Act, how many prosecutions and detections have there been? It would give the debate a bit of balance if we knew.

I welcome the quotas for whiting and haddock. In many respects, that was good work. It is very positive that Spanish fish like monkfish and hake have been unaffected. I very much welcome the increase in Celtic Sea herring. I believe that is as a result of efforts made by the Department, the Minister, the officials, people in the industry who have been working very hard to sustain an industry which has gone through very difficult times in recent years and the huge efforts made by fishermen in terms of rebuilding a stock and minding it.

I welcome the development in regard to mackerel. Has a decision been made on distribution? There has been good news but will it all go to massive operators in one part of the island to the detriment of others? We must bear in mind that many people depend on this industry who are on middle and low incomes. To win the first stage of the battle is very positive and welcome but if we do not distribute it properly, the extent of the success will be diminished. It is very important to make that point.

I express appreciation to the Minister of State and his officials who met a group of us in the last week of May prior to a trip to Brussels to the EU fisheries committee to discuss the Common Fisheries Policy, the imminent deadlines, reforms and the next stage of developments. It was very important to be briefed and to acquire knowledge.

I always found people involved in the fishing industry to be great educators. They are very passionate about what they do. Many of them believe the industry has been offered a very bad deal, particularly in recent years. Nonetheless, if we do our business properly, we can keep the industry alive. The results achieved in the past few days were achieved because of that joint effort and initiative.

I draw the attention of the Minister of State to the issue of administrative sanctions and ask for information on the numbers of violations and prosecutions. What template will be used to ensure a fair distribution of the mackerel quota?

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Connick, and endorse everything that has been said in congratulating him on his efforts. The fishing industry owes a great debt of thanks not only to the Minister of State but also to his departmental officials who participated in the late night negotiations. The Irish seem to produce their best in the early hours of the morning, while those in the rest of Europe are wilting. This is another example of the Minister of State working to his last to ensure a good deal for Ireland. The sum of €223 million is not to be sneezed at, but in the current economic climate it is a remarkable achievement.

While some Members might be surprised by my contribution, I have strong family links with Castletownbere through my wife, Sheila, and I am a regular visitor to the town. I am familiar with the fishing industry and its impact on the community. My wife's family relied on the fruits of the industry during her upbringing. As such, I am acutely aware of its importance to regional economies and now in the national context as a result of the value-added product provided by means of small to medium-sized enterprises across the country. While County Leitrim is not known for its involvement in the fishing industry, it is a maritime county. While I cannot suggest there is a flotilla of fishing vessels moored at Tullaghan, at the same time we are very proud of our two and half miles of coastline.

Senator McCarthy referred to the imposition of sanctions. I understand from talking to those involved in the industry in the south west and also to a colleague of ours, Councillor Danny Crowley, who lives not far from where my wife's family comes from that the imposition of sanctions has had an adverse impact on the local community in Castletownbere. What astounds me is that in instances of overfishing, where the quota is exceeded, not only are fishermen dragged through the courts but their excess catches are also dumped. I cannot understand the reason in this day and age an administrative decision is taken which ignores its consequence — the dumping of fish. Somewhere in the world children are crying out for food. I read a horrendous report from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which indicated that children in Kilkenny were scavenging for food in the rubbish. I cannot square this with the image of people in uniform or an administrator monitoring a fishing vessel coming into Castletownbere, checking its catch and deciding it is in excess of the quota by two or three cases and dumping the excess. There has to be a more equitable solution. I understand a way forward would be for departmental officials and representatives of other relevant Departments and the fishing industry to sit around a table to work out an equitable solution which would not result in the dumping of fish. I will not labour the point too much, but it is a valid one. I know the Minister of State is aware of the position, but I would be grateful if he said something in that regard.

A reduction of 17% in the prawn quota was originally sought, which would have had a significant impact, but a reduction has been negotiated to a figure of 3% which will be welcomed by those who rely on the prawn industry. As Senator O'Donovan knows, the south west relies to a large extent not only on the whitefish fleet but also on the prawn industry. Senator Carroll referred to the importance of the industry on the east coast, particularly around Clogherhead. By one of life's coincidences, wearing my other hat, I was invited to act as compere at this year's revived prawn festival in the village which was officially opened by our colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Deputy Hanafin. Many local elected representatives attended on the day. For a small village with which people outside County Louth might not be familiar, thousands attended the festival on what was a lovely sunny evening. It was a splendid community effort and I wish those involved continued success. This is an indication of the importance of the prawn industry to coastal communities.

Senator Coffey referred to the Faroe Islands and Iceland. I ask the Minister of State to clarify what the problem is that is affecting our fish stocks and whether a solution to the problem is imminent. While I appreciate there will be a 25% reduction in the cod quota, it seems there are differing scientific views on the threat posed to the cod industry. The Minister of State referred to the Irish scientific survey being carried out by the State's research vessel, Celtic Explorer, the results of which will indicate whether the threat is imminent. I ask him to say why cod, in particular, seems to be under a major threat. Is it because it is the most popular fish on the table and is being overfished? I have noticed a number of lesser known fish species appearing in the shops such as dab.

It is a substitute for cod.

It seems to be selling very well. The Minister of State also referred to boar fish. Does this indicate that scientific studies are suggesting such fish species suit the Irish palate? I note that sole is among the other fish stocks which seem to be under threat. It is a particular favourite of mine. Is this species under threat and will I have to find a substitute?

I pay tribute to my friend and colleague, Senator O'Donovan, for tabling the motion at this time, considering that the Minister of State has just returned from the negotiations in Brussels. It highlights yet again the all-party and Independent Senators agreement on the importance of the fishing industry to the economy. Senator McCarthy is correct; since 1973, when Ireland joined the European Common Market, the fishing industry has believed it has been regarded as the poor relation. This is an island nation with a fishing area ten times the size of the country. This statistic gives us some idea of the importance of the industry and its potential. There is a growing realisation, as confirmed by the successful outcome to the negotiations yesterday, that it is an exceptionally important indigenous industry. I applaud and support the call made to the Minister of State to ensure this good news trickles down in terms of added value. It means stability for the industry which can now see a way forward to secure its economic future. All those who are developing a value-added food chain and selling our stocks internationally in a variety of guises should be further encouraged and supported as needed because I see no difference between IDA Ireland supporting a manufacturing industry from abroad and a local entrepreneur, as has happened around our coastline, who has developed a particular product line as a result of our fish catches and is selling effectively and successfully to other markets around the world. I again commend the Minister of State.

This is a very positive day. We usually have confrontation in this House and very silly nitpicking amendments are tabled. I congratulate Senator O'Donovan for having the foresight to table this important motion which gives us an opportunity to welcome the Minister of State's work. I also compliment Fine Gael because I am sure there must have been a temptation to play the usual game. However, its Members have shown generosity and broadness of spirit. The only thing I would say is I would be inclined to amend the motion which reads:

That Seanad Éireann supports the Government in their endeavours to improve fish quotas for Irish Fishermen in light of the annual review due this week; and supports the Minister and Government in their negotiations in the review of the common fisheries policies.

We have happily been overtaken by events. I would, therefore, change the wording to "congratulates the Minister on the success he and his team have had in Brussels". It is not an unqualified success, as there are small areas around the edges in respect of which some questions can be raised. It is very good to achieve this kind of result. I heard the Minister of State speak on the wireless this morning and took the opportunity to congratulate him in the corridor earlier. It was remarkable that the representative of the fishing industry, Ms Eileen O'Sullivan, was very clear in her view. One tends to expect confrontation in these areas also, with the emphasis on what we did not get and on the fact that things should have been better. However, she was very measured and positive and supportive of the the Government on the position it had taken.

I will give one example which may have been given already. Senator Mooney spoke eloquently about his enjoyment of sole, a very nice fish but nothing against the prawn, one of the great ornaments of the Irish marine world and the plate in good restaurants. What we achieved in that area was remarkable. I understand the initial proposal was that there be a 15% decrease in the prawn catch which has been whittled down to 3%.

The reduction was from a figure of 17%.

That is even better. However, my memory is roughly accurate from what I heard this morning on radio. I very much welcome the revised reduction, particularly because I do not believe there is a significant threat in this area. However, perhaps the Minister of State might enlighten us on the matter. My selection of the prawn is not just a matter of personal taste, there is also a commercial aspect involved. There simply is no other prawn species on the planet that can come near the Atlantic or Dublin Bay prawn. It is succulent and exported to Paris. A couple of years ago in a brasserie in Paris — it was not even an upmarket restaurant — I remember spending €15 for two prawns which had been flown in from Ireland.

Did the menu specify that they were Dublin Bay prawns?

It specifically stated they were Dublin Bay prawns, which is what attracted me and why I asked. Senators who take any interest in food will know the extraordinary difference between Dublin Bay prawns and the waterlogged insipid little rubbery things dragged halfway across the planet from Asia and that revolt any civilised palate. I have believed for some time and have said in the House that we have something here that could be cultivated because nowadays, thanks to the DIT School of Hospitality Management and Tourism in Cathal Bruagh Street, the Shannon College of Hotel Management and other institutions, we not only have the best raw materials in the world, we also have the talent, expertise and knowledge to cook them. Why are there not more specialist seafood restaurants around our coastline? I would certainly be more than happy to patronise them and blow their trumpet to promote them. This is an area that can be expanded. I know there have been some efforts made in this regard. I was very much heartened approximately a year ago to see on one of the very good RTE programmes — either "Nationwide" or "Ear to the Ground" — coverage of a Bord Iascaigh Mhara facility that undertakes initiatives and assists people involved in the fishing industry in terms of processing, packaging and marketing in order that they can get fresh or frozen fish to the appropriate niche market in the best condition and in circumstances that alert the suppliers, consumers, restaurants and so on.

I very much regret that approximately ten days ago I could not travel to Galway to see the Marine Institute in operation as I was supposed to. I was in Dublin Airport, but my flight was delayed three times and eventually cancelled not because of the snow but because of freezing fog; therefore, I need to reschedule my trip. On a previous flight I sat next to the director of the institute who was an absolutely fascinating man. He offered me the opportunity to go and see the institute's premises and learn about the research it was doing and also to be given an inspection tour of the large and remarkably well equipped ship I had seen docked in Galway Harbour. I believe it is called the RV Celtic Explorer.

The institute has two ships.

I saw one, a large ship that appeared to have sophisticated sonar and radar equipment which I presumed could be used to locate shoals of fish and also to explore other resources. I understood from my brief conversation on the aeroplane that the research was not just confined to fish.

The positive news we have received from Brussels thanks to the Minister of State is an indication of the seriousness with which the Government is taking the fishing industry. Would that it had always been so. We disastrously sold our fishing stocks in the early days of our negotiations on accession to the European Union and the contribution we made almost inadvertently has never been significantly quantified. While I do not expect him to reply off the top of his head, I ask the Minister of State to communicate with me to give me an estimate of the value of the particular resource. We need to bear this in mind when we are negotiating, as we are, on complicated economic matters with the European Union.

I express my admiration for the fishing community because they and their families are people of considerable courage. They go out in very difficult circumstances and have been badly treated. I was half listening to the earlier part of the debate on the monitor downstairs and believe I heard we had this ludicrous situation where large portions of the catch needed to be dumped, which is insane in a world part of which is starving. That must be reconsidered because it is intolerable. In addition, if they are dumped back into the sea, it is a form of pollution, which is appalling. I ask the Minister of State to ensure we stop this noxious practice which is utter stupidity and must be so disheartening for fishermen who I understand have to have fish weighed in their own ports. Some of our Community brethren are not subject to the same scrutiny and examination at our ports. Why not? There should be a level playing field. What is sauce for the goose is, or at least should be, sauce for the gander.

If anyone in RTE is listening to this debate — we have a good contact in Senator Mooney — I ask that they let us keep "Seascapes", a marvellous programme.

It has a lovely signature tune.

It is a wonderful signature tune and person identified with the programme, whose name I cannot remember——

Mr. Tom McSweeney.

I very much regret that he was axed from it. It was done simply by the imposition of an arbitrary age limit, which was wrong. He had the perfect voice and attitude. I am not attempting to undermine the current presenter who is doing a good job, but there was plenty of life left in Tom McSweeney who could easily have continued on. I very much hope the wisdom of somebody who knows so much about the sea and seafaring folk and gave somebody like me who has virtually no knowledge of the sea and never fished successfully in his life, with the single exception of catching a pinkeen in Herbert Park pond——

I caught a few more than that.

——an understanding of some of the complexities of the fishing industry will not be lost. The programme is a valuable resource for the national broadcaster.

I compliment the entire House because this is a good day. We are not involved in the silly schoolboyish and schoolgirlish wrangle that usually characterises the sitting on a Wednesday night. We have a little success story. In these grim days is it not good to be able to say to a Minister, "Well done,"?

I compliment Senator O'Donovan on tabling the motion. He is a great champion of the fishing industry. He always brings these issues to the forefront of the Seanad. As someone who thought his children to fish in Bantry Bay, I am sure he is well acquainted with most of the good fishing spots there. He has shown that he has a great interest in the industry.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Connick, and his officials who appear to have been successful in what they have achieved in this round of negotiations on fishing quotas in Brussels. It is always a difficult task because the European Union is constantly pulling towards a reduction in quotas and monitoring the sustainability of the fishing industry. It can be difficult for a Minister to return home from such negotiations, especially if there have been significant cuts in quotas.

As the Minister of State and I are both based in County Wexford, we very much understand the importance of the fishing industry not only to that county but to the rest of the country. It is important, therefore, that we look after the interests of fishermen, those dependent on the fishing industry and protect the sustainability of the industry into the future. I hope a balance has been struck in Brussels on this occasion and that we will continue to have a successful fishing industry in County Wexford and other coastal communities into the future.

A number of issues raised every time we discuss the fishing industry remain outstanding. They relate to how other countries implement EU law on fishing. A number of Senators have said fish caught in excess of the quota or included in the protected species list are often dumped by fishermen at sea to avoid having to face penalties and fines. That is a waste of a significant resource and there must be another way around this problem. The European Union must accept that if one throws a net from the back of a huge trawler, one cannot selectively direct fish in and out of it. There must be a fairer way of addressing the issue. This is one of the few countries in which fishermen found to be fishing illegally are liable to criminal prosecution. We constantly need to return to the issue of fairness in this respect. Fishermen can be fined for catching fish in excess of their quota.

As the Minister of State well knows, the fishing industry is probably one of the most regulated. I do not believe there is a boat that comes into Kilmore Quay or any other port in the country which a fisheries protection officer does not board to check the logbook of its skipper. There must be other ways to deal with an extra box of monkfish or a protected species rather than by way of the draconian measures currently applied.

We are lucky to have a great fishing industry in County Wexford where there are fantastic fish shops and fish restaurants. One need not restrict oneself to having sole on the bone or cod. I have often found that if one is prepared to be adventurous, one can obtain outstanding value when purchasing fish in shops in County Wexford. I am sure the same applies to shops in the rest of country. We can promote the eating of fish, but we should also promote diversity in the fish species available in our shops and restaurants in order that people will be encouraged to eat fish which is both healthy and tasty.

I say once again to the Minister of State, "Well done." I hope in the years ahead we will continue to have a successful fishing industry.

The Minister of State has 15 minutes.

He will have enough time.

He need not hurry.

The debate is not due to conclude until 7.30 p.m.

Members have raised a number of issues. I will read my speaking notes and then address the issues raised.

I thank Senator O'Donovan for tabling the motion and Senator Carroll for seconding it. The cross-party support it has received is very welcome. This was very noticeable when I travelled to the European Union on my first and second visits when I had the opportunity to meet the MEPs of the various parties. It is important that any actions we take or any discussions on the fishing sector receive cross-party support and are in the national interest. I, therefore, welcome the motion and the fact that it has received cross-party support.

I thank Members for giving me the opportunity to address the House at this time. As they are no doubt aware, an agreement on fishing opportunities in 2011 was brokered early this morning, at approximately 3.30 a.m., after two days and one night of intensive discussions at the Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels. It is timely, therefore, that I have an opportunity to report back on what was a very difficult set of negotiations carried out with a new Commissioner and Cabinet and with a Commission which was adopting a very conservative and precautionary position on the total allowable catches, TACs, for 2011.

Before I proceed, I thank all of the stakeholders, including industry representatives, who made themselves available to me for advice during the course of the negotiations in Brussels and at other times in the run-up to the Council during which there were a number of consultative meetings. I also had meetings with the environmental NGOs to listen to their concerns about the proposals made. The representatives of the NGOs were present in Brussels for the first time and I was able to meet them during the discussions and believe they appreciated my taking the time to meet them. I value these contributions and firmly believe it is only through dialogue that we can come to a common and pragmatic understanding of the most appropriate course of action to take. This morning, as early as 4.30 a.m., the industry was waiting to be briefed once we had the press releases prepared after the meeting. We spent from 4.30 a.m. until 5.45 a.m. going through the share-out and the overall agreement reached.

There is no doubt that the science on many of the stocks in which we have an interest was a source of concern for Ireland, but I did take issue with the positions adopted by the Commission on a number of stocks where the proposals it was supporting went beyond the scientific advice. The negotiations are always going to be difficult, with member states having different agendas in defending their own interests. Striking a balance always requires compromise and this year reaching a compromise proved difficult and, at times, challenging. That said, I am satisfied that the final set of arrangements agreed for next year represent, on balance, a very good deal for Irish fishermen.

I would like to outline the scenario we were facing before the December Council in order that the result can be taken in its true context. To concentrate on whitefish stocks first, I carefully examined the proposals and, taking account of the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, ICES, and the Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, STECF, and the views of the fishing industry, I determined the amendments I was seeking in response to the Commission's proposal published in November. That proposal was the subject of detailed and protracted discussions in the last few weeks with the Commission and other member states and here at home with industry representatives and other stakeholders. It involved reductions in the TACs of many of the whitefish stocks of economic importance to our fleet and also envisaged other measures which would adversely impact on our fishing industry such as the rearrangement of TAC areas for prawn, or nephrops, stocks in the north Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and the Aran grounds and a proposed regime to cap, for the first time, the fishing effort of the whitefish fleet in the Celtic Sea off the south-east coast.

There is justifiable concern about the poor state of certain whitefish stocks targeted by the Irish fishing fleet and this is clearly reflected in the reductions proposed by the Commission for 2011. Sweeping and excessive cuts of up to 50% in cod stocks in the waters west of Scotland and in the Irish Sea — ICES areas VIa and VIIa — were proposed, in addition to cuts of 25% in fishing effort in the whitefish and prawn fisheries in these areas in 2011, on top of similar cuts implemented in the last two years. It should be noted that the cuts in fishing effort would not be applied to vessels using fishing gear that aims to avoid catches of cod.

Whiting stocks in these areas were also targeted, with the area VI stock being reduced by 50% and the Irish Sea stock cut by 25%. In addition, TACs for haddock stocks were to be reduced, with a 25% cut recommended for haddock stocks in area VI and a 15% cut for haddock stocks in the Irish Sea. The Commission also proposed 15% reductions in a number of other stocks, including — in area VI — monkfish, prawns, plaice, pollack and sole. In the Irish Sea sole stocks were to be cut by 20%, while the figure for plaice was to stay the same as in 2010. These were the original proposals. In the Celtic Sea, for the whitefish fleet, 15% cuts in the stocks of cod, megrims, monkfish, plaice, pollack and saithe were on the table.

The Commission also proposed significant changes to the management of prawn stocks in area VII, with the introduction of new management areas or "functional units". The proposal would have had a detrimental impact on current fishing patterns and limited the flexibility available to our vessels which allowed the fleet the flexibility to operate over a wide area with a single TAC. In addition to the new management arrangements, we faced a potential cut of 17% in the TAC which would have added greatly to the negative impacts on the fleet.

Of equal importance was the proposal to introduce an effort management regime in part of the Celtic Sea, in areas VIIf and VIIg. The introduction of this effort regime in an area of mixed fisheries would have had a significant impact on fishing patterns and led to displacement of fishing effort without giving an assurance on the appropriateness of the regime to deliver on the objectives set.

Having outlined the potentially very serious scenario we were facing at the start of this process, I am happy to relate that we were successful in mitigating most of the elements contained in the original proposals which were not necessary or involved excessive cuts. We made some important gains in some key areas where amendments were justified from a scientific perspective.

It should be noted that at the Council I was supported by experts from the Marine Institute and Bord lascaigh Mhara who provided expert advice on many of the scientific and technical issues which arose during the course of the negotiations. I also acknowledge the role played by my officials who worked tirelessly and provided fantastic support, as well as by the DPR and staff in Brussels. They worked around the clock and were important in providing advice for me and stating our position.

Agreement was reached at the Council after two days of talks in Brussels which ended this morning at around 3.30 a.m. The final agreement will deliver whitefish quotas worth some €116 million and provide for the protection of Ireland's €54 million prawn fishery. There will be a 15% increase in haddock and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea, while the quotas for cod stocks off the north west and the Irish Sea will be reduced by 25% in line with the recovery plan for these stocks. For Celtic Sea cod stocks,the current quota level has been maintained for 2011 on the basis of new survey results from the State's research vessel Celtic Explorer, to which some Senators referred.

There is also good news about haddock stocks, with exceptionally high recruitment in 2009. On this basis I secured an increase of 15% in the TAC. There will also be a 15% increase in the TAC for Celtic Sea whiting. Member states committed to applying improved gear selectivity criteria in conducting fisheries for haddock and whiting in the Celtic Sea. This commitment will seek to reduce catches of juvenile fish and tackle the terrible issue of discards. By introducing new information on Celtic Sea cod stocks I secured agreement that the current TAC level will continue into 2011 and may be increased during the year if the new survey results are confirmed by the scientists. However, given the poor state of cod stocks off the north west and in the Irish Sea, cuts were necessary.

All around our coastline prawns are the most valuable catch for the Irish whitefish fleet with a value of €54 million. The Commission originally proposed a 17% cut, but I secured a 3% decrease on the basis of a strong scientific case.

We succeeded in removing the proposal for functional unit management of nephrops by persuading the Commission that this was not the best way to manage the stocks — this was one of our top priorities. In that regard, I secured the agreement of the Council on restrictions on the outtake from the Porcupine Bank, in addition to a seasonal closure, as proposed by Irish fishermen. The scientific advice was that the Porcupine Bank was in need of recovery and I am satisfied the measures now in place will be effective. We also secured the removal of the proposal in respect of an effort regime in the Celtic Sea which was inappropriate, counter-productive and would have created unnecessary bureaucracy for fishermen and the State.

Turning to the pelagic sector, we have had a mixed bag of results. We secured the majority share in the new fishery for boarfish developed by Irish fishermen in the past ten years. Boarfish is a mid-water pelagic shoaling species; they are small and found in large volumes off the south west coast of Ireland. The fishing fleet developed the fishery in the past ten years and has increased catches in recent years. Denmark has also been a key player in the development of the fishery; therefore, both Irish and Danish fishermen invested in new techniques to successfully catch and land the stock which has unusual characteristics. Irish fishermen invested in scientific research to increase our knowledge of the biology and dynamics of the resource. We pooled our knowledge with Denmark and developed a management plan which we submitted to the Commission. At the Council it was accepted and will involve limiting catches in order to ensure sustainability of the stock. Of critical importance in this case is ensuring Ireland receives a fair share of the stock in 2011 and future years. Despite major efforts by certain other member states for a share based on equal shares between five or more member states, I argued successfully that Ireland should be given the majority share to respect our major input and commitment to the development of the fishery. In the end, after lengthy and difficult negotiations, I secured a share of 67.3% of this stock. This offers excellent fishing opportunities for our pelagic fleet into the future and will secure our majority position in this new fishery for boarfish which will be worth just under €4 million in 2011. I expect this figure to substantially increase in subsequent years as the science begins to confirm the size of the stock. This is an example of a successful investment in scientific research by the State and the industry. We have opened up a new fishery in which we have permanently secured the major stake. This will ensure a new revenue stream for the industry into the future and we believe we can develop a significant and sustainable fishery, in which we will continue to hold the largest share of this stock.

We cannot debate the pelagic sector in an Irish context without mentioning the coastal states process in which the TACs are set for blue whiting, Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel. Of equal importance in this is our relationship with Norway and the Faroe Islands through the fishery bilateral meetings with these countries. The collapse of the blue whiting stock has been well documented and resulted in a reduction of 93% in the international blue whiting TAC this year. By stopping transfers from the European Union to Norway the reduction in Ireland's quota was slightly less, at some 80%, giving an Irish quota of 1,187 tonnes in 2011. The Atlanto-Scandian herring also saw a reduction in TAC via the coastal states process of over 30%. These two reductions are, to say the least, not welcome and impact on our vessels and processors. However, they were fully supported by the science and could not be avoided if we were to have any chance of securing these stocks for the future.

There is good news on the TAC for mackerel, with an expected 10% increase in Ireland's quota in 2011 when fully confirmed. We await confirmation of this share. The increase will result in an increase of approximately €6.5 million in the value of landings for this stock. This increase was agreed at a bilateral meeting between the European Union and Norway after the failure of the four-party talks with Iceland and the Faroe Islands which went to four rounds but did not secure agreement. In overall value terms, landings of pelagic stocks will contribute €107 million to the economy and support jobs in processing factories in coastal areas.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to allocate the full amount of the total allowable catch available to member states because of a technical difficulty in regard to the mathematical methodology of integrating the southern component of the mackerel stock, as agreed with Norway last January. In addition, technical difficulties arose with the mechanism to deal with the implications of the European Union-Norway and Norway-European Union transfers as a result of the integration. While a significant amount of work has been done on this issue — the Marine Institute has been heavily involved — the Commission was not in a position to finalise the work in time for the Council. It is, however, convening an expert group in January with a view to finalising the matter as soon as possible and allowing for a full allocation as early as possible in 2011.

On the normal bilateral fisheries agreements, we concluded our annual agreement withNorway, including the transfer of fishing opportunities, in Bergen, Norway, on 4 December. With blue whiting out of the equation as a currency stock, there was pressure to include other pelagic species to swap for Norwegian cod on offer to the European Union from Norway. I am pleased Ireland's opposition to this proposal prevailed and no additional pelagic stocks and no increases in the horse mackerel stock were used in the transfer. There was a small decrease in the horse mackerel swapped.

The European Union-Faroe Islands bilateral efforts ended in failure in Copenhagen on 8 December, predominantly owing to the failure to agree to a mackerel deal between the Faroe Islands, Norway and the European Union. The European Union was not prepared to have it as business as usual with the Faroe Islands in terms of the traditional swapping of fishing opportunities in circumstances in which the Faroe Islands were irresponsibly fishing for mackerel, a stock which was integral to the bilateral deal. The Union has left the door open until the end of March, with the possibility of resuming talks in the new year. Ireland has little interest in this bilateral, except to keep the transfer of pelagic stocks in which we have an interest to a minimum. However, my position has not changed and I will not accept any deal that includes mackerel or any additional pelagic contributions in a scenario in which the Faroe Islands continue to fish for mackerel outside the proper formal international management arrangement. In this regard, I fully support the Commissioner's statement at the Council on Monday outlining the steps she intends to take to prevent the landing of fish or fish products from countries engaged in unsustainable fisheries outside of agreed and recognised international management arrangements.

I hope I have fully set down the main issues at the December Council and in the setting of the 2011 total allowable catches. I now propose to address the crucial issue of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy. I consider the review the most important item on the fisheries agenda and its adoption in 2012 will form the strategic blueprint for European fisheries for the immediate future and the years to come. It is clear the review will be high on the agenda in 2011.

It has been acknowledged across European Union member states that the current Common Fisheries Policy has not worked effectively and its total overhaul is essential for the future of the fishing industry. As Senators are probably aware, there has been a great deal of national consultation on reform of the policy and considerable background work has been carried out to date. In April 2009 the Commission published a Green Paper on the latest reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, with a view to launching a consultation process to initiate a broad public debate on future reform. The aim of the Green Paper was to stimulate a debate on the reform of the policy and provide the Commission with feedback to guide its work. Following publication of the Green Paper, a nationwide public consultation process continued throughout the autumn of 2009, culminating in the submission of Ireland's response to the Green Paper to the Commission in February this year. My strong view from the outset has been that the review must be informed by the views of the stakeholders.

The submission set out a number of informed recommendations to be incorporated in the new Common Fisheries Policy. The changes provide for a new focus on addressing the following matters: the discarding of fish at sea, with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state; the retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or introduction of international trading of fish quotas, known as ITQs; new measures to strengthen the market for European Union producers and increase quayside prices; the reinvigoration of European aquaculture, with continued structural support and a roadmap that establishes a route for growth in harmony with Community environmental law; a new regional structure to decision making at EU level, with increasing industry responsibility; and the development of a culture of compliance.

We are in full agreement with the need to simplify the decision making process as regards fisheries management. While welcoming the earlier provision of scientific data for TACs and quotas, we need to be able to move towards a range of new measures which increase the involvement of fishermen in the Common Fisheries Policy and improve the ability of the policy to sustain and rebuild the fish stocks on which our industry is dependent.

From an Irish perspective, our long-term priority is to have a strong, sustainable and profitable seafood industry that supports fishing activities and related economic activity in coastal communities which need to maintain jobs in the catching, supply and processing sectors. To achieve this objective, coastal communities need to have access to the resources in Ireland's area.

Our coastal communities and family-owned fleet have traditionally been sustained by our available national quotas which were granted under the Common Fisheries Policy as public goods to the member states, based on traditional levels of activity in member states' fleets and for the purpose of protecting fleets and communities. In Ireland quotas have in the past quarter century been distributed as public goods to meet the seasonal, regional and local needs of the fleet. Without access to quotas, the fleet and local fishing ports would wither and die. Hence, we need in the reform process to ensure the future access of the fleet to resources is sustained. This access to resources needs to grow substantially as stocks are rebuilt. It is vital that the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy does not result in the outcome for which some are actively pressing, namely, large European fishing companies being able to concentrate fish quotas and fishing effort to the detriment of family-owned fleets and traditional coastal communities.

Our main purpose must be to create and retain jobs and industrial opportunities in coastal areas. This imperative is doubly important, given the current economic climate. To maintain the social and economic fabric of fishing communities, quotas and fishing effort should be retained at a national level. Suggestions that promote internationalisation, individual transferable quotas and transferable effort, as well as the concentration of activity among large European companies, are counter productive and would ultimately result in the loss of jobs in local coastal economies.

Irish fishing communities are dependent on all of the fleet, both large and small vessels. Hence, we do not accept the view expressed by some that only small inshore fleets are socio-economically important and that the larger fleets and the resources they access can be internationalised into a European fleet. In Ireland a large proportion of onshore employment in the seafood sector is dependent on the largest vessels operating from and landing in Irish ports. This is critical in areas such as County Donegal and the south west. If the vessels and quotas in question were transferred away from the country or into freezer vessels, Ireland would lose a large part of the economic benefit and jobs it derives from the seafood sector. We will endeavour to protect against this in the reform process.

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is a major issue for all of Europe and we, in Ireland, are committed to working closely with the Federation of Irish Fishermen, other stakeholders, our member state colleagues and the Commission to strengthen the current policy for the betterment of fisheries as a whole and the traditional coastal communities dependent on them. We will work to have a Common Fisheries Policy that takes account of the unique structure of the fishing industry.

Ireland shoulders a large burden in the management and policing of the Common Fisheries Policy in our zone. This was recognised in the founding documents of the policy and set out as a consideration in the unanimous Hague declaration in 1976 which granted Ireland the Hague preferences as part of the integral structure of the Common Fisheries Policy. In return, Ireland gave its support for the extension of the exclusive economic zones, EEZs, of the European states which enabled the birth of the Common Fisheries Policy. In the intervening decades Ireland has done its part in administering the Common Fisheries Policy in its zone. As long as we retain a viable fishing industry, with access to and dependent on the resources in our zone, we will endeavour to the best of our ability to continue to fully protect and sustain the stocks in our area and administer a reformed Common Fisheries Policy that ensures the future prosperity of the seafood sector at sea and on land. As was recognised at the outset in the European Union, there will always have to be a relationship between the amount a member state contributes to the administration of the Common Fisheries Policy and the benefit it derives from it.

I propose to address some of the issues raised by Senators, several of which I have touched on. On Senator Carroll's contribution, considerable work has been done and consultation is taking place on the Common Fisheries Policy and we expect the first Green Paper to be published in April or May 2011. It will feed into the process of developing the Common Fisheries Polichy and a new policy is expected to be in place at the end of 2012. This will require considerable work on reform of the policy to be done in the coming two years.

Tourism and the protection of coastal communities are being addressed in the process for the first time. I am anxious to ensure the issue of inshore fishermen is addressed. Having travelled around the coast, I acknowledge the work being done in fisheries. In Killybegs, for example, investments valued at more than €50 million have been made. I note also the work done in Rossaveal and Casteltownbere. In the case of the latter, a town with which Senators Mooney and O'Donovan have connections, a new harbour is due to open shortly.

From the perspective of the south east, I visited Dunmore East recently. Dredging the harbour will be critical and, provided sufficient funding is available, I hope we will be able to make a contribution towards starting the process. It is vital that the project advances because Dunmore East is the largest fishery harbour in the south east and requires some attention. I hope to be able to address this issue.

I spent a day in Dunmore East and met the fishermen, the local tourism association and residents of the area who raised a number of issues with me. We gave some money to the area in recent times and hope to be in a position to deliver more in the coming year. I would like to think that at some stage in the future my successor will continue to do this. I reiterate we spent a great deal of money and made an investment around the rest of the coast so the south east needs particular attention.

Senator O'Donovan raised a number of issues in regard to harbours and piers concerning which I touched on the larger examples. Some months ago I was in the happy position of being able to hand out more than €1 million for small harbours and piers when we introduced a grant scheme. Cork County Council did exceptionally well and County Wexford did not do so badly — we were ready and prepared but obviously not as much as Cork was. There is merit in our coastal communities, in particular coastal counties, preparing plans for their small harbours and piers. I awarded contributions of between €10,000 and €20,000 but these had a significant impact on harbours and piers which might not have received funding in the past 80 or 90 years. We received very positive feedback for that and depending on the amount of money in this year's Vote I hope we may be in a position to roll out a second round of grants early in the new year.

A number of speakers mentioned aquaculture which is a very important sector and it is important to touch on it briefly. There are 91 bays around the coast which are due to be licensed according to the Natura 2000 scheme of special areas of conservation. The Irish Government has a responsibility via various Departments to ensure we license these bays. An enormous amount of work has gone on in recent years and I acknowledge this. In the first quarter of 2011 we hope to be in a position to license the first of the bays. It will take approximately three weeks to license each bay. Once we have the methodology in place we hope to roll the others out in a process but I am concerned, given there are 91 bays, that it takes three weeks to roll each one out. One can do the mathematics — it might take 270 weeks or almost six years to license all the bays in the country. That is not acceptable in our current economic difficulty. I constantly push for more resources to be given to individual Departments so that we can speed up the process. Right now we are unable to license aquaculture developments in those bays. There are more than 200 projects pending, all offering high employment opportunities and significant export potential in the areas in question. I am giving a great deal of attention to this matter.

Tomorrow there is to be a marine co-ordination meeting. I am the only Minister who attends these meetings, along with the assistant secretaries general of the various Departments involved, which include Transport; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and my Department. We are working to try to break down barriers and be able to move forward with the aquaculture sector. The co-ordination group is making good strides and meets monthly. Senator Keaveney mentioned that a number of Departments are involved because of the marine and leisure sector elements. It would be helpful in future if this development could be co-ordinated under one senior ministry. That is my personal view.

We could speak for two hours about the mackerel share out. A great deal of work has been carried out in recent years and I acknowledge the considerable effort made by my predecessor, now Minister for Defence, Deputy Tony Killeen, and others before him in office in trying to address this issue. Currently, the mackerel share out is broken down with 87% going to the pelagic fleet and 13% to the polyvalent sector. I will not go further into the matter other than to note that share outs are complex and there is much disagreement between the various sectors. In my dealings this year on the share out issue I introduced a measure whereby we no longer allow people to enter the sector. For a number of years people continued to be allowed do so with the result that the quotas and the share out were diminishing. Senator O'Donovan mentioned that people had a particular share five or seven years ago which has now been reduced. That is because others were allowed to come in but that situation ended this year. I accept there is more work to be done but it is a very complex situation.

Regarding the mackerel situation in Iceland and the Faroes, Iceland has declared its own tax and decided to fish large quantities of mackerel. To put this into perspective, Iceland is fishing approximately 130,000 tonnes this year. The Faroes declared it will fish the same amount next year. The European share out is 560,000 tonnes; therefore, between them Iceland and the Faroes are taking almost 50% of the mackerel share out. We have a problem and need to address it. Otherwise stocks will not be sustainable into the future. We are finding it difficult to bring both countries to the table at present. There have been several efforts at EU level. I welcome the strong statement by the Commissioner last Monday in regard to moves she will take to try to address the issue.

Concerning decommissioning, there is a problem in that a large number of older boats do not have certificates of compliance. That issue is dealt with by the marine surveyor's office in the Department of Transport. It has caused a great deal of difficulty for some people and will put some of them out of business. I cannot commit to a new decommissioning scheme right now. I need to consider what, if anything, can be done in that situation but I am not hopeful about it.

Crayfish were mentioned. I was in Dingle recently, on my last tour de force. I forgot to mention Dingle in my tour of the fishery harbours and I had better not forget Howth. In Dingle the crayfish issue was mentioned. This country has a minimum size requirement of 110 mm which is a conservation measure. It was said that other European countries were allowing crayfish to a size of 95 mm to be taken. France recently joined Ireland in adopting the 110 mm requirement and I believe we will see a number of other countries doing the same. It is about sustaining the stock. Obviously, crayfish take a certain length of time to grow and by adopting a standard of 110 mm we believe there is potential for smaller fish to arrive at a decent size and for fishermen to get a better price, as one would hope.

Senator Coffey referred to the Hague preferences. I did not mention it but we have retained them again. They are important because they put a floor on the quotas we are awarded in the share out of fish. That was negotiated in the early 1970s. The Hague preferences are very important to Ireland and once again we were able to invoke them on the occasion in question, thereby benefiting. I hope we will continue to be able to do so.

I acknowledge again the work done in the seafood development centre in Clonakilty which was mentioned by a number of Senators. That is run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, which does excellent work. Our fish is being promoted throughout Europe by Bord Bia which is also doing excellent work. Earlier this year, shortly after my appointment, I had the opportunity to open the Irish seafood stand in Brussels at the Seafood Expo in that city. As an Irishman, I was very proud to be there and to see the quality of the product we had on show.

I mentioned Dunmore East, quotas and we touched on the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP. Senator Keaveney mentioned Greencastle where certain issues are involved. An amount of work has taken place and millions of euro have been spent on the development of the pier. I am extremely concerned because the pier is exposed. We need to come to an arrangement whereby it will be finished to a level that will ensure it will not be washed away in a storm. I am giving this issue priority but until I have a plan for the year's funding I cannot commit to any step in that regard.

I echo the Senator's sympathies to the families of the late Eddie Doherty and Robert McLaughlin and I pass on my deepest sympathies to them. Senator Keaveney alluded to the accident report. Again, responsibility lies with the marine surveyor's office and is not within my remit.

All speakers mentioned discards of stock. We are doing our best to try to tackle this issue. The only way to do so in future is through selective gearing. There are items such as the Swedish grid which allow smaller fish to escape when fishing is taking place. Of course, such measures impose costs on fishermen and therefore there is some resistance but we must address this matter. The scandalous issue of discards is top of the agenda in the CFP reform. Local boats are used by the Marine Institute and others when the Department is preparing surveys in different areas.

Senator Norris mentioned the Dublin Bay prawn which, of course, is famous throughout the world. There is no better man than the Senator to promote Dublin. We were delighted to get a reduction of 3% in that quota and were particularly happy to be able to stay away from the introduction of functional units which would have had a significant impact on the area. I acknowledge the great work of the Marine Institute and its contribution to informing the Irish position. Last Thursday week, I launched The Stock Book, which was presented to me by Dr. Peter Heffernan of the Marine Institute. It provided us with information in regard to stating our case at the meetings. As an Irishman, I was delighted to be present to see others sharing our scientific results. We feed into ISIS, the international body on science. We have a magnificent institute. I regret that Senator Norris, unlike me, has not had an opportunity to visit the institute. Everyone who has not should take the time to do so. The institute has a small facility in Newport in County Mayo. The institute carries out extremely important work, not only scientific work but also work on wind energy and wave technology. The institute is at the cutting edge of all forms of marine developments.

We have two research vessels. Earlier this year, I was a signatory to the contract with Newfoundland which is to lease one of our vessels for specific work off its coast.

Senator Norris asked for the total value of fishing resources. I do not have the figure off the top of my head but will try to obtain it for him.

When the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority first started inspecting, my colleagues from coastal areas and I probably received many complaints. In fairness to the authority, things have settled down. The authority is doing a good job and is protecting the very important fishing resource.

Senator Norris took me back to my youth when he mentioned pinkeens. It is a long time since I heard that word. I remember catching pinkeens in a little net. It was a long time ago.

Senator Twomey and others mentioned rules and regulations. Both Houses have debated administrative sanctions on a number of occasions. The Attorney General's position and the advice we have is that we cannot move from our current position. Alternative sanctions are used in different countries but there are very substantial fines. One could move towards the imposition of fines but the industries in countries that have such a system will tell one they are punitive and could put a person out of business. There are a number of improvements to be introduced in the form of electronic log books and the new penalty points system for fishermen. We hope these will allow for more control, not only over Irish fishermen but also over fishermen from other countries who fish in Irish waters.

Trawlers are obliged to hail a port before landing there. I acknowledge the great array of restaurants, shops, factories and processing facilities in Wexford. Anyone who wants to visit us in Wexford, especially New Ross, will be more than welcome. We will be delighted to seethem.

Senator McCarthy also mentioned administrative sanctions. The number of prosecutions is quite small. I do not have the number for this year but believe the number for last year was approximately nine. I do not have a breakdown but know there were some foreign trawlers involved in those prosecutions.

Senator Mooney mentioned Beara, upon which I touched, and the great work taking place there. We are trying to address the issue of the discards. I am disappointed the Senator did not invite me to the prawn festival at Clogherhead. I am sure he had a wonderful time. He should keep up the good work. I am a big festival fan.

I have addressed the issue of the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Cod is a prime fish and that is why it has been overfished for many years. Everyone likes it. It really is a fantastic fish. There are a number of cod substitutes coming on the market in the form of dab and pangasius. The housewife and others, when buying cod, should make sure what they are buying is cod and ask for it. Dab and pangasius are not cod.

The boar fishery is new and I touched on it. I am very excited about it. Much boar is being used for fish meal but we have, through the Seafood Development Centre, the possibility of taking fillets off the two sides of the fish. It is a very specialist fish. If we are successful in converting the fish into a processed food, it will be a very valuable add-on for us. For every one job created on the sea, we could create four jobs on land were we to have added value.

There is a very bright future for the fishing sector. I am very excited and delighted, as Minister of State, to have had the opportunity during my term of office to engage with a fantastic industry. The fishermen and scientists do a huge amount of work.

A summary of the consultation process with member states was published in April 2010. There have been several meetings at EU level since then to discuss the various topics plus the differing views and proposals put forward by member states on the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP. I have availed of every opportunity to put forward Ireland's priorities in an effort to influence formally the direction and outcome of the reform. On the margins of these meetings, I have met other Ministers of similar views on aspects of the reform to form alliances to strengthen Ireland's case in the upcoming intensive negotiations on the reform of thispolicy.

I will continue to consult the Federation of Irish Fishermen and all the other stakeholders over the course of the reform process. I will continue to put forward Ireland's case and will endeavour to convince our member state colleagues and the Commission to strengthen the current CFP in line with Ireland's submission on the reform of the policy.

I hope I have set down clearly for Senators the important issues arising for the Irish fishing industry. While there are challenges to be met, I believe this industry is well placed to meet these and that it offers excellent opportunities generating additional income and job creation in our coastal communities dependent on fishing. I commend the motion to the House.

I very much welcome the Minister of State. I hear his passion for the subject, for which I commend him. Many of the issues I wish to raise have been raised. The Minister of State has been congratulated on his work. Conservation is a key issue for the Green Party, as the Minister of State mentioned. We need to ensure the sustainability of stocks.

According to EUROSTAT figures, some €200 billion worth of fish was caught in Irish waters from 1974 to 2007. This is a huge sum. Ireland provides approximately half the high value fish stocks in EU waters. The Minister of State is correct, therefore, to say that the potential for the fishing industry is huge. Other countries fish in our waters as well and we need to keep nibbling away at this. In the early days, when we negotiated the CFP, we did not really have a fishing industry to cope with the possibilities.

The Minister of State is correct that fishing comprises a very important industry for Ireland. It is an industry that every Government can and should develop in parallel with farming. I hope we can ensure the industry is very much a sustainable one.

I commend the work of the research vessels that operate from the port in Galway and the various Naval Service ships that help protect our waters from illegal fishing which presents a great difficulty, particularly in ensuring the sustainability of stocks.

I thank the Minister of State for his very comprehensive speech. I urge him to increase the polyvalent mackerel quota to perhaps 20% or 25%, if possible. I realise it is an uphill struggle. I also appeal to him to reconsider the decommissioning arrangement for smaller vessels.

I hope for a guarantee of sustainability in respect of the stocks we land. A substantial proportion, perhaps up to 70% or 80%, of our pelagic fish is being landed outside of Ireland. This is no good to our onshore factories. Some 80% of all the whitefish landed in Castletownbere is being lugged all the way to Spain in large refrigerated containers on articulated trucks. We should consider job creation in this regard. The Minister of State must consider replacing the section dealing with mackerel and polyvalent quota and create a new one, if possible.

I express my gratitude to my colleagues, Senators Twomey, Coffey, McCarthy, Bradford and Norris, for their kind words. My interest in fishing dates back many generations. My great-great-grandfather was a small fish merchant.

I am concerned about the certificate of compliance because it means many smaller vessels will be tied up. I am not entirely happy with the stringent approach adopted by the Department of Transport. It is mainly daytrippers who are involved and they are being asked to carry out work on their boats that would be more appropriate on vessels travelling from Ireland to Norway.

They go out in the morning and come back in the evening. It is sad to see a number of these boats tied up around the coastline. Decommissioning would help to alleviate some of the problem, although it would not get rid of it.

I welcome developments in the boarfish sector. The situation is fluid and as such, the new boar fishery should be developed. In this regard, I ask the Minister of State to ensure an equitable share-out. There are vessels capable of catching fish in the southern part of the country, from Dunmore to Rossaveal, but few, if any, are allowed to catch them. That is a retrograde step; there should be a greater balance.

The Common Fisheries Policy must be addressed. Certain people doubt that the Minister of State will be negotiating in two years' time, but we should introduce a 100 mile limit around Ireland to ensure the conservation of fish because our fishing stocks are being marauded.

There is another day's work to be done in respect of the mariculture and aquaculture sectors, to which the Minister of State referred. In the new year I hope we can have another debate dedicated to these sectors which have great potential. I acknowledge that the Minister of State is striving to ensure the long delays in licensing are addressed. He referred to 91 bays or inlets and it is appalling that there are such delays. More staff must be assigned to this work because the delays are stymying growth. Our plan for mariculture and aquaculture industries 20 years ago was to compete with the French and Spanish. Unfortunately, however, we are stuck in a rut and we must get out of it.

I thank the Minister of State and my colleagues for participating in this worthwhile debate.

Question put and agreed to.