Committee on Finance. - Vote 28—Fisheries.

Tuesday, 4 June 1957

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 162 No. 2

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Minister for Lands (Mr. Childers): Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £88,200 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1958, for Salaries and Expenses in connection with Sea and Inland Fisheries, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

In bringing the Estimates for the fisheries services before Dáil Éireann I should say at once, as Deputies have probably surmised, that I have not had sufficient opportunity of studying the needs of the service. The Estimates as drawn for my predecessor are, therefore, presented without alteration for approval. At a later stage, when I shall have time to study the many problems associated with this branch of our industry, I may have to come again to you to ask you for further financial provision.

The Estimate is for a total of £132,200, of which £44,000 has been granted by way of Vote on Account, leaving £88,200 to be moved for as the Vote to complete.

As shown in the printed Estimates, the amount required for the current year reveals a net decrease of £26,220 as compared with 1956-57. The main cause of the decrease is a drop of £22,800 in the Grant-in-Aid of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, to which I shall refer more particularly later on.

This Vote falls into three divisions, namely, Administrative, Sea Fisheries and Inland Fisheries. It will be convenient to consider them in that order.

Regarding administration there is little to be said. There is a net increase of £740 which is accounted for by incremental increases and the appointment of an additional assistant [268] inspector in place of the technical assistant. This has been abated by the disappearance of the provision made last year for increases in Civil Service remuneration, so that the net increase is £740. The other components, travelling and incidental expenses, have been cut to the minimum consistent with the efficiency of the service.

In the next division, that of Sea Fisheries, there is a series of small sums required for scientific investigation and to cover our membership of several international organisations. The amounts required under these headings show a small reduction when compared with last year.

In passing, I should say that I am appalled by the poor provision which has been made for the acquisition of technical knowledge by our fishermen and the lack of scientific work being done in the interests of sea fishing by the State.

Grants to boards of conservators and local authorities at £39,750 reveal a reduction of £1,300. These grants cover payments to local authorities in respect of losses arising from the exemption of fisheries from local rates. This is a statutory recoupment.

This heading also covers expenditure by way of contribution under the Fisheries (Tidal Waters) Act 1934 to the Ballyshannon and Letterkenny Boards to make good the loss of revenue from fishery rates formerly payable on the estuarine fisheries. This expenditure is offset to some extent by receipts from special local licences which are brought to account as Appropriations-in-Aid.

Also included in this sub-head are grants to boards of conservators, £13,000. This represents the assistance required by boards of conservators to supplement revenue from rates and licence duties. Boards are charged with responsibility of protecting our inland fisheries and most of their expenditure goes in wages. En passant I may say that I have re-established the Salmon Conservancy Fund which was created under Statute in 1954 and was intended to provide a supplementary source of income for the protection of our fishing waters.

Other small items under this sub-head [269] are accounted for by contributions towards local schemes for the improvement of fisheries and for payments in respect of fines and forfeitures arising out of convictions in fishery offences. The last-mentioned are payable to boards of conservators and to the Garda Síochána Reward Fund.

Sub-head F. 5—Compensation: £15,000—shows a reduction of £5,000 and covers compensation for the loss of fresh water net fishing.

Sub-head F. 6—Contribution to Inland Fisheries Trust Incorporated: I have been impressed by the work done by the trust. I am satisfied that our inland fisheries are a major tourist attraction and could be made very much more of a national resource. Tourism is such an important element in our economy at present that it is most desirable that everything which contributes to it should be encouraged and developed to the full. The House will be glad to learn that a large-scale scheme of improvement and development of Inland fisheries and indeed of angling of all kinds is about to be sponsored by Bord Fáilte in co-operation with the Inland Fisheries Trust.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It was sponsored before, months ago.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  We have some of the world's best angling waters and we intend to develop them not alone as a tourist attraction but as a wonderful national amenity in which our own people are participating in increasing measure. Angling can, in my opinion, be regarded as a rural industry with an extensive home market based on native raw material and with defined geographical and climatic advantages. It has an enormous tourist potential.

We do not always have beautiful summers in this country but we do always have the sort of weather which is regarded as perfect by anglers. I am glad to observe healthy evidence of co-operation among the several interests concerned; we cannot at this critical juncture in our economic life afford the survival of selfish interests of any kind. It will, therefore, be my aim to promote and encourage co-operation to the maximum extent.

[270] A most interesting undertaking of the Inland Fisheries Trust has been the establishment of a fish farm near Roscrea. This was undertaken by the trust with the assistance of a grant from the National Development Fund. I am glad to say that the work is well under way at Roscrea. Some of the ponds are stocked and before long the trust hopes to be in a position to supply fingerlings to angling associations and others for the purpose of re-stocking waters. The farm will not be in full operation for another 18 months or so.

As regards the Foyle Fisheries Commission, which is represented by a token sum, it is evident from the satisfactory position disclosed by the latest financial statements and estimates submitted by the commission that no repayable advance will be required under this sub-head in the immediate future.

The next item is the contribution to the Salmon Research Trust of Ireland, £1,000. As Deputies will recall, this company was established in 1955 under the joint auspices of the Minister for Agriculture and of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co., Limited, with the object of furthering scientific research into the life history of the salmon. The State contribution amounts to no more than one-third of the expenses of the trust. This is necessarily a long-term approach from which immediate results cannot be expected, but it is a scientific endeavour and on that ground alone I welcome it.

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara—Grant-in-Aid of Administration and Development, £50,130. The two sub-divisions of this sub-head are Administration and Development. The sum sought shows a reduction of £21,800 as compared with last year.

With regard to administration, the amount required, £32,630, shows a net increase of £4,200 over 1956-57. Salaries are higher due to the fact that six additional staff members had to be employed, normal increments fall due, and, consequent upon a staff salary arbitration award, an additional sum of £2,502 falls to be paid. Other items of a domestic nature—rates, repairs, [271] fees, etc., show no change compared with last year.

Development work by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is financed by two means, namely, by way of grant through this Vote and by way of repayable advances from the Central Fund. During the current financial year, the funds to be pro-provided by way of grant are considerably less than the funds to be provided by way of repayable advances. Last year, the amount of grant paid through this Vote was £30,000 and the Central Fund repayable advances £62,000. During the current year, I am asking for £17,500 by way of grant and repayable advances of £55,000.

The long-term development work of the board includes the erection and equipment of fish handling and processing establishments, at a number of centres and the improvement of existing establishments, boat yards and offices as well as the purchase of transport vehicles. The items contained in the sub-head for the current financial year are as follows:—

(a) Dingle quick-freezing department £8,100
(b) Dublin quick-freezing department £3,250
(c) Refrigerated transport unit £1,050
(d) Dublin storage and workshop £1,100
(e) Partial recoupment of estimated losses on the Killybegs pilot fishmeal plant £4,000

With the exception of the last item, the work is of a nature which has been referred to previously and which the board has been carrying on for some years.

At Killybegs, the board set up an experimental fishmeal plant with the object of investigating the technical and commercial problems of fishmeal manufacture and of demonstrating the value of that method of processing to the fishing industry generally. It was recognised at the time that such pilot-scale operations, being in the nature of an experiment, must inevitably result in a loss which would, however, he [272] carried by the full-scale commercial undertaking which the board would set up in due course.

As it happened, however, the path opened by the board is now being followed up by a private firm by which the manufacture of fishmeal on a full commercial basis is expected to commence at Killybegs towards the end of this year. As a consequence, the board has been deprived of the possibility of recovering its initial losses on the pilot-plant and it has seemed fair and just that it should be recouped over a number of years for the losses it sustained in carrying out that experiment. That, in brief, is the object of this provision. It would be premature to consider the disposal of the plant until the private commercial plant comes into operation.

I have not yet had time to study in detail the operations of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, but I intend to do so at the earliest available opportunity.

From what I have seen, my mind is turning towards the belief that a drastic revision of our conceptions in regard to sea fisheries is necessary. We either have seas abounding in fish or we have not. We should be able to find that out quite definitely by means of exploring the seas around our coasts. This is something we have never attempted to do, and I hope to be able to make a start as soon as possible.

We have a good fishing tradition in certain areas, but we have no education directed towards fishing as a vocation. I believe we should have that and that we must have it, if we want to produce skippers who can build up our fishing industry. I hope soon to be able to announce that facilities will be provided for acquiring nautical training for fishermen, so that none but qualified skippers will be eligible for boats under the hire purchase scheme operated by Bord Iascaigh Mhara in time to come.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Are we not training two skippers at the moment?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  We should have the necessary fishery harbours and shore installations to handle the growing [273] catch of our fleet and this points to the necessity for a long term plan of harbour development.

We shall have to exploit every known means of processing and handling fish so as to develop both the home and the export markets. Our haphazard marketing arrangements are no credit to anybody and will have to be revised so as to make fish available to all our citizens and to make it available in growing quantity for export. With these basic ideas in mind, I shall address myself to the consideration of our sea fisheries, but I am not prepared at the present juncture to go any further into that matter.

Turning for the moment from the finances of the Estimate to the general condition of the fishing industry, I find that the recorded catches of sea fish in 1956 show that this side of the industry continued to make progress at much the same rate as in the preceding few years. The total weight of landings, excluding shellfish, came to 377,367 cwt. or 73,848 cwt. more than in 1955, while the value appreciated from £686,195 to £787,160. As shellfish returns are made partly by weight and partly by count, the increase in landings is best expressed by comparing the landed values which amounted to £233,634, an increase of £37,531 on 1955. Altogether sea fish landings in 1956 were valued at just over the £1,000,000 mark for the first time; not in itself a remarkable achievement, but perhaps sufficient to show that if the rate of progress can be accelerated, the industry is one capable of making a valuable contribution towards the strengthening of our economy.

The latest returns relating to numbers engaged on fishing and craft employed show a total of 6,436 men engaged in sea-fishing of whom 1,584 make it their sole means of livelihood, and that a total of 2,331 vessels is employed including 1,447 solely engaged in fishing. These figures, I find, are slightly less than those returned for 1955, but I am assured that this apparent decline is due to a change in the method of compiling the returns, whereby the numbers of men and boats are being progressively revised by [274] excluding altogether those who engage only in fishing for their own household use and relagating to the part-time category anyone who depends on any other occupation for a portion of his livelihood. The building of fishing boats of 50 feet and over has continued steadily and whole-time employment in the industry has naturally kept pace with this development.

Returning for the moment to the value of landings, I find that the total catch of salmon by all methods in 1956 amounted to 1,443,340 lb. valued at £415,931 compared with 1,261,402 lb. valued at £363,788 for the previous year. An increase was also recorded for sea trout, the catch being 93,152 lb. valued at £15,136 as compared with 73,201 lb. in 1955 valued at £10,824. The increased returns from the commercial fisheries must be regarded as quite satisfactory, considering that the season was marked by heavy rainfall which was more favourable to angling than to netting in the estuaries. This is marked by the fact that the rod catch continued the upward trend which it has shown in recent years. A new record of 35,757 salmon was taken on rod and line by the new record number of 7,495 licensed anglers.

Employment in the inland fishing industry remained at the fairly steady level which has been recorded in recent years, a total of some 5,700 people finding employment in various capacities including those of netsmen, waterkeepers and ghillies. The catch of eels at 180,923 lb. showed a slight decrease on the 1955 yield despite the attraction of a higher price which resulted in the value of £21,836 being about 10 per cent. higher than in 1955. I believe our catch of eels could be stepped up.

Before leaving this short statistical survey of the fishing industry in 1956, I should mention the salient figures in the balance of trade in fish and fishery products. Exports amounted in value to just over £1,000,000, of which salmon accounted for some £557,000 worth, with next in order of importance periwinkles at £119,000 and herring at over £64,000. As against [275] this, imports amounted to approximately £700,000, including tinned and bottled fish to the amount of £517,000 and cured fish, £151,000. The balance is in our favour, but not sufficiently so, and it is my intention to give close examination to ways and means of expanding the production of fish and fishery products for export and curtailment of non-essential imports.

For information as to the development work being carried on by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the latest report available is that for the year ended 31st March, 1956. This shows that the board financed in that year hire-purchase transactions in respect of 11 new boats and four secondhand ones. Nine of the new boats were built at the board's own yards and two by other builders. The foregoing figures of boats supplied do not include boats commissioned under the Fíor-Ghaeltacht scheme financed from the National Development Fund.

During the year covered by the board's report, work was put in hands on a fish processing and freezing plant at Galway, financed in part from the National Development Fund, and on small-scale installations at Caherciveen. Preparations for works at Schull and Ballycotton were in hands.

The quantity of fresh sea fish handled by the board for our fishermen in the 12 months covered by the report reached a total of 157,528 cwt. as compared with 107,983 cwt. in the preceding year. The board produced at Killybegs factory 3,292 cwt. of frozen fish and 1,432 cwt. of smoked kippers. The overall operations at the factory, however, resulted in a loss of £5,135 which is attributed to the fact that a considerable portion of the work carried on at the factory is of an experimental and development nature, such as the operation of a pilot size plant for manufacture of fishmeal and oil, to which I referred earlier.

I regret to note that the accounts appended to the board's report for the year ended 31st March, 1956, show an overall loss for the period of £22,735. I do not yet feel sufficiently conversant with the affairs of the board and [276] with the spheres of activity in which it is required to operate to comment on the recurrence of losses in this connection. This is a matter to which it is my intention to devote close study.

I am informed by the board that for the year ended 31st March, 1957, there were completed at their four boat yards five 50 ft. and four 56½ ft. boats, valued at £87,990. As at the same date, seven boats were being built in the board's yards, three in other yards and the estimated value of the work in hands when completed is £107,500.

During the year, the board financed hire-purchase transactions in respect of ten new boats. In addition, two boats were re-engined on behalf of hire purchasers. Two other boats of which possession was surrendered were reissued to new applicants.

Issues of boats and gear during the year on hire purchase, credit sale or for cash were valued at:—(a) Boats, engines, etc., £121,664; (b) fishing gear, £37,866. The number of motor fishing boats the subject of hire-purchase transactions as at 31st March last was 104, valued at approximately £430,000.

In another section of my speech, I have referred to the landings of sea fish during the past year. During the 12 months ended 31st March last, the board's offshore fishing vessels landed 6,750 cwt. valued at £34,400, as compared with 8,318 cwt. valued at £45,236, in the previous year. This reduction in landings is due to the fact that two of the vessels spent less time fishing than in the previous year, due to the necessity for overhaul, etc.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The engines fell out.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Two-thirds of the catch was contributed by one of the vessels which has been re-engined. The continued employment or disposal of these vessels is a subject on which a decision will have to be reached. I regret that I am not yet in a position to go into the merits or demerits of the case.

Works at Schull and Galway are [277] nearing completion, and the first section of the work at Caherciveen has been completed, while the ice plant at Ballycotton is now being tested and will shortly commence production. The fish handling premises at Limerick has also been virtually completed. Work on the improving and re-equipping of the four boat yards under the control of the board is under way.

Included in the number of boats completed or nearing completion at 31st March, 1957, were four 56½ feet vessels commissioned under this scheme which is financed from the National Development Fund. Two of them went into commission in 1956; a third has since been completed and is being used at Galway as a training ship for prospective skippers——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Hear, hear! I thought there were no training facilities?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  ——while the fourth is nearing completion. I note with great interest the initiation of the training course just mentioned and am addressing my mind to the need for a training scheme of wider scope which would, I believe, contribute materially to the greater efficiency of our fishing fleet.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, I have had two months in which to grasp the main essentials of the Department's operations. It seems to me that so far as the Government was concerned for long intervals since 1947 no continuous guiding influence with immediate executive control and full power existed in the Fisheries Branch.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I do not know what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce will say to that.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  This immediate control will now be exercised. Without knowing anything about the problems involved, I find the sea fishing world bedevilled by misapprehension and in a state of uneasy agitation inflated possibly by lack of control and direction, resulting in acrimonious disputes between various fishing interests.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Inflated by the wholesale fishmongers.

[278]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Order!

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Am I to be allowed to make my speech?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister should be allowed to proceed with his speech.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I merely said inflated by the wholesale fishmongers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy will receive every opportunity of speaking when the Minister has concluded.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  These interests must be reconciled, if progress is to be made. I find that the industry lacks any reasonable kind of scientific research facilities such as are available in every country in Europe. The industry has suffered from the same influence as all the rest of our productive economy since the war and before it.

We think always of spending money to give immediate direct employment instead of spending money to train fishermen to explore our waters and to exploit our resources in full. I will refer later to this observation.

We build boats and lack both repair facilities and marine harbour amenities. A large number of boats have to sail scores of miles for major repairs. We have less exports of fish than any maritime nation, while our fish marketing at home is farcically deficient. We live under the sway of a pessimistic world where we are told “Irish people will eat fish only on Friday”. We imported huge quantities of fishmeal without a murmur for years. We accepted an exaggerated inshore fishing tradition unique in Europe.

We have only now, in the past five years, begun to stock our inland waters on anything approaching a major scale. Problems arising from hydro-electric development and from pollution are, however, growing and will need constant scientific and engineering attention, so as to conserve and develop this valuable asset. We have fewer educational facilities than any maritime nation. We make a grossly insufficient attempt to overcome outworn traditions and conceptions. May [279] I make it clear that the officers of the Department have plenty of initiative and considerable knowledge?

In the past 20 years, there has been considerable effort and a measure of success in combating these difficulties. More plans are about to come into operation. Other projects have been proposed. But the enthusiasm at Government level has not been sufficient to achieve spectacular changes. I want to make it clear that our objective is primarily exports and more and more exports. We have drained the bogs but we do not sail the seas for fish yet.

Our home consumption policy must be based on expert considerations. If by consuming more fish we can maintain even demand, improve marketing and reduce export costs, let us do so. If by providing more fish here we encourage tourists and anglers, this is sound policy. But if we merely eat more fish at home without reducing imports or increasing exports, our whole economic life will not be improved.

There is not nearly sufficient private enterprise in sea-fishing for my liking. In a world where glut alternates with scarcity and in which marketing facilities are utterly inadequate, private enterprise must be co-operative, responsible and prepared to find capital. I wish to make it clear that I would rather close the Department than accept any of the more selfish vested interests who try to use political influence to prevent modernisation and expansion. If I state this in advance, then everyone will understand the position. In this age, greater production brings employment by increasing purchasing power and so stimulating industrial demand.

If, for example, the factory ships now on trial can really sell abroad a huge quantity of fish every year, this is a development which obviously invites close study. If I find that 100 men can fish twice as much newly-found fish discovered in hitherto unfished waters as 400 men could by using antiquated methods, I know that more people will be employed in Ireland by adopting the former alternative. [280] I am told that in fact we can expand, modernise and go further out to sea without danger to the inshore fishing interests.

It so happens that I had believed we would reach this Estimate before the Budgetary statement. Negotiations have been in progress as to the manner in which the welcome extra amount of £50,000 can best be allocated for the Department. Our most recent decisions have made it necessary to qualify the announcement of the Minister for Finance. We intend to make an extra £5,000 available to the Inland Fisheries Trust to speed up fishing facilities for tourists.

We intend to build two exploratory boats long overdue to place ourselves in a position equal to other maritime nations similarly equipped. These boats will carry out the following highly productive work:—(1) Locating, appraisal, charting of fishing grounds and recording nature of sea bed including the marking of fishing hazards such as submerged wrecks. (2) Test fishing for particular classes of fish, e.g. some of the well-known varieties such as cod, halibut, which our fishermen do not land in sufficient quantity or for varieties not at present commercially exploited in this country such as pilchard, porbeagle shark and tunny for which a market exists abroad. (3) Testing of methods of fishing and types of fishing gear. (4) Investigation of age, growth, development and quality of fish on various grounds. (5) Collection of hydrographic data for study in relation to biological data concerning stocks of fish in various waters. (6) Training of fishermen in use of special gear and techniques. (7) Recording of hydrographic observations with a view to revision of fishermen's charts.

We intend to provide further training facilities as already indicated. The balance will be spent upon advances for additional fishing vessels of over 50 feet. Finally, it will be my aim to examine critically the present state of the industry and to guide its development in the manner which holds out greatest hope for the creation of a harmonious and efficient industry.

[281]Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  It was generally expected when the Minister for Lands also took control of the Fisheries Branch that, when he was introducing his Estimate, he would give us an indication of his policy in so far as the development of fisheries was concerned. The House expected to hear his plans for the future. What we have had from him to-night is a complete record of the achievements by the Fisheries Branch which were commenced before he took office.

I have noted carefully that in the course of his speech to-night the Minister states:

“It seems to me that as far as the Government was concerned for long intervals since 1947 no continuous guiding influence with immediate executive control and full power existed in the Fisheries Branch.”

I feel sure that if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce were in the House to-night, he would take a very poor view of that statement because, in 1951, 1952 and 1953, and for a part of 1954, Deputy Bartley was in charge of the Fisheries Branch. Am I to understand from the words of the Minister for Lands that, while Deputy Bartley was in charge of the Fisheries Branch, there was no continuous guiding influence with immediate effective control and full power?

I feel that is a very serious reflection by the Minister on his colleague. I may say that during the years in which the inter-Party Government were last in office—and I am sure Deputies of all Parties will recognise this fact—there was more development of fisheries than during the term of any previous Government. The development of which the Minister speaks—Ballycotton, Schull, Castletownbere, the establishment of the full scale fishmeal factory at Killybegs, the newly erected depot in Galway, the distribution depot in Limerick—were all undertaken and established by funds provided by the inter-Party Government and approved by the Minister for Agriculture. It was not only a question of making arrangements. All these things were put into operation. It is also true to say that the greatest landings of fish [282] ever recorded in this country were achieved during the term of office of the last inter-Party Government.

There was a considerable sum of money provided for the development of oyster culture at Clew Bay and elsewhere. I noticed that the Minister made no reference whatever to what progress, if any, has been made with regard to the oyster culture at Clew Bay and other districts where this important culture is taking place. Funds were provided for the purpose and perhaps the Minister will tell us what progress has been made or what development has been taking place in that regard.

He made reference to the very important matter of the provision of funds for boards of conservators. Boards of conservators are responsible for the protection of our fisheries. I want to take this opportunity of saying that when I visited a number of boards of conservators in recent years, more boards than one passed resolutions asking for the removal of the salmon export levy. As was clearly pointed out, the Salmon Conservancy Fund established by this House during the period in which Deputy Bartley was Parliamentary Secretary imposed a levy of 2d. per lb. on every lb. of salmon exported. Numerous protests came from many quarters and I can recollect being informed by boards of conservators that the intention of the Salmon Conservancy Fund was to provide additional moneys for the protection of the fisheries.

We were told that was the original purpose of the fund; but we discovered very clearly and beyond doubt that the fund was being used to relieve the Exchequer rather than to provide funds to boards of conservators for the protection of fisheries. The Minister for Agriculture had that matter examined and I received representations from many boards of conservators. I can clearly recollect receiving representations asking for the levy on salmon to be removed, even in the presence of Deputy Corry, at Youghal in Cork. I received representations from Kerry, Galway and Donegal appealing for ministerial action with regard to the removal of the export levy.

[283] It was after close consideration and on discovering that the Salmon Conservancy Fund was a cloak—or eyewash, if you like to call it so—for putting a tax on the export of salmon merely, completely, and entirely for the purpose of relieving the Exchequer, that we had the idea very shortly afterwards that the Government of the day was about to give consideration to the question of a cattle tax because they had got away completely with the export levy of 2d. per lb. on salmon. They had so successfully got away with that imposition on every lb. of salmon exported and there was such a successful scoop, by which they received these moneys completely under false pretences, under the clock that the boards of conservators were getting increased moneys for fisheries protection that they said: “We have successfully got a scoop-in here on the export of salmon and we are now giving thought to the question of a similar imposition of a tax on the tail of every beast to be exported from this country.”

Mr. Loughman: Information on Francis Loughman  Zoom on Francis Loughman  Imaginary.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The question of a cattle tax does not arise on this Estimate.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That is the purpose of the levy.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Nonsense; there is no connection.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I have forgotten more about it than the Minister ever knew.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  That is absolute nonsense.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I know very well what the Minister is up to.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I have not spent three years in the Fisheries Branch without knowing something about it. The Minister has been there only three months. I want to warn the House that this is the thin edge of the wedge.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy may discuss the tax on salmon [284] but not the tax on cattle, as it does not arise on the Fisheries Estimate.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I was endeavouring to point out that when the Fianna Fáil Party were last in office, they got away with this levy. In other words, they got away with this theft because it is a theft. In the course of the Minister's speech to-night he said that the levy of 2d. per lb. on salmon was again to be introduced, but we did not hear from the Minister of any solemn guarantee that every single farthing was to be allocated to the boards of conservators for protection purposes.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  In addition to what they are already getting.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Yes, in addition to what they are already getting, because if I see or the House sees that the amount which is taken in on the Salmon Conservancy Fund is given to boards of conservators, on the one hand, and the ordinary grant cut on the other, it, therefore, clearly goes to show it was for the purpose of relieving the Exchequer that the Salmon Conservancy Fund was established. The leopard never changes his spots and the old dog never forgets the trot he is taught to do. We see that the Fianna Fáil Party are again imposing this additional levy of 2d. per lb., or whatever amount will be prescribed, on salmon.

This is another new tax. I want to say we removed that tax, and even though we removed that tax the grants to boards of conservators for protection purposes were considerably increased. I think the largest sum ever provided for protection purposes was provided in last year's Estimate and first-class protection services were provided without any question of the Salmon Conservancy Fund. We removed the export levy on salmon. The reintroduction of that levy will have a very serious and a very damaging effect. It will be opposed very strongly and, while the Minister tells us he had not time to examine the affairs of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara closely, or to go closely into other aspects of the Fisheries Branch, I would like to know whose advice did he take or seek with [285] regard to the reintroduction of the former export levy on salmon?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister for Finance.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I feel it is a step in the wrong direction. Not alone will it be bitterly opposed by those directly engaged in that branch of the industry, but also by boards of conservators who have their own experience of the past. They were then told that the takings of that fund would go entirely for protection purposes but they discovered that was not so.

With regard to boards of conservators, we all agree it is most important and very essential that they should have first-class protection services. I would suggest to the Minister that, where there are water keepers or water bailiffs employed at low rates of pay, according as vacancies occur he would consider appointing responsible water keepers on a good salary which would enable them to devote all their time to the duties. They should be paid well and paid properly. We have known cases in which water keepers were paid very small allowances, while they had very large areas in which there were important fisheries under their control. They were expected to give all their time watching and protecting those valuable fisheries.

The best way to get a man to take a really active interest in his work is to give him responsibility and pay him well for doing the work. If he is given responsibility and paid properly there is no doubt that he will do his job well and do it conscientiously. I am not suggesting for one moment that the water keepers who are lowly paid neglect their duty, or that they succumb to the many temptations that fall their way. Boards of conservators who are really actively interested in the protection of fisheries should see that the right and proper type of water keepers are engaged, and that areas are allotted to them in the knowledge that they will be able to pay full and proper attention to those areas. I have known areas in which boards of conservators had water keepers employed at £3 10s., £4 10s. and £5 per week while other water keepers were employed at £8 8s., [286] £9 9s. and £10 10s. per week. I think that if they had fewer water keepers employed, paid them a more uniform and better wage, and gave them greater responsibility, boards of conservators would then be guaranteed greater protection and a better service.

I hope the Minister will circularise the various Garda barracks to see to it that the fullest possible measure of co-operation will be given by Gardaí in areas where there are valuable and important fisheries. I hope that the Garda will lend a helping hand, assisting by every means in their power in the protection of valuable fisheries. I know that the Garda, particularly in Donegal, parts of Kerry and parts of Cork, have given valuable assistance. It is only right that when they have given such valuable assistance some appreciation of that should be placed on record.

The protection of valuable fisheries is certainly the concern of all. In addition to soliciting the support and the co-operation of the Garda I think there would be no harm in making an appeal through the medium of the teachers in the schools. A word could be spoken to the children on the importance of preserving and protecting our fisheries. The help of the children could be solicited with regard to fishery protection in their own way. After all, it is in the schools that the seeds of good citizenship are planted. If we are to have good public spirited citizens, who will co-operate with the law in every respect, I feel that a helpful word in this respect in the schools would have a very beneficial effect after a number of years.

During the term I was in the Department I made more than one pronouncement with regard to illegal fishing. I spoke rather strongly on this on more than one occasion. I remember attending a meeting of the Kerry Board of Conservators in the hotel at Listowel. The Deputies and Senators from the constituency were present and my attention was drawn to illegal fishing that had taken place in parts of that board's area. My speech was afterwards published in the daily newspapers. I expressed a hope that [287] district justices and others would not be slow in seeing that those who were guilty of such offences would be punished as severely as the law would permit them to be punished. I know from my own experience that even the best efforts of boards of conservators to maintain proper protection will not meet with the success that one would desire. However, with funds available, with the proper type of person as water keeper, with the support and co-operation of the general public in addition to that of the Garda, I feel that an effort can be made to see that illegal fishing will be eliminated and that we can have worthwhile protection for important fisheries.

I hope my successor, the Minister for Lands, is taking the same view I took in seeing that any requests that come before him for mitigation of fines will be dealt with in the same way as they were dealt with for the past three years. I cannot recollect during my term of office making one single recommendation for mitigation of a fine. I feel that that should be made known for the information of boards of conservators.

Again, if my memory serves me correctly, I remember when in the Department receiving a letter from, I think, the Cork Board of Conservators, asking for leniency to be exercised in so far as illegal fishing in one instance was concerned. Despite the request that came from a board of conservators, I distinctly remember writing on the file “No mitigation whatever recommended” because the offence was of a serious character and because, in so far as myself and the Minister for Agriculture were concerned, we were not prepared to recommend to the Minister for Justice any question of mitigation of fines for fishery offences.

It must be understood, and I am sure that boards of conservators understand it quite well, that the Minister for Justice is entitled to and can act independently, apart entirely from any recommendation either from the board of conservators or from the Minister for Lands now, or from the Minister for Agriculture in the past. On no occasion during my term of office did I [288] recommend a single case to the Department of Justice in respect of mitigation of fines. On the contrary, I spoke very strongly against it and made an appeal to everybody concerned with the protection of fisheries to do what they possibly could to see that the law was given its fullest and severest effect in so far as punishing those guilty of fishery offences was concerned.

I agree entirely that the greatest possible tourist attraction lies in our inland fisheries. We have some of the finest and most attractive inland fisheries in the world. A group of English anglers came over here some time ago and did some fishing in our lakes. Afterwards they wrote back— and it is on record—that, from their experience of inland fisheries, they considered that ours were the greatest in the world. We should publicise our inland fisheries more and more on the Continent and particularly in England.

From the point of view of our tourist industry, the angler is a most important type of tourist to attract. He comes here and he is not much trouble. He goes down the country and goes out to fish, taking his lunch with him. He stays out fishing all day and enjoys his sport. Then he comes back in the evening and goes down to the local hotel or the local pub, as the case may be, and talks about his day's sport and enjoyment and tells his friends about it. He does the same on the following day. There are parts of Ireland where our people like to see angling tourists arrive. I hope that even more publicity will be given to our inland fisheries. Quite a good deal of publicity has already been given to them but any money spent in advertising our inland fisheries is money well spent. When we have inland fisheries well worth publicising we should spend the money in order to attract angling tourists. I am sure the Minister has information at his disposal which is very gratifying to the effect that, year after year, more and more angling tourists are coming here. The more who come the better and they are all very welcome. I am certain that any such tourists will not [289] be disappointed because we have the greatest inland fisheries in the world to-day.

When speaking of inland fisheries, it is only right that the work of the Inland Fisheries Trust should be mentioned. That trust was established for the purpose of stocking, improving and making our inland fisheries more attractive as well as to give information to tourists as to the extent and possibilities of fisheries in which they might be interested. Perhaps the Minister has not had time to go very fully into the workings of the Inland Fisheries Trust but my opinion is that no body has had greater achievements in such a short space of time and their work deserves a word of appreciation here. They have removed coarse fish and stocked certain fisheries. They have developed important rivers. We have had the setting-up of the fish farm at Fanure near Roscrea. A great volume of publicity has been given to our fisheries abroad. I regret that that good work does not seem to be appreciated by the angling public because, if my memory again serves me correctly, the membership of the trust is not as high as one would expect despite the fact that the fees are very low.

The annual membership fee of the Inland Fisheries Trust is something like 5/- or 7/6. For that 5/- or 7/6 per year, the most excellent fisheries possible will be placed freely at the disposal of any member who desires to fish in them. It is remarkable—it is probably more through lack of thought than anything else—that there are so many fishing enthusiasts who are not members of the trust. The Minister should appeal to fishing enthusiasts throughout the country to help in the great work of the trust by becoming members. In that respect, they are asked to make very little sacrifice. The Minister should, I feel, express appreciation of the work of the trust. Any angler who is really interested in the sport and who is anxious to see our inland fisheries developed to an even greater extent should have no hesitation in becoming a member of the trust.

When we speak of the Inland [290] Fisheries Trust, no matter what part of Ireland we may be in, we usually connect that trust with the very great work of the secretary, Mr. Michael Kennedy. I feel that his work, his writings, the books he has published on such subjects as the life of fish, the movements of fish and the value of various fisheries, all go to show that, in Mr. Kennedy, the trust has a man with a sincere interest in and thorough knowledge of his job. It is only right that those of us who have a knowledge of his work and are aware of his achievements should place on record the very valuable services he has rendered. He has spent endless hours, day and night, studying the movements of fish. He has been a tower of strength to the trust. I feel it would be a pity, when we have such a keen administrator in charge of the trust, if every angler in the country did not become a member of the trust.

When in the Department, I noticed that a good deal of valuable fisheries were being poisoned and destroyed because of the operations of Bord na Móna. Before I left office, I was arranging for a conference between officers of Bord na Móna and officers of the Fisheries Branch to see what could be done to remedy the position. I know quite well that one cannot possibly expect Bord na Móna to stop their operations because fish are being poisoned. I am certainly not advocating that. I know the work they have carried out in my own constituency; but I also know that in my constituency a valuable fishery, known as the Figile River, has been completely destroyed because of the operations of Bord na Móna and the owner of the fishery has directed the attention of the Fisheries Branch to his serious loss.

I wonder if it would be possible to have any compensation provided to the owner of a valuable fishery where his fishery is destroyed because of the operations of Bord na Móna? I mentioned this matter to Bord na Móna and I know they will do everything they possibly can. I believe, in the year 1957, in such an age of progress it should be possible to find some chemical which would allow Bord na [291] Móna to carry on its operations, and at the same time protect valuable fisheries. I hope the Minister for Lands will investigate the possibility of appointing a committee, representative of the Fisheries Branch and of Bord na Móna, to see what can be done.

I remember receiving very strong representations from County Meath on this matter. The Trim Anglers' Association were making strong representations that, as a result of the operations of Bord na Móna, a lot of valuable fish had been poisoned and a valuable fishery practically destroyed. I remember taking up the matter with Bord na Móna. Again, everything possible was being done, but it seemed that the fishery was being destroyed. Quite recently, I directed a communication to be sent to the head of the Fisheries Branch in regard to a place in my constituency, near Clonbullogue, Offaly, where a valuable fishery is again being destroyed because of the operations of Bord na Móna. I feel it is not outside the bounds of possibility that, if the engineering staff of Bord na Móna and the staff of the Department came together, some remedy could be found to relieve the position.

I come now to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara has been charged with the development of our fisheries and with the distribution and marketing of our fish. It has been the subject of serious criticism by certain interests in the fishing industry. I want to place this on record. When the Minister for Lands tours every fishing centre in this country, as I [292] have done, and when he puts the question to the ordinary fisherman as to what he thinks of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the ordinary fisherman will say: “Without An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, we would have no guarantee of a prosperous existence or future.”

I recall addressing groups of fishermen at Schull, Ballycotton, Youghal, Galway, Killybegs, parts of Mayo, Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East, Clogher Head, and so on. On every occasion, I made a point of inquiring from the ordinary fisherman, the man on whom the future of the industry is completely dependent, what were his impressions of the workings of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Although we have had complaints from marketing interests, wholesalers and other fishing interests, who are anxious to put An Bord Iascaigh Mhara out of the marketing end of the business, the ordinary fisherman always replied that the board guaranteed him a price for his fish and guaranteed that he could dispose of his fish. On no occasion did any fisherman in any part of Ireland say a single word against An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. All they said was: “If An Bord Iascaigh Mhara were put out of existence, we would be at the mercy of the fishmongers who would be anxious to get all of our fish at the lowest possible price and sell it over again at the highest possible price.”

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 5th June, 1957.


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