Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1970: Second Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 26 May 1970

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 247 No. 1

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Last Thursday I had mentioned that some of the executive staff of the board were doing their jobs reasonably efficiently. I had also spoken about the composition of boards and before the debate was adjourned I was discussing the transportation of fish from such places as west Cork to Dublin and its transportation back again for sale in Cork. Since the adjournment I have got some documentation which was not available to me last Thursday and, as a result, I must ask the indulgence of the House if I speak for a longer period on this matter than I originally intended.

I am not aware of the date of the inception of the Fisheries Board but for many years prior to that we had a fishing industry in Ireland and in south-west Cork we had a thriving fishing industry. We had such major [51] centres as Kinsale, Union Hall, Baltimore, Skull, Bantry and Castletownbere together with a number of smaller centres all engaged in fishing in a big way and in the export of fish to many countries abroad. Apparently, without any help from public funds they were able to do this with boats in no way approaching the type of vessels we have today and with antiquated equipment. The lifting of fish from boat to shore was manual work and I do not think even winches were available then. Despite all those handicaps we had a thriving fishing industry.

The fishing industry has been given various injections of public funds since our own Government took over. The Estimate for the current year for fisheries is more than £1.8 million while the grant in aid to the board is £.35 million. We also have other moneys voted for fishery development. I am not finding fault with that or with money for the incidental works such as harbour improvements but I am wondering if we are getting value for the money.

When you read the report for 1968-69 you do not find, so far as numbers are concerned, that there is any great progress. The total number of men engaged in the industry on a permanent basis last year was 1,687 which is not a very big figure, even in relation to our small population, spread over a coastline of several thousand miles. There is nothing to boast about in that as regards development. In addition we are told there are 3,756 men in part-time employment.

With all the money, all the talk about fish and fisheries, all the grants-in-aid and trips abroad and everything you could conjure up about the fishing industry, we find that on this coastline the total number of workers, both permanent and part-time, is less than 5,500. Is there something wrong there? Years ago before the board got its teeth, I venture to say that the number of people engaged in the fishing industry was far in excess of 5,500.

Let us examine how we are progressing despite all the money that is being poured into fishing. I have here a [52] leaflet issued by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fisheries Division, 3 Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin, 1, giving the landings of sea fish, quantity and value returned as landed. In 1967, the total value of the fish known as demersal fish—if the Minister knows what that is—does he?

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I do.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Minister can look up his dictionary when he returns to his office.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy should not try to be too clever with words.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Or he can ask his Parliamentary Secretary now. That is fruit for thought for the Minister for the night. In any case, it includes sole, brill, turbot, plaice and that type of fish. In 1967, the total value of the catches was £1,079,794. Despite the depreciating value of money the increase is rather insignificant. It moved to £1,111,747 in 1968 and increased by another £100,000 odd in 1969. Despite the fact that we read of the launching of new boats and the provision of modern gear and modern equipment, the headway there is insignificant to my mind.

The total value of net fish stands at £2.1 million according to this report. Lobsters, crab fish, escallops, or shellfish in general, brought our total figure up to less than £3 million last year. The crab fish side of the industry accounts for almost £1 million of that, and our exports to the Continent alone of crab fish of the different varieties reached about £707,000 last year. I understand the figure was almost £1 million so, if we take that sum from the total value of our fish catches, the other types of fish account for a little less than £2 million. These are small figures when, according to the Bill we are discussing, the board is looking for borrowing power of up to £5 million.

Side by side with this statement we have a graph of our fish exports which I am sure the Minister will read later on. This year the graph shows just more than 2½ million of which £1 million, in round figures, is accounted for through the export of shell fish. This is happening in an island with [53] so many thousand miles of coastline. Our imports of fish are increasing steadily. I understand that the figure for last year was £1.86 million, representing 60 per cent of the value of the fish caught at home. In this relatively small island with a population of less than 3,000,000 people, and with so many miles of coastline, why should we have to hand out £1.862 million for imported fish? The type of fish we are importing is the type we have abounding in our own waters. There is no special type of fish according to the accounts we have in this abbreviated report.

I suggest that something is wrong with the fishing industry. Are we giving it the attention we should give it or are we just ploughing public money into the fishing industry, keeping it going, making a nice soft living for some people who do not wet their feet so far as fishing is concerned but who stay comfortably ashore and draw the dividends? I do not want to repeat what I said here on Thursday last so far as that aspect of the industry is concerned. I do not want to take up the time of the House in doing so but we know—and I think this was mentioned by Deputy Begley earlier in this debate—of people who are getting soft money. The Minister can define the term “soft money” for himself. I am sure he can do so without any help from me. The people who are paying that soft money are the small men, the men who have to go out into the wind and the weather and fight against the seas and the waves to try to catch fish and bring them to shore and take what they get without any more ado. I hope the new Minister will take that up with the board and see that that type of person is protected.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Who are they? Who are the people who are getting soft money?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  That is a good one. The people getting the soft money are those——

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy should tell the House.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Of course I will tell [54] the House. The Minister need not have asked me that question. I was about to tell the House but I thought the Minister would be aware of it. If I had here £1,000——

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  As the Deputy almost certainly has.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  No. I must illustrate. The Minister is from an inland place and I assume that he has not much knowledge of fishing so it is essential to illustrate in detail. There is not any sea around Kilkenny, Callan or Castlecomer. To come to the fellows who will get the soft money: people who put down a deposit on a boat and, for that deposit, get a share in the boat and get the same return for it as the man who was out working at sea catching the fish. That is the fellow who gets the soft money. I am referring to people who never go to sea but who get the boats and get other fellows to go out and to brave the storms and waves while they remain safe on shore and then get the money and put it into their pockets. There are a number of such people around our coasts. I should like to see the money paid for fish going into the pockets of the people who catch it. I mentioned here already the case of seven fishermen who get the same weekly return for their work but no details of any kind as to how the sum is arrived at. They try to get the information on fish prices through radio reports.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Is the Deputy for or against investment in fishing?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I am for productive investment. I am not for exploitation.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  We are all against exploitation. I want to understand the Labour Party's position. Is the Deputy for or against private investment in fishing?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Yes, I am—at a fair return. I am not in favour of private investment in fishing at exorbitant rates of interest. That kind of money should come from some other source. I am not in favour of a person having £1,000 and giving it towards the cost of a boat and getting, in return for that, the same [55] return as the fisherman gets for his work on the boat. I believe he is not entitled to that rate of interest and that it is unfair to the man who is actually doing the work.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy is not being clear. Unless I misunderstand him, he is saying that a man who actually puts money up to finance a fishing operation should get no more than a person who works for wages.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  No, Sir. The person who puts money up—or down—is entitled to a fair return for his money. I am a firm believer in private enterprise and in that type of investment but I do not agree he should get an exorbitant rate for the money.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  None of us does.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I do not agree, either, that he should withhold, from the man who works on the boat, the returns from the fish markets of Dublin and Cork. These returns should be available to all the men. The men should not be afraid to ask for the returns lest they be told their services are no longer required. I hope I have made myself clear.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Not particularly. The Deputy is in favour of good wages and private enterprise. So are we all.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I think the Minister is at sea about the whole question.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy is not pin-pointing where the soft money is going.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Surely the Minister does not want me to repeat what I have said?

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  No.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I gave the information in the most simple form possible. Seeing that the Minister is now in this position, I think there is an obligation on me to give the information to him. Let me turn now to another subject. We have people banded together in organisations of different kinds. Almost [56] all our people are now in an organisation of one kind or another. The gun is out demanding so much—or else. That is the way our Irish system is working today with closely-knit groups and organisations demanding, in many cases, more than their slice of the loaf. There is no organisation so far as the ordinary fishermen are concerned: they number about 1,600 around our coasts. They are far too removed from each other. They are one group who need organisation and someone to look after their interests. I trust the board will try to have the ordinary fishermen from Donegal to Mizen Head organised. Tell the fisherman his rights. Hold meetings with him. Let him know where he stands. Protect him, where there is need of protection, from exploitation.

The boatowners or skippers who are acting conscientiously and giving justice to their fishermen have nothing to fear or to dread under such a position. In actual fact, it would be to their advantage also. I do not want to go back on statements made here last Thursday which hinted at unsuitable applicants getting boats through political representations. The information available to us about the board is so limited that I am not conversant with how such applications are processed. I am satisfied that the chairman is a man of the highest integrity: I know him and other senior executives from their visits to west Cork. There is one thing we do not know in relation to those who are members of the board and those who have been members of it in the past: we do now know how they function. I am glad to give the Minister one of his early lessons on the fishing industry.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I am grateful to the Deputy.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I hope he will benefit by it. I am satisfied he will take action. It is impossible for a person from an inland place to know what is happening around the coast. One must be on the spot. One must meet these people. One must find out what is happening. I am a representative of this House, paid from public funds and paid to travel from Schull, County Cork, to attend meetings of this Dáil [57] The aim of public representatives should be to measure up to a standard set down here by Deputy Haughey. I came across it accidentally. It is a reference to the role of a TD. He said he does not get anybody anything that he is not entitled to but he can make sure that a person gets what he is entitled to.

I have never claimed in the course of my public life that I have endeavoured to get anything for anybody that he was not entitled to but I am endeavouring to get for our people what they are entitled to in justice and if some people get more than their share either in the fishing industry, the agricultural industry or any other industry it is self-evident that others get less than their rightful share. That is what I am bringing to the notice of the Minister this evening. I do not like to see any man, no matter what his role, his political affiliation or his vocation in life, getting less than he is entitled to from this State. What I want to see is justice and justice only, irrespective of how it will react on my own personal fortunes. The day is gone when our people would be gulled by party hacks going around implying that benefits were got for our people to which they were not lawfully and legally entitled. If such benefits were got for people and if statements that some people here can get benefits for people to which they are not entitled are correct then that is fraudulent.

What I am trying to bring home is the desirability of getting fair play for the ordinary fisherman, the fellow who has no capital, who must do the actual work out in the sea and who must gamble on having a good catch or his income will be very small. The Minister will appreciate the uncertainty of the average fisherman's income. If fishing is good he may have a good week's income; if the weather is unfavourable or if the fish are very plentiful and prices are down, he will have a small week's income. We should make sure he will get what he is entitled to and that some people do not take from his table some bread that is lawfully his.

Shellfish are very important at the moment in west Cork. I was very pleased to read that despite the national [58] figures for our sales of fish—incidentally Deputy Creed was not able to solve this problem either—we are catching £2.9 million worth of fish and we are selling £2.5 million worth so that we are eating scarcely any fish at home except imported fish.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Added value on processed fish.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Minister solved that since Thursday. However, we must be using a large amount of the imported fish ourselves.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Why?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Because we imported £1.862 million worth. Let us get down to this industry which is netting £1 million annually. I am sure, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are reasonably conversant with the shellfish industry. It does not require big boats and usually two people can man a boat. The work is reasonably difficult. The income could be deemed uncertain. Of late in our area the position is bright and sizeable quantities of shellfish of all varieties are caught. One million pounds on the export market is a big figure. I wonder what advice or assistance does An Bord Iascaigh Mhara give to people who catch these fish? They are not too sure of prices. They are not conversant with market fluctuations. Most of these fish are sold on the Continent. These people do not know whether in Paris today oysters or crab-fish or lobsters are doing well or doing badly. The board should step in and make daily announcements on market fluctuations and market prices for that kind of fish and let those who catch the fish know what the prices are. There are sometimes radio announcements about fish prices but I have been told they are unsatisfactory and that in many cases they are not too factual. We know what a small variation could mean in the price of such costly fish as lobster, prawns and so on.

We in West Cork are trying to help our gross national product and our balance of payments by the catching of fish, particularly the valuable fish I have been referring to. On the last occasion I referred briefly to the necessity for some of the money being expended [59] by the Fisheries Branch to be spent on harbour and pier development works. I do not want to go into this question again. In fact, I did not think it was relevant at all to the discussion until it was pointed out to me by the Acting Chairman last Thursday that it was quite relevant to discuss harbours, piers and slips on this Estimate, something I thought unusual.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Which of the Acting Chairmen pointed that out to the Deputy?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Read the Official Report. We will move away now from the discussion on the fishing ports. I discussed the ports last week and mentioned the necessity for developing them. We are very pleased with the work at Baltimore. It is giving reasonable employment. The products are excellent. The development works at Castletownberehaven, although delayed for a long time, are now very satisfactory. I have indicated to people from other centres who are pressing for work to be done that all the money cannot be found to carry out works simultaneously at every port. Much money had to be expended at the major pier in Castletownberehaven. I hope that Castletownberehaven will soon take over the position which Killybegs now holds. We have other ports. I am not going to mention them in this debate. I am doubtful about the relevance of this question. If it had not been for the direction from the Chair the last day I do not think I would have raised the matter.

As we know, charity begins at home. We have had representations about the piers at Schull, Baltimore, Kinsale and other places. I would ask the newly-appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Fahey, to take note of them.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Or to visit Union Hall.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Deputy Dr. O'Donovan should know about Union Hall. The next item I want to deal with is the import of fish. I cannot understand why we should have had to import £1.862 million worth of fish last year. [60] Why should we have had to do that? How is it that we cannot catch sufficient fish to meet our own requirements?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair does not wish to interrupt the Deputy unduly. The Bill before the House would seem to be for the provision of extra money with regard to fisheries.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Chair will agree that how that money is to be expended is relevant to the discussion. It is a big question to give a State-sponsored body the power of borrowing up to £5 million, particularly as, as has been indicated by various Members, time and time again, information is being withheld from Members of this House as to the activities of such bodies. We get some kind of general statement from the board under discussion. We did get the actual figures for imports of fish in previous years in the annual reports from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara but we do not get them any longer. We were given more detailed information about the type of fish we were importing than we are now given. This is an important question. Why cannot we catch a sufficiency of fish in our own waters? There are thousands of miles of coastline to meet our requirements.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Would the Deputy agree that we have still the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to come before the House? This would afford ample opportunity for raising the various points which the Deputy is now discussing.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  An opportunity for more exhaustive examination is required. Part of this £5 million which the board expect to borrow will, I presume, be borrowed shortly. There has been a sum of £1.1 million written-off recently as losses and liability. When dealing with public boards it does not seem to matter whether they make profit or loss. The personnel are sure of their pay and superannuation. In private businesses it is the manager's job to watch the business and to be very careful; he is dependent on the business for his livelihood; if he is not [61] very careful he will be faced with bankruptcy. I do not wish to specify any particular State-sponsored board. We have CIE and other such boards. It does not matter whether they suffer losses or not. Of course they lose. The citizen is asked to pay through turnover tax, income tax and taxes on all foodstuffs and commodities. This situation occurs too often with regard to State-sponsored bodies. The State balances the books when necessary. When State-sponsored bodies are concerned, no one will lose his job in so far as the personnel attached to the particular board are concerned. If funds are not available and losses are incurred Cáitlín Ní Hoúlihán will pay.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy is quite right.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  What is the idea of wasting time with State-sponsored bodies?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy will appreciate that this is moving away very considerably from the material of the Bill before the House.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I am suggesting that the board should do more than they are doing at present. They should try to ensure that the necessity for importing such large and costly quantities of fish will not arise in the future. I do not wish to disagree with the ruling of the Chair. The fishing industry is costing public funds a great deal of money. It is an industry from which many people in the country are not benefiting one iota. People in Dublin and in midland towns buy fish at substantially more than was paid for it to the man who caught it. The price of fish in Dublin is exorbitant.

The people in inland towns and even in towns where fish is caught locally are paying high prices for fish. Possibly that is the reason why fish consumption is so low. Even if fish consumption was higher it might not benefit local fishermen. Fishery imports would have to increase. There are only 1,600 people employed permanently in the fishing industry and 3,600 people employed in a part-time capacity in it. [62] The figures could be increased substantially.

I had an opportunity of visiting Iceland and of listening to lectures from people in that country on every aspect of the fishing industry. I was able to see for myself the prosperity of the country where 90 per cent of their income was derived from the fishing industry. Iceland is in a much more difficult zone for fishing than Ireland is. There is not much difference in size between the two countries. Possibly we have more coastline than Iceland. Our population is much higher. Surely their methods are much more modern than ours in so far as the handling of fish is concerned.

Last month I had an opportunity of attending Bergen fish market in Norway. When that fish market is compared with our method of selling fish it is easy to see why we are not successful. I spent a couple of hours at the market because I was very interested in seeing how the fish was offered for sale. The market was held in an open square and the fish was offered for sale under the most hygienic conditions. The number of people buying fish was far in excess of what the number would be in a city of comparable size such as Cork. It happened to be a Friday but I am sure that that did not influence the people who attended the market. I am suggesting that the fish consumption there is much higher because of the way in which it is presented for sale. We could certainly learn much from them. Our method of selling fish is not conducive to increased demand. We are lagging far behind other countries in this respect. The authorities should pay more attention first of all, to the price of fish and, secondly, to the methods of marketing fish.

It would not be fair for me to take up any more of the time of the House since there are other Deputies from coastal as well as other areas who are anxious to speak. Before concluding I should like to say a word about the newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and his Parliamentary Secretary. These men have not yet been in office long enough to have become conversant with their particular Department. I do not know whether [63] Deputy Fahey will be made responsible for Fisheries but, at any rate, I am very pleased that he has been appointed to the post of junior Minister. I have known Deputy Fahey since he became a Member of the Dáil. It pleases me to see Deputies from rural Ireland being promoted. There may be other Deputies who would claim to be better equipped for such posts by virtue of having many letters after their names but Deputies from rural Ireland may be much more in tune with what is needed to be done in relation to this particular Department. I have great respect for Deputy Fahey although we have disagreed on political issues. He has now been assigned to an important post and I, as I am sure the other Deputies in the House also, wish him every success during his period of office.

However, the only addition I would make to that is that I hope that period of office will not be for too long because we all know how anxious the House is for a change in Government. I shall have a talk with the Parliamentary Secretary in the not too distant future to discuss some of the matters that come within the ambit of his office in the hope that this may produce better results than open discussion. I see the Minister has come in and to him, also, I should like to extend my best wishes for his success in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. As I have said here before, our population is too small for us to take mean advantages. It would be rotten for one party to be pleased because another is in difficulty.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  It is very nice of the Deputy to say that.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  It is my opinion that we should have more co-operation in a country like this of less than 3,000,000 people. While I criticised the Government and their activities during the recent debate I now extend my best wishes to both the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. Their work in relation to fisheries is difficult enough but it is much more difficult in relation to agriculture. I can only [64] hope that their work will help to prosper and advance the Irish people.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  I agree with most of the points raised by Deputy Murphy. His problems would appear to be similar to those which exist along the Kerry coast. If we are to discuss this increase to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara we must also discuss how the money is to be used. I should hope this money is intended for the purpose of extending the fishing industry and thereby reducing the imports of fish. We should endeavour to get some proportion of the £168 million that is available in EEC countries. This is important because our figures to date in respect of fishing are miserable when compared with those of other European countries. Of course, I would like to see much more money being devoted to the fishing industry if it were possible to do so.

I am not at all satisfied that the efforts of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Fisheries Division over the years have lent themselves to the landing of fish economically. As Deputy Murphy said, the Department is costing this country £1,800,000; it is costing up to £600,000 to run An Bord Iascaigh Mhara alone, and it will take practically £500,000 to service this £5 million borrowing. Those figures added together far exceed our £2,500,000 fish exports for 1968. It must also be considered that £1 million of those exports are mainly fresh water fish, salmon and shellfish, and £600,000 of them are purely herrings much of which are landed by foregn trawlers on our coasts. That leaves us with a balance of £700,000 plus about £400,000 worth that is consumed at home, a little over £1 million altogether. If it costs us up to £3 million to produce £1 million worth of sea fish landings, then this is not a good picture.

I have been a member of the fishery committee in the Council of Europe for two years and I have the returns of various European countries for export landings. The export landings of fish in Ireland in 1968 were 49,000 metric tons: the Faroe Islands, which is very small in size and population, had 107,000 tons; Iceland, which would be comparable in size but has [65] a much smaller population, had 836,300 tons; Norway, which would be comparable to Ireland in size and population had 3,010,000 tons. The value of our export landings was $6.3 million or £2.8 million. The Icelandic figure was $86,300,000 or £34,500,000. The Norwegian figure was £100 million, despite the fact that owing to climatic conditions, Norway has only a very short fishing season.

If there had been a more active approach by the Governments of the past and even by the Government of today to the value of fishing particularly along our west coast, our fishery exports should be in the region of at least £30 million today. That would give employment both afloat and on land to about 40,000 people. This would make a vast difference because the major portion of it would apply to our west coast and would certainly be the answer to the problem of the declining population in that area. It should be remembered that we have an all the year round fishing season which the other countries have not. Still our returns are miserable having regard to the general fishing possibilities here. According to EEC estimates there is a market of £186 million for fish over and above their own landings. It should be possible for us to get our fair share of this market. When shall we have a realistic approach to the value of this industry which could help so much to stem the emigration from the west, in particular, and from the congested areas all over the country? There are half-hearted talks at times about keeping our people along the western coastline. There are the country development teams and so on but they seem to shy away from fishery development.

From the time I came to this House I have made efforts to have something done in my own area, particularly in Dingle, Cahirciveen and adjoining areas. As Deputy Murphy stated, going back 50 years ago, we had no boards and practically no Fisheries Division. Yet a vast number of people was engaged in the fishing industry. Smallholders succeeded, between fishing and managing their small holdings, to rear big families and produce the necessaries [66] of life, pursuing a way of life that was ideal in those days. The start of the decline in fishing was the close down of the American market for both herrings and mackerel. This was brought about by changes in health legislation at the time. Most of the fish in other days was packed in barrels, sent across the Atlantic and sold in open markets.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair is loath to interfere with Deputies in the development of their arguments in the debate, but the Bill before the House deals with the activities of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the provision of money for that body. As the Chair has pointed out previously, the Estimate for Agriculture and Fisheries will be coming before the House when the general policy in regard to fisheries can be dealt with. The Chair is anxious not to allow the discussion to become so wide as to get away from the Bill before the House.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  I am referring to the failure of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to develop, and I am anxious to see that any new borrowings will lead to far wider development than has taken place in the past. My experience since I came to the House is that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara have set about and succeeded in a policy of conservatism. They sold out the various landing houses and processing places along our shores. This is not conducive to development.

We now have a position in which we are doing much less fishing than when we had no boats. The reason our fishing has declined is that there was not enough vision to establish processing plants, which should have been the answer by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara as a State body. If they had established those processing plants and packaged the fish so that it would reach the market in the form the purchaser requires we would have much more fishing done here. I am certainly anxious to see the maximum amount of money channelled into fishing and I want to see an increased number of processing plants established. I take it the money now being granted will be mainly for boats.

Along the coastline in my county we have several different types of engines [67] and we cannot get a repair depot to repair many of those engines. I know of a fisherman who was waiting six months for a part for an engine. Surely it is not too much to expect that a board with so much of the State's money in this industry would have the necessary standard type engines, or at least if they have to have several types of engines, to standardise a particular type on one part of the coast and to have repair depots with spare parts so that the fishermen can get their engines repaired. It is because of the lack of such facilities that so many fishermen have run into debt and cannot make their boats pay. Recently I heard of a man who since last September has been trying to get a new engine for his boat. It was because of pressure I brought to bear that the engine was obtained. We want to make sure that this money will be put into the type of development which will help the fishermen.

Salmon fishing, which represents £1 million of our exports, and herring fishing are not directly concerned with An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Every other type of fishing is directly concerned with the board. The figures I have given for other countries, which are not in as favourable a position as we are, bespeaks the futile effort made here to try to build up our fishing. When only half of the landings are accepted surely any board or any Fishery Branch cannot feel proud of their efforts in this regard. I take it those figures which I have given, which were obtained from the Council of Europe, are correct. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara must completely re-examine their efforts because we seem to be completely tied down to the markets within our own country. Deputy Murphy spoke of £1.8 million imports being made up mainly of fish fingers. The bulk is made up of whiting and such fish which we all too often send to the fish plants. The balance is made up of canned salmon mainly from Canada and Japan. It should be possible to can our salmon, if there is a surplus landed when salmon is very cheap. It should be possible also to produce fish fingers from fish caught around our coast. In times of heavy [68] landings much of our fish goes to the fish plants.

Our fishermen are suffering because of the lack of facilities. The best fishermen are going away from the western areas where they should be employed. Many of our young men, if they saw a genuine effort being made to help them, would take to the sea and make a living out of fishing. Many of the men in the Dingle and Cahirciveen areas are very anxious to stay. Sometimes when fish is scarce they get a fair price for the catch but at other times, when there are heavy landings, the fish has to be sold at a give-away price to the fish factories, or sold to merchants who are able to put it into cold storage until such time as they can obtain a high price for it.

I would ask An Bord Iascaigh Mhara or the Government to set up some form of commission to inquire into the whole fishing industry. There should be some form of advisory board to advise fishermen on the best method of increasing their landings. We had some American experts here at one stage but from the information I got these people were not conversant with the methods of fishing here. They were more concerned with large boats and long distance fishing. We have plenty of fishing quite near our shores which could be developed with small boats which could land 20 to 30 cran of fish at a time. I am rather amazed to see that Norway has over 40,000 fishing vessels, the bulk of which are very small. It has very few big boats but still it is able to land £100 million worth of fish. We can forget the long distance sea fishing. Some old fishermen in Dingle and Cahirciveen told me there was no necessity for the very big sea-going boats, that we should spend our time with whatever type of naval boats we have trying to stop the big men from coming into our harbours. These people are trying to come in so why should we get big boats to go out fishing? This is the standard by which the fishermen measure the value of the big boats.

There is certainly room for vast expansion of the fishing industry. This must come because otherwise, with the [69] way things are going at the moment, with our fishermen losing heart for any development and the younger lads leaving, we will find ourselves left with the middle aged and older fishermen and we will not have the problem in ten years time. The tradition of fishing will have passed on like so many of our other trades along the western seaboard and we will not be able to get the younger lads in the years ahead to reopen this business again. We need a crash programme now to try to reap this rich harvest to its fullest. Great progress has been made during the years but, to use a fisherman's phrase, we appear to be resting on our oars and any progress that has been made recently has been in the matter of prices.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on John L. O'Sullivan  Zoom on John L. O'Sullivan  I should like to say a few words on this very important industry for fishermen. I welcome the new Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. I have always said that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is the most important man in the Government. I wish both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary luck in their new appointments and I hope that when they leave the Department will be better than when they came into it.

There has not been much of a change as far as environment is concerned because the last Minister fished in the Lagan and his Parliamentary Secretary fished in the Blackwater, and the present Minister fishes on the Nore and his Parliamentary Secretary on the Suir. I suppose they are good fishermen and that when they get into deep water they will be able to acquit themselves very well. The first thing I should like to deal with is the fishing limit.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Before the Deputy begins to deal with that——

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on John L. O'Sullivan  Zoom on John L. O'Sullivan  Do not tell me I am going outside the limits.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair is in the difficulty that we have a Bill but we still have the Vote for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

[70]Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on John L. O'Sullivan  Zoom on John L. O'Sullivan  I agree with your decision but I think the fishery limit is one of the most important matters we could discuss.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Deputy will have an opportunity of discussing it when the Estimate comes before the House. The Bill deals with the provision of money for An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on John L. O'Sullivan  Zoom on John L. O'Sullivan  We have a 12-mile limit and we must provide money to protect it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  That is where the Chair's difficulty comes in. Protection is a matter for another Minister, the Minister for Defence, and other points in regard to such matters as slips and quays do not arise on the Bill before the House. The Deputy will have an opportunity of dealing with all these points on the Estimate. We are very limited in regard to what we can discuss on the Bill.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on John L. O'Sullivan  Zoom on John L. O'Sullivan  I thought that because the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was the other Minister until recently he might be able to say a few words on this. However, I will not pursue it. Fishing is a most important industry and when we consider the number of people employed in it and the amount of money made from it I do not think we have made much progress during the years. Going back to my young days I can remember the number of in-shore fishermen on our coast and I am sure they exceed by far the number of men employed in the entire industry today. The fishing industry at that time was making as much money then as now if you compare the value of money then and now.

When you see French and Spanish trawlers fishing to within sight of our coast there must be something there. We have around us a great industry if it were handled properly. As I have said, fishermen come from Spain and France, crossing the roughest seaway, the Bay of Biscay, to get here to fish not only in summer but in the depth of winter. While they are coming within sight of our coast we are not able to protect our industry. A few [71] days ago we learned that some effort is being made to provide a vessel for this purpose and I hope that not only one but three or four such vessels will be made available in the near future.

Deputy Murphy spoke about harbours and piers, another very important aspect of our fishing industry. If we have not proper accommodation for our fishing boats there is no use sending them out. It is reasonable to assume that when people brave the seas, when they provide themselves with boats and face the ocean, they should be provided with adequate harbours and piers. More was done 40 years ago in this regard, as anyone can see who goes around the coast.

I hope money will be provided in the near future for this very important industry. Especially now, when we face entry to the EEC where there is an excellent market for any fish we can supply, I hope the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary will see to it that bigger and better boats will be provided for our fishermen so that they can fish for longer hours and with greater safety. A big difficulty for our fishermen has been the fact that their boats were on the small side and that they, therefore, were not able to go out as far, or stay out as long as their competitors from France and Spain. I hope this will be rectified in the near future. There appears to be an unlimited market for any fish we can export to Europe and we should exploit this market to the limit.

In this context I should like to refer to the shellfish industry which has increased considerably in recent years. The board should be careful to see that our coasts are not overfished and that the seed is left. Another point I wish to mention is representation on the board. I think we should have a bigger percentage of fishermen on the board because they are the people who understand the difficulties of the industry and who would be able to advise the Minister and his officials on them. In the past they had not as much representation as I should like them to have. It is their industry and they should be represented on the board.

[72] I should like to wish the Minister every success in his task. I have been on a number of boards with the Parliamentary Secretary and have always found him a most hardworking and capable representative. Both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have a demanding job before them and I wish them every success.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  Before making a few brief comments may I say, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that I am glad to see you, Sir, back in the House, fit and well. Last week I was unable to be here for the opening of the debate and I thank Deputy Desmond for standing in for me on that occasion. Most of the remarks he and Deputy Murphy have made from these benches were points I had intended to deal with myself and, therefore, my job is particularly light today. However, there are one or two points with which I should like to deal but, as the Chair is keeping a rather tight rein on the debate, I am afraid I may not be allowed the same licence as was permitted earlier.

Today I received statistics in connection with the fishing industry for 1969 and I also received the report and accounts of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara for the previous year. A quick look at the figures shows an improvement in both the value and quantity of landings under most headings. It is to the credit of the board that since their establishment a few short years ago almost without exception the quantity and the value of landings have expanded annually. A glance at our geographical position by a person not connected with the fishing industry would indicate that Ireland is particularly well suited to take advantage of the fishing potential in this part of the world. Unfortunately, however, little interest has been taken in the industry by successive administrations. There was a separate Department of Fisheries in the first Cumann na nGaedheal Government but it was amalgamated with the Department of Lands and later with the Department of Agriculture. During those years the fishing industry declined throughout this country and it was only in the sixties that we had a welcome return of interest by the present administration in the great [73] potential the industry holds for our country.

The establishment of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara was a milestone for the industry. In the 16th and 17th centuries Ireland was one of the leading fishing countries in the world; we exported fish in huge quantities to the continent and this was achieved with boats and gear very different from what are used today.

The report from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries indicates the vast increase that has taken place in the quantities of landings, particularly in regard to herrings. If my mathematics are correct, there was an increase of 230,000 cwts in one year and this is, indeed, a most valuable improvement in relation to the fishing industry. Most of the herring catch is exported to Europe, particularly to France, and the fact that it is sold to one of the EEC countries is especially gratifying.

Under the heading of shellfish, catches of crab and oysters have shown a dramatic increase in the last year. However, the sharp decline in our catches of plaice and codfish is not welcome. In the chart for home consumption both plaice and codfish are the most popular and a decrease in the quantity landed means that we must import to satisfy consumer needs. As a nation we are very conservative and even with the promotional drive by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara there has been little change in our traditional eating habits. Deputy O'Connor mentioned that there has been an increase in the importation of fish particularly from Britain and this often takes the form of fish fingers. These are made in Britain and, due to the attractive packaging, they appear to sell reasonably well in this country. An intensive promotional campaign for this product is carried out through the medium of Independent Television which is viewed by very many people in this country.

A lot of money is devoted to promoting the sale of fish fingers on the British market. The promotional efforts seem to be effective on our east coast also and the north-east coast where these programmes are received. Bord Iascaigh Mhara have used television [74] to promote the sale of fish on the home market. Obviously they are limited as to the amount of money they can spend because promotion of this type is rather expensive. They tend to limit their advertising to the one day in the week when most people eat fish, namely, Friday. I am sure everyone knows the advertisement about sea fresh fish being available.

I think the board should endeavour to make fish a more saleable product on other days of the week. It is doubtful if the fast and abstinence rules, which apply only in Ireland, benefit the fishing industry because fish eaten on Friday instead of meat is thought of as a penalty. Young housewives should be taught all the different methods of preparing fish dishes; they will then find their families will appreciate fish dishes on other days of the week apart from Fridays. It is a luxury to be able to provide meat two or three times a day at the price it is and I think Bord Iascaigh Mhara could promote the consumption of fish at one meal in the day. They could perhaps have a promotional drive suggesting a teatime meal of fish.

Deputy Desmond has dealt with the price of fish, which seems to fluctuate from week to week. He also dealt with the difference in the price charged for fish at the landing place and later at the shops where it was sold. Indeed, the price paid for fish landed at Wicklow port, which is not regarded as a fishing port by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, compared with the price quoted for fish per ton at the markets, is very different. There is a need for an inquiry into the difference between the price of fish at the point where it is landed and at the point of purchase.

I had hoped that you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, would permit me to make some mention of the prospects of our fishing industry under EEC conditions but I imagine this would be outside the limits of this debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  The Chair is glad to agree with the Deputy on that.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  On that point, I should just like to say there will be [75] great concern for the fishing industry under EEC conditions if the report on fisheries included in the bulletin issued by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, published in April, 1970, is correct. I would ask the Minister to ensure that the fishing industry is high on his list of priorities when negotiations take place so that the present excellent work being done by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara can continue. If our waters are to be opened to other members of the EEC our fishing industry will be seriously jeopardised.

The league table for ports shows a welcome improvement for most ports. There was an increase in the value of landings in 25 out of the 34 ports mentioned in the report. There was a decrease in landings in nine ports but that is an improvement on last year when there was a decrease in 11 out of the 29 ports listed. I am sorry to see Arklow included in the list of ports which has declined. A few years ago Arklow was one of the major fishing ports in the country but the amount of fishing now done by Arklow fishermen is very small compared with what was done in the past.

No doubt the setting up of other industries in the area has resulted in a decline in the number of fishermen. While the setting up of new industries is always to be commended, it does mean a loss to the fishing industry of people with a valuable knowledge of fishing. The industry cannot afford to lose such people. The Minister should look into the position at that port to see if something could be done to bring young people back into the area which has always had a great fishing and seafaring tradition.

There are people in my own town who fish on a part-time basis but they are not being given any incentive to continue even in a part-time capacity. Some of the dockers in Wicklow supplement their income by being part-time fishermen when there is not enough dock work for them. These fishermen have attempted to build a small shelter in which to keep their fishing equipment. They approached both the Department and An Bord [76] Iascaigh Mhara and they met with no success.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  This would not arise on the Bill. Perhaps the Deputy will get a more relevant opportunity on which to raise this point.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  I just mentioned it and I hope the Minister will take note of the plight of the fishermen. I will conclude by pointing out that any increase in the capital investment results in an increase in landings and in the value of those landings. I hope the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary will devote as much time and energy as possible to the fishing industry because there is scope for improvement and expansion. Exports help to offset our adverse balance of payments.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I find it very difficult to understand why this Second Reading debate is so circumscribed. Every Deputy who has spoken so far has complained about this. We are seeking in this Bill to increase the money available to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara by approximately £2 million. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are responsible for the entire sea-fishing industry. Almost every Deputy who has spoken has felt himself restricted since he was not allowed to deal with the numerous problems confronting the industry for which An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is responsible. It is very difficult to have a discussion which is relevant or to contribute anything to this debate——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies will, as the Deputy is probably aware, get a relevant opportunity of discussing all these matters when the Estimate for Agriculture and Fisheries is before the House.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  That has been said by the Chair on several occasions. I fail to understand why this House should be expected to provide this amount of money and, at the same time, be prohibited from discussing the subject matter for which this money is to be used. This is all wrong. The full scope of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara should be discussed here. If the Minister's speech is notable for anything it is notable for what it has not given us by way [77] of information. It consisted of a page and a half of typescript, non-information, looking for an increase of £2 million for An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  It is a very short Bill.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  It must have been the shortest Second Reading speech ever in this House. I am not saying that the Minister should be expert on the fishing industry, but he should be adequately briefed. This is deplorable. We owe a debt of gratitude to Deputy Donal Creed for the information he has given the House. He told us something about the up-to-date situation in the fishing industry. We got absolutely nothing from the Ministry except a page and a half of non-information.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Ask Deputy Creed.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  The Minister has done a great disservice to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in producing that speech. Deputy Donal Creed went to the trouble obviously of asking An Bord Iascaigh Mhara for figures. They are impressive figures. Very few industries can claim to have something like a 39 per cent increase in exports and a 24 per cent increase in landings. This is a very laudable situation. It is certainly a situation which ought not to compel Deputies to criticise, but Deputies did criticise because they did not have that information made available to them. The Minister should have come in here and told us what the present situation is and what the plans for the future are. There is nothing like that in this speech. We are told nothing about the board. Very few Deputies know anything about the board. They do not know who the members are. They do not know when they were appointed. They do not know why they were appointed. Outside the House I hear that such a person was appointed because he is secretary of the Fianna Fáil cumann in Donegal. The Minister has an obligation to tell the House who the members of the board are and what special qualifications they have for the job.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Any Deputy can find that out by putting down a question.

[78]Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  It is the Minister's responsibility to give the information. A Deputy should not have to go probing for these things.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I cannot know what the Deputy wants to know until he asks.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Has not the Minister responsibility, when he comes in here looking for £2 million, to tell the House what this £2 million is for and who will use it?

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I did.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  The Minister told us nothing about the board. He told us nothing which would indicate who the people are who will use this money and the way in which they will use it. He told us nothing about the future plans or any extension of the plans. Here we have an extremely valuable industry but responsibility for it is fragmented and because of this it is particularly unfair that we are not allowed to go outside the narrow confines of the Bill in discussing it and that we are not allowed to deal with the problems that affect An Bord Iascaigh Mhara in using that money. This may look as if it is criticism of the Chair but I am not criticising you, Sir, particularly: I think it is an unfortunate position.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The position is that there is a little book of regulations here, approved by the House, in relation to debates. There is nothing I can do except carry out those regulations.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  You will admit that there are unusual circumstances here where the Board of Works are responsible for harbours, the Inland Fisheries Trust responsible for some part of the fishing industry, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries responsible for another part and Bord Iascaigh Mhara responsible for yet another part. There is also local authority responsibility in relation to harbours. It is impossible to have a proper discussion on any aspect of the fishing industry when there is all this fragmentation and when one is not allowed to cover the entire scope of it.

[79] Because of this fragmentation at least one member of this board should be from the Board of Works. I understand there is a member from the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The various groups should be represented on this board. I understand the fishermen are not represented nor the co-operatives. Surely this should be rectified. We want to know whether the people for whom we are providing this money are the best people to give us the responsible board we should have. The view generally held is that they are not. This board could be added to with considerable advantage.

Any contact I have had with An Bord Iascaigh Mhara officials impressed me very much. Certainly, those I met were first class and within the limits imposed on them, they have done an excellent job. Even one of the Government Deputies, Deputy O'Connor, was very critical of the whole performance of the fishing industry because he compares it with the performance in other countries in Europe. We must all agree with this. The main reason why we have not advanced faster is because the Government have failed over the years to provide capital. An industry that has potential and can show in one year with a very limited amount of capital investment that it can increase its exports by 39 per cent is an industry that deserves the support of the State in a way it is not forthcoming at present.

A question was asked here as to what will be the position of the industry when we get into the EEC, as we expect. I hold this is relevant because if we are to buy boats now and put them to sea we must know that the people who get them will be able to pay for them. Will the present set-up be able to cope with foreign competition? What degree of protection will we have to provide? We are told that we shall have to defend the territory of the EEC. Our territorial waters will become EEC territorial, according to the information issued to us and it will be a free-for-all among all EEC countries. This will confront our fishermen with very severe competition and we must [80] ask if they will be able to stand up to it. At that point of time will we have geared them to the competition they will meet from much more experienced countries and, perhaps, better equipped fishermen?

I hope the Minister will deal with this aspect of the matter because it is extremely important to the fishermen who have the courage—and I mean courage—to borrow large sums of up to £70,000 at a time. These men deserve to know what the future holds for them. So do future borrowers, and I hope we shall have many of them.

We are all interested in the industry. I should say a real start was made about 1962 when we had the American survey team here. Deputy O'Connor feels their contribution was not a great one but all the developments that have taken place since have been more or less built around their report and recommendations. It was an extremely important start and my only criticism is that progress has been far too slow. That has not been the fault of the BIM officials who were at all times restricted by lack of money. They never had sufficient money. I doubt seriously if this Bill will provide sufficient money by increasing the capital available to them by £2 million. Having regard to the size of the industry and its potential, I think we are only playing at it in giving an extra £2 million. We should instead be providing £10 million if we were serious. Coupled with this there should be an intensive training scheme for fishermen and an intensive promotional scheme for the industry generally.

The grant and loan facilities provided in respect of boats cannot be described as anything but generous and, building on this foundation, we could have enormous progress provided the money was being made available. The information one can get is to the effect that this money is not freely available and that boats are not freely available and that training is not taking place as fast as it could and should take place if the industry were to be properly serviced.

As with every other form of grant and loan there are pitfalls and a notable pitfall encountered by BIM was the [81] two large stern trawlers, the 110-foot vessels. I should like the Minister to tell the House what finally happened to those trawlers and where they are now. I think they were described as mid-water trawlers. What is the prospect, if any, for mid-water fishing in future? I tried to probe this matter when I had some responsibility on these benches for keeping in touch with the industry and, as far as I could gather, this experimental effort with the mid-water trawler failed mainly because we had not the supporting services required. I do not know if that is correct but I hope the Minister will be able to clarify the position and prospects.

I am jumping from one thing to another because I have nothing really prepared. Many speakers referred to imports and the fact that in the past year imports had increased to the tune of £399,000 or some substantial figure like that. The case made was that we were losing out because we were not getting into the fish finger business. I do not think this is a business that we should be so concerned about at present. I understand it requires considerable capital to get into that business and that when you have the equipment needed for it you must have a constant supply of fairly cheap fish. In this country we are in a special position because with a half-hour's steaming at any time we can be fishing and what we should be exploiting is the freshness of Irish fish and our proximity to the British market and some of the continental markets. Our policy should be high-quality, fresh fish. The time has not arrived for us to consider seriously spending large amounts of money in the fish finger business.

Even if we must import fish fingers and if people eat fish fingers, at least this accustoms them to eating fish and we should have nothing to complain about in that regard as long as we are selling our own fish and our exports are increasing as substantially as indicated by the figures released by BIM over the weekend. It is very understandable that BIM should be concerned about the criticism made and lack of information available to us and that they should produce this document. [82] It gives us an idea of the up-to-date position.

What also impresses me about the fishing industry is that our landings were less than £3 million, but our exports alone were something over £3½ million. The calculated value of the industry to the country is £6 million. The added value here is obviously enormous. It is very difficult to find industries like this. The Government have overlooked the importance of an industry in which we do not have to import raw materials and in which we have such an amount of employment and added value without input, so to speak. We have only to reap the harvest. It may be a difficult harvesting operation and certainly is in bad weather and it has to be carried out in all weathers.

When I had some responsibility for fisheries from these benches I went to the trouble of seeing what trawlermen went through. It is normal, certainly in Dingle in which Deputy O'Connor is interested, for the men to go out at 5.30 in the morning. I went out with them at 5.30 in the morning and came back at 5.30 in the evening. There were five people on board that vessel. I do not clearly recollect now the actual figures but I know that their income was not by any means enormous. It was quite a modest income. It was sufficient to pay the men on board their shares—and their shares were reasonable enough—and to enable the captain to be happy about his repayments. It is a hazardous and tough life. It will not be easy to attract people to it unless the rewards are very attractive. It will not be easy to get people to work those sort of hours. When a man goes out at 5.30 in the morning and comes back at 5.30 in the evening he needs a rest. He does not feel like doing anything hilarious after that. Nevertheless, there is an immense attraction in that life and to me it was a most interesting experience. Fishing provides employment for quite a number of people.

I would have expected the Minister to tell us the progress that was made in the past year or two in the fishing industry. How many people are employed in the industry at the moment? [83] Where are they employed? I would have expected him to tell us whether there is a suitable insurance scheme for these men, whether there is a pension scheme for them, how life might be made more comfortable for them when they are out at sea and when they get back into port, and whether there are sufficient facilities available to them to make the most of their catch when it is landed. I heard complaints in Dingle and elsewhere that when there is a successful landing of fish, when there is a plentiful supply, the price drops and there is a slump price. It drops because they have not got the proper storage facilities in which to keep the fish until the glut season passes and prices rise again.

All of us should be concerned to see how the incomes of the people who catch the fish can be improvel. The disparity between the price the consumer has to pay and the price the fishermen get has been mentioned by more than one speaker. This is worthy of investigation to see where the difference is, who is reaping the middlemen's reward and if it is excessive. There is a big difference between handing fish over the counter and going out to fish in all weathers. The largest reward should go to the men who catch the fish and not to the man who passes it on to the consumer.

I should like to hear from the Minister how many vessels we have fishing. Deputy O'Connor mentioned the fact that Norway has 40,000 vessels. How many vessels have we? How many more did we get in the past year? What progress is being made in this field and what are the future prospects? How many vessels do we intend to put afloat in the coming 12 months and in the coming five years? Have we any targets? What is the training programme for people to man these vessels? How far have we advanced? This is all part of the effort for which this money is being provided. Much more information should be available to us when we are discussing this Bill.

Members on this side of the House are concerned about the number of people employed in the industry and the type of employment they have. They [84] are also concerned about how conditions can be improved and how the industry can be made to attract more people into it. We are also concerned about the constitution of the board. Who are the members of the board? What are they paid? Can the board be improved? What are the members doing? What are they not doing? What are their plans for the future? The Minister should have told us these things for this Second Reading debate.

There is very little more one can say. We are prevented from talking about the facilities for the boats when they land in the harbours. We are prevented from talking about the problems of protecting our territorial waters, our fishing waters. I am impressed with the progress made in the past 12 months. I do not know enough about the enormous improvement in the herring catches. I wonder is this an unusual season? Could we have an exceptionally bad herring catch next year regardless of the number of boats? An increase in the region of 45 per cent is enormous. I think the increase in exports was 53 per cent in the case of herrings. Could the Minister explain this? Are there exceptional circumstances? Is it due to increased landing power or is it due to weather and other conditions of which most of us here are not aware?

There has also been an improvement in landings and exports of shell fish. To what exactly does the Minister attribute all these improvements? This is a question which is of considerable interest to us all. This is an industry with enormous potential but the Govvernment have shown their lack of confidence in the industry over the years by their failure to provide sufficient money to do everything that was required: to buy boats and the landing gear, and to provide the training facilities and the repair servicing facilities. Other Deputies have complained that fishermen have to wait for six or eight months for a spare engine or a spare part. This is incompetence of a very high degree when people are depending on this industry for their livelihood. In many cases they are depending on it not only for their livelihood but also to pay back the money they borrowed. [85] They are working very hard to pay it back. This industry requires a good deal more attention and a good deal more investment. Since the Bill before us proposes to make £2 million more available to the industry I certainly am anxious to support it. The only thing wrong is this £2 million is still quite inadequate if we are to do the job that requires to be done.

Sir Anthony Esmonde: Information on Anthony Charles Esmonde  Zoom on Anthony Charles Esmonde  Reading the Minister's speech one comes to the conclusion that this is purely an enabling Bill. It is welcome news anyway that the Government recognise the fact that we need more capital ploughed into the fishing industry. We have about 2,000 miles of fishing foreshore in which we have very good fishing. The proof of that is that we have half of Europe there most of the year round— certainly whenever the seasonal catches occur. Some of these foreign vessels have very much better gear than we have been able to provide. In Bally-cotton, County Cork, a few years ago, I saw a craft that could be described as a floating factory. How can our fisheries people contend with such competition? The craft available from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara has been such that, when the fish is caught, it must be delivered straight away. It appears that the principal function of BIM is to lend money to suitable people engaged in fishing so that they may run their business more efficiently and get bigger catches. My constituency is a maritime one but I have not noticed any great advance in this industry to bring us into line with overseas competitors.

As mentioned by a previous Deputy, we shall be sharing our territorial waters with other countries in the not too distant future when we come into economic alliance with them. Unless our fishing industry is greatly advanced and augmented, ours will be the Cinderella of the European fishing fleet. One cannot describe £2 million as grandiose. As far as I read the position, the total investment in Irish fishing is £5 million. It seems to me that the Government are not taking the position seriously.

We spend any amount of money setting up non-nationals in industry here [86] and, as often as not, the raw material for these industries is not available in this country. Here, we have the raw material in abundance around our shores. Perhaps we are richer in that respect than practically any other country in the world because our waters have not been over-fished. Even Iceland, right out in the Atlantic, is over-fished. That country has managed to sustain and support its economy purely from fishing. I wonder what would happen if, overnight. we had to fall back on our fishing industry: we should find ourselves in Queer Street straight away.

A great deal more than £2 million could have been made available without any substantial risk to the Exchequer. BIM seems to be the be-all and end-all of the fishing industry. It is unfortunate that all matters appertaining to fisheries seem tied up with four or five different Departments. We are, therefore, restricted by the rules of the House, which I always observe, so that we are not free to have an open debate on the matter.

This is an enabling Bill. Fianna Fáil are rather good at introducing enabling Bills. It seems their hobby-horse over the past few years. The Minister did not give us some idea of a plan for the future. Is he saying to BIM, in effect: “You may borrow an extra £2 million: do what you like with it”? The money will be available from the taxpayer's pocket for the servicing of that loan and surely the taxpayers are entitled to a statement on the overall plan? I have long felt that our fishing industry is not the particular interest of anyone. That is borne out by the fact that it has been changing about between the Department of Lands and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Possibly it is more satisfactory to have it tied to the latter Department. Our major exports of fish are to the United Kingdom.

I fear that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are not really vitally interested in our fishing industry. This industry is a vital and expandable part of our economy. Possibly it is capable of more rapid expansion than any other sector of industry coming under the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Minister ought to have a forward-looking [87] plan for our fishing industry. If we sign on the dotted line for entry into EEC, we shall have the entire fishing fleets of other countries fishing within our territorial waters and snapping up the catches: to some extent, that is happening even now. The North Sea has been fished to a standstill with the most up-to-date gear. Even though it is fully protected, there is virtually nothing in the way of fish left there. The only fruitful fishing grounds left are those around Ireland. Our waters are a source of fish not only for ourselves but for Europe, as well, if we enter the EEC: even at the moment, our fishing grounds seem to be a free-for-all.

I have seen craft from various countries fishing in our waters and the craft are much more advanced than any we have. I advise BIM to concentrate on a more up-to-date type of vessel. For too long, we have put up with craft that can go out only in moderate or good weather. Such craft take a tremendously long time, relatively speaking, to reach the fishing ground and its productive capacity is probably one-tenth of that which other countries are capable of putting into their fishing waters.

For too long we have put up with that sort of thing. For too long we have regarded sea fishing as being a semi-inshore occupation. To get the big fish one must go out quite a distance and one must have a seaworthy craft. There is no use going out in small, round tub-nosed craft, such as we have had for fishing. As soon as there is a force four wind one must run for harbour straight away with that type of vessel.

We are all very interested in knowing what the position is and what the Minister intends to do and he should give us some idea of what the plans for the future are. From the little I know of the fishing industry, and I have been interested in the sea all my life, I feel the first thing we should do is double the size of our boats. Encouragement should be given to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to have boats of the floating factory type which can freeze, cure and finish their product and land it straight [88] away and then go off again and start from the beginning.

Co-operatives exist in certain parts of the country which are able to deal with the fish. I understand they are being encouraged by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. We have in my county— Deputy Browne represents it too; I do not know whether he is interested in fishing, perhaps we will hear him in a few moments—an extremely up-to-date co-operative society at Kilmore which was started under the greatest difficulties. Every sort of restriction was imposed on the people who started it, not by the Department, but by those who were responsible for transport, when they were arranging to sell that fish at the nearest market. They are operating successfully. Perhaps the Minister would tell us whether An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will, with this money, take a more active interest in the co-operative system. I gather their function apart from supplying boats to catch the fish is to supply the means and the wherewithal to sell the fish and process it.

These are some of the things we would like to know. Perhaps the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, fresh and new to his job, his Parliamentary Secretary sitting beside him straining at the leash as well, will when replying give this House the information he failed to give us in his opening statement.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  If I were to attempt to deal with all the points that have been raised by Deputies of the Opposition parties on this short little Bill we would probably be here for quite a long time. One has only to recall the last two contributions, from Deputy Esmonde and Deputy Clinton, to contemplate the impossibility of such a task. While Deputy Clinton was on his feet he must have asked a hundred questions straight off the top of his head about the fishing industry in general. He took me to task for not giving a general survey of the whole fishing industry in my introductory speech on the Second Reading of this Bill.

It was remarkable the discrepancies that were noticeable between the [89] approaches of the various Deputies, especially of Fine Gael, to the same question. When Deputy Creed was speaking he began by admitting that he did not know a great deal about fisheries. Perhaps I should emulate him in that regard and say straight away that I do not either. What he found scarcely credible was that a fisherman can buy a very expensive boat, and is put in the position of being able to buy it by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, a boat that may cost up to £60,000, and pay his crew and also pay off the cost of the boat within seven or eight years, and provide a good living for his crew as well. Deputy Creed thought this was surprising to the point of being incredible. Let us contrast that attitude with that of his colleague, Deputy Begley from Kerry. His approach to the general problem was very depressing. He thinks boats are being given to people who are not fishermen at all and that people who are fishermen have to give up their boats. He said, for some reason best known to himself, that there are boats rotting away in Arklow. I should like to say, in this connection, that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara do not give any assistance to people who are not fishermen themselves and who have not long experience as fishermen and who have not got skippers' tickets. From Deputy Begley's contribution I got the impression he was under this general impression.

Something similar to that was said by Deputy Murphy of the Labour Party who painted a peculiar picture of people who stay ashore comfortably while somebody else goes off to fish and face the rigours and dangers of the ocean. By some strange trick that he did not quite explain, it is the fellows who stay comfortably at home who, as he said, draw the dividends. While he was speaking I asked him to elaborate on this and to explain to us if he could how this happened but he did not do this.

To return to the themes of Deputy Begley and Deputy Creed—one wondering at the profitability of fishing and the other suggesting that fishing is a dead loss and that fishermen had to give up the business of fishing [90] altogether—Deputy Creed will appreciate that fishing is somewhat like the business of farming. In fact, it is very like it. It is largely a question of efficiency and good management and the application of good business practices, a considerable one being of course staying at the job. This is the reason why there has been such remarkable progress in the last few years in the fishing industry.

A number of Deputies mentioned fish imports and the high figure of £1.8 million for fish imports of one kind or another. This covers a very wide field —tinned salmon, sardines, fish fingers and various kinds of ready-to-use foods. As far as I know, products of that kind are not produced in any quantity at home for the home market.

Deputy Begley, too, suggested that the crab industry was being neglected and dying away. The contrary is the case. There are several factories in the business of processing this fish at present. Deputy Murphy had a two-stage speech. He reported progress the last day we discussed this Bill and he came back renewed and reinvigorated today to resume the discussion. He said a number of comforting things and a number of astonishing things.

I liked the Deputy's offer to take a paternal interest in myself and in Deputy Fahey, recognising us as neophytes in the business of fishing. I was very pleased and comforted at that stage feeling I would have the strength and support of an old seadog like Deputy Murphy. As the Deputy continued he displayed some remarkable gaps in his knowledge. He said there was no organisation of fishermen. I was informed that there are about 17 fishermen's co-operatives around the coast. The Irish Agricultural Organisation Society are always actively trying to organise new ones. I have a suspicion that Deputy Murphy does not like co-operatives.

We were discussing co-operatives of a different kind a week or two ago at Question Time. The Deputy seemed to feel that co-operatives can readily be turned into steam-roller combines, as he called them, which would crush out the small man.

[91] This business of the development of the fishing industry, like the development of co-operatives in agriculture, aims at the support of people engaged in the industry. If it did not provide an expanding employment and a better chance for the people in the industry it would not be any good. The function of the co-operative, as Deputy Murphy seems to forget, is just that.

Deputy Murphy became almost lyrical about the conditions which obtained years ago—I took it to mean that the Deputy was speaking about the conditions decades ago—when the coasts were surrounded by happy fishermen who were making a very profitable livelihood. Then An Bord Iascaigh Mhara began to work and poured money into the industry, and now there are fewer people employed in fishing and less fish caught. All the same, the Deputy would like to see more money put into the fishing industry. I do not understand this. I was comforted to hear the Deputy, as he approached the end of his discourse, saying he is in favour of private enterprise and in favour of people who live by the sea investing money in the purchase of fishing boats and in the promotion of the fishing industry generally. I was in doubt about this when we had the discussion about the people who stay ashore and take it “cushy” while the fishermen brave the horrors of the Atlantic weather. When the chips were down, and Deputy Murphy was coming to the end of his discourse, he plumped in favour of private enterprise, like the good socialist he is.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I elaborated on that. I qualified that statement.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy certainly elaborated on it.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  There is no fishermen's organisation so far as the small people are concerned. The organisations the Minister speaks of are organisations of owners and skippers and not of ordinary fishermen.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister to continue.

[92]Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Is this contrary to Labour Party policy? Is the existence of these co-operatives of skippers and owners contrary to Labour Party policy?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Oh, no, but I want an organisation for the ordinary fisherman.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The people who do the fishing are often part-owners of their boats.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I do not want to repeat myself about the sixth time in this discussion——

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  The Deputy had a very good innings.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Board should endeavour to establish an organisation for the ordinary fisherman apart from those for the owners and skippers.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Deputy Begley suggested that loans were given to people who never fished. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara do not give grants or loans for boats except to people who have skippers' tickets. It is no harm to repeat that. There are certain propaganda noises laid down like a barrage as a background to discussion of this kind. This is one of the points which come up. It is said that there are people in the background who seem to pick up this money while the people who do the fishing are deprived of it. If this is so, the statement should be substantiated. If this is not so, it should not be made.

More than one Deputy raised the question of the difference between the landed price of fish and the retail price charged. This is obviously very important to the people who catch the fish and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries should, and do, in fact, exercise vigilance in this regard. It is part of the business of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to see that this particular aspect of the fishing industry is kept in control.

A Deputy—I think it was Deputy Clinton who asked a huge number of questions in a short speech—asked how many fishing vessels were operating at the present time. The number I have got is 1,820. The number of [93] men employed solely in fishing is 1,687 and the people who are partially engaged in fishing number 3,756. The likelihood is that both figures will increase rapidly in the future. The interest in, and demand for, new boats around the coast is bigger than it ever was.

Deputy Desmond mentioned the training of skippers. The position is that a new fishery school at Green-castle should be ready in about a year. There is provision for £80,000 in this year's Estimate for it.

Fishery protection was mentioned by a few Deputies. I have conceded on a few occasions that the fishery protection service is inadequate. We are trying to do something about it. Fishery protection is a very expensive thing. If we want to have a really efficient fishery protection service it must be paid for. In our situation we have to provide this as quickly as we can but in such a manner that it will not compete with other important social aims. A number of Deputies mentioned fisheries in the EEC. As many of them probably know, the EEC have never themselves produced a fishery policy.

It should hardly be necessary to assure the House that in any negotiations concerning the EEC, Irish fishing will be regarded as something that must be guarded for the use and benefit of Ireland generally. I do not think there is any immediate necessity to say anything more about it than that. We are very conscious of this vital necessity for the future and we propose to guard it vigilantly.

Some reference was made to the size of fishing vessels. I gather that the average size of these vessels has been increasing gradually during the years and that many of them are now 75 feet in length. Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde mentioned the desirability of factory ships and of how useful these would be to our fishing industry. This is probably so but while our fishing industry is growing rapidly we have not yet, in so far as I know, reached the factory ship stage. Many points were raised during the debate which, with respect, I consider to be irrelevant to [94] the Bill before the House but I have endeavoured to deal with the relevant points as best I could.

Question put and agreed to.


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