Thursday, 27 June 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Proinsias De Rossa: asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry if, in view of the difficulties at present being experienced by privately-owned fishing trawlers, he has considered the possibility of direct State involvement in fishing by State-owned trawlers, either through an Bord Iascaigh Mhara or a new semi-State body; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Proinsias De Rossa: The Minister is brief, if nothing else. The question arises because of the number of boat owners who are in financial difficulties. If the State is not prepared to become directly involved, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that there is a viable fishing felt capable of challenging the competition from the Spanish fleet?
Mr. O'Toole: I suggest to the Deputy that a question is coming up later dealing with detailed incentives and assistance given to fishermen in trouble. In relation to this question. I never cease to be amazed at the philosophy that suggests that because something is not paying its way in the private sector the taxpayer  should take over and lose his or her money. On this issue of State involvement in fishing, we had experience in the fifties. Indeed, Bord Iascaigh Mhara became involved in three boats on a trial basis, just to prove the point. The end result of that was enormous losses simply because the incentive was not there on a personal basis, as would be the case of skipper-owned ships. The profit motive was not there because these people were working for the State, resulting in the loss of sums of money. I have no intention of allowing people under my aegis to become involved directly in the ownership and operation of fishing boats.
Proinsias De Rossa: I thank the Minister for his lecture. Could I ask him to what does he attribute non-profitability of the at present privately owned fleet? Would he not agree that perhaps it is the anarchy of the market place and the failure of the privately owned industry which appears to be incapable of developing an integrated industry, from the catching to the processing and marketing of fish?
Mr. O'Toole: There are many factors which affect the current state of the fishing industry, including market problems. I would not put it, as the Deputy does, as anarchy. However, there are certain market problems. The Deputy and the House must remember that we are part of and party to an EC Common Fisheries Policy which covers a whole range of activities within the fishing industry, including marketing to an enormous degree. In co-operation with other member states of the EC, we are trying to regulate the market. The problem in fishing, like other areas, is overproduction of some species. There are also problems with regard to transport and quotas. The Deputy and the House should remember that the fisheries policies came into existence just over two years ago. While much has been done to regulate matters there are still areas that are causing problems. The market is depressed and filters down to the level of the fisherman,  who is at the end of the queue. He is suffering from this depressed state because of market prices. They cannot be artifically pushed up because they depend on supply and demand.
Proinsias De Rossa: Will the Minister state when the Government propose to produce the White Paper on the fishing industry as promised in the document Building on Reality which would give us some indication of the direction in which they intend to move in the development of the industry?
Mr. Daly: Deputy De Rossa raised the question I wished to ask. The Minister has acknowledged that there are a number of difficulties causing problems. The Minister will be aware that huge repayments are due to BIM because of the inability of fishermen to meet loan repayments. Will he say what efforts are being made to rectify a situation where development of the industry is being inhibited because of the failure of BIM to get money to invest in the industry?
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