Thursday, 27 June 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Daly: asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry if he is aware of the widespread illegal salmon fishing which is at present taking place off the west coast; and the efforts being made to control the problem.
Mr. O'Toole: I have received reports of the illegal salmon fishing which is taking place off the west coast. The enforcement of the fisheries laws in relation to salmon is primarily the responsibility of the Regional Fisheries Boards.
The Naval Service have provided two minesweepers to assist the boards in their efforts to combat illegal salmon fishing. These vessels while on patrol have on board an authorised officer of the relevant fisheries board and a member of the Garda Síochána. I am satisfied that the boards with the assistance of the Naval Service and the gardaí are doing all in their power with the resources available to them to contain the level of illegal salmon fishing often in very difficult circumstances.
Mr. Daly: Might I draw the Minister's attention to the position in the Shannon catchment area, particularly in the vicinity of Loop Head in the month of the Shannon where there has been widespread illegal activity for some time and where the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board are unable to deal with the position because they do not have a fishery protection vessel? Is the Minister aware of allegations made by the vice-chairman of the board that, by not sanctioning the purchase of a fisheries protection vessel  the Minister and his Department have allowed the position to deteriorate to such an extent that it has become almost uncontrollable?
Mr. O'Toole: I am aware of the problem in the Shannon estuary area. There is a boat available which is unsuitable for carrying on fishery protection functions in the open sea. It is confined to estuary activities. An application was made to the Department concerning the purchase of a more suitable craft, but I was unable to respond favourably to the request. The board were interested in purchasing a boat which has now been sold to another party. I am aware of the necessity for additional protection craft in the regional boards. I have met those concerned with the Shannon estuary area and accept that they have a valid case. It is a question of getting finance. Despite a substantial increase in finance this year in that subhead, if I acceded to the request made, I would be depriving other people of needed finance. I agree that we will have to resolve this difficulty through the provision of suitable craft.
Mr. Daly: I am sure the Minister is aware that salmon stocks in the Shannon are at a crucially low level and are further endangered by this illegal activity. Is the Minister aware that the livelihood of the traditional salmon fishermen is threatened? What action does the Minister propose to take to identify trawlers which have recently fished without licences and in blatant breach of by-laws and regulations in the mouth of the Shannon?
Mr. O'Toole: The Deputy must be aware of the recent activities by the protection agency, the Naval Service. They have had success in recent times in apprehending illegal fishermen. In that area they have taken in the region of 4,000 yards of illegal netting. Fishermen in the Shannon estuary area are not left without any protection in that the Naval Service, within the resources available to them, are doing worthwhile work in  detecting and tracking down illegal fishermen in very difficult and at times dangerous circumstances. They are being threatened and so on by people who are treating the law with absolute contempt. The Naval Service are doing and will continue to do their duty in the Shannon estuary area and along coastal areas where there is a problem. Deputy Daly is suggesting that this is a new phenomenon but it has been going on since the time of Adam. Deputy Daly had a meeting with the board in his time when he was Minister.
Mr. Daly: Is the Minister aware of the recent damage done by some of these illegal trawlers to the inshore fishermen? Their post and gear have been damaged. Does he propose to take action against one identifiable trawler operating in that area and to which the incident he spoke about refers. The Minister knows what I have in mind.
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