Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Oyster Disease.

Thursday, 9 April 1987

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 371 No. 10

First Page Previous Page Page of 35 Next Page Last Page

6.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  asked the Minister for the Marine the number of fish pathologists working at the Fisheries Research Centre; if it is sufficiently staffed; and if it would cope with a disaster.

9.

Mr. P. O'Malley: Information on Patrick O'Malley  Zoom on Patrick O'Malley  asked the Minister for the Marine the proposals, if any, he had to bring forward legislation to control the movement of oysters.

12.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  asked the Minister for the Marine the amount of oyster samples which have been tested by Abbotstown laboratories; and the amount of samples which are awaiting testing.

13.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  asked the Minister for the Marine if he will introduce a compensation system for oyster producers affected by the ban on the movement of oysters.

[2103]Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 9, 12 and 13 together.

Bonamia was tentatively diagnosed in an oyster sample at the Fisheries Research Centre, Abbotstown, Castleknock, County Dublin, on the afternoon of Friday, 20 March 1987. During that weekend further samples were taken to a laboratory outside the country where the diagnosis was confirmed.

I made an order on Wednesday, 25 March 1987, banning the importation of oysters and the movement of oysters other than for direct human consumption and an intensive sampling programme was immediately put into operation by my Department. Up to yesterday samples had been received from 21 areas and 12 of these samples had been tested and found to be negative.

There is a fish pathologist working at the Fisheries Research Centre with support staff of three technicians who specialise in fish pathology. In general, the staffing level at the Fisheries Research Centre is sufficient to cope with foreseeable problems.

I have no plans for the introduction of a compensation system for losses to oyster producers affected by the ban on the movement of oysters. Fish farming, in common with all other businesses, carries certain risks. I do not see it as a function of my Department to provide schemes of compensation for losses that may be incurred by fish farmers as a result of the introduction of measures designed to minimise such losses.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  The Minister made the point that one fish pathologist is employed at the Fisheries Research Centre but is he aware that the pathologist is leaving tomorrow? What has he done to replace him? Does he feel that the staffing level at Abbotstown is adequate to cope with what can only be termed a disaster? What are the Minister's plans to ensure that the sampling which is now necessary because of the unfortunate disease, bonamia, which has affected flat oysters, will be done at a rate which will ensure that any further [2104] outbreaks will be detected before there is a further spread of the disease?

Mrs. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  From the samples we have taken to date, we are satisfied that the disease has not spread. In relation to the first part of Deputy Doyle's question, I am aware that the pathologist proposes to leave the Department shortly but arrangements have been made with the Department of Agriculture and Food to have services available to deal with any problem which may arise.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Is the Minister saying that another histopathologist is replacing the man leaving the FRC tomorrow? Is he also saying that one is sufficient for this detailed and specific kind of work? At the moment it is necessary to process between 70 and 100 samples per month from all the sites around the country and one man is able to deal with only 150 oyster samples a day. Staff also have to be employed to open the oysters and to process them for sampling, apart from the histopathologist who is necessary to read the results. The fishing industry, particularly the aquaculture industry, insist that they have been telling the Department for nearly a decade that they were understaffed and would be unable to cope if a disaster should stike——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy is giving a lot of information but she has not asked a question.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  What are the Minister's plans to replace the fish pathologist who is leaving tomorrow? Will he provide sufficient staff to cope with the crisis which has hit this most important industry?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  We have had the most comprehensive discussions with the people involved in the oyster industry. In fact, we had meetings with them this afternoon and they are totally satisfied with the action which was taken in this instance and with the action which was taken by me in imposing a ban on the movement of oysters. As a result of the discussions [2105] which are currently taking place in my Department it may be possible to make some amendments which will ease the pressure on the producers. The priority in my Department is to ensure that we get the disease under control and we avoid its spread to other areas outside of the area where it was detected. We are satisfied that we can do this and we are getting back-up from the Department of Agriculture and Food and, if it is necessary to get some further assistance, we will do so.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I appreciate that it is your question and I will bring you back in again Deputy Cullen.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  It is on the same point and it would be better for continuity to finish one point.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Cullen might have a point to make.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Minister said that somebody is about to take up the position in Abbotstown. I would like to know when that person is due to take up his new duties and whether he will be capable of dealing with the bonamia disease. One needs to be highly specialised in order to deal with this disease. My understanding is that the person who is there at present is the only person in this country capable of dealing with that disease. The Minister has mentioned moving somebody from another Department. I would like to know whether that person is qualified to deal specifically with this disease as it is the area of greatest concern at present? He may well be capable of dealing with other areas. On my priority question, will the Minister introduce legislation dealing not alone with the importation of oysters but the movement of oysters within the country? This has been the principal cause of the spread of the disease.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  As of now, I am satisfied [2106] that the legislation in place is adequate. The record shows that we have been able to contain the disease within the area where it was first identified. We are also satisfied that we are in a position to deal with the problem but if that is not the case we will have to seek alternative assistance. As the Deputy will be aware, and I said this in my reply, that for confirmation of the disease we had to send the samples outside the country and that meant a delay of a day or two. Now, that the problem is under control and the association are satisfied that we have got it under control, there is a possibility of relaxing the controls I introduced. If that is possible, we will do so.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  The Minister gave figures of samples they have in their possession but it is my understanding and belief that that is a very small number of samples. The reason for this is that the people concerned have not got enough resources to gather in enough samples. While the figure might be relative in terms of the numbers which have been collected and tested, in the overall picture there are two major problems. There are not enough resources to collect enough samples and there are not enough resources at the Abbotstown laboratory to conduct efficient and speedy research in a short space of time. Will the Minister take action in future to cope with these disasters if they arise?

Mrs. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  My information is that there are sufficient staff and they are in a position to cope with any situation that may arise. I will bring the representations which have been made both by Deputy Doyle and the Deputy to the notice of the officials there and will have the matter investigated to see if the resources are adequate. I am satisfied from the information I have that the resources are adequate, but if there are shortcomings we will endeavour to rectify them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  A final supplementary from Deputy Doyle.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  I hope you will allow me [2107] to ask three or four questions. Can the Minister confirm whether a histo-pathologist is being appointed to replace the man who is leaving the Fisheries Research Centre tomorrow? I know staff are being appointed but I want to know the qualifications of the man who is being appointed to replace the only pathologist working there at present. Does the Minister consider that one such qualified person is sufficient, given the particular difficulties we have at present? Can the Minister tell the House under what Act was the Order banning the movement of oysters around the country made? Is he satisfied that it will hold up? What plans exactly has he, as requested by the Deputy who put down the question, to review the legislation? Will he introduce new enabling legislation or will he amend the 1980 Act particularly with a view to allowing licensing which is essential for the industry at present and which the industry have been demanding for many years?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I have a copy of the Oysters (Conservation of Stocks) Order, 1987. It is long and detailed. I can give it to the Deputy.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Just the Act under which it was made.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  Under section 223 (a) of the Fisheries Act, 1959 as amended by the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1983.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Will it hold up?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Deputy should be fully aware of the fisheries legislation.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Of course, verbatim.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I should not have to give these replies. With her long experience in the House, I am surprised that she is not fully familiar with the Fisheries Consolidation Acts.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Is the Minister satisfied?

[2108]Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I am satisfied that the legisation is adequate to deal with the situation or any further problem that might arise.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  What about enabling legislation?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  We do not need enabling legislation. We have enough legislation.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Do we need new licensing legislation for this industry?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The Deputy is raising a separate issue. She is raising the question of introducing regulations to govern the movement of oysters which is a separate issue.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  I had two questions.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  It is a totally separate issue from the question of licensing aquaculture products generally.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  I asked the Minister several questions all rolled into one. Licensing is not divorced from legislation. Do we need enabling legislation urgently to allow us to licence this industry as they have demanded, and rightly so, to protect this valuable industry.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I do not think there is any question of that nature on the Order Paper.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That is a separate question.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  It is a separate question and I am totally satisfied that the legislation which I utilised on this occasion has shown a very satisfactory outcome and is adequate.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  The Minister's banning order has nothing to do with licensing. I had several questions rolled into the supplementary. What legislation does the Minister plan to introduce in order to control the licensing of this industry which they wish him to do? I have been [2109] asking his predecessors the same question for years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That is a separate question and it does not arise from the question which has been tabled.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  It does from the legislation question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Can the Minister clarify the point regarding the lone scientist who is at Abbotstown?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  We are satisfied that we have adequate staff to meet the situation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Question No. 7.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Let me clarify with the Minister the question which was asked twice by Deputy Doyle and me. Can the Minister say when this new pathologist will take up his duties?

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  What are his qualifications?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I did not say a new pathologist was taking up duty. I said we were making arrangements with the Department of Agriculture and Food to provide a service for us in the event of this pathologist leaving.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Are we to take it that as and from tomorrow there will be no pathologist?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy can make any deduction he likes. We are moving on to Question No. 7.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  We have given over 11 minutes to the question.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  I beg the Chair's indulgence as it is one of my priority questions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  If the [2110] Deputy elects to give too much time to questions which are not before us she will have to bear with the difficulties of trying to fit in. We will take a final short question from her.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  We are dealing with four very important questions on a most topical issue and we should be given sufficient time to debate them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Every question is important.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  I should like to ask the Minister to review the issue of compensation in view of his response to our questions. Is the Minister aware that in the UK the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries have a compensation programme? Is the Minister aware that if stock is destroyed by order of that Ministry the fishermen, or the farmers as they prefer to call themselves, are compensated particularly if there is more than 10 per cent infection as we have in Cork Harbour? We have a provision in our legislation to deal with such a matter in that compensation is paid for reactor cattle. Will the Minister consider introducing a similar type of compensation programme for our farmers and fishermen?

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  I will look into that suggestion to see if it will be possible to introduce such a programme but I do not think we should get involved in the question of compensation. We should be taking a decision in the interests of the protection of the industry and the livelihood of the people involved. I will look at the UK legislation to see if we can introduce a programme like that suggested by the Deputy.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  In fact, the French have reseeding grants.

Mr. Daly: Information on Brendan Daly  Zoom on Brendan Daly  The French oyster industry was devastated by this disease but we have avoided such destruction by taking quick and decisive action.

[2111]Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  If we get a fish pathologist we will continue to avoid that.


Last Updated: 13/09/2010 23:13:48 First Page Previous Page Page of 35 Next Page Last Page