Report No. 33 of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities: Aquaculture: Motion.

Thursday, 18 February 1988

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 118 No. 12

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[1606]Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I move:

That Seanad Éireann takes note of Report No. 33 of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities: Aquaculture.

Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. P. Gallagher): Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  I welcome this opportunity to address the House on the question of aquaculture and I would like to commend the work of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities for producing this report on aquaculture. It is an indication of the dynamism of the aquaculture industry in Ireland that, in the relatively short time since the committee produced the report, there have been substantial changes in the industry itself and also in the arrangements at Government level for facilitating its development.

By way of background, aquaculture in Ireland is a relatively new industry which has been making remarkable progress in recent years. The particular beauty of fish farming is that it gives opportunities for development and job employment in areas which are often lacking in them, in areas along the seaboard where there are very few opportunities for any type of development and job creation. In addition, it draws on a unique natural resource which is provided by our still relatively unpolluted coasts. My concern at the Department of the Marine is to ensure by every means available to me that the development of the industry should be facilitated by a co-ordinated and properly planned approach at Government level.

In their report the committee identified a number of areas where it is considered there is a need for action. These are identified in paragraph 44 of the report. The committee considered that there was a need for an overall plan for the industry, that the legislative basis for the industry [1607] needed attention and that we should look at the role of the European Community and at the fragmentary state of research and development. Other considerations identified by the committee were the need to maintain the quality of the environment, shortages of supplies of juveniles in the salmon industry and the role of local communities amongst others.

I am glad to be able to report to the House that a development strategy for the aquaculture industry has been approved recently by the Government. This covers the allocation of functions and responsibilities of the various agencies involved in the development of aquaculture — my own Department, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the reconstituted fisheries boards and, when established, the proposed Marine Institute. In essence, the structure provides that my Department will have responsibility for overall policy, planning, licensing and the co-ordination of the activities of all other agencies through the establishment of effective committee procedures to those ends.

A small management committee has already been established comprising representatives from my Department, an Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Údarás and Roinn na Gaeltachta and amongst its tasks will be the co-ordination of State funding for aquaculture projects with a view to getting the best return in terms of employment and output. This committee will be chaired by a senior official from my Department.

Another feature of the programme is the establishment of an advisory committee representing all major interests in the industry. We hope this committee will be set up in the near future after consultation with the industry and the various interested parties. I hope this will substantially improve communications and the flow of ideas on the best means to secure the development of the industry. As I indicated, the strategy places the overall responsibility for aquaculture [1608] development very firmly with my Department and this is very much in line with the thinking of the committee in this area.

In relation particularly to the difficulties which the committee identified regarding the legislative basis for aquaculture, I can inform the House that to date 15 areas have been designated under the 1980 Fisheries Act as being suitable for aquaculture development. The process provided for in the 1980 Act is designed to reconcile the needs of the various categories of water users and, where this is not possible, to allow the Minister for the Marine to decide where the balance of advantage lies. I am particularly anxious to ensure that, before an area is designated, we make absolutely certain there is no interference with the traditional rights of the sea harvesters who have been using these waters for years. We want to make sure that the livelihoods of fishermen and those who cut wrack along the western seaboard are not interfered with and that anchorages and many other amenities are not interfered with.

The process to which I referred is detailed and very democratic. It tries to bring various interests in tandem and so far in most cases it has succeeded in doing this. Of course, after the Minister has designated an area, there is still a further opportunity for any individual if he is dissatisfied to bring his complaint to the High Court. At the moment there is a case where the Minister designated an area and some people are unhappy about it and this case is now before the courts. My Department will be embarking on a new programme of designation hearings later this year and over ten new areas are already targeted.

As to licensing in particular I accept that it is my Department's first responsibility in the development of aquaculture to provide a sound legal framework for the development of the industry by licencing bona fide operators. My Department have on the stocks over 300 applications for licences. Each one is examined from the point of view, for example, of environmental impact, the concern of the committee, disease risk to [1609] other producers, carrying capacity of the particular area and safety of navagation. Over 100 licences now have draft clearance and I hope to commence shortly with their issue.

In the context of licensing, the committee identified the problem whereby potential operators had to be licensed by the then Department of Fisheries on one hand under the Fisheries Act, 1980, and then by the Department of Communications under the Foreshore Act, 1933. I am glad to inform the House that as a first step in streamlining this situation, the administration of both statutes has been combined under one section in my Department. I have consulted with the many interested parties in the industry and they have welcomed this. It was much too cumbersome to apply first to the Department of Communications for a foreshore licence and subsequently to the Department of the Marine for the second licence.

Now, these two are woven together and the problem is almost resolved for the many people who were anxious to pursue development in aquaculture. I look forward also to streamlining the relevant legislation so that we can cut down on duplication which is costly both to persons in the industry and to the Department. In the meantime, however, the existence of the two statutes has been useful in that a number of designations were secured on the basis that individual licence applications would come up for later public scrutiny through the mechanism of the Foreshore Act.

On research and development, education and training, the Marine Institute, when established, will be able to take responsibility and order matters in a more structured way than perhaps has been the case heretofore. In relation to the EC itself, December 1986 saw the adoption by the Council of Regulation 4028 on structural arrangements for aquaculture. As provided under the Directive, this Administration has submitted to the European Commission a multi-annual guidance programme covering the development of aquaculture in the period 1987 to 1991. The document, which [1610] underpins Ireland's applications for FEOGA grant aid for aquaculture projects, give an account of our industry and its devleopment profile and makes projections up to 1991. Officials of my Department are in close touch with the European Commission to ensure that the case for development assistance for aquaculture is put very convincingly.

I wish to inform the House that I and the Minister, Deputy Daly, were, to say the least, unhappy with the grant aid made available by the EC to aquaculture this year. At the last meeting of the Council of Ministers on 14 and 15 December we informed the Presidency in the Council of Ministers of our dissatisfaction at the outcome of some £1.4 million grant aid towards applications which were with the Commission. It was disappointing in so far as eight applications were almost completed. Many of these people have gone ahead on the assumption that grant aid would be available, and none of these applications was successful. I contend that all the applications submitted by individuals or companies in this country were as good as any others submitted to the Commission.

Of course, while we have been criticised as a Department for the reduction in grants to the aquaculture industry, I would like to remind the House that it is the prerogative of the Commission to decide where grants should go. It is not a matter for the Council of Ministers, and there is no method whereby one can use the veto. Many people are obviously unfamiliar with the process in Europe. They are critical, and I think it is wrong to be critical without knowing the facts. As late as last week senior officials from the Department of the Marine met officials of the Commission and I hope that future grant aid available to this country will be at least on a pro rata basis with other countries, providing of course all things are equal. We have a short history in aquaculture, but I believe we have been very successful in aquaculture development.

From a European point of view, I would like to see aquaculture being perceived as the ideal opportunity to get a [1611] return from Community moneys available for the development of any peripheral region. It is important that we strive to develop our aquaculture industry to the full. We have the right conditions along our long coastline of unpolluted waters. There are other aspects of the fishing industry which we cannot develop as much as we would like because of the tax and quota system. The most we can do is to ensure that we add value to these quota species and thus create further jobs.

We have the opportunity of non-quota species — the pelagic species of blue whiting and horse mackerel. While I might be deviating from aquaculture and from the report, I do believe that there are tremendous opportunities there. I would like to pay tribute to the industry, both the processors and the producers who have been landing horse mackerel over the last number of years. We have found a very successful market in Japan. While there is a vacuum during part of the year, I am convinced that this is a market which is still untapped. There has been an increase in the non-quota species to 126,000 tonnes from 113,000 tonnes last year. We must build up our historical performance there because there are opportunities in the pelagic species — horse mackerel and blue whiting — but we do not have the same opportunities in the other species, despite the fact that we are doing, and have done, our utmost.

We have been successful this year in securing an increase in quotas, particularly in relation to white fish. This increase is in the region of £7 million taking into account that there has been no increase in the quota of mackerel, but we have secured something which has never been secured since the signing of the Common Fisheries Policy on 1 January 1983. There will be a review later in the year in relation to the mackerel quota.

We have carried out numerous surveys along the west coast of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland and we are convinced that the catches there can be increased substantially without affecting [1612] the quotas. This information is now being submitted to ICES. The scientists in my Department and I believe we can convince ICES of this and they, in turn will advise the Commission, and hopefully we will get an increase.

However, despite the fact that it is a quota species, there is an excellent arrangement with the industry — and a very sensible arrangement — that there is a quota per boat. This has resulted in all these fish being taken ashore and processed ashore, apart from a few luggers which are there to take some of the overflow in the north-west. While there might be 20 to 30 luggers in the Swilly, one may get the impression that we are shipping the mackerel to be processed abroad. I would like to put it on record that any fish aboard those boats are not from Irish boats. They are from the Scottish boats who are licensed to lie off the west coast of Ireland. As I said, those boats are not processing the mackerel from Irish boats. There are opportunities there both in the demersal and pelagic species which we must continue to develop.

The most significant development is the one which we are referring to here today, and which is referred to in Report No. 33 of Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities on Aquaculture produced in October 1986. There are exciting opportunities there and we want to ensure that we can develop aquaculture to the full. As to the future, the Government's development programme envisages increasing income generation and employment in coastal and inland communities principally through the expansion of salmon, trout, mussel and oyster farming.

While we are some years behind the Norwegians and the Canadians in the development of salmon farming, we must look at the potential for the development of some of the white fish species. There is a difficulty in this country because of our rugged coastline and the fact that we do not have any continuity of supply of white fish. We must strive to entice the industry to take an interest in the farming [1613] of demersal species that can be farmed, thus ensuring a continuity. Eight to ten years ago anyone in the salmon industry, in the processing and smoking of salmon, could only buy the wild salmon landed in this country. Frozen salmon has to be stocked during June and July tying up a considerable amount of capital during those two months, and the smoking of salmon was carried on throughout the rest of the year. The availability of farm salmon in the country at the moment ensures that there is a continuity of supply for the many fish smokers. There is no question of capital being tied up for some ten months of the year.

There is a comparison between wild salmon and farm salmon. Our theory suggests that the more we develop farm salmon the greater effect it will have on the price of wild salmon. We must be realists and realise that we are not the only country producing farm salmon. If we were, we could control the price of farm salmon and its effect on wild salmon, but we produce only a small percentage of the farm salmon produced in the world. If we do not take this opportunity others will. I would entice as many small fish farmers as possible to get involved in this area.

A substantial amount of capital is required to set up a fish farm. We have a policy in relation to satellite farmers. We want to ensure that the small salmon farmer has every opportunity to work with the bigger companies who can provide the capital and expertise and who can assist them in marketing salmon. The Government's development programme envisages increasing income generation and employment in coastal and inland communities, principally through the expansion of salmon, trout, mussel and oyster farming. Targets and ambitions with annual output are projected to reach some £75 million at 1986 ex-farm prices by the end of the five year period to 1991. I assure the House of my commitment to this industry.

I, again, commend the work of the joint committee.

[1614]Senators McGowan and McCormack rose.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Harte): Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  The Minister did not move the motion. It was moved by the Fianna Fáil Party, by the acting Leader of the House. If this had been a Government Bill, the Minister would have introduced it and then I would have called an Opposition speaker.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I welcome the Minister's response to this legislation. I represent an area in Donegal. Everybody from the west enthusiastically welcomes the response of the Department of the Marine. This is a very important development for people who have earned their living down the years from fishing. I would be negligent if I did not respond to this development in a very positive way.

I am glad the Minister has highlighted the very important aspects of the legislation and that he has very definite proposals on how to introduce new measures of control. This is of vital importance. In areas where unemployment is very high, people will be turning to the traditional sources of employment, such as fishing. There are families who were associated with fishing but they had given it up because the development in the industry had changed substantially from the old boats to the factory ship of today. Many people living along our coastline had a very traditional approach to fishing.

Aquaculture and fish farming can be carried out without a vast capital expenditure on boats. For that reason I see this development as one which is ideally suited for local people who have not got vast resources to get involved in major fishing development. This is an industry in which those who live in the more rugged areas can get involved in a very positive manner. I am glad the Minister recognises that it is important to set up sound structures and guidelines which can be understood and respected by those who will be involved in acquaculture.

Everyone who has seen where these [1615] developments have taken place has certain fears. They fear that some well organised and well financed people will set up companies using local people to front their organisation. This would result in a total rape of our rich harvest. Side by side with the development and the setting up of these very important structures is the success of the aquaculture. The Minister has recognised that we have fairly pollution free coastal waters. If one is to recognise the reports coming out on a weekly basis of the dangers of pollution, it is only right and proper that the Minister and his Department must be ever conscious of the need to protect and preserve the area he rightly identifies as pollution free which is ideally suited for the development of aquaculture.

Some of the fears of the people living along the coastline are, first, that outsiders with a lot of finance to invest will come in and reap the benefit and second that while we have fairly pollution free waters surrounding our coast, this may not be the case in the long term. We have regular reports of other countries dumping waste, a matter over which we have no control. This is vital: I urge the Minister side by side with this legislation, to ask for the full support of European technology to protect in the long term the fishing grounds that are of vital value to us.

At this stage it is very important to recognise that the right structures are put in place, that the right people are put in charge and, above all, that the industry — and it is nothing less than an industry which is of great interest to those who live on the coast — is protected for the people. On one occasion I had a helicopter trip with the Commissioner for Fisheries and he was quick to identify the rough terrain over which we were flying. He said that if we take the fishing industry from those people they have to eke out a living on that terrain then what can we expect? We are actually committing those people to the dole and social security for the rest of their lives. Here is an [1616] opportunity — it may not be the complete answer but it is a step in the right direction — to protect and provide a secure industry for people who have the technology and the tradition. They can go out and earn a living for themselves and relieve the burden of paying social welfare to those areas which is now a common occurrence.

The Minister has indicated that he has received up to 300 licence applications. I support totally the need for caution and great care when licences are being granted. Even though people may not have major resources and funds, I think local concern and local initiative must be first recognised. I trust the Minister will give favourable consideration to people who are living close to ideally suited locations, whether it is sheltered bays or inlets, whether it is in Keel, Rathmullen or the Fanad Peninsula. The local inhabitants must get a break and they must be encouraged to take part in utilising that valuable crop of aquaculture and fish farming which is right on their doorstep. I want to strongly emphasise that. If I say the same thing in three different ways, but phrase it differently, it is because I want to get the message across. I do not have to emphasise it to this Minister who is well aware of what is happening in the fishing areas.

Pollution is possibly our greatest concern. Those of us who have an interest can see daily how lackadaisical outsiders are about our coastline. I have noticed — the Minister referred briefly to it — that in the Lough Swilly estuary there are about 20 factory ships at present. Those ships are receiving mackerel and other fish from all over Europe, especially from Scotland and England. They are using the Lough Swilly estuary as a dumping place for the waste from the processing operation. Their oil and scrap is dumped there and they are leaving the Swilly estuary as an area where aquaculture and fish farming will be difficult. I use this occasion to encourage the Minister to take a special look at Lough Swilly and to say, in plain English, what the hell are they allowed in there for. I do not think they should be there. They are using a [1617] port of convenience and they are leaving a mess behind them. They are leaving no revenue, no landing charges and no contribution to the State of any kind. We are left with the dross and the dirt of factory ships that is dumped in our estuary. Now is an opportune time for the Minister to look at this dangerous development which can only harm the prospects of real development in aquaculture.

This is the short contribution I would like to make. I am one of those who believe very strongly that we have enough resources around our coast, whether it is fishing, farming, tourism or the tweed industry. I always put those four industries together; you might change the tweed and tourism industries location by location. If we cannot provide an economic living for the citizens of this country from those areas where raw material is readily available then there is not much hope for us as a country. In many areas where we have potential for development and where we have natural resources we have been very late in developing them. This is understandable especially when it takes money to develop, to control and to set up structures.

I again emphasise the need for the Minister to ensure that we get proper technical assistance and financial support to keep our waters free of pollution. I welcome the introduction of this new measure, from which all of us can actually stand to benefit. It is certainly an area which has great potential. It must be done in a controlled fashion and I am glad that we are going about it in a proper way and that the proper structures will be put together.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I, too, welcome the response of the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine, Deputy Gallagher, to this Joint Committee report on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities, Report No. 33 on Aquaculture.

I have a few comments to make and questions to ask, some of which the Minister has referred to in his statement but on which I would like further clarification [1618] or information if that is possible. The Minister in his speech said that: there have been substantial changes in the industry itself and also in the arrangements at Government level since this report came out. That would be understandable because the report is dated 1 October 1986. I submit that there should be many more substantial advancements since that report came out. I fear we have fallen behind in that regard, perhaps due to overall planning or for some other reasons. I will deal with those in the course of my comments on this report.

I do not understand the mechanics of the operation: the report came out on 1 October 1986 and it is now coming before this House for discussion, two and a half years later. I have studied the report. I note the Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Charlie McDonald, was a member of the Joint Committee and also Senator Maurice Manning, the Fine Gael leader in the Seanad, was vice-Chairman of the committee and chaired many sessions of the committee which produced this report. I note also in the report that aquaculture is used to describe both freshwater and seawater fish farming so it is in that context that we should deal with it.

As the Minister of State said, it is a recent but vastly expanding development in Ireland which has vast potential to change the whole concept of fishing and fish development. The report correctly compares the current developments in aquaculture with the parallel developments in agriculture. We realise, for example, the tremendous and far reaching developments that have taken place in agriculture from the point of view of producing new breeds and of feeding, both in the beef and dairy sector, over the last ten or 15 years. There is vast potential for similar development in new scientific information on the breeding and development of fish suitable for fish farming and aquaculture developments.

The new scientific knowledge has raised productivity enormously with new developments in feeding and this can and will apply over the next few years. We are really only starting the development [1619] of fish farming. The potential in this area is tremendous.

Up to recently fishing was basically hunting or catching a fish in its natural habitat. There were many uncertainties involved, for example, such factors as weather, location, dangers of over fishing and seasons of supply.

When we get down to fish farming many of these problems can be reduced or eliminated altogether. Controlled breeding can take place and the potential for new strains can be beneficial to fish farming interests all of which is only now being realised. Weather is no longer a problem and production of fish can be increased eventually to meet all demands as outlined by the Minister.

Let us at this time take note of where we are going and where this can lead us to. Of course there are difficulties in this comparatively new development. Fish which live in the wild are often unsuitable for fish farming but with breeding techniques and correct feeding this problem can be overcome. The example I have given in animal husbandry was only as an indication of what has happened in that field. I have read the report of the salmon review group, a recently published document entitled, “A Framework for the Development of Ireland's Salmon Fishery”. Perhaps the Minister will indicate what steps he proposes to take on that report.

Of the EC countries availing of EC Commission or FEOGA grants for fisheries and aquaculture in 1987, Ireland is left far behind and the Minister referred to that in his off-the-cuff reference to the small amount of grant we receive in comparison with other EC countries. I note that in reply to a question from Deputy Avril Doyle the Minister of State, on 2 February 1988, said that Spain received 33 per cent approximately of total aid awarded, Portugal 11.53 per cent, France 12.81 per cent, Italy 18.56 per cent and the United Kingdom 10.56 per cent. The Minister did not indicate the percentage in our case but I ascertained later that it was less than 2 per cent of the total budget. That leaves us in [1620] a very disadvantaged situation compared with the other countries competing for funds for the development of aquaculture. I would like to ask the Minister why Ireland's share was so low. He partly explained the reason but I am not satisfied with that explanation. We must have fallen down somewhere; perhaps we did not have our schemes ready but I would like to get to the root of it.

If Ireland, an island country within the EC, can only get less than 2 per cent of the budget allocated there must be some reason for it. I would like to ask the Minister where did the Government slip up in not ensuring that Ireland got an adequate portion of this budget provided by the EC, for example, Spain got 33 per cent and Portugal got over 11 per cent; those are two new entrants to the EC. They joined the EC years after us, yet they appear to be years ahead of us in securing a far greater allocation of the grants available for fish farming and aquaculture development than we were able to receive. We are slipping up somewhere and steps must be taken to redress that because if we continue to slip behind in 1988 or 1989 we will be just left out of the race altogether. Had this very bad application anything to do with our case not being properly presented or prepared or did we not have enough schemes? I would like to know the answer to that question and what we should be doing about it. I should like to know also what are the regulations now governing applications for EC grants for fish farming developments. The report states that:

The main instrument of Community policy on aquaculture has been Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2908/83 which was in force for the three year period 1983-85. Prior to its adoption the Community has relied on an interim Regulation which started in 1978 and was renewed annually up until 1982. This state of affairs was most unsatisfactory. Great uncertainty existed as to whether the Regulation would be renewed in any given year, and if so, what level of funding would be available. No medium term planning was [1621] possible. Council Regulation 2908/83 was therefore a great improvement in the Community arrangements for funding fish farming. It specified two decision periods, when applications for grants would be considered. These were in March and October of each year. Further to this, Commission Regulation (EEC) No. 378/84 set out a detailed application form which had to be completed before funds were made available to an aquaculture venture. Applications had to be received six months prior to a decision date (e.g. before March in order to be considered in October). When Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2908/83 lapsed at the end of 1985 it was decided to renew it for a further year. It appears that this was because other structural measures in the fisheries sector would be terminating in 1986, by extending Regulation 2908/83 for one year all the policy instruments could be synchronlised, and at the same time, assessed.

That brings us up to 1986. Does that still apply or what are the regulations attaching to applications?

At the beginning I referred to the difficulty in discussing this report which is more than two years old now. A lot of water has run under the bridge since it was produced. While many of its contents are useful and well researched they may be out of date. The report states that in 1985 our fish imports amounted to £35 million. It seems extraordinary to me that we, an island country, should have fish imports amounting to that figure. If that figure is true it shows the vast potential we have even to cater for that.

The most important aspect is that we must redress the situation where we are getting less than 2 per cent of the grants available. In other words if we do not redress the problem we will be left so far behind the other countries that we will be trampled on. Our fellow member states, for example, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and the UK will advance so far ahead of us that even if we increase our output by several hundreds per cent, [1622] we will be starting from such a low base that it will not be really effective.

Recently I attended a fish conference in Renvyle in Connemara where there were representatives from all the EC countries. It was a salmon fish farming conference. From my observations of the representatives of the fish farming interests in these countries, we are only scratching the surface in Ireland as regards the advancements we have made. I was shocked to realise how advanced those countries were in their technology and in their development of fish farming and aquaculture generally. It is estimated for example that Community production will grow by 70 per cent by 1990 with a total investment in aquaculture of about £323 million. Overall the Commission will contribute £138 million in grants. This would be about seven or eight times greater than the grants allocated in the years 1979 to 1983. If the expenditure and the grants are increased by £138 million it is no good if we are not in there, as the Minister correctly observed, getting our fair share of the grants available.

My concern is that Ireland must be ready to avail of its fair share of grants or we will be left far behind. Two per cent of the grants available could not be tolerated. We must plan and be ready for this. Paragraph 15 of the report states that:

At a meeting on 25 June, 1986 the Council examined the above Communication.

The above communication refers to the financial allocation for shorter but multi-annual periods and short-term modifications for specific regional situations.

Taking account of the views expressed at that meeting, the experience gained with previous policies and the new situation created by enlargement, the Commission in a Communication of 15 September, 1986 has made proposals for a Council Regulation on the subject. This provides a framework for Community measures to improve and adapt structures in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors over [1623] the next ten years (COM (86) 446 final).

The main features of the proposal are similar to those introduced in 1983 except (a) the rules on the granting of Community aid are to be diversified and priority given to forms of financial assistance other than the payment of capital grants, such as interest rate subsidies, reimbursable advances, or guarantees on loans. These forms of assistance are very important for fish farmers, particularly salmon producers, where costs of smolts and feed are very high and such investments are tied up for long periods; (b) the rules also specify that special incentives in aquaculture will be made available for the redeployment of fishermen linked to the scrapping of operational fishery vessels; and (c) to qualify for aid a programme must relate to investments totalling more than (£IR£76,000).

That figure appears very high to me.

The proposed Regulation is to be welcomed in that it indicates strong support by the Commission for the fish farming industry and an appreciation of the need for long term measures of financial support.

That I believe is the crucial aspect. We must plan for the long-term effects. We must have a development plan, and the Minister in his speech referred to the establishment of an advisory committee representing all major interests in the industry. He said he hoped this would substantially improve communications and the flow of ideas on the best means to secure development in the industry. I welcome that. It is past the time when we should have an overall development plan for Irish aquaculture. The report outlines the need for an overall plan and lists the headings as follows:

(i) The need for an overall plan for the industry;

(ii) The legislative basis for aquaculture;

[1624] (iii) The need for investment and the role of the European Community;

(iv) The fragmentary state of research and development;

(v) The importance of marketing and quality control;

(vi) The role of training and advisory services;

(vii) The need to maintain the quality of the environment.

The Minister of State referred to that important aspect in his address.

(viii) The shortages of supplies of juveniles;

(ix) The role of local communities.

I presume we could include there also the role of local authorities and planning authorities.

(x) Inadequate compilation of statistics.

That indicates what the report saw as the need for overall planning. The report also pointed out at the time that to date — this has been dealt with partly again by the Minister in his address — no agency had been given charge of the State role in aquaculture and that there was no steering committee. Perhaps we are now going in that direction; maybe that is the idea that the Minister is developing in his address. The report also stated that we started off with three designated areas and the Minister now refers to 15 areas being designated since. The three designated areas in the west are (1), Blacksod, Eily, Broadhaven Bays in County Mayo; (2) Achill Sound, Finton Bay, Ballacragher Bay, County Mayo; and (3) Killary Harbour in Connemara. The Minister of State now tells us we have 15 designated areas. I would like to pose the question — and the Minister referred to this briefly in passing— how are we overcoming the obstacles to developing the industries in these designated areas? The Minister of State dealt with the protection of amenities and the livelihoods of fishermen and these are very important aspects. If we are unduly held up by [1625] obstacles such as these we will not be able to develop this industry, which is being developed by our counterparts within the EC.

While we are developing aquaculture, for example through fish farming, the licensing and control of salmon fishing is in serious disarray. Illegal drift netting is taking place, and this has serious consequences for salmon stock and there is also conflict between fishermen and the fishery protection service. At this stage I refer to the report of the salmon review group and ask the Minister of State to give us views on that document and to say whether he proposes to take any action on foot of that report.

The last time I spoke on matters related to this was when, with the Minister of State present on 18 December, the Fisheries (No. 2) Bill, which related to the introduction of rod fishing licenses, passed through the Seanad. Under that legislation it is hoped to raise £500,000 in fees to offset the £1 million that has been taken out of the Estimate for the development of inland fisheries. On that occasion I pointed out to the Minister of State that I felt this measure would be resisted. The trout season opened on Lough Corrib in County Galway and on Lough Mask in County Mayo this week and the legislation is being resisted by trout anglers. This is causing serious problems and I would like the Minister of State to tell us whether he is taking any steps to rescind this legislation in order to restore the goodwill of anglers and angling clubs throughout the country.

To get back to the report, some of the questions raised have been answered by the Minister. I would like him to tell us what other recommendations will be made on foot of the report and what action is being taken as regards overall planning for the future development of the aquaculture industry.

Éamon de Buitléar: Information on Eamon De Buitlear  Zoom on Eamon De Buitlear  Cuirim fáilte roimh an méid atá ráite ag an Aire maidir le feirmeoireacht éisc ar chósta na tíre seo. Cuireann sé riméad orainn go léir nuair [1626] a bunaítear scéimeanna a chuireann postanna ar fáil do mhuintir na tuaithe. Ach iarraim ar an Aire gan an dearmad céanna a dhéanamh a rinne tíortha éile atá páirteach san obair seo. Séard atá i gceist agam ná an luach a bhaineann leis an timpeallacht in a chuirtear na chuirtear na cásanna seo a úsáidtear chun na héisc a choinneáil iontu, na háiteacha atá leagtha amach le haghaidh feirmeoireacht éisc atá i gceist agam, áiteacha atá an-luachmhar le haghaidh rudaí eile, b'fhéidir.

I did not know that I was going to be in time for today's session and for that reason I do not have all the information that I might have liked to put before the Minister of State today but I would like to say that we all welcome anything that offers employment to the people of this country. Having said that I ask the Minister of State to do his utmost to give the environment the protection it deserves. We are going to have problems in the near future with the fish farming industry if we are not careful about the way in which this particular development is carried out. In the past we have allowed areas to be used for fish farming without first carrying out an ecological baseline survey and it is absolutely essential that we carry out an ecological baseline survey before any fish farming development is allowed to take place. This survey applies only in the case of very major industrial developments.

The particular area designated as being suitable for fish farming is researched but only from the fish farmer's point of view, in other words, to see if the farm fish will survive in that area or indeed if the cages are going to be blown away and disappear overnight during the first storm. That particular base might be far more valuable as a tourist area and it might, in fact, bring far more money to the local community if the shoreline area did not have unsightly fish cages or polluted sea water with which to welcome the visitor, not to mention the damage to existing fishing practices. I would like to quote some points from a report on legislation and practice in Norway:

The fish farming industry might [1627] create serious pollution problems. Organic waste from a farm of 8,000 cubic metres may be close to 100 tons per year. If this is expressed in terms of “persons equivalents,” ie. if we relate the pollution effected expects to those resulting from X number of persons, then this waste will be equal to 2,500 persons.

Waste organic matter from the Norwegian fish farming industry as a whole, therefore, can be said to be equivalent to that resulting from about 1.8 million persons.

Conflicting Use of the Coastal Zone.

Fish farms also occupy a considerable area which has previously been freely available for traffic, fishing and leisure activities.

The production of smolts or fingerlings requires large amounts of freshwater. This water is drained out from rivers which used to flow freely. This draining out of water means that the anadromous fish, that is fish which migrate from freshwater to saltwater and back again, are prevented from returning to their native river areas for spawning. The value of a watercourse to sports fishermen may therefore be ruined.

Considering the fact that many rivers in Norway have already been utilised in the production of hydro-electric power it would appear that the present rate of expansion in hatchery units is disturbingly high.

“Gene Pollution”

Fish can always escape from fish farms, due to holes in the nets, or storm damage. Escaped fish can go up river systems and reproduce with the naturally occurring populations. This will result in a mixing of the existing genepool with genes from the escaped farm fish, a sort of “gene-pollution.”

Norwegian researchers today agree that the ability of wild salmonids to find their way back to their home streams after several years in the open oceans is based on genetical factors.

[1628] The mixing of genes between wild salmon and farmed fish will thus result in a reduction of the wild salmon's ability to return to its home stream.

This ability has developed through natural selection over many hundreds of years and the “gene-pollution” which can occur is irreversible.

In a fish farm, we press the fish to grow as fast as possible and the densities we work with are high. In addition, the environment around a fish farm can be distinctly sub-optimal due to pollution. These conditions encourage the spread of disease, which can then be spread further to the wild populations.

The import of smolt has resulted in the introduction of diseases to Norway which did not exist here previously. One of these is furinculosis. This disease is extremely infectious and can lead to high mortalities in fish. We are afraid that this disease has now spread to our salmon rivers.

We have seen that fish farming utilises and possibly ruins resources which were previously available to everyone. To put it simply, we can say that the needs of only a few people, restrict the possibilities of very many.

Because of this, it seems obvious that society should take a stand on fish farming and that the fish farming industry itself should not be allowed to determine its own operation and development.

Fish farming should be a profitable industry. It costs both time and money to start up and to run a fish farm. The investments made should be profitable on both a short and long term basis.

The fish farming industry should be an industry primarily for the remote communities. These are the communities with the greatest need for the opportunities the fish farming industry can provide, e.g. job creation.

The Fish Farming Act includes expropriation rights. This means that if an owner doesn't want his property to be used for fish farming, but he has no other valid use for it, then it can be taken away from him or her.

[1629] The establishment of a fish farm should cause the least possible damage to its environment, and a fish farm must not be established if it prevents normal traffic or any important use of the area; leads to pollution problems, both because it affects the environment generally, but also because it affects the growth and health of the fish and results in reduced profits; results in a danger of disease spreading, also in this case to protect the environment, the fish farm itself and the fish farming industry generally.

The environmental requirements listed under point 4 are absolute, and no exceptions can be made.

As can be seen, the Fish Farming Act tries to ensure the positive effects and to restrict the disadvantages of an expanding fish farming industry.

The absolute environmental requirements apply to all types of aquaculture, including smolt production. For the production of salmon and trout for consumption (on-growing units) there are a number of additional requirements applicable.

A certain number of new licences are made available in licensing rounds which have taken place more or less every second year.

The reason for this is that we are trying to match production quantities to market opportunities. An overproduction would result in a dumping of prices, which would further affect the profitability of the industry.

Restriction of the availability of new licences has been very strongly supported by the Fish Farmers' Association itself and from the related sales/ export organisations.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Harte): Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  May I advise the Senator that this appears to be a very long quotation.

Éamon de Buitléar: Information on Eamon De Buitlear  Zoom on Eamon De Buitlear  I am coming to a conclusion, it goes on to state:

There is a requirement that new licences must be connected to the local community, and that no one person [1630] may have a majority of shares in more than one fish farm. Through these two conditions it is hoped that we can assure that the fish farming industry will be owned and run by people in the districts.

That is very important.

The Act also makes it possible to make requirements as to the fish farmer's theoretical and practical qualifications.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an-suim ag an Aire san cineál feirmeoireachta seo, agus molaim féin é, ach ba mhaith liom go mbeimís i bhfad níos cúramaí faoin timpeallacht. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuilimid sách cúramach. Ceapaimid go bhfuil contuirt faoi thruailliú i leith cuid de na feirmeacha seo agus beimid ag déanamh andochair mura gcoinneoimid súil air sin.

Nioclás Ó Conchubhair: Information on Nicholas OConnor  Zoom on Nicholas OConnor  Ba mhaith liom ar dtús fáilte a chur roimh an Aire anseo inniu, agus freisin roimh an méid a bhí le rá aige maidir le cúrsaí feilméireacht éisc. Is é an rud is suntasaí faoi seo ná gur achmhainní nádúrthá na tíre atá i gceist, agus ó go bhfuil ár n-achmhainní nádurtha chomh láidir i bpolasaí an Rialtais ní amháin maidir le iascaireacht ach le gnéithe eile mar fhoraoiseacht agus turasóireacht agus a leithéidií. Tá iarracht mhacánta déanta acu leigheas a fháil ar na deacrachtaí a bhíonn leis an tionscal feilméireacht éisc seo. Mar atá a fhios ag na Seanadóirí, tugadh Roinn na Mara chun cinn chun comhordú a dhéanamh ar na ranna éagsúla a bhí ag deileáil le feilméireacht éisc le roinnt blianta anuas.

I would like to welcome the Minister of State to the House and compliment him on the tremendous work he has done since his appointment to the Department. I must say that he has an indepth knowledge of his brief and has been of great help to the fishing industry right across the country. The most important point about aquaculture and fish farming here is that it is one of our natural resources and one of our new natural resources. The Government are, and [1631] have been, totally committed to developing our natural resources, not alone fisheries but also the food industry, forestry and tourism in order that we may become self-dependent and create jobs from our own resources. As a sign of this commitment the Government set up the Department of the Marine, a Department which co-ordinate all of the other Departments which dealt with the fish farming industry, either directly or indirectly, and which had led to huge problems for people who tried to set up their own companies in an effort to develop this industry. The Government are also committed to the new Marine Institute which will play a most important role in increasing further the number of our fish species, shell fish, oysters and mussels. This will ensure a proper grouping of oysters and mussels.

However, many problems have come to light in recent times, these have been outlined by Senator de Buitléar and I agree with much of what he has said. At the same time, I know that this new Department will be totally committed to ensuring that our bays are pollution free. The bays of Connemara and the Gaeltacht area have been slightly polluted because, I maintain, of overcrowding of rafts. However, recently the Taoiseach and the Minister signed a designation order in regard to Kilkieran Bay in Connemara to ensure that the oyster industry would be carried on in a proper manner and that there would be development of the scallop and mussel industry. At times many of us can be very critical of fishermen but the fishermen in that area, due to the efforts of the local co-operative, were very responsible in their attitude towards the collection of oysters in the short season. They all adhered to the time allowed and this ensured that the oysters survived there year after year and allowed a reseeding of the bay. It also prevented some greedy people from coming in to clean out the bay which has happened quite a number of times in the past.

Another problem which has arisen and which has been referred to recently is [1632] that while it is okay to develop our natural resources, such as the fish farms, the infrastructure of many fish farms is totally inadequate. It was pointed out at a conference in Renvyle recently that it would cost almost £15 million in parts of Connemara to develop the road infrastructure into the bays or piers in order to get the fish in or out quickly. Recently, the Government gave the go-ahead for large planes to land at Galway Airport and this will mean that people in west Galway will be able to take their oysters or fresh salmon out of the bays in the morning and have it on the tables of the best restaurants in Paris at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the evening. That move must be commended and marks an improvement in the infrastructure. Getting back to the question of the road instructure I accept that is an old problem right along the west coast but if we are to be sincere about developing this industry we will have to ensure that the money is made available to develop the road infrastructure. Obviously, this money will have to come from the European Fund because the total cost will probably be in the region of £200 or £300 million, at a rough estimation.

Recently, problems arose as a result of the bigger companies coming in and setting up. Many local people were worried that these bigger companies would take over all the bays along the coast leaving them out of it. However, I must thank the Minister of State for his personal intervention in this matter because he ensured local participation, especially for the small man who possibly might be on the dole 50 per cent of the time. He was allowed to participate in these new satellite farms and to set up his own fish farm within the inner bays at no great cost to himself.

It must also be pointed out that in Gaeltacht areas, Údarás na Gaeltachta in years gone by spearheaded the fish farm industry. They made grants available and leased cages to local people to ensure that these farms would be developed.

In recent times we have seen the Norwegians pushing in on the west coast. [1633] Some of them made attempts to park their large tankers out in the bay but, because of local objections and the objections of the local authorities, they were removed. That was the realistic thing to do because I am sure the Norwegians were not coming here for our benefit. What worried me and what I could not understand was why they would not park these tankers in their own bays and not pollute our bays.

When talking about pollution we are talking basically about the west coast. Having regard to the threat which nuclear plants in Britain pose and to how they would affect our seas I am not too sure how fish farms would work out on the east coast. I am not sure whether some have been set up but I would like the Minister of State to comment on this matter if he has any information available to him. It is very important that our bays should be kept clean and clear.

Another problem in many coastal areas, including Rossaveel Bay, is the problem of untreated raw sewage. I have been asking the local authority and Galway County Council to do something about the untreated raw sewage going into the bay from the local village of Carraroe, which is a fairly large village, and this has been going on for years. I have asked the local authority several times whether it was their policy to have sewage running into the bay and I always got either a yes or a no answer and that due to financial problems they could not build a proper treatment plant. The bay at Rossaveel has been badly polluted because factories have not conformed to the arrangements of the local authorities to ensure that no further effluent would run into Rossaveel Bay.

I would like once again to thank the Minister of State for the work he has done, especially for the smaller fish farm. It is very important that local people should be given a chance to set up their own farms, rather than multinational companies, even multinational companies within our own State, so that they can develop these farms and ensure that they will be self-sufficient in years to come.

[1634]Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  First of all, I welcome this report and thank the committee who went into great detail in the report. The development of mariculture or aquaculture in Ireland is a new idea. Only in the past five years has it started to grow and it is now growing very rapidly. Nevertheless, while not wanting to be parochial, I remember over 25 years ago the setting up of a fish farm in Dingle for the rearing of trout. At that time we were all very wary and worried about the damage it might cause by way of pollution to rivers. The fish farm still exists. It is successful, providing jobs locally and expanding. It was a fish farm set up to rear rainbow trout.

As a fisherman, I was worried about salmon farming. If a large amount of salmon farming takes place I wonder what will happen to the small boatman who sees his livelihood being eroded. I believe there is room for both the fisherman and salmon farming. At present most of the salmon farming is being carried out by companies or individuals who are not tied into fishing at all. I would like to see fishermen getting involved in the rearing of salmon or in the growing of mussels and so on. In Iceland, for example, fishermen have not been allowed to catch salmon for a number of years, but they have developed what they call salmon ranching. Fishermen form a co-operative and build hatcheries at the point where the river flows into the sea. They rear the fish from smolts which go out to sea. Their natural instinct brings them back to that river where the fishermen trap and grade them. By law they have to leave a certain amount upstream to ensure the continuation of salmon stocks.

We really need good salmon fishing in our rivers from a tourist point of view. In either 1981 or 1982 the Department of Fisheries bought the rights to an eight mile stretch of the river Erriff. Three thousand five hundred salmon went up the river, of which 360 were caught by tourists and anglers. To illustrate the point I am trying to make in regard to tourism let me say this: The value of 360 [1635] salmon caught by fishermen for commercial purposes would amount to something in the region of £9,000 whereas to catch the same number of fish visiting anglers, through the payment for gillies along the river and angling fees, would have to pay out an estimated £1.25 million. Therefore, one can see that this is quite a spin-off for the tourist industry.

Iceland have the ideal set up. They have brought fishermen into this type of salmon fishing by way of ranching which does not really amount to salmon farming. As I have already explained, it is carried on at the mouth of a river where the smolt are protected. They then go off to sea and grow naturally. Their natural instinct brings them back again to the river. Fishermen have objected to this idea of salmon farming. I do not think they have grounds for objecting to salmon farming, designation orders and so on. Not enough information was given to fishermen about salmon farming in the past. With regard to any other type of fish farming, fishermen are quite happy with mussel farming which is a very lucrative business, scallop fishing and oyster fishing. In Tralee Bay at the moment they have the biggest natural oyster fisheries in Europe. It is run by a co-operative. The oysters are dredged by the fishermen and they get value out of it. The co-operative handles all the buying and selling of the oysters.

To come back to the other type of salmon farming, I would like to see the fishermen involved and I would like to see some effort being made by the Minister or his Department to bring in the salmon fishermen. You really need to bring the two sides together, the regular fishermen particularly, because from 1975 until about 1985 many people got small boats, 32 to 36 foot boats, expecially for salmon fishing.

I can see fish farming involving perhaps £50 million or £60 million worth of industrial fish farming. It would probably increase the price of the Atlantic salmon but it would not be worth while for fishermen to go out and catch them. That, [1636] in itself, might be a great advantage to the people who would like to conserve the wild salmon because it would ease the amount of illegal fishing. The salmon would have a chance to come up the rivers and, therefore, we would be assured that salmon would not become extinct.

The finance available for salmon and mussel farming and aquaculture generally is very good. If somebody is interested in mussel farming he qualifies for a grant for a pilot scheme which covers nearly all the cost of investigation to see whether it would be worth while and profitable, if the mussels are growing well, if they are suitable and so on. First, he gets a small grant for a pilot scheme which covers nearly all his costs. After that he can qualify in certain areas for up to a 40 per cent FEOGA grant; if he is in a Gaeltacht area he would probably get an Údarás na Gaeltachta grant of maybe another 10 per cent, and perhaps a BIM grant as well. He would also have the facilities that are at our disposal in the line of research and so on.

I must say in fairness to the Department over the years everything is there to encourage people to go into every aspect of aquaculture from salmon, trout and so on. We have to move along in the world and I cannot see why an acre of sea would not be just as valuable as an acre of land. You can sow a crop in the sea as valuable as a crop you would sow on land. There are thousands of places with quiet waters and so on where people could start small industries. We should welcome this. It is not the Government's fault or anybody's fault that it is not going ahead.

We have to educate the fishermen because they have a genuine fear. As a fisherman I had that same fear one time, but when they are faced with the reality, if salmon farmers start locally they automatically reject it and object to it. I can see the reason. If somebody in a restaurant wants to get a 106lb. salmon he has only to ring up the salmon farm and he will get exactly a 106lb. salmon. If a fisherman going out to sea is told to bring in a 106lb. salmon he cannot make the [1637] delivery because he has salmon coming in from maybe 6lb. to maybe 20lb. From the restaurants' and hoteliers' point of view salmon farms are ideal because they can get exactly what they want when they want it. The fisherman has a particular season for fishing and the season will end at a certain time of the year and anybody who want salmon will have to be satisfied with frozen or whatever type of salmon is available.

I would like to ask the Minister for his views on salmon ranching. Could we arrange to meet fishermen in different areas to tell them about the ranching because if salmon farming goes on as much as it has in the past five years there is no doubt that it will become a waste of time for the small fishermen to go out catching salmon? The only advantage he will have is that he can always say that his salmon are wild Atlantic salmon and possibly they might fetch a better price than the farmed salmon. But even though they are wild they are reared in the same waters and at the end of the day the salmon fishermen are at a disadvantage. The only thing we can do is to try and form salmon co-operatives in all these places, if necessary organised by BIM or the Department of the Marine, to take a few fishermen to Iceland and let them see what is happening there and how lucrative two concerns are there. One is the salmon ranching from which the money goes straight into the fishermen's pockets and the second is that enough salmon escape up the rivers to keep the tourist side happy.

There is one other thing I want to say with regard to aquaculture which in the past few years I pressed for and did not get. There are several inlets and bays that have natural scallop beds, mussel beds and oyster beds. They are very easily fished out. One I fished myself was Ventry where there is a small bed. It is easy to fish it out. If you had eight or nine boats there for a season you might not be able to go back there to get good fishing for three to four or maybe five years.

There is an opportunity in inlets like that around the coast that have small beds. The Department or BIM might [1638] help local fishermen; with the aid of small grants at particular times of the year they could go out and dredge those places because an enemy of shellfish is the starfish. There is a great number of starfish in these places and, first, they could voluntarily go out and dredge the place and get rid of the starfish and secondly, they could try to expand the bed by reseeding with new spats. There are successful oyster and scallop farms and even mussel farms and the spat could be bought from these farms. What you would be doing would be the same as what happened in Fenit. Six or seven years ago fishermen in Fenit were at each other's throats and boats were being sunk. Every kind of war was going on there. I was a member of the steering committee — we have a county committee of fisheries in Kerry — and they were told by the then Minister to come up with a solution to the problem. There was over-fishing, there was illegal fishing. It looked like a problem that could never be solved, yet today it is solved and they had very good fishing down there this year.

What it provides is control over oyster fishing when the season opens in October until the end of March. When it was not controlled you had people bringing in small oysters. They were absolutely destroying the beds, and they got about six weeks of lucrative oyster fishing. What has happened now is that it is controlled, there is a quota for each boat depending on the size of the boat. If there are two men on the boat they are allowed to catch X number of oysters and if there are three men on the boat they are allowed to catch a bigger number. In that way, at the end of their week's work, each boat regardless of its size and numbers of crew more or less earns the same amount of money. They have that fishery going on now until the season closes in March. There are nearly 100 boats and multiplied by the two or three fishermen on board, you have 200 to 300 people in good employment.

I would ask the Minister to look into the possibility, through the Central Fisheries Board or BIM or whatever to try to introduce ranching and to try to get the [1639] fishermen involved in salmon farming. As I see it at the moment, you have companies or individuals with money and they are the people who are doing the salmon farming. Admittedly they will give good solid employment as long as there are people who want to eat fish. That is the beauty of it. The Minister should look into getting the fishermen more involved in the whole aquacultural side, especially in salmon ranching.

Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. P. Gallagher): Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  I thank Senators for their contributions on this important debate on Report 33 on aquaculture by the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities, published in October 1986. I shall try to reply to the various points raised by Senators during the course of the debate.

I thank Senator McGowan for his comment that our Department in the short time that we are in existence have responded in a positive way. I feel that we have done that and that we will continue to respond in this positive way. He referred to control and I will deal with that — a number of other Senators referred to it also.

The importance of aquaculture in coastal areas is vitally important in that it is a natural resource, achmhainn nádúrtha, as Senator de Buitléar referred to it, in the areas where there are few other sources of employment and where the unemployment rate is twice the national average. We appreciate this and we realise the importance of subsisting those who are anxious to become involved in the development of aquaculture.

Senator McGowan referred to the assurance that there should not be any foreign involvement, that all locals should be catered for. Certainly there is a mix in so far as foreign investment at the initial stages was important because these foreign developers brought with them technological benefits from investments by them in previous years and decades in their own countries. I fully appreciate and I wish to put on record [1640] that I realise the importance of getting the maximum benefit for locals in terms of jobs and added value to the Irish economy.

The most recent development is the growth of substantial and sophisticated indigenous companies such as Carlings, Fanad, the ESB and others — I referred to this in my initial contribution. That is our policy and I feel strongly that the small farmers must be catered for. I am not just saying this today as a cosmetic exercise. We have put this into action and it is part of our policy, having had discussions with various public representatives and people in the industry.

In so far as the satellite farmers are concerned, in rural areas if fish farming is to be successful there must be the good will of the community. It is a two-way process. Where there are large multinational companies I think it is important that there be a mix. In relation to satellite farming all would agree that it is a welcome innovation in the industry. Satellite licences will allow small scale producers to operate side by side with the well established large volume of salmon farms thereby gaining from the expertise and management experience of the bigger producers. I believe that as some of the large scale producers move out to open seasides there will be more room for the satellite farming schemes to be introduced in the sheltered areas.

That brings me to the point Senator McCormack referred to, that it is the new technology. Because of the new technology larger farmers will be in a position now to move out with larger cages into the rougher seas. The new technology referred to by Senator McCormack will allow us to utilise farming sites which were previously unthinkable for fish farming. It goes without saying that more advanced cage systems will require greater capital outlay and of course will increase the risk attached to the venture.

I am convinced that the larger companies are prepared to do this and to move out into the more open sea leaving the more sheltered sites for the small producers. I said that these small producers would not be in a position to [1641] become involved in fish farming because of the capital that is required, the expertise that is needed and the management control and marketing. With the close relationship between the small and the large producers I think they can be very successful once more. I firmly believe that licences must be issued in the names of the small producers and not in the names of large producers who could terminate any agreement at any time. The licences will be in the names of the satellite farmers and they will have an internal arrangement with the larger companies. It will also mean that under management control of the larger companies, they can place their cages in areas at distances much closer than if there were several producers of salmon. The distance in that case would be one kilometre whereas with the management control there would be more room in various bays and inlets for these small producers. It will ensure that we can make greater use of the limited sites that are available to us. We have a long coastline but the sites available are limited.

Senator McGowan referred to the pollution and said that I should take very seriously the situation of the Swilly where there are 20 factory ships at the moment. There are more than 20, and I referred to this in my initial contribution. I was pleased to inform the House that at least 20 ships there are processing mackerel from Scottish coasts and not from Irish coasts. This time last year the mackerel season was closed. We had landed some 72,000 tonnes in six weeks because of the indiscriminate landing of fish on the west coast. There was no plan. Fish were landed indiscriminately at minimum prices, at no advantage to the fishermen. The tonnage landed was much greater than the capacity to produce. Consequently, many of these went to fish-meal and were not for human consumption.

Because of the arrangement we have with the industry this year there is a tonnage per vessel per fortnight. One will appreciate that because of the weather conditions we did not provide for a tonnage per week. We have regular landings to plants throughout the country. This [1642] means that only a very small percentage, if any, has gone to fish-meal this year. This may be because of the quality, the long rough steam 48 hours from the north west coast down to Killybegs. All this can affect the quality of the fish. Less than 1 per cent went to fish-meal because of the planned approach here.

While this is not fully relevant to Report No. 33 in relation to aquaculture, which Senator McGowan referred to, I would like to inform the House that the boats in the Swilly are the boats which have been serviced by the Scottish fleet. We have, of course, some four or five luggers in Killybegs but they are to take the overflow. They will only receive fish after we are fully satisfied that the shore has been serviced.

Senator McGowan referred to the danger of pollution of the waters and to the lack of work for locals. The people of Rathmullen were delighted and pleased when we in the Department licensed these vessels. There is a spin-off to a small village such as Rathmullen who are benefiting substantially. We also have an input through our Customs and Excise.

We must remember that during the months of October, November and December our boats were fishing off the north west coast of Scotland. We must remember also that we are in the EC and that we must work in harmony. If I felt that those boats were causing pollution and creating serious problems for the aquaculture industry, we could take another view. I do not have to spell out the view that I would have there. All that is being pumped back is the water being used while the mackerel are being processed. The affluent would be going to fish-meal and frozen in blocks and there would be no problem there.

I am aware of the serious problems of pollution. Ten days ago the Minister and I were particularly perturbed. We monitored the movements of the Hellespoint Courage, a Liberian crude oil tanker which left the north east coast of Scotland on its way to Corpus Christi in the States and developed steering problems. Fortunately the emergency steering operated. They turned and headed back off [1643] the north west coast of Ireland, around the Mull of Kintyre, and went to anchor off Aran Island off the coast of Scotland where repairs were effected. It was a particularly worrying night, for all of us. That was the night when the storms created havoc off the west coast. That boat was carrying 69,500 tonnes of crude oil. One shudders to think what could have happened were it not for the fact that they had emergency steering.

I also want to indicate that all of that was being monitored by the MRCC in Shannon, by the Swilly “Marine Surveyors” Office in Dublin, by Malin Head and of course by Clyde in Scotland and supervised both by the Minister and me. We were glad to report late that night that our fears had been allayed and that the boat had finally found its way through. We must be very careful, and all we can do is ensure that we have legislation in place in the event of another Kowloon Bridge. There would have been no comparison if this boat had leaked its cargo off our coast.

I wish to thank the Seanad for the speedy passage of the Oil Pollution of the Sea Bill, 1987. I hope to take Committee Stage next week. That covers vessels carrying oil as cargo. We are also drafting legislation which will be known as the Sea Pollution Bill, 1988. This will update the 1975 or 1976 Act and cover materials other than oil. We are not reacting to a situation of last week which could have produced a serious problem here.

Senator McCormack referred to the question of EC grants and where we stand now. He referred to the report itself and the previous regulations. Grants are made available to us from the Community under Council Regulation No. 40/28 of 1986. It is from that source that finance is obtained from Europe. In order to qualify for grant-aid from Europe, there must be a minimum of 10 per cent grants sanctioned within the State. In regard to Gaeltacht areas and BIM, we also have responsibility.

I said earlier that in the Council of Ministers on 15 December the Commissioner and his officials, the President [1644] and his officials and my colleagues in the Council of Ministers expressed our disappointment at receiving less than 2 per cent of the overall grant-aid available to us. It is not sufficient to express my disappointment. We must take some action. That was the first step we took. After that we arranged a meeting between our officials and officials of the Commission. We had a further meeting in Europe late last week in relation to this. We want to make absolutely certain that from here on in we can receive an equitable share of the moneys that are available.

Senator McCormack asked what has gone wrong. This year we endorsed the applications. I should say that it is a matter for the applicants to prepare the applications to Europe. They are straightforward. They will receive any assistance they require from my Department, from BIM and from Údarás na Gaeltachta. I do not believe that the applications this year were any different from previous years. I was of the firm belief that something in the region of £3.5 million would be available to us. One can only have one's application processed twice. Eight applicants applied for a total of some £3.8 million and we had hoped for grants amounting to £3.5 million. Of course that is in the past. I would like to reiterate that this is the prerogative of the Commission. All we can do is impress upon them our disappointment and improve, if that is possible, the applications we submit and submit more detailed information if this is necessary. We must, of course, with any application, convince the EC of the viability of our industry and that each individual project is worthwhile and worthy of support. We intend to provide the Commission with detailed economic backup information on projects. Last year we had only one tranche, this year we have two. We would hope that the results of the applications in the first tranche of the year, which will be available in May, will be much more favourable than those which were decided upon towards the end of last year.

Senator McCormack referred to the [1645] fact that fish imports amounted to some £35 million. We must strive to reduce this and we must strive to substitute for these imports. If one analyses the type of fish being imported the large percentage would be processed white fish. I referred earlier to the difficulty we have which is continuity of supply. Naturally, with a fresh market so near home, a small market in Dublin, much bigger markets in Fleetwood, Hull and Grimsby, anyone involved in the industry is going to go for the maximum price. The fish are being exported fresh because of the supply and demand and the quality of our white fish demands a high price. We need to have continuity of landings. There is a problem because of the weather, but if we can strive to build up a deep sea white fish fleet and ensure that they are able to fish at times when our 65 to 90 footers and over cannot fish then we can, with a continuity of supply, be in a better position to add value to our catches. There is no better industry than the fish processing industry to respond if the raw material is available.

Senator McCormack referred to the shortage of supply of juveniles. I would like to inform the House that substantial investment has taken place here. We are now moving towards a position of self sufficiency in the supply of smolts. The Senator also referred to the report of the Salmon Review Group. This report has been welcomed by all. It gives a concise history of the salmon fishing industry in this country over very many years. There are many worthwhile recommendations in this report. I have views on how we should tackle the many problems of the industry, but I think I would be flying in the face of the industry itself if I were to express them. I have had many opportunties since the review group presented the report to the Minister. We have now asked the industry to give us their views on the recommendations. If I were to express my views openly at this stage then I would be pre-empting the views of the many who, I hope, will respond to our request and our public advertisement in the national press to those interested to make their views known to us by 29 [1646] February. We will then take an overview of all and try and ensure that we can implement a policy in the best interests of all involved in the salmon fishing industry.

Senator McCormack also referred to the rod fishing licence. I would like to take the opportunity of reiterating what I stated in this House and in the Dail and elsewhere that all of the income from rod licences will go to the fish industry. I would like to remind everyone that it is not £15 for a trout and coarse licence. It is £15 for a trout licence and £10 for a coarse licence. The media seem to believe that it is £15 across the board. We are fully committed to the development and protection of the industry. All of the finance obtained from these rod licences will go to the development and protection of the industry. It is not another form of taxation to go to the Department of Finance to be used for some other purpose.

I would also like to remind this House — this is not pre-empting an election but I might not get the opportunity before the season starts — that this was passed unanimously, not only by this House but by Dáil Éireann. Some members of the Oireachtas now find it is popular to go to public meetings and condemn the Government and the Minister for the Marine for introducing this licence. Those people know — their spokespersons and the Leaders of some of their parties intervened in the debate — that the legislation was passed unanimously by the Seanad and Dáil Éireann, apart from a vote called for by the Labour Party on the Second Stage of the Bill. It is important to note this. Anything that is said either in the Seanad or in the Dáil is fully recorded. While people may not be aware of how people voted at the time they will be made aware that it was a unanimous decision and it is pointless for politicians to try to gain popularity by suggesting they are completely opposed to it. If they are opposed or if they were opposed then that was the time to do it. We are doing this in all good faith because we believe it is necessary to protect and develop our inland fisheries. It is not a [1647] penal tax and I would ask the various angling associations throughout the country to co-operate with us. We want co-operation and not confrontation and by December 1988 or January 1989 they will have seen what we are doing, and that we are sincere.

Reference was also made to obstacles to the development in designated areas. Of course there are obstacles. We try to determine the amount of aquaculture a particular bay or a particular inlet can sustain. This is of course a scientific exercise. I referred earlier to the question of distance separation criteria for fish farms that are operating separately to prevent disease spread. Of course working under the same management control the distance is a major problem. As I said earlier in the debate — and this was referred to by a number of Senators — we fully take the traditional rights of sea harvesters into consideration. Of course the water quality is taken into account. We must determine what level of environmental monitoring needs to be done. This involves detailed consultation with all parties concerned and we in the Department fully believe in consultation with the industry and will continue to consult with them.

Luaigh an Seanadóir de Buitléar an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an timpeallacht. Tá a fhios agam go rí-mhaith an tsuim atá aige san timpeallacht agus glacaim leis na pointí a luaigh sé agus déanfaimid gach iarracht chun an timpeallacht a chaomhnú.

The Senator also referred to ecological baseline surveys and we are, at present, using water quality management plans in areas where problems of conflict are going to arise, for example, between industry and local authorities which discharge effluent and fish farms that need clean water. The Senator's concerns are well founded and we must do our utmost to be absolutely certain that the type of pollutant that he refers to can be prevented if at all possible. One cannot categorically state that fish farms do not pollute. Certainly fish farms pollute. With the proper quality control we can [1648] ensure that the pollution resulting from Irish farms will not have any effect on the environment or indeed on any other fish life.

Finally in relation to the points made by Senator de Buitléar the last thing I want is for fish farming to effectively sterilise areas so that it is no further use to the farmers or indeed to others. This often necessitates caution. We in the Department have a very rigorous system to control the import of smolts, in case of a disease risk. If anything we are criticised because some people feel that the system is much too rigorous but I feel it is necessary if we are to have proper control.

Phléigh an Seanadóir Ó Conchubhair ceist thábhachtach ár n-achmhainní nádúrtha agus dúirt sé go gcaithfimid iad a fhorbairt ionnas go mbeimid ábalta níos mó postanna a chur ar fáil in áiteacha iargúlta, áiteacha neamhfhorbartha.

He also referred to the question of satellite farms which I dealt with, I hope adequately, both initially and in my reply, and I fully appreciate the necessity to ensure that satellite farmers are catered for. He referred to the infrastructure of two fish farms. Of course it is not the fish farms alone. All along the west, in Donegal, Kerry, Galway and Mayo there are fish processing plants. As recently as last week officials of the Department of the Marine had a meeting with officials of the Department of the Environment and Seamus Keating, the Galway County Manager, at which this problem was discussed, and they looked at the possibility of approaching the Community for funding to help us over this difficulty. I discussed with a number of people in West Galway, particularly in the Clifden area when I attended their annual gala on Saturday week last and spoke to them on the question of salmon farming generally in so far as it was the Irish Salmon Growers Association who organised the conference. It was very beneficial and I would certainly encourage public representatives to attend these conferences and to familiarise themselves with fish farming. I accept that the greatest danger is that there are too many people who [1649] are not fully aware of the fish farming process and its fears of the unknown.

We have a duty in our Department to try to familiarise those people who have fears of the unknown with the exact process. Senator Fitzgerald referred to the fear that was there many years ago in the Kerry area when rainbow trout farms were set up. It was a fear of the unknown but with the passage of time people have become satisfied that many of these fears were unfounded. He referred to the small boat men and I think that they should take an interest in satellite farms. I am convinced that if we took a decision in Ireland that we should not have any farming of salmon because of the effects it would have on wild fish, it would not have increased the price of wild fish at all. The production of smoked salmon in Ireland is only 5 per cent or thereabouts of the total production of smoked salmon and it would be wrong of us to assume that that would affect the price of wild fish. Wild fish will always demand a premium price. One can compare it with the bainin sweater as against the báinín-type sweater which was manufactured in Italy a number of years ago. Initially it had an effect but after a short time those who were purchasing became aware of the vast difference between the two. There is a difference but it is a matter of opinion and it is a matter of taste between wild salmon and farm salmon. I once had that view but now I am convinced otherwise.

As regards the question of ranching I have no intention of going into it now because times does not permit me. Furthermore, it is with the Salmon Review Group and I would respectfully suggest to anyone who has views in relation to this that they should make these views known to the Department before the 29th and if Senator Fitzgerald has strong views on ranching we will give consideration to them. He also referred to the value of salmon to tourism as against drift netting. Of course, one cannot compare those but we will have another day to discuss this when I will be able to elaborate more fully.

While many Senators referred to fishing at sea and the effects that this was [1650] having on salmon, no one referred to the question of pollution on the land. I am of the strong belief that there are serious problems with pollution and that must be tackled. A sub-committee of the Cabinet are tackling that problem. It is quite easy to see. It is all happening at sea. Everything is fine on land. That is one we can tackle and one that can help us to resolve the problems. Senator Fitzgerald also referred to “the few honest to God fishermen”. I think it was a slip of the tongue. What he possibly meant to say was that all fishermen are honest to God fishermen. I would not like it to go on record that Senator Fitzgerald, who is a fisherman himself, differentiated between some types of fishermen.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the Senators who contributed to this debate. It has given me food for thought. I will try to ensure that any fears the Senators have can be allayed. I am delighted that we have now in place the development strategy for the aquaculture industry. It is now approved by the Government. The guidelines are there. We will try to ensure that we streamline this as far as possible to make it much less difficult for those who want to become involved in the industry. We will weave together all the strands that were there in the past and hindered the development of the aquaculture industry and we will do our utmost to assist in every way.

The point that came across from all Senators was the question of control. We fully appreciate the importance of this. We only have to look back to May or June of last year when we had in Cork the problem of bonamie in relation to oysters. We acted immediately when the native oysters there became affected with the disease. I will take the opportunity of clarifying the position. That disease does not affect the oysters for human consumption. It only affects the oysters for relaying purposes. We acted immediately and we made an order ensuring that these could not be transferred to other parts of the country. That is the type of action which we will take any time there are difficulties in relation to control.

Mar fhocal scoir, gabhaim mo [1651] bhuíochas leis na Seanadóirí a thóg páirt san díospóireacht seo. Os rud é go deineadh go leor pointí tábhachtacha, tabharfaidh mé na pointí sin liom agus déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall leanúint ar aghaidh chun cuidiú le forbairt an tionscail seo.

Question put and agreed to.


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