Sea Fishers and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2010

May 12th, 2010 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I compliment Deputies Jim O’Keeffe and Creed for drafting this Bill. As Deputy McHugh said, a lot of time has gone into drafting this Bill. Coming from Cork South-West, both Deputy O’Keeffe and his colleague, Deputy Sheehan, are very aware of the concerns of fishermen. The purpose of the Bill is to introduce fixed penalty notices or on-the-spot fines for minor fishing offences. Some Government Deputies were attempting to interpret this Bill in a different way because they do not wish to vote for it.

Ireland is one of the few countries that does not have a combined system of on-the-spot fines and criminal sanctions. As Deputy McHugh said, fishermen feel that they are forgotten. Generations of people living along the coastal areas have relied on fishing for their livelihoods. However, competition, restrictions and quotas have forced many fishermen to moor their boats permanently. Those who remain in the industry feel they are being hounded by restriction and regulation. This is a very good Bill which will harmonise our law with the European Union in the way infringements are sanctioned. The Bill provides for the introduction of a points system similar to that which applies in many other countries.

I am from County Clare and I wish to talk about the fishing industry in my county. While fishing is not the most important industry in the region, it is important to the many fishermen who live in the coastal villages from the cliffs of Moher, Liscannor and all the way down to Quilty, Carrigaholt, Dunbeg and various other small villages. The main types of fishing in County Clare are for crab and lobster and these account for the biggest landings. A total of 90% of the crab and lobster catches are exported to France and Spain. Our local fishermen in County Clare have undertaken significant work in lobster management and conservation with courses funded by BIM and the Government. The problem with lobster and crab fishing is that prices have fallen substantially. A few months ago, lobster and crab fetched €18 per kilo while today the price is down to €10 per kilo. Most fishermen will say they cannot make a living out of those prices. Cheap lobster and crab is being imported into Europe from the United States and Canada to be processed here as if it were an EU product. Fishermen’s incomes must be put back on line again.

Deputy O’Keeffe’s Bill introduces a new system which will modernise and monitor all vessels, in that satellite-based electronic log book systems on board vessels over 12 m will report at regular intervals to centralised bases in each member state. Landings for the first sale of fish must be reported into the system and each member state will have to cross-check to ensure the accuracy of the information. Recreational fishing will be introduced into the monitoring system for the first time.

I am disappointed that the Minister of State, Deputy Connick, has left the Chamber. He got a lot of praise from his Fianna Fáil colleagues. If Deputy Connick wants to make a good name for himself as a fisheries Minister, he should support this Bill. It is essential to have a level playing pitch across Europe so that the same system of control applies to Irish and foreign vessels operating in our waters.