Dáil Éireann - Volume 286 - 26 November, 1975

Written Answers. - Law of the Sea Conferences.

[213] 234. Mr. Lemass asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the lack of progress made at the various conferences on the Law of the Sea, the Government will now ratify the convention on fishing and the conservation of living resources of the high seas drawn up at Geneva in 1958; and if he will give an assurance that exclusive fishing rights will be maintained and expanded in the context of this country's membership of the EEC.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Dr. FitzGerald): I cannot agree with the Deputy's statement as to lack of progress made at the conferences which have been held on the law of the sea.

The first UN Law of the Sea conference held in Geneva in 1958 was largely successful in the circumstances of that time and made considerable advances in adoption of four conventions on the complex subject of the law of the sea, including the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas to which the Deputy refers.

This convention was signed on behalf of Ireland in 1958 and consideration was subsequently given to its ratification. After careful examination of the convention it was considered that it contained provisions which might be interpreted as precluding states from establishing an exclusive fishery zone apart from and extending beyond the territorial seas. It became clear at a later stage that states which might have been expected to invoke these provisions to our disadvantage had established their own exclusive fisheries apart from the territorial sea and/or were parties to the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 which provided for such an exclusive fishery. However, preparations for the third conference involving inter alia a general review of the law of the sea had by then commenced and it was decided to wait the outcome of the conference and its effect on existing conventions before becoming party to any convention on law of the sea.

[214] As the Deputy must be aware, in view of the relevant European Community provisions on fishing it is not possible to give the assurances he asks. Under the Accession Treaty Ireland has been allowed to derogate from the obligation to afford equal conditions of access to fishing grounds to vessels from other member states until 31st December, 1982. The Government will of course make every effort within the Community and in the context of the conference to ensure adequate opportunities for our fishermen not only to maintain but to expand their activities in the future, in particular by negotiating the most favourable terms for when the derogation expires in 1982.