Dáil Éireann - Volume 470 - 30 October, 1996

Written Answers. - RSW Pelagic Vessels.

23. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Marine, in view of the fact it was reported in the English media that four new pelagic vessels are currently on order for Irish skippers and considering that he and his predecessor, representing this Government, have consistently assured Dáil Éireann that all new proposals for the introduction of refrigerated salt water (RSW) pelagic vessels, 100 per cent replacement capacity, must be withdrawn from the existing RSW pelagic fleet, if he will have details of the exact tonnage which will be required for each of these vessels; and the steps, if any, he has taken to ensure that, in each instance, 100 per cent replacement capacity will be withdrawn from the existing pelagic tank boat fleet. [19916/96]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett): I am aware that a number of owners of RSW pelagic vessels in the fleet have plans to replace them [1463] with new vessels. Such proposals will be dealt with as they arise in line with stated Government policy which is clear and unambiguous and has been reiterated in this House on a number of occasions by myself and my predecessor. Any such new vessels will only be permitted to enter the fleet on condition that equivalent one hundred per cent replacement capacity has been withdrawn from the RSW pelagic fleet in advance of their introduction. Compliance with that precondition will be fully ensured. The Deputy will be aware that under European Union fleet policy the capacities of member states' fishing fleets are constrained by decisions taken in the context of fleet Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes. Against this background, sea-fishing boat licensing policy is designed to maintain strict control on proposed introductions into the fleet.

It is the case that within existing fleet capacity constraints there has been significant private investment in the Irish pelagic fleet in recent years and the fleet is now among the most modern in Europe. Any plans for further investment by pelagic vessel owners will, of course, have to take account of emerging opportunities and constraints and, in particular, the economics of realising available fishing opportunities and developments in EU policy to address the overall EU fleet overcapacity problem. In that context the Deputy will be aware that the Commission has proposed further across the board cuts of up to 40 per cent in EU fleet capacity over the next few years. The Commission's proposals were deemed unacceptable by the Council of Ministers on 14 October last and, in my capacity as President of the Council, I am now consulting intensively with member state colleagues and the Commissioner to see whether we can find solutions which are acceptable, appropriate, fair and soundly based.