Dáil Éireann - Volume 493 - 01 July, 1998

Written Answers. - Tuna Fishing.

45. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the compensation, if any, available to tuna fishermen who will be forced to give up tuna fishing. [16002/98]

46. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the implications, if any, for the Irish fishing industry of the proposals agreed by the Council of Fishery Ministers on 8 June 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16076/98]

54. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if there is any future for Ireland's tuna fishermen. [16001/98]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 46 and 54 together.

I have previously outlined the circumstances in which I secured in the face of overwhelming opposition a four year stay on the ban on driftnet fishing for tuna at last months Fisheries Council. I also won assurances on the availability of research funding from the Commission to develop alternative techniques, experimental fishing programmes and technology transfer with the objective of assisting Irish tuna fishermen to convert to other means of fishing for the species over the four year period. It also provides a further window of opportunity to pursue additional financial support measures to help existing players in the fishery in the transition from driftnets.

The Council also decided, as part of the compromise to postpone the introduction of the ban for four years, that the number of authorised driftnet participants from 1998 shall not exceed 60 per cent of those with a track record in the fishery in the period 1995-1997. The practical implications of that limitation are being assessed by the Department in consultation with the industry by reference to patterns of participation in the fishery in recent years, opportunities this season for vessels to begin to diversify into other unrestricted fishing techniques and a possible level of demand for first time access to the driftnet fishery this year by fishermen without any previous involvement. My immediate priority is to ensure that traditional participants in the driftnet fishery are, within the new parameters, accommodated during the four seasons remaining before the ban while working with them to achieve conversion to other economically viable techniques which will ensure their continued participation beyond 2002.