Dáil Éireann - Volume 642 - 04 December, 2007
Regional Fisheries Board (Postponement of Elections) Order 2007: Motion.
Deputy Eamon Ryan Deputy Eamon Ryan
Deputy Eamon Ryan: I move:
“That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order 2007,
copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 8 November, 2007.”
I welcome the opportunity to come before the House today to discuss the motion on the Regional Fisheries Board (Postponement of Elections) Order 2007. The management and development of the inland fisheries sector resides with the Central Fisheries Board and the seven Regional Fisheries Boards. Elections to the Regional Fisheries Boards are due to take place on 18 December 2007, following extensions agreed by the Oireachtas last year. However, I propose, subject to the approval of the Dáil and Seanad, to make an Order postponing elections for a further year. If this is not done, the boards will fall. By deferring the elections for a further year, the opportunity will be presented to work, in partnership with the existing Chairpersons and members of the Boards, on proposals for a more effective management structure for the sector.
I am encouraged by recent efforts by the fisheries boards liaison group at developing proposals for the future management of the sector. Significant progress can be made during 2008. The fisheries liaison group consists of the chairpersons and the chief executive officers of the central and regional fisheries boards. It is not my intention for these boards to continue in existence indefinitely, but there is a real prospect of advancing proposals to restructure the sector in the coming year and I do not want to miss this opportunity.
In 2005, on foot of an independent review of the inland fisheries sector in Ireland, my predecessor announced plans for the restructuring of the sector. Under that policy, the sector was to be re-organised by subsuming the existing Central and Regional Fisheries Boards into a single national inland fisheries authority. It is fair to say and it has been widely acknowledged among all parties that the management structures currently in place in the sector are not operating at an opti mal level. There is a real need for change and a move towards a more effective, accountable and transparent management system.
An initiative undertaken by the fisheries boards liaison group regarding the proposed restructuring of the sector has recently been brought to my attention. On Friday last, I held an exploratory meeting with the chairpersons of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards to hear the broad terms of their proposals. Through further development of the proposals put forward, it may be possible to bring about an agreed programme for the restructuring of the sector which will result in more effective, accountable and transparent management systems. I have asked the sub-committee established by the liaison group to work with officials from my Department in drawing up detailed proposals over the next three months. If acceptable, I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval of these proposals in early 2008. In any event, this exercise is time bound. I expect that any new structures proposed will take account of Ireland’s EU and international obligations, particularly the water framework and habitats directives.
In the context of providing the legislation necessary to facilitate the new structures, an examination is being undertaken on how the existing legislation governing the inland fisheries sector can be modernised and consolidated into a single statute. There are currently seventeen Acts governing the inland fisheries sector, dating back to 1959. Many provisions of the existing legislation are out of date and in some cases defunct. For some time there has been a consensus that the legislation should be updated. I am committed to producing one consolidated Bill for the inland fisheries sector which is in line with the Government’s policy on better regulation. The new legislation will make provision for the new structures to be established as part of the agreed restructuring programme, and the updated and consolidated text will assist in the smooth transition to any new management structure.
A sub-group of the national fisheries management executive, which comprises the chief executives of the fisheries boards, has been established to ensure that those dealing with the legislation at an operational level will have an input into proposals for the legislation that will govern the sector. This group is working closely with the Department on developing the legislative proposals. The sub-group will examine areas such as licensing, rates, conservation imperatives and river catchment management plans as part of their deliberations.
The Government has recently appointed an interdepartmental group charged with overseeing the independent review of inland fisheries with a view to bringing it to a conclusion as soon as possible. The interdepartmental group consists of senior representatives from my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; the Department of Environment, Heritage and  Local Government; the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. It is chaired by the Department of Finance. The composition of the group reflects the fact that our inland fisheries resource is affected by and crucial to a wide range of sectors and emphasises the importance of developing co-ordinated approaches to this resource. The establishment of this group, along with the initiatives under consideration, should ensure that significant progress is made in the coming year in advancing proposals to restructure the inland fisheries sector.
The fisheries boards and senior management accept that change is necessary and I am encouraged by their willingness to engage in discussions on much needed changes. However, these discussions are not open ended. If agreement cannot be reached within a few months, I will bring forward proposals.
The Government has long held the view that our wild salmon stock is a national asset that must be protected. One of the most positive developments in environmental management in recent years has been the moves to protect that stock through the introduction of a single stock management system. While that change has important benefits, it allows us to concentrate on the other key elements in the protection strategy, such as habitat management and obtaining scientific evidence to find out what is happening in the Atlantic to our salmon stocks. Failing to deliver that single stock management system would make it impossible to concentrate resources in the areas of water quality, habitat management and ocean science analysis. That is why it was a very significant scheme. I hope we can see the results of that when rivers are re-opened as stocks go above conservation levels. We should be able to show Ireland as a best-case example in the management of a resource that we are privileged to have, unlike so many other countries.
In recognition of the implications of alignment with the scientific advice, my predecessor also put in place a fund to address the financial hardship that will be experienced by the commercial netting sector. The salmon hardship scheme is intended to provide a measure of relief to individuals in line with the level of hardship likely to be experienced based on recent catch history. The hardship fund of €25 million is available to all those former licence holders affected by the closure of the mixed stock fishery. The scheme is being administered by BIM and the regional fisheries boards and more than €8.5 million has been paid out to more than 600 applicants who have accepted offers made under the scheme. The closing date of 31 December 2007, until which applicants can obtain payment, is drawing near and I encourage those interested in availing of the scheme to submit their claims as soon as possible.
The Government has provided a fund of €5 million that will be available under a community support scheme. The focus of this measure is pri marily those communities where drift net fishing had been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on their economic and social fabric. While the scheme is targeted on those affected by the ending of drift-netting, it also addresses those areas where other mixed stock fishing activities are affected. The scheme will be directed at the development of additional economic opportunities for crews and employees in the processing and ancillary sectors in the community. The scheme will be administered by the Leader companies through my Department in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
My Department is currently working on a suite of measures to be put in place through the fisheries boards for the management of the wild salmon fishery in 2008. I recently initiated the statutory 30-day consultation process on the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations. The new regulations provide for, among other things, revised total allowable harvest of salmon by commercial fishing nets, quotas for anglers and improved management on certain rivers which have been identified as requiring greater control and monitoring. Following on from measures introduced last year, total allowable catches will continue to be allocated on a river by river basis.
The draft regulations published for consultation show indicative figures for total allowable catches on individual rivers which are based on preliminary scientific advice. The final advice from the scientists is expected very shortly and the regulations will be amended to reflect this and will be published on my Department’s website as soon as I receive them. I will introduce a number of by-laws which will provide for, among other things, angling bag limits, the conduct of catch-and-release and the closure for harvest of certain rivers that are not meeting conservation limits.
The fisheries boards, management and staff are to be commended for the excellent work they have undertaken in managing the significant change to the operation of the wild salmon fishery. They have accomplished an onerous task over the past year in a compassionate and understanding manner in partnership with the myriad stakeholders who share the salmon resource. There are equally challenging initiatives to be pursued in the management of coarse fish and undertaking their role in the monitoring of fish stocks and water quality under the water framework directive.
Given the speed at which changes are happening in the sector in terms of conservation efforts, I am anxious that, in view of their valuable contribution, the existing members of the regional fisheries boards would be given an opportunity to play a key role, not only in ensuring a continuing input to the work of the regional boards, but in advancing the proposals to restructure the sector. Accordingly, I propose to postpone the elections to the regional fisheries boards  for a further year in accordance with section 15 of the Fisheries Act 1980. This will facilitate the continued contribution from those directly involved in overseeing the service, whom I feel will have a key role in advancing restructuring of the sector. They are committed to appropriate changes. This order, when made, will also result in the postponement of elections to co-operative societies. The position of the co-operative societies will be addressed in the context of the new legislation to be introduced.
It is my firm belief that, through the newly appointed interdepartmental group, proposals to restructure the sector can be significantly advanced over the coming months thereby allowing the sector to reach its full potential through more coherent and consistent policy making and resource allocation. While I am committed to the restructuring of the sector, I recognise that there will be significant challenges in bringing it about. The changes to the inland fisheries sector will be progressed on an open and transparent basis to ensure as much involvement as possible by as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. I trust that the House will pass the motion approving the order to defer the elections.
Deputy Simon Coveney Deputy Simon Coveney
Deputy Simon Coveney: I wish to share my time with Deputy D’Arcy. Could the Leas-Cheann Comhairle please tell me when ten minutes have elapsed? I am glad we have the opportunity to debate this. Although it was discussed last week by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, there are issues that need a debate and the opportunity for a vote in the Dáil. This is an opportunity for some general comments on the inland fisheries sector.
The Minister has been handed a hospital pass. What has not happened over the past two years is not his fault, however he is responsible for trying to sort it out. The Farrell Grant Sparks report was published in February 2005 and approved by the Government in December 2005, two years ago. The restructuring of the sector that report recommended has not progressed. The Minister seems to say we will postpone these elections to ensure the existing regional fisheries boards fall. We are doing away with regional fisheries boards without having the alternative structure in place to take over under a new management structure. Could the Minister address that concern? There is a fear that we are removing the existing structure without agreeing on the structure that will follow. That is not a sensible way to proceed. The Minister said we are close to agreement, and I welcome that. However in such negotiations one can be close to agreement for a long time. If the existing board structure falls in January, and if the Minister imposes his ideas on a new structure in mid-2008, as he says he must in the absence of agreement, what management structure will man age the inland fisheries and who will have responsibility after January?
Deputy Eamon Ryan Deputy Eamon Ryan
Deputy Eamon Ryan: They will not fall for a year.
Deputy Simon Coveney Deputy Simon Coveney
Deputy Simon Coveney: The second issue I want to raise is the poor allocation of resources to supporting, developing and enforcing the rules and regulations on inland fisheries over the past seven or eight years. In 1999 €21.5 million was made available to the inland fisheries sector. In 2004 €20.5 million was available and in 2007 it was still less than €30 million. When one considers that we have more than 6,000 km of inland waterways, there is something wrong with the fact that we refuse to prioritise it. Unfortunately the lack of priority in this area has a real cost in fish stocks. At last we are beginning to address that and some brave decisions have been taken.
Let us examine the number of tourists who visit Ireland to fish. In 1999 173,000 people came to Ireland to fish. In 2006 it was 103,000. We have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of tourists visiting Ireland to fish, despite the fact that in almost every other sector there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of tourists coming to Ireland for activity holidays. There are real problems in this sector, and that is why we must examine how we will restructure it with a sense of urgency. It does not matter how we restructure this sector if we do not fight for the necessary allocation of resources to ensure we promote and develop the sector through marketing, fish stocks and improving the physical infrastructure that allows people to fish and enjoy themselves. Without this we will not develop this sector in a safe, sustainable way.
On the restructuring process, we are moving from a complicated management structure to a similarly complicated one. We are moving from having a central fisheries board, answerable to the Department, which advised and helped to manage seven regional fisheries boards to a centralised national inland fisheries authority. From a regional viewpoint, there will be inland fisheries advisory councils. Essentially, my fear is that we are following a similar model to the one used in the creation of the HSE, which is moving away from regional decision-making and accountability and some transparency, albeit some inefficiency as well, to a centralised management body. Our experience with the HSE in terms of trying to get answers to basic questions and in terms of accountability and transparency has not been good. On that front, we should be embracing the ideal behind decentralisation, which is to encourage local decision-making as much as is practically possible in a whole range of different areas when there is reason to allow local areas to make decisions for themselves.
 There have been, and there are, flaws in the current structure and it needs to change. However, we need to ensure there is local accountability and transparency with people who understand the locality making and standing over management decisions that are taken as regards waterways, rivers and all the other matters involved in inland waterways. This is as opposed to one body that makes all the decisions from a centralised base and with people from the regions trying to influence those decisions.
Presumably the rationale behind changing the management structure is to get more efficiency into the system and to try to get decisions based on scientific knowledge that is held centrally — to ensure experience in one part of the country is shared with other regions so that there is informed decision-making on our rivers and fish stocks, etc. It seems to be the case, however, that assurances are being given under the current management structure of the Central Fisheries Board and the seven regional boards to the effect that everyone will keep his or her job and have a role. We must ask whether we are restructuring in order to ensure that the people involved in the management structures hold their jobs or to ensure there is better more efficient management of fish stocks.
There is a crazy situation within the HSE, where senior management openly admit it is trying to find jobs for members of middle management as it is required under contract to ensure everyone keeps his or her job. While I do not wish to see wholesale layoffs in this area, I want to be sure that any management changes and new structures are being put in place for the sake of fish stocks, fisheries tourism and the management of rivers, as opposed to looking after people’s careers.
Perhaps the Minister might come back as regards the scientific research element of the change in structure. My understanding is that the shifts will involve the scientists who work in the regional fisheries boards going into the Marine Institute. The institute does a great deal of fantastic work, but we need to ensure that the priority and emphasis on inland fisheries, stocktaking and research remain intact rather than being dispersed within a much bigger structure, namely, the Marine Institute.
On the whole, while I have some concerns, we will not vote against the motion. However, we have some genuine reservations and I ask the Minister, on a serious basis, to ensure that a proper workable structure is in place to take over before the existing structures fall.
Deputy Michael D’Arcy Deputy Michael D’Arcy
Deputy Michael D’Arcy: I thank Deputy Coveney for giving me the opportunity to discuss this matter this evening. As Deputy Coveney was not able to make the committee meeting, he asked me for my opinion on whether the motion  should go through without debate. I was very much of the view that this issue should be debated in the Chamber.
I want to touch briefly on the point on which Deputy Coveney finished his contribution, scientific knowledge. One criticism I have is that much of the data available on rivers is EPA-based and tends to be a couple of years old. That is something which needs to be examined by either the regional fisheries boards or the new central agency, whatever it is to be called. The data needs to be months rather than years old.
I live on a salmonid river, the River Bann, where I run a commercial dairy unit. It is taxing work at present, given the number of regulations and the amount of criteria that must be met in terms of running a major dairy unit. However, I compliment the direction and the hard decisions that were made in the past. I have never seen so many salmon in the River Bann, which is a tributary of the Slaney. I do not fish and neither do I poach — this would not be unheard of in north Wexford. Another consideration for the Minister is that the number of people working the rivers or keeping an eye on them is not sufficient. There are some rangers, but not many and 6,000 km is an enormous area to cover.
I also want to touch on an issue I raised with the Minister at the committee meeting regarding the accountability of the current fisheries boards. We have seen that when boards or agencies are merged, they tend to become less accountable. It would be a very retrograde step if the new agency becomes even less accountable than the existing fisheries boards. The Minister knows my view as regards the fisheries boards, which are practically non-accountable. Whatever structures are put in place, there must be public accountability, with some input from elected members of whatever agencies are created. I have a concern, too, with merging for the sake of it. I heard what the Minister said as regards the fish stocks and given my opinion in relation to what I see happening in the rivers. To merge for the sake of it, however, while guaranteeing employment to everyone, is wrong. It is wrong because everyone in this Chamber sees other agencies and Departments that need staff at coalface positions. There could be retraining, so as to provide staff in other agencies and bodies that would benefit the public sector overall.
I have discussed accountability. I hope it will work, speaking as someone who is always proactive and positive. I hope we are not dipping our toes in shallow waters and that in a year or two we find the system is not working well. I always look for betterment and want to see positions improve. We will not vote against the motion.
Deputy Liz McManus Deputy Liz McManus
 Deputy Liz McManus: I wish to share time with Deputy Martin Ferris, with the agreement of the House.
This motion is seeking yet again to postpone the elections to regional fishery boards across the country. It is worth pointing out that this is the third such postponement that has been sought. We had Deputies Gallagher and Brown in the role of Minister of State with responsibility for this area and now the Minister with this responsibility is Deputy Ryan. They all demanded interference in the democratic process. A electorate should be entitled to renew and refresh its representatives. However, although the Minister or Minister of State with responsibility for this area may change, the desire to postpone decisions seems to continue. It is important to recall that on the last occasion a postponement was sought the Minister, Deputy Ryan, was in opposition and he strenuously resisted it. If any attempt is made to postpone the elections yet again it will be met with fierce opposition from this side of the House.
We will call a vote on this because we do not think it is the way to go. Last year, when the Minister was in Opposition he called the postponement a “shocking indictment of the Government’s inability to prioritise the environment and wild fish stocks.” He called it “a cowardly act”. He certainly has become rather meek since he entered the Department and he cannot remember the context and why he made these serious claims in Opposition.
I appreciate he is new to the job and anybody new to a job as important as this is entitled to some grace. However, we must remember the protection of indigenous fish species and habitats as part of natural heritage is the sole responsibility of the State. It is enshrined in the EU Water Framework Directive and in the EU Habitats Directive that fish stocks be maintained. It behoves the Government to take a proactive role. I recognise considerable improvements have been made in recent years. However, I express my reservations about another postponement.
At the committee debate the Minister stated that he wanted time to meet the chairpersons of the regional fisheries boards and the central fisheries board and he met them last Friday. It is not clear from his speech what progress was made. He spoke about establishing sub-committees. We need hard evidence in terms of making progress because as the Minister pointed out, relatively speaking this involves a limited time. If he believes in consensus building, and he puts a great deal of emphasis on this, he must also deal with those outside of the existing structures.
I briefly examined the Farrell Grant Sparks report which made major points of criticism. One was about the multiplicity of existing agencies. Agencies including the Department, the Marine Institute, local authorities and the EPA have a  role in regulation. Seven agencies are involved in enforcement and nine agencies have roles in what is termed “monitoring and advisory service”. The report expresses concern in this regard “not in relation to the role of the State. Instead the concern is with the multiplicity of agencies and the inevitable inefficiency in resource utilisation and otherwise which arises.”.
In whatever new structures emerge, and I presume they will not be on the Farrell Grant Sparks model, it is important that the system is not complicated any more than it is already. The lack of a clear Government policy on inland fisheries does not help and this is a lacuna which needs to be addressed. The report examines in detail the need for policy.
The report establishes certain key functions for such a policy including the development, promulgation and communication of national policy and plans for the inland fisheries sector; the establishment of an institutional framework for the sector appropriate to the effective implementation of policy including service delivery, the drawing up of legislation, securing of and the allocation of funding and providing the framework for sectoral regulation and enforcement. This is a major task but if it were completed it would serve the country well.
I recognise the existence of great goodwill and dedication among the angling community to preserve stocks and enhance the fishing environment. Other speakers also mentioned this. Increases in the salmon conservation fund are welcome as are proposals with regards to regulations and by-laws. Anglers have expressed concerns to me with regard to funding. What is provided at present will not satisfy this need. Another concern is whether at times access to waters will be restricted to tourists only in order to make money.
The Trout Angling Federation of Ireland made recommendations for new structures which deserve consideration. I presume the Minister is aware of them. The federation makes a point of which I was not aware. It suggests that what is required is that future regions be realigned with the Water Framework Directive river basin districts. This seems a straightforward requirement and one I urge the Minister to take on board.
The issue of accountability was raised by other Deputies. We must ensure we have a system and statutory powers so that it can be made answerable. Nobody in this House wants to emulate the HSE model. The Trout Angling Federation of Ireland also argues for smaller boards in line with the Minister’s thinking. We will call a vote on this. We will not win it but we want to make the point that interfering in this way in people’s democratic mandate is not acceptable.
Giving the Minister a year’s grace will have to yield results. He stated the Department is preparing a consolidation Bill. A consolidation Bill is all  very well but it only deals with what exists already. I hope and expect the Government to go way beyond what is essentially a tidying up operation. Clearly, we need a policy framework and appropriate streamlined structures and these are key.
The Minister is asking us to postpone democratic elections and it is extremely important to have a quid pro quo of value resulting from what he proposes. We must wait and see and I assure the Minister the Labour Party will play a role in encouraging the emergence of a clear policy framework and robust and accountable structures to ensure the best future for the inland fisheries sector.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Seven and a half minutes remain. The Deputy has perfect timing.
Deputy Martin Ferris Deputy Martin Ferris
Deputy Martin Ferris: I thank Deputy McManus and the Labour Party for allocating me this time. I wish to discuss the decision taken by the Cabinet just over a year ago to proceed with the compulsory buying out of drift net salmon fishermen. Not only did this go against many Government TDs and Senators but it also went against the recommendations of the Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources which proposed that any buy-out scheme should be voluntary and not compulsory.
As a member of that committee I pointed out that not only was the Government bringing an end to the livelihood of many people engaged in a traditional activity, but it was inadequately compensating them for it. The conditions attached to the destruction of nets were extremely harsh and in some cases would prevent fishermen using their nets to pursue other forms of fishing. This decision has put further pressure on other sectors in inland fishing, particularly lobsters, crayfish and shrimp.
Drift net fishermen have until the end of this month to decide whether to accept the compensation scheme and not only does this cause a major dilemma but it also causes the potential for division between those adamant that they will continue and those who feel they have no choice but to accept.
With average compensation amounts likely to be between €2,500 and €3,000, it is understandable that many see it as a derisory sum to buy out a tradition which goes back generations within communities and families. Another dilemma is caused by the fact that the Department told people they may be issued with new licenses if stocks rise but not if they accept the buy-out scheme. This is a major contradiction.
All in all, this has been badly handled and I appeal to the person with responsibility for this area to revisit the entire scheme at the last hour to facilitate those who wish to remain as active fishermen and to provide a much enhanced com pensation scheme for those who wish to avail of it.
Many other areas of fishing policy also need to be addressed but these matters rarely come up for debate here. That is particularly true of sea fisheries and the need for a radical revision of the Common Fisheries Policy as it affects the allocation of quota in Irish waters. The last year for which we have complete statistics is 2004, when 700,000 tonnes of fish valued at €500 million was taken from Irish waters. In that year, the Irish fleet had a total demersal and pelagic quota of approximately 200,000 tonnes and the value of that catch was €123,000. That is an indication of the disproportionate amount of fish being taken from our waters by non-Irish fleets. Amounting as it does to 75% of the value of the catch, it represents a massive loss of one of our greatest natural resources and, to make matters worse, it is Irish fishermen and coastal communities that are bearing the brunt of the ever more stringent measures being imposed by the EU to protect stocks that have mainly been depleted by the fleets of other EU countries. That Irish fishermen are paying the price is illustrated by the fact that the Irish share of the quota allocated has again fallen in the past two years. The Irish share of the demersal quota has fallen from 55,000 to 32,000 in the past ten years. Between 2000 and 2005, landings at Irish ports fell by more than 25,000 tonnes, representing a loss of some €250,000.
That has obviously had a major impact on employment within the sector, with overall employment falling from almost 15,000 in 2000 to 11,600 in 2005. It has been reflected across all areas of the industry from fishing through aquaculture to processing. With regard to the latter, not only are most of our fish taken directly from our waters but most of our exports still consist of lower value bulk and fresh products. In 2005 less than 15% of the volume of exports consisted of processed seafood but that was valued at one third of the value of all seafood exports. That indicates the potential that exists in that area.
The entire sector is in need of a complete overhaul and the Common Fisheries Policy must be revisited. Regarding the decision to postpone the elections, I agree that further consultation is needed. I also acknowledge there will be significant challenges in terms of bringing it about and appreciate that the Minister intends to conduct the consultation in an open and transparent manner.
I commend fisheries boards management staff on the work they have done on conservation despite the uncertainty that exists regarding their position, particularly over the past year. I have worked closely with the regional fisheries boards over many years. As an active fisherman, I have particular experience of the south-western regional fisheries board and have always found its officials to be fair and honourable. They have  done a good job. However, I am concerned that the centralisation of boards might remove the democratic input from coastal communities if the regional aspect is lost. With regionalisation, all sectors were represented on the board and its loss does not augur well for the future. I will, therefore, oppose that very strongly.
I welcome parts of the Minister’s contribution but stress the need for him to revisit the decision to terminate the livelihood of driftnet fishermen and to ensure adequate compensation is forthcoming.
Deputy Eamon Ryan Deputy Eamon Ryan
Deputy Eamon Ryan: I thank the Deputies for their contributions. Deputy Coveney made the valid point that resources for this area have historically not been at the level required to provide for the types of management and conservation measures we want. One of the reasons for the difficulty in attracting resources may have been a recognition that regional management structures vis-à-vis central ones were not operating optimally. I hope one of the outcomes of this process, if we can get it right, is a management structure that everyone recognises as optimal, with strong co-operation between all relevant agencies at regional and central levels so that the conflicts which formerly hindered the allocation of resources do not recur. I agree with several of the other points made by Deputy Coveney regarding the potential benefits from tourism and other areas.
In terms of where we go from here, I hope it will be possible to retain the expertise that currently exists in the area. A complete upheaval would be wrong in this instance because there is a body of strong scientific expertise and dedicated and committed staff in each of the regional authorities and the central authority, even if some may have moved to the Marine Institute or elsewhere. It is crucial that we retain and motivate those people within whatever restructuring exercise we set up.
I was interested to hear Deputy D’Arcy’s experience of running a dairy farm close to a salmonid river. The fact that the river is full of salmon is a tribute to the way he manages his business. We need to instill the same sense of excitement and responsibility in our entire community. If we can get community buy-in, the effect on managing our affairs will be huge.
In regard to the structures that we put in place to maintain regional representative boards, they could include elected members but it is more important that we appoint the right people, some of whom may be elected, rather than having purely representative boards. One of the concerns I have about existing structures is that they are too large. Deputy McManus made that point. While many people are on the boards for valid reasons and in representative roles, whether in respect of tourism, fisheries or commercial nets men, the boards work more effectively when they are less prescribed in terms of representation. Boards work well when people sit on them as a public service duty, as well as having public service obligations in respect of their own areas.
In regard to my comments from last year which Deputy McManus quoted, my frustration at the time arose because there was no sense of progress. To a certain extent, we were not doing anything. The reason the elections are being further postponed is because I see a potential for progress. A process has been engaged whereby the chairs of the various agencies came together last Friday and collectively agreed a proposal on how they would proceed. In those circumstances, we at least have the opportunity, hopefully within a matter of months, to reach agreement on the structures we might put in place. The crucial areas in that respect will include deciding the role of a central authority vis-à-vis a regional authority if we are to maintain the latter and the roles of boards and management. Given the spirit of goodwill and unity that I sense from the chairs of  the agencies, which in the past may not have existed, I am confident that we have the potential to do important work.
I understand the concerns expressed by Deputy Ferris as a representative of his community but the changes in salmon management were essential from my perspective. While they are not the key component of the management system, they allow us to concentrate on other issues, such as habitat and water quality, which will help us protect the stock sufficiently to allow for a certain level of commercial fishing activity on a single stock management basis. Furthermore, these stocks will provide us with a natural resource that will enrich our lives and creates substantial additional economic potential. It will be of significant benefit to the areas Deputy Ferris represents if we can bring back tourists and even if we can bring back——
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: I am required to put the question.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 19.
 Question declared carried.
Dáil Éireann 642 Regional Fisheries Board (Postponement of Elections) Order 2007: Motion.