Seanad Éireann - Volume 91 - 28 February, 1979

Private Business. - Fisheries Bill, 1979: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Kilbride: I have not had a great deal of experience of fisheries except that I have become acquainted with the ordinary exercise of catching a trout or a perch in the smaller rivers or the tributaries of the various larger rivers. For that reason what I know of the implications of the Bill so far as fish nets or other kinds of extensive fishing on big rivers is very limited.

This Bill deals with the various species of fish which breed in our rivers and lakes. We have had the controlling powers by the ESB and the Minister for Fisheries in the various Governments down the years in regard to how fish life might be protected in the various rivers but in recent times the environment fish-wise has changed immensely. We have today circumstances where fishery promotion and fish life generally is inhibited [216] to a very great extent compared with 20 or 30 years ago. It is evident to every Member of the House that there are certain times of the year when the application of fertilisers on land has a very adverse effect on fish life. After heavy rain the fertiliser is swept into the water and we have had the evidence of many hundreds of these fish being found dead in various fish beds. Because of various types of pollution fish life is not able to enjoy the opportunity that existed in the early part of this century. For that reason an improved system of protection in regard to pollution is necessary and should be implemented. As far as some of the efforts being made are concerned the effect is minimal. For instance, where Bord na Móna works have been promoted and where drainage has been carried out a considerable amount of filth, dust and turf mould has been swept into tributaries of the Shannon, particularly the Inny, and in consequence the salmon are no longer in the area. In addition, perch and trout, once to be found in these rivers, are not there now in the same numbers. That is something that has greatly changed the fishery image as far as production is concerned.

The haunts of trout and perch are well known to everybody. Anglers know the rivers where they will get perch and trout. Some of these species will not be found in the same rivers as the others. The people who usually fish are now confronted with circumstances not altogether due to the scarcity of fish but due to restrictions being made on them by the particular interest that certain people have a right to claim in this country and which down the years has been supported by various Governments.

The right of people to fish with a rod and line in their own localities or in the immediate area, whether that belongs to some outside interest or not, should be made available to the people without restriction. It is in the interests of tourism and the promotion of industry that people who want to come to work and live here should have this accommodation available to them without any hindrance or difficulty. I am not suggesting [217] that there should not be protection and the control by people paying a nominal licence for using a fishing rod or other gear.

Rivers in the country are being cleaned, lowered and levelled. It is stated—I do not know if it can be contradicted—that where the natural haunts of fish have been found and where spawning had been known to take place in some of the smaller rivers that have been cleaned, that these locations have been altered so much that spawning no longer takes place. The Board of Works or whatever authority is responsible for the control of fisheries seem to have neglected the importance of promoting or providing a proper fishing location in the areas. The Minister should have a survey made to ensure that in such areas where it was evident that there were spawning locations these should be provided again. The whole interest of getting rid of floods and improving agricultural land should go hand in hand with providing an environment where fish can continue to increase, where they can spawn and where they can be found in large numbers.

Some parts of the country where eels were not usually found are being identified with eel fishing at the moment. I understand mud has come into some of the rivers and the eels have found a haunt that did not exist there before. I do not know what the effect of eels in a river is or whether other fish make it their haunt as well. I understand that where rivers are deep and sluggish and where mud has filtered in as a result of Bord na Móna drainage the eel population has increased immensely.

We know that salmon do not spawn in some of the rivers. Opportunities for salmon to go upstream now are very different from what they were before arterial drainage was carried out, when small elevations in the streams or rivers were removed as a result of that drainage and as it was not considered necessary to provide a by-pass for the fish they have ceased to go into these areas. People living in such areas have been puzzled by this. Salmon are not found in some of the streams in which previously they were found, particularly [218] in some of the Boyne tributaries. Salmon fishing is of such importance to this country from several points of view that it should not be the victim to progress in relation either to the manufacture of goods, the fertilisation of land or any other cause whatever. It is a pity that in the midlands some tributaries of the Erne are not extensively cleaned and extensively protected. The levels on them should be maintained at their predrainage level.

I understand that Lough Sheelin is one of these rivers where because of drainage and lowering the level of the lake fish food and algae have disappeared and the fish have become scarce. A new level will have to be found at which the particular food that is the life of the fish can be replaced. Fishing on Lough Sheelin, any of the lakes or rivers Fishing is a pastime we would all like to be able to indulge in. If we offer good fishing tourists will be encouraged to come here to fish on the Shannon, Lough Sheelin any of the lakes or rivers in the west or the south or in any part of the country. If tourists find that certain industrial alterations have taken place and because of this there is pollution on the rivers where they formerly found fish, they will not come back again. We have to be very careful that pollution does not occur. When we see certain people prosecuted for causing pollution even at a very remote distance from rivers we may take that as an advance in the right direction which may not be immediately apparent to the people prosecuted.

A policy promoting co-operation between the fisheries authorities and the agricultural community, as well as industrialists, should be undertaken immediately like the co-operation the Minister and his predecessors have been promoting in relation to lands and forests. That co-operation has brought considerable advantage to the Department of Land, which is the twin responsibility of the Minister here today.

If the Minister can ensure co-operation by the immediate landowners, the industrialists and agricultural producers of pig slurry and so on, people will regard fisheries as being a national interest.

[219] I would like to wish the Minister well in relation to the Bill. I hope that when it comes to reviewing the interests associated with the effort being made in four, five or ten years, that we will be able to look back and say that what we have been doing so far as fisheries are concerned on our rivers and lakes has been very beneficial to the people of Ireland.

Ruairí Brugha: First of all, I would like to echo what was said by the previous speaker on the question of pollution and the outflow of effluent into our rivers. The River Liffey has over the past couple of years become a little less polluted. It is becoming cleaner. Last year on a couple of occasions I found that I could see the river bed, which I think probably is something that one has not been able to do for a number of years. I believe that credit for the improvement is due to Dublin Corporation and I hope that they will continue with their efforts. As regards the question of pollution throughout the country it is a matter for the relevant local authorities in different areas. I am bearing in mind that some authorities are active in this regard and that there have been some prosecutions. I would urge the Minister to get local authorities to intensify their efforts. If it is industrial pollution it is not difficult to pinpoint who is responsible. If it is from farms, our agricultural economy is improving anyway and it cannot be beyond the efforts of farmers to deal with this problem effectively because it is doing damage, apart from the environmental damage, to the source of their livelihood.

I would like, first of all, to commend the Minister, his officials and the Inland Fisheries Commission on this Bill. It is a very important Bill. I am glad the Minister has introduced it in the Seanad so that we can speak about it. It is something that goes to the core of our approach to the development and the protection of our resources.

That brings me to the question of poaching which was dealt with by a number of Senators in the House last week and the matter of illegal drift-net [220] fishing. I would like to emphasise what was said last week. There is no longer any aura of notoriety, a sort of semi-patriotism, about poaching of the kind that has been going on here in recent years. The details given by Senators Goulding, West and Whitaker are frightening in themselves in relation to the damage being done to a natural resource. The account given by the Minister in relation to the disastrous fall in 1978 put side by side with the real value, even at this stage, of our inland fishing industry of a total of £20 million, between the fishing itself and tourism, must pinpoint for us how valuable this could be if we could bring an end to the greedy and selfish destruction of those resources by drift-net fishing and by poaching generally.

We should come out and say this is not an activity comparable with the old days of anti-authority when an individual was able to claim a certain amount of credit for having done a bit of poaching. This is robbery of a natural resource and interest.

The Minister should use every possible means that he can to bring it to an end. He should go after them, fine them, confiscate whatever equipment they have and put them out of business. We need a strong public opinion on this issue in relation to our inland fishing, particularly in regard to our salmon resources. On that point I must say, bearing in mind the effects of inflation and how the amount of money in circulation has escalated, it does not appear to me that the level of fines is adequate. Perhaps the Minister might keep in mind that the level may not be as effective as it might appear to be and he might also keep in mind the effects of inflation in relation to the size of the fines.

On the question of the new board and the regional boards I presume that the central board will in fact be taking over the functions of the Inland Fisheries Commission and the cost thereby will be pro rata. In regard to the regional boards which it is intended to set up I welcome the fact that these will be on an electoral basis. I wonder whether the Minister is wise in not giving a greater [221] degree of autonomy to these boards. Perhaps he might keep it in mind and review the situation. There seems to be very strong arguments in favour of as great a degree of independence as possible. The greater the sense of responsibility, the greater the willingness to perform, instead of possibly resting on the Minister and his Department. That is the argument we put forward a number of years ago in favour of the regional tourism organisations and it has worked out pretty well. The Minister might be prepared to review that aspect of it in a few years time if we are not getting the results we want.

On the question of fish farms and the issuing of licences, the Minister has resolved one problem which was put to him by a few Senators. Two others have occurred to me. First, if any cooperative group or any interest is interested in developing a particular area, can that group be assured of a licence before they put any substantial capital into the venture or do they have to wait for the Minister's or the Department's decision? Secondly, is the Minister satisfied that his Department will have the authority to restrict any persons from using an area which it is proposed to develop as a fish farm, who may be able to show that they have been accustomed to fish there? This is a serious legal question which might be looked into.

I am fully behind the Minister in his efforts to deal with illegal drift-net fishing. I should like him to engage in a public campaign because public opinion needs to be alerted. In the old days, if somebody was known to be doing a bit of poaching on the side, nobody minded. We need a situation where any citizen who sees commercial exploitation going on will report it to the Garda, not because one is opposed to entrepreneurial activity by an individual but because one is opposed to the destruction of a natural resource which, if it is preserved and protected, can give a considerable degree of employment which is badly needed.

Mrs. Robinson: Like other Senators who spoke on the last occasion and today, I welcome this Bill. I regard it, as [222] they did, as an extremely urgent matter. We are all too aware of the dangers to our inland fisheries, the pollution which has become a major problem and also the danger of the resource itself being badly handled, inadequately protected and, therefore, dissipated, which is bad for the general good. It is appropriate that we would regard our inland fisheries as a major resource and that we would approach it on this basis.

As is stated in the explanatory memorandum, this Bill is based on and incorporates many of the recommendations of the report of the Inland Fisheries Commission. I would join with Senators who noted that in several sections—I will come to details of these in a moment—the Minister has introduced checks and controls which appear to undermine the autonomy and responsibility of the central board and the regional boards. This is done in a way which may render these boards less effective than they should be and less able to discharge the very important responsibilities which this Bill would confer on them or transfer to them from the present boards of conservators and the Inland Fisheries Commission.

This is one of the Bills under which the Minister may, by order, appoint a day to be the appointed day for the purposes of the Act. I can understand the reason for that—there is a lot of work to be done, structures to be set up and property to be transferred. I would be glad if the Minister in his reply, would give an indication whether he envisages that the appointed day will be very soon after the passage of the Bill through the Dáil or whether he envisages that there may be weeks or months before the preliminary procedures can be gone into.

My first major quarrel with the terms of the Bill, having welcomed its overall provisions and having stressed the urgency of the structure being set up, is with section 7. Section 7 refers to the functions of the central board. Section 7 (1) (b) contains a provision which I do not recall there being any reference to in the report of the Inland Fisheries Commission. It is one which makes this Bill difficult to judge because a great deal could depend on the way in which the [223] Minister will exercise the power. Section 7 (1) (b) provides:

The Minister shall from time to time give to the Central Board directions containing general policy (including administrative policy) for the management, conservation, protection, development and improvement of fisheries or for the protection of molluscs, and the Central Board shall, if so directed by the Minister, as soon as may be, communicate to every regional board any direction given by the Minister under this paragraph.

One has to go to a subsequent section to see that failure to comply with such a directive could result in the dismissal of the entire central board, including the chairman of it, or the members of the regional board. Under the provision for the removal of members in section 23:

If and whenever the Minister is satisfied that—

(a) the Central Board or a regional board has not, in relation to a direction given by the Minister under section 7 (1) (b) of this Act, complied with the requirements....

They may be removed at the entire discretion of the Minister. This seems to be an unnecessary assertion of real control by the Minister at a central departmental level and fundamentally undermines the structure which the Bill proposes to create. Therefore, I propose to table an amendment to remove subsection (b). I hope the Minister, in his reply, will deal with this point and will explain why, in publishing the text of the Bill, he felt it necessary to have this provision.

There is no provision for publication of this direction by the Minister although, in a number of other instances where the Minister makes an order, the order is laid before both Houses. In this instance, the Minister gives a mandatory direction to the central board and possibly also to the regional boards. There is no provision in the Bill for publication of the terms of that direction. There appears to be an over-reaching by the Minister in seeking that kind of [224] overall power which is not necessary or desirable in the circumstances.

In section 7 there are what appears to me to be very niggling curtailments on the autonomy of the central board. I do not mean that this would be a total autonomy or irresponsible autonomy. This board will be comprised of persons who understand the important functions which they will be exercising and understand the need for a very active role by the central board to redress the very serious erosion of this natural resource, to deal with the pollution, the over-fishing and the poaching which have been referred to. Yet, there are niggling constraints. For example, in section 7 (1) (e) there is a provision:

The Central Board may with the approval of the Minister provide education courses or facilities for training or otherwise instructing persons in any matter relating to the management, conservation, protection, development or improvement of fisheries,

Again, one asks why a central board have to come back to the Minister for approval? The board will be submitting development plans and will be taking up other responsibilities. It seems to be a feature of the Bill that there are too many checks of that sort, which may sound well coming from the bureaucratic centre but which could inhibit the board in discharging their responsibilities. There are other similar examples. These are matters which we can deal with in detail on Committee Stage when the Labour Party will be putting down some amendments, but I should like to draw attention to one or two of them at this stage.

I would welcome further comment from the Minister on the question of the designation of fisheries regions. The Bill provides—this is the recommendation in the report—for seven fishery regions. The Minister has retained a very wide discretion to vary the number of fisheries regions, to combine two together or perhaps eliminate one altogether. I should like the Minister to explain the circumstances in which he might envisage combining fisheries regions, particularly when he has such wide power, [225] in the case of non-compliance with a direction given by him, to remove the members of a particular regional board. Would that be a step towards combining that regional board with another board and, if so, combining the fisheries regions? Is this the kind of control which goes beyond the necessary structure to create the proper exercise of responsibility by the regional boards?

Under section 10, dealing with the functions of the regional boards and other provisions relating to them, there appears to be an explicit reference to the fact—I know this is a reality in many circumstances but it is very explicity stated here—that their functions will depend on their funds. It begins: “to such extent as the funds at the board's disposal permit ...” Obviously this is the case with any body but it appears to lay emphasis on the fact that unless there is a very substantial commitment to ensuring that there is adequate funding for protection and for the various important functions of these regional boards, the structure is not strong enough in itself to ensure that the functions will be properly exercised and that the regional boards will be able to carry out the responsibilities placed on them.

On the question of election of members to the regional boards, I have the benefit, as I am sure other Senators have, of a submission from the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland which refers to the apparent discrimination in relation to the election of members to the regional board and in other areas against the trout and coarse fish anglers. The number of points made in that submission—and I am sure the Minister has a copy of it—are Committee Stage matters which we can deal with when the Minister has replied and told us the reasons why a person under section 12 (1) (b) (ii) must be on the register for a continuous period of not less than three years in circumstances where he is a trout and coarse fish angler in order to be able to vote. Why is there a distinction between a trout and coarse fish angler and other licence holders on the register? I would welcome the Minister's comments on that aspect.

With regard to the question of annual [226] reports and information to the Minister, section 18 states that:

The Central Board shall, as soon as may be after the commencement of each year, make a report to the Minister of its proceedings in the preceding year and those of each regional board in such year, as reported to the Central Board under subsection (2) of this section, and the Minister shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

We have had experience of a provision of this nature in relation to other boards and authorities which appears to give a much more useful check on and account of what is happening to the Members of the Oireachtas. But time and again it has happened that boards which have an obligation or duty under a section to report do not report or if they do report they do not do so within the year or, more common still, may well have reported but the report is not published or laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. There is no opportunity for Members to inform themselves or be aware of what is happening. I can think of a number of examples where this has not taken place. I would urge the Minister to ensure that when this board are established they will give a full and detailed report and will refer to the reports of the regional boards so that these reports, when laid before the Members of the Oireachtas, will give us a better sense of how the board are enabled to discharge their very substantial functions. If the board have any substantial complaints about the lack of adequate funds they could deal with that fully in the report and give Members an opportunity to see whether more funding or support ought to be given to the board in exercising their functions. Althought that provision is in section 18 it will not be a reality unless it is made clear from the outset to the central board that the report is awaited with interest by Members of the Oireachtas and that it ought to be made available and published so that it can be put down for discussion by way of a motion or referred to by Members in discussing either [227] the Estimates in the Dáil or other matters relating to fisheries.

Another important point made in the submission from the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland refers to section 20(4) and to a possible discrimination in the operation of the grants. Subsection (4) provides that:

In determining the amount of a grant to be made under this section by the Central Board to a regional board the Minister shall have regard to the total amount of the subscription paid to the regional board in pursuance of section 53 of this Act, as shown in the accounts of the regional board which have been most recently received pursuant to section 21(3) of this Act by the Central Board, and without prejudice to the generality of subsection (2) of this section, the Central Board may, if it thinks fit, make the grant to the regional board subject to a condition that the moneys forming part of the grant which are used by the regional board in the development of trout and coarse fish waters shall not exceed in the aggregate an amount specified in the condition.

The problem, as pointed out in the submission from the trout anglers federation, is that there can be areas of considerable development need, where there is a need for substantial work to be done but where there are not a large number of subscribers. This is an important point and one towards which I feel very sympathetic, coming from a part of the country where this would apply County Mayo. There might be relatively few subscribers but there would be real development and other needs in that area. The number of subscribers should not be the criterion on which the amount of the grant in these circumstances is based. I would welcome the Minister's response on that point. Perhaps it will be necessary to table an amendment to that section.

Senator Brugha welcomed the provision in the Bill for the election of members to the regional boards. I agree with him. It is always more desirable to have an elected representative board [228] than to have a nominated or appointed one. A good deal of the merit of that may be undermined by the provision in section 23 which appears to give the Minister very wide power for the removal of members of either the central board or a regional board. I have already referred to the fact that he can remove them for failure to comply with a mandatory direction which he can give under section 7 (1) (b).

The general terms of section 23 go beyond what is necessary to ensure that the Minister, as Minister, is exercising his political overall responsibility and may unnecessarily undermine the autonomy, responsibility and power of manoeuvre of the members of the central and regional boards in exercising their functions. It may be necessary to table an amendment to that section.

A number of the other sections are matters which can be discussed in more detail on Committee Stage. It is a fairly elaborate Bill and it is potentially a somewhat perceptive Bill because, although it establishes the central board and the regional boards recommended in the report of the Inland Fisheries Commission, it leaves a grey area. We do not know what the approval of the Minister will be in relation to the moneys that may be available, the number of the functions which can be exercised and what mandatory directions the Minister may issue from time to time to the central board or the regional boards. The Bill is very much a framework Bill and is subject to what happens in reality—the real commitment of the Minister. That is why I hope he will be influenced and persuaded by the strong views which have been expressed on all sides of this House in relation to the urgency of the problem, the need for substantial investment in the natural resource of our inland fisheries, the need to be supportive by way both of grants and funds and supporting the autonomy and responsibility of the members of the central board and the regional boards.

The Labour Party welcome this Bill, as Senator Moynihan indicated. We would like, however, to strengthen the powers of the boards, remove some of the unnecessary curtailing powers which [229] the Minister has sought to retain and also have some of the issues that I have raised clarified.

Mr. Kitt: I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister on introducing this legislation which will put our fishing industry on a very strong basis. I welcome the boards which the Minister has set up. I compliment the Inland Fisheries Trust for the great work they do for our fisheries. I know they make great use of our resources. In many cases they have contributed to making roads to our rivers and lakes and I hope that they will continue to do this good work.

Some Senators referred to the problem that arises when drainage takes place and that this affects our fish stocks. With the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture that £42 million was to be allocated to the west for drainage purposes, the drainage question has become very topical. I hope that in all drainage work that takes place, and the west is a place that certainly needs drainage, conservation measures will be implemented to make sure our fish stocks are protected. I know that the Minister will receive every assistance from the Inland Fisheries Trust and the boards which will be established.

I support all the Senators who referred to the problem of pollution, whether this pollution comes from the agricultural industry, industry itself or from various local authorities. A number of local authorities have been prosecuted for pollution problems they have created. It is good that there is legislation there to deal with this problem. I hope that the legislation which is there will be implemented and that, if necessary, heavier fines will be imposed to stop this kind of pollution.

One of the biggest problems that affects my county is the type of pollution involved through the operations of Bord na Móna. A lot of this pollution—I am referring to peat silt—that finds its way into our rivers is caused by natural phenomena, rain, wind and so on. Our problem is—it happens in any place where there is development, especially in bogs—that peat silt finds its way in large amounts into our rivers and lakes. I [230] hope that in the future operations of Bord na Móna this will happen less often. The EEC have done some studies on this. I hope we can have a better system in the operations of Bord na Móna. They are providing beds where the silt can fall so that it will collect in the one place rather than being carried along by the rivers. It is a big problem with the fish stocks we have. I hope that this matter will be investigated further.

The Minister mentioned the reduction in salmon stocks. This is something that concerns us all. I support any action that can be taken to improve our salmon stocks, whether it be heavier fines to stop poaching or other conservation measures.

I was present in Galway on what I regard as an historic occasion when the Minister bought the salmon weir on behalf of the State. That was something that everybody welcomed. I hope the Minister may consider other areas where the Department of Fisheries could get involved in this way. In the past, we might have talked about poaching as being almost patriotic. Now that the State is involved, providing money to look after a resource like the one in Galway, people will realise that they are poaching from the State. I believe they will give the Government of the day every help in conserving our fishing stocks and particularly our salmon stocks.

There are other points in the Bill that I hope to refer to on Committee Stage. I again compliment the Minister and hope that the fishing industry will develop. It has great tourist potential. I hope this Bill will promote the industry even further.

Mrs. Hussey: I join in the general welcome given to this Bill only if it can be made into the kind of Bill which will really change a lot of what has been wrong in the past and will provide a dynamism which has been lacking in many areas of our inland fisheries organisation.

I was disappointed at the Minister's speech because of its lack of urgency or indeed idealism. I hope it does not indicate any sign of a lack of commitment to our inland fisheries organisation. We [231] are all aware that the Minister also has other public and political commitments in other areas of fisheries where the EEC is involved. In this Bill the Minister is given so much power that it is extremely important he would have a high level of commitment and that his commitment must be beyond doubt.

I should like to remind Senators that we have some unique natural features in this country which must be preserved and conserved. We have been careless about this in the past. However, much of the country still remains beautiful and the inland waterways have been protected, mostly by accident, from gross pollution. Other countries in western Europe have not been so fortunate and have sacrificed a great deal of their natural beauty to industrial development or to agriculture. We have a unique opportunity to benefit from other countries' mistakes. It will be too late in 20 or 30 years if we allow much more pollution in our inland waterways. We have a great responsibility.

If I seem to concentrate mostly on the social and recreational side of fishing it is because I am very much aware—and Ministers have often stated this, and particularly the Minister for Economic Planning and Development—that we are approaching the leisure age in all societies, particularly in advanced econmies, when a great many more people will have more time to spend at their leisure. The people will want to get out and “discover Ireland” which we are invited to do all the time by Bord Fáilte. If they go out to discover Ireland and find the lakes and inland waterways polluted they will justifiably look back and hold all of us responsible.

Until recently, this country was known as one of the best free fishing areas in Europe, with wonderful lakes. Among the foremost of these is Lough Sheelin. One of the many things that has happened to Lough Sheelin over the last ten years is the invasion and pollution of it by pig slurry. Farmers were encouraged to go into the pig business and to site their pig farms near streams so that the slurry could be got rid of. It was got rid of, but it was carried into Lough [232] Sheelin which has now been turned into a bad imitation of what it once was, a great fishing lake. I know many fishermen who will not go near Lough Sheelin now. They find it too sad. The great Mayfly fishing time in Lough Sheelin is now almost nothing compared with what it was. I have heard that families living in that area do not allow their children to have a dip in the water any more. The water would have to be boiled before anyone could think of drinking it. This is an example of an Irish malaise, of lack of vision, lack of interest in natural resources.

Last week I heard Senator Cooney and others deploring the state Lough Ennel has got into. What surprised me most about their pious pride was the great calmness and equanimity with which they made their statements. How could anybody have stood by and allowed human excrement to destroy a beautiful lake like Lough Ennel? I cannot understand the calm way with which we all accept that such a thing could have been allowed to happen. All the Governments which stood by and watched this happen stand accused. In the reorganisation and the setting up of structures which Ministers engage in, is there any hope of rescuing the lakes which have suffered so badly from various kinds of pollution? I should like to know what rescue operations could be mounted, if any. There is no doubt that the fishing in our lakes is a pale reflection of what it was some years ago.

I have been given several recent copies of a magazine called Trout and Salmon, a British publication which has various sections dealing with different countries. I have been reading in the recent monthly issues, including that for February 1979, the section entitled “The Irish Column”. It makes very grim reading. The January 1979 issue refers to the threat of pollution and drainage which is still hanging over Irish trout angling. It refers to the damage drainage is doing to the spawning pools and it mentions the River Moy. It states that the trout spawning pools of the River Moy have been excavated and “thrown up to form hideous river banks of moonscape appearance”. It states that the [233] pools in the River Boyne and the River Inny have been destroyed, and that the River Suir is so polluted that local anglers send any visitors away because they want to keep for themselves the few miserable fish that are left.

I do not wish to be considered to be wildly exaggerating. There are, of course, many streams, rivers and lakes where trout are still readily available. Even some of the bigger lakes have good trout fishing but there is nothing like the abundance which made them famous about 20 years ago. Indeed, I have been told that one has to be very patient, and indeed a philosopher, to be a trout angler in Ireland today. Therefore, it is extremely important that when the Minister is appointing people to the central and regional boards he would make sure to have at least some people who have a great interest and expertise in undoing the awful damage that has been done and particularly in avoiding any future contradictory assaults on our waterways by different Government Departments and local authorities: it is a crazy situation to have one public body doing one thing and other public bodies doing the opposite.

I join with all the Senators who spoke about the penalties being increased for poaching salmon. They are still too low and compared with the profits that can be made they seem to be ineffective as a deterrent. Last week Senator Goulding mentioned a small stretch of river which she owns in the Dargle area and the poaching troubles they have there. I could add a story to that. In the same stretch of river, rocks have been thrown at people who have permission to fish it, but nobody knows who is responsible, or if they know they are not saying. I grew up beside that river and I fished it as a child. Recently a group of men who were caught poaching wore wetsuits and had spears, and so on, for a full-scale poaching job. They were fined £20 each but of course they went out the next night and made four times that amount each.

Senator Brugha said that perhaps there is a lingering admiration still for the poacher, a feeling that the absentee landlords, or whatever, got what they [234] deserved and more luck to those who got the better of the landlords. The problem is that there is such an attitude abroad, and it has to be repeated again and again that this is no longer the case. If the fines or other penalties are inadequate it is very bad for legitimate fishermen to see the law being abused or being made a laughing stock. It certainly puts the politicians who make these laws in a very bad light. I would therefore add my voice to others in asking the Minister to be very emphatic in dealing with poachers by increasing the penalties.

Obviously, there are far more enforcement patrols needed to protect salmon. The Minister has to steer a course between politics and conservation. The course has not been steered right in the past. I hope it will be from now on.

I would like briefly to mention the question of aquaculture, the breeding of fish and shellfish. It is a new industry here, only in its infancy. It needs to be encouraged and at the same time its development should be controlled so that it will go in the right direction. I hope the Minister will find time to take a special interest in this industry because it might need separate legislation and a separate set of rules to govern it. It is an industry which strikes me as being extraordinarily suited to this country and a source of potential employment which brings no undesirable pollution in its wake.

Senator West said last week that there are great hazards facing the fish farmer, that the fish farmer is extremely vulnerable to the destruction of his livelihood. I should like to put in a word for fish farmers. It would be a great shame if by lack of interest or foresight on our part at this stage the industry was hampered in its strong growth.

Finally, our entire waterways should be opened as far as possible to the ordinary people. Private ownership of extensive stretches of river which are open to only a very few people, and that by booking years in advance and paying large fees, should be phased out as a feature of Irish fishing. It is an anachronism. There are many areas where ordinary people cannot fish at all because fishing rights have been [235] reserved for a very long time. This feature should be phased out.

I would make a plea to the Minister to address himself to the problem of pollution and the structure of inland waterways. We are gradually becoming more and more aware of the importance of this heritage. Schoolchildren are becoming aware of it through competitions and through their teachers working very hard with, I am glad to say, the Minister and his authorities, in studying wildlife and natural beauty, but this matter cannot be too vigorously pursued. The natural assets which we have in abundance must be preserved for future generations. They are in our keeping now.

Mr. McGowan: I join with other Senators in welcoming the Bill. Somebody described it as a framework of legislation. I could not agree more because you could not possibly produce a document, or a Bill, of 85 pages and hope that it will be perfect in every respect. This is a good Bill, a serious attempt to bring up to date legislation that has been very much neglected for a long time. Somebody mentioned the word “rescue” and I would pin my hopes on the Bill that it will rescue one of our valuable amenities.

I see a tremendous welcome for the Bill throughout the country. There are those who will differ on the technicalities of the Bill and the details, but there will be a great welcome, and that is essential if the Bill is to succeed because it will have the respect of everybody involved and thus create a new interest in the preservation of fish. The biggest thing the Bill has to do is to make all of us aware just how important conservation and restocking are. That is a new awareness the Bill has to give all of us and that is the greatest contribution because in the past there was a hassle between the poachers and those concerned with fish conservation.

We have got to get away from that concept and realise that a very useful and valuable asset had almost gone beyond the point of restoration. I see the Bill as being timely and useful. It is simple [236] to read and understand. I hope it will not be too difficult to implement. I hope that where there are breaches of the law contained in the Bill the Minister, the central board and the regional boards will be seen to be active in implementing the provisions of the Bill.

I come from a county where we have had more than our share of difficulties about the poacher and the landlord. Traditionally we have inherited this situation and all too often the fight against the fish might not have been as much as against the landlord. There were many instances where the relationship between the local people and the landlord or those who had fishing rights were not good. This resulted in some cases in the fish being destroyed or poisoned.

All of us accept that it has been necessary to have legislation that can be implemented. Most people in Ireland are aware of the need for new measures and new controls. I hope the new central and regional boards will be effective and that they will have the respect of all those engaged in fishing but, first of all, it is important to have a fair system of licensing. Section 11 refers briefly to cases where a man might have two licences but only one boat. I would ask the Minister to make sure that nobody has two licences. It is important that the licensing system must be seen to be fair and to be accepted and to be a success.

The licensing system must be very fair and members of boards must be carefully chosen and selected. The whole system has to work in a way that not only will be fair but will be seen to be fair. I am delighted that the Minister has retained the power in section 23 which enables him to remove a member of the board when it is found that the member would be acting in a way that would not be in the best interests of the regional board or the central board. I think it is necessary and I would certainly applaud the Minister and those who have been involved in the drafting of this legislation for it. I compliment them for retaining that section.

Another part of the Bill of great interest to me is section 36 which provides that the regional or central board may [237] acquire fisheries. I think this may be necessary and certainly I could instance many cases in my county where we have inherited difficult situations, without going into details and making out lists of particular areas. I think the Minister will have to act and in a number of situations will have to acquire fisheries. They will have to be taken over by the State and administered by the central board and regional boards. That is the best way to bring about preservation and an orderly approach to fishing.

All too often in the past we have had a lot of difficulties. One of our best inland fisheries, Lough Eske in Donegal, is owned by people who are living outside the State. I think they are even wanted for some charges within the State. There is no way to contact these people. But they are protecting the fishing and neither the local people nor tourists can fish there. That is an undesirable situation. In Donegal we have a number of other fisheries among them the river Inver and the Teelin. There is quite a number of rivers and inland fisheries in my county where the Minister will have to take action under the new legislation. I am glad to say this is being provided for in section 36. I hope that when it is seen that the Minister will be acting under this legislation the required measure of co-operation will be forthcoming. Therefore, I agree it is very important that this Bill will be fully understood by everybody.

There is quite a lot in the Bill, for instance, the fishery year. The provision in regard to the fishery year is important and the local fishery boards must keep a very close watch on what is happening, whether stocks are getting low and whether there is need for re-stocking, whether there is a drainage problem or whether there is drainage being carried out. All these are very important aspects in the overall implementation of the Bill. Undoubtedly it will be successful if those interested will give it their support.

As far as the regional boards are concerned this is a fresh start. We should get rid of all our past prejudices and work together for the implementation of this necessary legislation. I do not think any regional board or the central board [238] should be allowed to be even remotely involved in fishing in a commercial capacity or in processing fish. I am sure individual members of fishery boards are entitled to fish, but I do not know how far this Bill can be harmonised with the Foyle Fisheries Commission. A lot of our trouble in the Foyle stems from the fact that the commission are engaged in fishing salmon. We have challenged this many times and we were told that they were only counting them, but I think the salmon would be dead by the time they would be counted. That does not encourage people to stop poaching and to preserve the fish stock. I should welcome observations from the Minister on how far this Bill can be harmonised and be complementary and can be joined with the legislation that exists in regard to the Foyle Fisheries Commission.

The Minister is to be complimented, regardless of which section of the fishing industry has criticised him. The Minister's work while he has been in charge of fisheries has been a positive contribution and I wish him success in his efforts to continue the good work.

Mr. Connaughton: I welcome the Bill. I believe it will do a better job than was done heretofore. There is no doubt that we have lots of problems in our inland fisheries but not because the inland fisheries people themselves were lacking in any way. There were times when those who were acting as security personnel for our lakes and rivers were not quite sure whether the law was for them or against them.

I like the structure of the central board and the district boards but I do not propose to get too technical about them at this stage. I hope the district boards when they are initiated will have a fair amount of autonomy and that at the beginning they will be taking their directions from the central board. One would hope that the feedback from the district boards, what they have to say, will be listened to. As we are all well aware, there are various parts of the country with various types of problems and a blanket ruling would not cover the entire country.

I agree with the voting arrangements. [239] One could quibble about the exact way in which licensed fishermen are provided for—I have read the text of the trout anglers' circular and we will talk about it at a later stage. However, the most important thing about this question of fisheries, inland fisheries in particular, is the amount of money the Minister will be able to put into the service. If there is not enough money we will have the same results as we had before. I will hold my fire for possibly a year or two until we see how much money is going into fishing. If they do not get the money there will not be results.

I have always thought that the water keeping service of the inland fisheries was a hit and miss affair because several times those people were not sure whether the law was with them or against them. The security arrangements for our rivers and lakes will be of vital importance in the future. It is very important that the numbers of people employed in the various sections be stepped up. That section was always underpaid and understaffed. For the future, for commerce and for tourism it is vital that this Bill be a success.

As regards the ordinary local who likes to fish for an hour or two in the stream at the end of his land or, as we call it locally, the big river, it is to be hoped that there will always be a place for him to fish unimpeded for a few hours with his rod and line no matter what law is brought in. No matter how we legislate it is very important that the people who were born and reared locally should have the right to this grand pastime which has served Irish people well down the years, and we want to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy it. This recreational facility is a God-given right.

The Irish mentality would seem to condone poachers and their actions. There was always a feeling of daredevilism, that “hard man” attitude, a bit of a giggle and a smile and, “Well, I suppose you could be doing something worse than poaching.” However, it has had disastrous results and I agree entirely with Senator Whitaker that poaching [240] was highly organised. So dangerous were the gangs in some areas that you would nearly want a battalion of the Army to crush them. They certainly took the law into their own hands and the inland fisheries people were half afraid of them in certain areas. We cannot allow that to happen and if the Bill is to have any effect it will have to be designed to abolish that kind of thing. However, the Bill must differentiate between people who have more or less a right to fish in an ordinary recreational capacity or the tourists on a short holiday and the people who intend to make profit from poaching. It is very difficult to legislate for different types of people at the one time, but it is important that the law does not turn ordinary individuals into poachers.

A big problem in rural Ireland is pollution, and today the opinion was expressed that the greater the agricultural output and the more use we make of fertilisers and drainage the bigger the problem of pollution of fish stocks will be. People must be educated about the difficulties that exist. There is a great lack of understanding in the educational system in regard to natural resources such as fish. I suggest to the Minister that the local boards, when they are structured and working, should have a close working liaison, particularly in the rural areas, with organisations like Macra na Feirme and Macra na Tuaithe, the young people who have a full life in front of them and who generally care about their area. It would be very important that the local boards employ an educational officer whose time spent speaking in our secondary, vocational and even national schools might not be wasted because a big breakthrough in our mentality is needed and that is the only way it will come. I suggest to the Minister too that the local boards employ a public relations officer. It is important that people learn from the local newspapers and television about the necessity for doing this kind of thing. It is a question of money and the will to do it and I hope that we will have both of them in abundance.

Where there is wilful pollution and neglect to do the job properly, no matter [241] who is involved, it is very important that those responsible be brought before the courts and subjected to a fairly heavy fine because it is very difficult to undo the terrible damage that can result from pollution. The Department of Agriculture are taking a very close look at this to ensure that farmers when siting silage pits and slurry pits adhere to the rules and that grants will not be paid until all those points have been inspected. One would hope, of course, that on the other hand we would not have too much red tape.

I put great emphasis on the effect of this new Bill on the local boards. A central board in Dublin, no matter who directs it, is very far removed from the scene of events. We need very involved local boards with people fully committed to the job in hand.

We have a tremendous number of small, little known lakes all over Ireland, particularly in the west, and some of them might not necessarily have a name. They are neglected and around the edges of them is indiscriminate dumping. A fair number of local development committees, chambers of commerce and so on are beginning to consider that these lakes might well be an asset to the areas generally and a tourist attraction together with nature trails and so on. I hope that the local boards in association with the central board and the Minister will provide a fair amount of finance to develop that amenity, maybe on a pound for pound basis. The local community should be deeply involved in this both physically and financially and the Department of Fisheries should ensure that there is sufficient money made available to carry out this type of proposal. There are matters like re-stocking, the carrying out of surveys to decide on the best type of fish for that purpose, boating and so on. There are hundreds of those almost unidentified lakes around the country. I think there is a great future for the type of projects I have suggested provided the provisions of this Bill can be implemented.

There are a lot of smaller points that I would like to raise on Committee Stage, but by and large I think that this is a good Bill. Obviously a lot of work has [242] gone into it by the Minister and his officials. I lend my support also to the people who suggest that the fines that are there at present might not necessarily be heavy enough. It is a simple matter to make them heavy enough. On the other hand, the educational aspect of it is very important and the Department of Fisheries might consider some type of programme or a series of programmes on television devoted to getting the message across from time to time that it is terribly important for the wellbeing of everybody in this little island of ours that our lakes and rivers are stocked with healthy fish, that there is plenty of room for all at a very small price to enjoy themselves on the banks of the rivers and lakes and that we extend open arms to tourists. There is an old saying that the biggest fish is not yet caught, but if that is applied to Lough Sheelin the biggest fish would seem to have been dead for a good while. One hopes that they will not have the same thing to say in five years' time about the other lakes.

Séamus de Brún: Ba mhaith liomsa focal gairid a rá faoin mBille seo freisin. Ba mhaith liom i dtosach fáiltiú roimh an mBille agus fáiltím roimhe mar dhuine a tógadh i gceantar iascaireachta, in áit a raibh éisc fairsing idir bhradáin agus bric locha, péirsí agus gach sórt éisc, agus mar sin tá spéis ar leith agam i bhforálacha an Bhille seo agus fáiltím go fial roimhe. Ba mhaith liom comhgháirdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire ins an éacht atá déanta aige Bille chomh toirtiúil agus chomh leathan leis seo a thabhairt os ár gcomhair anseo san tSeanad agus go mór mhór os anseo a tugadh an Bille den chéad uair is dóigh liom go dtugann sé sin tábhacht ar leith don Bhille féin agus don phráinn agus don spéis atá san iascaireacht anseo, iascaireacht locha nó iascaireacht intíre mar a tugtar air sa Bhille.

I am glad to have an opportunity to say a brief word—and it will be brief—on this Bill which is a very comprehensive Bill. I am glad that I was lucky enough to be born and reared in an area that abounded in fishing waters, in which fish of all description were plentiful. I welcome the Bill for that very personal reason. I would like also to congratulate [243] the Minister on introducing the Bill and thank him for giving us an opportunity to discuss it here for the first time in the Seanad.

The Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959, dealt specifically and primarily with the Act of 1842 and the 1842 Act safeguarded and was oriented towards the rights and security of landlords. This Bill is the first attempt in all that time to tackle this problem of inland fisheries and it does so in a very comprehensive way, and for that reason the Bill is of very great importance. It has 86 pages and it takes a long time to read through it. It could not be discussed in detail at this stage but later on, please God, on Committee Stage, I shall have further teasing out to do on some of its provisions. Because it is the first attempt in a very long time to provide a comprehensive measure dealing with inland fisheries it is important that the basic philosophy in the Bill be directly concerned with promotion and development of our very rich resource of inland fisheries for the good and the betterment of the nation and our own people. I believe that is a very important factor.

The most important provision in this Bill is that which empowers the Minister to acquire fishing rights. Here again, I am actuated by the influence of the locality in which I was reared. It was always repugnant to me to cycle, drive or walk through the roads of Connemara, for instance, and to see very frequently at strategic places notices with the words “Fishing Preserved”, “Fishing Private” and other such inscriptions. I do not wish to be misunderstood in any way. I respect private property and the rights of individuals to private property, but these inscriptions and other symbols of that kind were symbols of the imperialistic conquest of our nation and they will always remain in my memory.

Another symbol was what is known as the bráca. The bráca was originally a thatched mud cabin, and more recently it became a more solid structure and it is now a stone building with a galvanized roof. Its purpose was to house the bailiff, to give him protection and to give him also a place of hiding so that the possible [244] poacher—and that word has been mentioned here a lot today—would not know whether the bailiff was inside the bráca. The brácaí are still there. Perhaps I should illustrate more forcibly the point I am trying to make. Some eight or nine years ago I happened to be approaching a bridge in Ballina and I saw a crowd assembled there along the bridge wall. I knew what they were observing and I stopped to look on. There was a team of people just about to haul the salmon pool just below that bridge; they were in fact operating and just as I leant over the wall they were hauling the net in on the slip-way. They had quite an amount of salmon in that haul and, being interested in and knowing the lore of fishermen, after some time I went down to talk to them. I spoke with the men after the haul was dealt with and I said to them that they must have had a very good day there that day. They said, yes they had had quite a good day but they had had a much better day the day before. They said that they took 2,000 salmon there on the previous day. “How many had you in that haul there?” I said. They said they had 83 salmon in the haul. There was a huge lorry pulled along the roadside and the salmon were being filled into boxes and loaded on to the lorry. I asked where they were destined for and I was told that they would be on the London market the following day at lunch-time. That illustrates the need there is to acquire the fishing rights of our country. It is a very big problem. It will cost a great deal of money and it will take some time, but that is necessary if we are to conserve and develop our fisheries as they should be developed.

Much has been said about pollution and various other matters that tend to destroy our fishing. Pollution certainly does that, but there are other very important factors which affect our fishing also, particularly salmon. As was said here last week and again today, the salmon come up to spawn on the river beds. They spawn the fry into the sand and that fry remain there until the following spring to mature between late February and mid-March but a lot of that fry is, unfortunately, lost by uncontrollable factors such as floods, but [245] one of the most destructive factors is that sometimes if there is a dry February or early March these spawning beds often dry up and the fry lose the water that they need to mature and they never materialise or become young fish. Another factor which militates very much against those fry coming to fruition is domestic birds, both geese and duck. In a hatchery in this country—not any of the hatcheries mentioned in the Bill, and there are three mentioned in the Bill—some 30 to 35 years ago there was concern about the destruction that domestic duck were doing on the spawning beds and an experiment was carried out. Two domestic duck were housed overnight, they were released the following day into the bed of that river and the spawning ground and after three hours they were collected and destroyed and it was found that one of these birds had consumed 453 young fry in those three hours. We can do our sums. If one duck consumed so many fry in that time how many would a dozen or two dozen duck consume? That is a statistical fact. It was the talking point in that area for months. I know that the Minister and his Department can do very little about a situation of that kind, but it is true and these are facts which militate against the coming to fruition of fry and the development of fishing.

Another factor is drainage which has been referred to already, and, more specifically, the cleaning of rivers. The more you clean rivers the more you take away the foliage on which the flies and natural food for fish abound and the less suitable you will make that river for fish feeding and for the promotion and propagation of fish. These factors militate very much against the development and promotion of our fishing and they have contributed very considerably to the present position.

Unlike some Senators I am not fully in agreement with the extent of the penalties that are mentioned in the Bill in regard to fishing, particularly for salmon fishing. When I fished on lakes and streams I did not need a licence but I do not mind paying for a licence. It is analogous with paying for a firearms licence [246] and I have a firearms licence, but a firearm is a weapon. It is a slightly different matter. The Bill mentions a licence for a juvenile. At what age is a boy or a girl a juvenile in the Bill? I would like the Minister to clarify that matter because it would be a great pity to deprive a young boy—or a young girl—at a tender age, of the pleasure of taking a rod and line, for instance, and fishing in a stream or a river that might be flowing through the father's farm. Fishing is for young people a very natural thing which they enjoy. It is something which contributes very considerably to the formation of their characters. It brings them out into the open air, it inculcates in them a love of the nature in which they are growing up. I would go as far as to say that it helps to create in them a sense of patriotism, and I believe that. It would be a pity if young people were forbidden to fish, or impeded in any way from fishing in their own locality.

Section 50 of the Bill reads:

Section 301 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by—

(a) the insertion in subsection (2) of the following paragraphs after paragraph (d):

“(da) if the boat contains or he believes or suspects that it contains salmon unlawfully captured he may without summons, warrant or other process take the boat and all persons thereon to the nearest or most convenient port or other place, and if he decides to take the steps mentioned in subsection (2A) of this section, he may, pending the taking of those steps, detain the boat and the persons;

That gives the right to an authorised person, who would be a bailiff. The section continues:

(db) he may for the purpose of exercising the power conferred on him by paragraph (da) of this subsection use such force as he may consider necessary and in particular, if an order given by him to such boat to stop is disobeyed or disregarded, he may, after first causing a gun to be fired as a signal, fire at or into the boat;”,

[247] I do not know whether that boat is meant to be engaged in sea water or fresh water fishing but it is a rather unfair penalty. I wonder if it is not too severe. Perhaps the Minister in his reply will elaborate on that.

Fáiltím go mór roimh an mBille agus níl aon amhras orm go ndéanfaidh sé leas an-mhór do iascaireacht intíre agus do iascaireacht na hEireann i gcoitinne.

Mr. O'Brien: I would like to join with other Senators in extending a welcome to the Bill and in hoping it will succeed in its objectives of the preservation of our fishing amenities, the development of our tourist industry and a realisation of the aims the Minister has expressed.

Two major problems have been outlined by other speakers, the question of pollution and of poaching. The extent of this poaching in areas far removed from the lakeland districts of our country may not be realised. This is not poaching on a small scale as we understood it in days gone by, a person poaching for just a few fish; it is commercial poaching on a huge scale, operated by people well-equipped and absolutely determined to make as much money as they can in as short a time as possible. The Cathaoirleach will recall that this was discussed at a recent meeting of Cavan County Council. The views expressed at that meeting were that if poaching was not stopped in the very near future many of our best known lakes in County Cavan would be absolutely denuded of fish. In so far as this Bill will enable the Minister to commence checking this wholesale poaching, I have an unreserved welcome for it and would like to wish the Minister well in his efforts.

This poaching is a very serious problem. The coarse fishing facilities in the lakeland districts of Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim are amongst the topmost of our tourist attractions. If these lakes and rivers are entirely denuded of fish, and they appear to be heading in that direction at present, then the development of tourism in that part of the country will be greatly restricted.

The question of pollution is another serious matter. You have industrial pollution. [248] There are ways of controlling that under the Planning Acts, by way of the planning permission given to the establishment of an industry. It is true to say, however, that these conditions are not always rigorously enforced. It is true also to say that in parts of the country that have not been able to attract industrial developments in the past, there is a tendency to turn a blind eye to industrial pollution for fear of driving industrialists out of the area, or reducing their number. I look forward to the day when industrial pollution will be held in strict check.

Then we have agricultural pollution and reference was made here to Lake Sheelin. The position about this lake is that it is in an area where there is intensive pig production. Because the profit on a pig is so small it is necessary for people in pig production to go in for very large numbers and this leads to problems of pollution from slurry and so on. One thing that should not be lost sight of is that pig producers in that area, who were accused of causing pollution, got grants from the Department of Agriculture for the piggeries that they built. I think there is an utter lack of co-operation between two Departments if it is possible to get a grant from the Department of Agriculture for erecting a piggery or a farm building of any kind that must, by its situation, lead to pollution. That should have called for a check-up long ago. There is co-operation between the pig producers in the area and the officers of the Inland Fisheries Commission and I am confident that the situation in Lough Sheelin is on the way to showing considerable improvement.

Apart from industrial and agricultural pollution we have people whose frame of mind is that every lake and every river in the country is a dumping ground. Waste and unwanted matter of all kinds are dumped in the rivers by people who do not appear to be at all conscious of the harm they are doing. In that way, it is necessary for a further drive to be made to educate people on these matters. In that respect I agree with the suggestions made by Senator Connaughton.

The only reservation I have in extending a welcome to this Bill is in [249] regard to the obvious clash of views between the Minister and the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland. I take for granted that both the Minister and the members of the federation have the best interests of the fishing industry at heart; there is no question about that at all. I am convinced that the Minister is as anxious to do the right thing as the members of the federation are. The submissions of the federation on the Fisheries Bill were sent to every Member of the House. I am sure the Minister welcomed them. They draw attention to some points where there is a definite conflict of views between the Minister and the federation and I hope that these can be resolved. The members of the federation know what they are talking about. They are people who have taken a keen interest all their lives in angling in this country. They have given freely of their time and, in many cases, of their resources to help develop angling. Taking that for granted and also taking for granted that the Minister is equally interested and equally anxious to do the right thing, it would be good if there were a coming together of the Minister's officers and the members of this federation to ensure that these conflicts of interest will be removed. In the long run, if this Bill is to attain the maximum in efficiency, it will depend to a very large degree on the goodwill and co-operation of people on the lake shores and on the river banks. If there is a strong difference of opinion as to how best to set about it, it is to be expected that these people might not feel inclined to cooperate. Some of the suggestions of the federation are workable and desirable. In paragraph 3 of the first page they state that the proposals of the Minister—

run counter to the intention of the Inland Fisheries Commission that the protection staff would be organised on a national basis, with jurisdiction throughout the country.

Their case is that this would provide flexibility and allow the required movement of protection staff from one region to another. There are obvious advantages in that set-up. If there were marauding raids of poachers in one area extra protection staff could be [250] rushed in there from another area. In paragraph 4 of page 2 they state:

The Federation feel aggrieved and indeed take exception to the terms of section 20 (4) of the Bill which discriminates against the development of trout and coarse fishing.

If the members of the federation have good grounds for being aggrieved it is a pity that some amendment could not be introduced to remove the grievance.

In paragraph 7 on the same page they state:

Section 12 (1) (h) (ii) is causing great concern to the Federation because of its discriminatory provisions with regard to trout and coarse fish...

I do not have to read the paragraph in full. It is a matter which could be resolved by discussions between keenly interested people making concrete and constructive suggestions, viewing the whole scene objectively.

In paragraph 8 the business of one man one vote is raised. In this day and age it should not be necessary to draw attention to the desirability of one man one vote. I am certain the Minister believes in that principle as strongly as I do so I should like to hear why the federation raise this point.

Finally, at the very end of paragraph 9 it is stated:

We submit that no fishery which comes into State ownership should be sold, rather it should be developed in the national interest.

When this Bill becomes law its efficiency and effectiveness will depend largely on active co-operation of persons who are interested in angling at all levels, and especially on the goodwill and co-operation of persons like the members of the federation who have great experience in this matter. They have done a lot of useful work through the years and their co-operation would do a good deal to bring about the state of affairs the Minister had in mind when drafting the Bill.

Mr. O'Toole: First of all, let me say that I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. I [251] should compliment the Minister on the amount of time that he and his staff have devoted to the presentation of this Bill. The Minister and his staff should be complimented on their in-depth study, resulting in reorganisation of the whole fishery industry.

I welcome, first, the abolition of the self-appointed boards of conservators which we inherited. Coming from what I regard as a marginal area, I have experience of both the drift net people operating in our bays along the coast and of the draft net people in the immediate vicinity of the estuaries of most of our salmon and trout rivers. I also know something about the workings of the inland fisheries. I come from an area where, as Senator de Brún has said, there is not a mile of the road without notices such as “Fisheries Preserved”, “Private Fisheries” and so on, and were it not for a small section of what is known as the lower portion of the Carraniskey River in my area, no local man—or, indeed, no Irishman—would have an opportunity of fishing any of the rivers that have a definite and clear outlet into the sea along the west coast. If you were given access to some of the preserved and private fisheries in my area, no doubt you would get a beat that was useless for fishing, one upstream where the administration knew quite well there were no fish in that pool on that occasion. That was the only beat to which you would have access.

There is provision in the Bill for the new regional and central boards to erect access roadways, bridges, paths, weirs, stiles and other access to fisheries. It is, however, necessary that there should be an examination of the existing weirs which act as obstructions to the proper drainage of agricultural land, especially in the western region. Now, when we are about to spend £42 million on drainage in the west and when our rivers, due to a variety of reasons, have no fish in them, the Minister should examine these rivers with a view to setting up a priority list of drainage, whereby the levels of these rivers, owned by absentee landlords for many years, could be lowered and the spawning beds developed and restocked. [252] Never in the history of this State had we a more opportune time to examine our priorities as regards drainage, re-stocking and the establishment of new spawning beds, because if the level of the rivers is lowered, the traditional spawning beds are immediately removed. There are, at present, no salmon in these rivers. So, the time is opportune for this work.

What powers will the Board of Works have, under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945, as a result of the introduction of this Bill? Prior to this Bill, the Board of Works had powers over the drainage of certain rivers held in private ownership and by absentee landlords in the arterial drainage district.

As regards pollution, it is appropriate that some monitoring system should be introduced, especially in lakes. The Mask, the Carra and the Conn are not polluted. Tests made in my area by the local authority have shown that there is no pollution there. Priority should be given to this type of monitoring before there is pollution.

I support Senator Connaughton's statement that the farmers living adjacent to and having lands along, large stretches of fisheries should be given an opportunity to fish, under licence, rivers adjoining their land. Prior to this they have not had that opportunity. Has the Minister taken into consideration farmers and tenants along these rivers? Fishing is a game. With fly fishing, it is a lucky dip whether you can lure the fish on to the hook or not. Fishing gives a certain amount of enjoyment to anglers. Farmers with land adjacent to rivers should enjoy that facility.

Is there any variation in the compensation payable to persons owning fishing rights, as against that payable to persons who also own the waters? In the sixties, a certain person in my area got title to the waters in a river. Is there a variation between the compensation he might receive for the title to the water and that for the fishing rights? I should hope not. At the time that right was given, the local people were not in a financial position to bring a High Court action against this person's registering the title to the lough, lake and tributary of that river.

[253] Speed is essential in implementing the Bill. Conservation and restocking are necessary. Persons with access to rivers and private fisheries did nothing about restocking. A lot of blame may be laid at the feet of the drift-net men, of the draftnet men, and, indeed of the poacher. Many of the fisheries in my area were held by absentee landlords, which led to a great amount of poaching, because of the hostility between the local people and the owners of the fisheries.

Everybody will have a part in this new Fisheries Bill—the people who own the land, the local angling association and the people in general. When the Irish people possess their own rivers, conservation and preservation will be at the very highest level. The Minister, with his legal background, and his local upbringing and experience in inland and coastal water fishing, is in a position to know what is required to make this Bill a success. I wish him every success. Any help that we, as Senators, can give him towards its implementation will be forthcoming.

Mr. Lanigan: I welcome the Bill. We have at last the framework for the complete development of one of our fine, natural resources and, under this Bill, the fishermen should get what they want. There are, however, a few points I would make. First, when these regional boards are set up, they will be cutting across other legislative boundaries, county council boundaries and so on. At present, country councils monitor pollution, guided by the IIRS. Will the new boards take over this responsibility from the county councils, and, if not, will there be liaison between county councils and the new boards? If a regional board were to cut across three or four counties, I could foresee problems developing.

I hope the Bill will lead, eventually, to a formalisation of the control of all the resources contained in rivers. At present there are An Foras Forbartha, the IIRS, the county councils, the Department of Tourism and Transport, the geological surveys department, the ESB, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Fisheries and Forestry and An Foras Talúntais. Each body deals with [254] various aspects of rivers. The total care of our rivers should be under the aegis of the new central board. Otherwise, there will be duplication and it will be very difficult for the board to find out exactly what is going on in each of the other bodies I have mentioned. In other countries there is the concept of total care of rivers and waterways. Hopefully we are heading towards this concept also.

Will the staff which will be employed in the new boards be under the control of the regional boards or the central board or will they be appointed by the Department? It is important that the regions should have autonomy to employ the personnel that will be needed. Up to 1976, water bailiffs working for boards of conservators have been deemed to be working part time. Since 1976 they have been deemed to be working full time but there is no change in the work they are doing. This has created problems in the sense that prior to 1976 they were given only half the pension rights they would have had if they were deemed to be full-time employees. I sincerely hope that anomalies like that will not arise in the future.

The means of doing the job will have to be improved. In some parts of the country water bailiffs use bicycles and in other parts they use motorbikes or they may have to borrow a car. The equipment they have is totally inadequate. These people, as has been said by other speakers, have been placed in danger of their lives at times. A number of cases have come before the courts but in a lot of cases where assaults took place on waterkeepers, the culprits never appeared in court. Some of the bailiffs suffered serious physical damage. They must have proper means of transport, whether it be a boat, a landrover, a motorbike, or whatever means is ideal for the countryside they are covering.

I am glad that the board of conservators have been abolished because I have often thought that the only thing that was being conserved by them was their right to the rivers. I am glad we are going to have a proper regionalised board system which will control the [255] rivers. The waterways in this country have been neglected for many years, partly because of the absentee landlords. In every area in the country we have had the big net, which was always owned by the big man who usually did not live in the county or the country. Thankfully, we have the power in this Bill to purchase fishery rights and, hopefully, fisheries. What is the position of the traditional rod fisherman? For many centuries families have been rod fishing and in certain areas it would have been considered that they were fishing illegally. In most cases they were fishing these waters a long time before the landlords who took them over came along. These people must be protected and I hope they will be protected within the realms of the Bill.

Pollution affects every river in the country. Whole fisheries have been wiped out because of new type farming methods. Local authorities were possibly the biggest offenders. Hopefully, the local authorities will be brought into line with every other section of the community when we are dealing with the pollution of rivers and streams. They are being helped by grants to put in proper sewage systems but there is a great deal to be done. There is nothing so bad as to go through the suburbs of our larger towns and see the raw sewage pouring into rivers, causing extreme pollution. When new industries are being set up there should be a degree of co-operation between the IDA, the new industry and whoever controls the fisheries in the area because often cleaner water can go back into a river and the bacteria the fish live on can be killed. That is the problem with water that is too clean.

Is there any power within the Bill to provide for planning permission along river banks and in areas close to rivers? If there is a river or stream flowing close by, a new industry or a new building can have an effect on the course of the river, on pollution and on fish life. I hope that the control of inland fisheries will go eventually to the new boards which are being set up. There is only one way whereby there can be total control of this great natural resource, that is, to [256] have one authority dealing with everything that happens on the waterways.

Mention was made of aquaculture. There is need for tremendous research in that area. The potential is there. It is as good as the mining potential we have. There is a crying need for the products of aquaculture. We are doing a lot of work in that area but a lot more needs to be done. There is a huge market to be satisfied. Hopefully, this Bill will provide the means for people to get into this area and, hopefully, expertise and help will be provided by the regional boards to develop this great natural resource.

The Bill is a good one. I wish the Department well in implementing it. As I said earlier, the faster it is implemented the better for the country.

Minister for Fisheries and Forestry (Mr. Lenihan): First of all, I would like to thank the Seanad for a very constructive debate on the Second Reading and to thank the contributors. Between one third and a half of the Members of the Seanad contributed to the debate so it is symptomatic of one point made by a number of Senators, that is the great need in this area for educating our people to the importance of this natural heritage which we possess and which we are in danger of letting disappear unless we take positive steps at this stage, under a proper legislative framework, to ensure not just the survival of various species of inland fisheries through more rigourous protection and enforced methods but their enhancement and development.

The Bill is, as has been described, a framework Bill. It will provide the framework within which the necessary work for the protection and conservation of our fisheries and their development in the future can be done. Unless there is within that framework the commitment, financial on the part of the State towards the recruitment of personnel, which needs funds, towards the acquisition of fisheries and the development of fisheries and hatcheries, which need funds and an effective management within the bounds of that financial commitment, then the legislation of itself will effect little.

[257] I assure the Seanad that the Government are committed over the next five years towards a positive programme of financial investment in our inland fisheries. That is the purpose of this legislation. In the last 12 months under the last Estimates and the present Estimates I have secured practically a doubling of financial contribution from the Central Fund towards the protection efforts of the various boards of conservators. That is designed to get going the nucleus of what we hope to have, a fully professional protection enforcement and development staff within the central board and the seven regional boards.

We propose to have other sources of finance. There will be a levy on the first sale of salmon and the revenue from that levy will go into the funds of the central board. In addition to that, revenue from the various licence duties and from the registration fee in respect of brown trout, coarse fish anglers and sea fish anglers will also go into the central boards. All the money raised by way of licence duties, fees, contributions from various forms of fishing, the various rates from rated occupiers of fisheries and the levy on the first sale of salmon will go into the fund of the central board for distribution by them to the various regional funds. These revenues will be there in addition to the direct capital grant, which will be substantially increased over the next five years, by the State to get this administration off the ground.

The administration is important. Senator Lanigan, the last speaker, Senator Whitaker on the last occasion and several other speakers as well touched on that. Heretofore there has not been a co-ordinated administration in staff terms as far as the protection development of our inland fisheries is concerned. We had the loosely organised 17 boards of conservators, many of whose members have done excellent work over the years, but employing staff on a casual or ad hoc basis, not having a proper statutory mandate. We had the Inland Fisheries Trust, separate and independent from the boards, doing specific development work in regard to brown trout mainly but to a certain extent in regard to coarse fish and sea fish. [258] The boards were mainly concerned with the protection of salmon. The staff were working side by side under the different organisations. We are now proposing to integrate all of these various officers, who have been spread out in an ad hoc way over 17 boards, and the staff of the Inland Fisheries Trust, into one administration, under one board delegating from that one board out to seven regions throughout the country. This will make for proper professional staffing, recruitment, organisation, superannuation and everything that goes into having a proper professional administration that will be able to get on with the job in an independent and a positive manner.

Sections 24 to 32 deal with the organisation of the staff of the central board and the regional boards, the transfer of the staff, the recruitment of the staff, staff organisation ranging from the chief executive of the central board and a chief executive in each of the regional boards, all organised rather on the lines of how our local authorities are organised or how the regional management boards of Bord Fáilte are organised. I place tremendous emphasis on this as being a sine qua non in getting matters off the ground because heretofore the whole approach has been casual, lacking in organisation and professionalism. If we get it right from that point of view we will have gone a long way towards achieving what we want to achieve.

Another important aspect which was also referred to a lot in the debate is the question of educating our people to regard our inland fisheries in a serious light. The volume of contributions from the Seanad is indicative of the interest which, is very strong at the moment, in seeking to do something in a practical and a constructive way about our fishery resources. Amongst our people there is this feeling of attachment and a feeling of importance in regard to the preservation and conservation of our fisheries and a feeling that they must not be allowed to be diminished or indeed, as in some cases, extinguished.

Education is important and I want to thank various firms who have in the very recent past sponsored various education [259] courses which are now being undertaken in the schools with a view to educating our young people about the importance of the species of fish, in particular in regard to the importance of salmon, and also in regard to various projects. I have been associated in launching several projects, sponsored by firms, of interest to schoolchildren, such as essays and special school projects on salmon, fish species and their conservation. Senator Cooney raised that point. I agree with him that the basic psychology is to get to children. They are the best propagandists of all. If one gets them mobilised in a constructive way they talk and parents and families get the message. The real importance is finally to rid the country of the inheritance of the past which gave respectability to poaching in all forms.

The landlord class, the alien, had got the fishing rights and the native did not have them. Poaching was almost a nationally respectable pastime, very understandably in the history of that time. That time is now gone. As far as today is concerned it is the Irish people who, under this Bill when it becomes law, will be the paramount people in regard to the controlling and management of our fishery resources. Written into the Bill for the first time we have the powers of acquisition, either voluntary or compulsory, of fisheries and access to fisheries under sections 36 to 44. Acquisition will take some time. I am confident that in a planned way over the years we can acquire all the important fisheries and develop them in various ways, either commercially, for pleasure or for tourist reasons in the interests of the people as a whole. I envisage such acquisition taking place by the State in consultation with the Central Fisheries Board and the vesting of ownership in the Central Fisheries Board or where the central board, as is written into the Bill, considers appropriate, the regional board can acquire ownership.

We have pre-empted the Bill to some extent by acquiring the commercial salmon and eel fishery in Galway and also various trout fishing rights associated with that fishery. I want to tell the House something that is heartening. [260] Since we acquired that fishery about a year ago—we acquired it in advance of the Bill, but it is only under this Bill that we have full legal entitlement—there has been a very rapid diminution of illegal fishing activities in the Galway area. The people are aware of the importance of fisheries and have a sense of civic responsibility when they see a fishery of that kind moving from what they regard as alien ownership into Irish ownership, into the ownership of the community to which they belong.

I take great heart from the fact that there has been a very obvious and rapid diminution of poaching activities which were rampant in the immediate area of that fishery prior to its purchase by the State. If we can inculcate that spirit across the board, talk sufficiently about the matter, emphasise the matter sufficiently, have a proper education programme about the matter and have a proper professional staff who will be able to get the message home to people, I am convinced that we can beat this business of endemic poaching.

I am glad to say also that our courts have taken cognisance of the seriousness of poaching. The courts are often the barometer of public feeling. Traditionally, over the years, the courts imposed almost derisory penalties in respect of fishery offences but we have noticed that in the past year or two court penalties for such offences have been increasing very substantially. Courts are now imposing very near maximum fines within the existing law for fishery offences.

I take heed of what has been said about penalties. I agree with the view that has been expressed by many Senators that the proposed penalties in the Bill do not go far enough, particularly in regard to indictable offences. I am restricted in regard to how far I can go in the case of summary offences. I cannot go beyond the £500 to £600 region by reason of the Supreme Court decision. But in regard to indictment I can go further than the proposed £1,000 and the two years' imprisonment penalties. I assure the Seanad, I will bring in an amendment along those lines on Committee Stage.

I will briefly go through the remarks [261] made by various Senators. I have referred already to what Senator Cooney said about the education of people in regard to salmon, and utilising schools and children in that respect. I take that point fully. There will be an intensification of that. A number of firms have been sponsoring in that direction. I use this occasion to appeal to other firms to come forward and help.

Senator Cooney and a number of other Senators, including Senator Lanigan, spoke about pollution and the deplorable pollution that has ruined fine lakes. Loughs Ennel and Sheelin and the river Suir were mentioned. Of course, this has been taken care of to some extent under the Bill recently passed concerning water pollution, the Local Government Water Pollution Act, 1977, where already structures have been established to deal with pollution and where the local authorities have been brought in in a positive way instead of the negative way in which they were in this area over the years, and are now charged positively with responsibility in this area after consultation with the Minister for Fisheries and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who may make various regulations requiring local authorities to observe certain specific aspects and exercise certain powers to deal with pollution.

All of the local authorities have set up structures for water pollution officers to liaison with the water pollution advisory council on which the Fisheries Department is represented and appropriate steps are being taken. At least, we have a structure now to deal with water pollution, which is the responsibility of the local authorities. The responsibility of these boards will be to monitor the situation and inform the local authorities. If the board's staff see a pollution situation arising they can inform the section of the local authority that deals with the water pollution officer and, hopefully, action can take place.

Senator Cooney also raised the point about the rights to free fishing which have existed up to now. I take it he was referring there to the trust waters, where trust subscribers have certain fishing rights. They will continue to have these fishing rights. They will be deemed to be [262] contributors under the new system, so that, the persons who have fishing rights in trust waters arising out of subscriptions to the Inland Fisheries Trust, will be subsumed into the new system as far as contributions are concerned. They will have their existing rights preserved. They will be in the register of trout and coarse fish anglers proposed under the Bill and will have their full voting rights in regard to the proposed votes.

Mr. Cooney: My query was in regard to people who do not subscribe to be registered, who want to fish for trout or perch. Will they be entitled to do it free from now on?

Mr. Lenihan: They are entitled to fish in the waters that are not owned by the boards. All present trust waters, for instance, will now be taken over by the boards. They will not be entitled to fish in those but they will be entitled to fish in open waters throughout the country. They will not be entitled to fish in waters owned by the boards and they will not be entitled to vote in the elections for the boards.

Mr. Cooney: They can at the moment fish in trust waters?

Mr. Lenihan: No. The only way in which the people the Senator is talking about are penalised as of now is that they will not be entitled to vote. We originally proposed to bring in a compulsory licence duty in respect of brown trout and coarse fish anglers. The response was not so helpful. So we are seeking to do it now on a voluntary basis and seeking to use the voting right and the rights to fish these various waters as a carrot to induce the public to pay their voluntary subscription. I know it has been criticised here. We have a section in the Bill in which we candidly propose to weight the grants we will give to specific areas where subscriptions are forthcoming. Certain Senators criticised that but the idea is to encourage as much as possible voluntary subscription to the funds. I hope that, in time, people will see the necessity of making a contribution towards fishery resources. When it is clearly seen, after the administration is [263] established, that all such moneys are going into a fisheries fund for expenditure within the fisheries area and not for transfer to some other form of Exchequer distribution, I expect a more positive approach will be adopted by people.

Senators West, Whitaker and others raised the question of aquaculture. We have brought in a specific legal framework for aquaculture. Until now there has not been any legal framework governing the allocation of licences for aquaculture or governing legal rights and protection in regard to persons who engage in aquaculture. As has been stated, this will become a very interesting and expanding field of investment. It is essential that investment in it should be protected and that it should be organised properly. Part V of the Bill, from section 51 onwards, relates to it. The queries raised here were in relation to the rights of persons who have already started in aquaculture under ancient charters which they had purchased or otherwise. I met representatives of these people during the week and we had a very full discussion on the matter. There are certain amendments which they suggested to this section which we are following up. I can assure the House, as I assured them, that such people will not, in any way, be prejudiced by the new licensing provision which is written into the aquaculture part of the Bill. Their fear was that they would resurrect ancient claims against the right which they have exercised for some time if they had to go through the full inquiry procedure that is set out under section 51. They do not have to because, side by side with the licence granted by me under this section, there is a fish culture licence. I have assured these people that if they apply to me I will give them a fish culture licence automatically. I propose to bring in an amendment to this section that will deem such a fish cultural licence granted to existing holders of these rights to be equivalent to, and have the same protection as, the licence which I will grant from now on under this section. We can discuss that further at Committee Stage but I see the validity of the point made that people already [264] engaged in the aquaculture business did not want to go through a whole public inquiry procedure again and, having built up a profitable business, did not want to resurrect claimants against themselves under a new procedure. They will not have to do this.

Senator Cooney raised the question of the level of subscription. That will be fixed by way of order. I have not yet decided what it will be but it will be in the region of £3 or £5.

Senator Cranitch dealt with pollution and illegal fishing. I have already spoken on that.

Senator Moynihan welcomed the whole acquisition part of the Bill. Senator Crowley referred to the same aspect and welcomed it. Senator West posed the question, that I have already dealt with, about whether legislation is enough. Senator Hussey made the same point. I admit quite candidly that legislation is not enough unless there is the political will, and unless financial resources are made available, to do something about it. Political will and financial resources add up to more staff and to a more professional approach to the work.

The question of Ministerial control in regard to certain sections was mentioned. It was felt that the Minister was coming in too strongly at the expense of the central board. This I will look at but I want to put the other point of view. If one was dealing with a matter in which there were not conflicting interests, I would go along with what Senator West and others have said. If you talk to people who are engaged in this business and are interested and committed to it, they see the wisdom of having the Minister there. The Minister and his representatives on the various regional boards and on the central board will, in effect, be the jury in many cases in the very real disputes and conflicts of interests that exist within this complex area.

There is a profound conflict of interest straightaway between drift net fishermen and rod anglers, particularly in the salmon area. That is a conflict that exists in every single waterway and fishery right around the coast. There is a conflict of interest sometimes between trout fishermen, brown trout fishermen and [265] coarse fishermen. “Conflict” may be the wrong word to use. There is a difference of interest between the occupier of a fishery upstream and the net fishermen in the estuary. There are four or five different interests. There are the coarse fishing interests, the brown trout interests, the salmon and white trout interests—they are roughly one—the net fishermen and the draft net fishermen. Tourist interests come into it to some extent—hoteliers and guest-house keepers who have fishing rights. There are a number of such interests and, while they are all concerned with the development of our fisheries, they have a different emphasis and a different opinion as to what type of fishing, what amount of fishing and what length of fishing should be permitted in this or that stretch of river or in this or that estuary. In that type of situation the Minister or his appointees can hold the ring and can try to allocate the resources as justly as possible between competing claims in particular areas. That is my defence in this respect. Normally I would go along with the views expressed by Senator West. In most cases, I agree that there should be a proper delegation in these aspects and that State-sponsored bodies should be told to get on with the job and should be let get on with it without too much Ministerial interference. The Ministerial interference in this area can be positive and helpful. The Ministerial appointees on the various boards will be the appointees that will hold the ring between the competing and different interests on the various boards. That is my defence for it. I will look at some areas where possibly there is an over-interference and where we may be able to make amendments between now and Committee Stage.

Senator Goulding paid tribute to the Garda for their help in protection efforts. While endorsing what she said I should like to add that in the broader context the entrance of the Naval Service into the scene last year also had a very salutary effect. We propose to intensify naval activity in the coming salmon season. We had meetings with the Department of Defence and the naval authorities with a view to having a stronger navy presence around our [266] coasts during the coming season. The main trouble as far as our salmon stocks are concerned—which are directly under our own control—is the illegal fishing off the coast in a very strong and ruthless commercial manner. There is almost criminal exploitation of fishing stocks off our coasts by boats which are not licensed to so fish. These are not foreign but Irish boats which in many cases are fishing in a very ruthless commercial manner. The navy had a very salutary effect last year in reducing the amount of that type of fishing. We hope it will have a more salutary effect in the coming year in so doing. This is a matter which is directly under our own control and which we should be able to handle.

While on the subject of illegal salmon fishing and drift-net fishing generally, there is no question about it that both illegal drift-net fishing and over-drift-net fishing have been a major contributor. Pollution has been a contributor. Over-fishing in Greenland has been a contributor. The major contributor, which we should be able to control ourselves if we go about it properly, is over-fishing, both legal and illegal, off our aries and coasts by drift-netting. For that reason we have this year brought in very stringent regulations, which we can do under existing legislation. Senator Whitaker, while welcoming these regulations, said that they did not go far enough. The difficulty in a democracy is that sometimes you have to take these things in stages. While I go along with the principle he expressed, everybody who reads the papers can see what the drift-net fishermen think of the limited restrictions that I have imposed. I am not exactly the most popular man around the coast by reason of them. I would like to do more because I regard it as very serious. If these restrictions do not work this year there will have to be far more stringent regulations next year. I will briefly give the regulations: the drift-net season is not to open before 15 March and it has to end by 20 July. That means a cut of one-third off the period of time for fishing this year. We have dropped a month at the start and at the end. We have also brought in an extra day in the weekly close time, from two days to three days. We are insisting on a limited [267] depth of drift-net, not to exceed 30 meshes around the coast, with no exceptions. The size of boat to engage in salmon fishing is now limited to 40 feet, except where they have been registered before 31 December, it is limited to 50 feet. What we hope to do is reduce the fishing effort by 30 per cent by these various measures. The expectation is to cut the catch—the legal catch apart from the illegal—by 30 per cent and so give the salmon a chance to spawn. The basic problem is that the salmon are not getting up the rivers to spawn. If that is allowed to continue indefinitely there will be no salmon because no breeding will be taking place. The drift-net fishermen around the coast regard those measures as excessive. If they do not work we will have to think of more drastic measures for next year. It will have to be approached in stages and people will have to be educated on the seriousness of the problem.

Senators Markey and Lanigan referred to the conditions of service of the staff and lack of facilities in regard to equipment and so on. I hope that will be remedied by increased financial aid. Senator Markey talked about nominees to reflect the various interests and how that will be effected. I hope to effect it by way of a panel system for election to the board. The various interests can be reflected by having panels relating to them so that no one interest can dominate any other interest in terms of voting. It will be rather like the Seanad panel election system with which Senators should be familiar.

Mr. Cooney: That is a good system. I hope it will not include the same canvassing.

Mr. Lenihan: Senator Kilbride and Senator McAuliffe referred to points which I have dealt with already. Senator Brugha referred to the building up of public opinion and so on, which is very correct. Senator Robinson made a contribution. She made one point that I would like to explain. She is not present, but she was querying why we were requiring a three years' payment to ensure that they could become subscribers and [268] voters. The idea is that we do not want a lobby to start a year before an election in which somebody would go around and mobilise a whole lot of one year electors. In order to prove their bona fides before they are entitled to vote they should have been contributors for three years, which I think is reasonable. Senator Robinson rightly called this a framework Bill. I do not deny that it is a framework Bill which will require political will to put it into operation.

Senator Kitt welcomed the purchase of the Galway fishery. I have spoken about that aspect already. Senator Hussey emphasised that the penalties should be higher. This I propose to do by way of amendment. I have had a look at the situation since and discussed it with my officials. The penalties on the indictment side could be higher. They are small in view of what we are doing here. Senators de Brún, Connaughton, McGowan, O'Toole and O'Brien all raised matters which I have referred to already. That completes the various contributions.

I thank the Seanad for the number and the variety of Members' contributions. One point which was raised by a number of Senators is arterial drainage and co-operation with the Board of Works. On that aspect I would like to say that we already have very close co-operation with the Commissioners of Public Works in regard to the protection and development of fisheries that may be interfered with by their works. There is a specific provision for that under section 10 of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. The OPW must take such precautions as the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry will decide on, in order to protect any fisheries affected and, in deciding on the necessary precautions and provisions, I must be satisfied that they do not unduly hinder or harm any drainage works. That is fair enough but at the same time they cannot take any such provisions or precautions without first of all discussing the matter with me.

As it happens, it has worked very well. We have no complaints in the Department of Fisheries as to the practical balancing of the drainage interests and the fisheries interests in these various schemes. What can happen, and [269] this gives rise to complaints, is that fisheries tend to change.

While the Office of Public Works cooperate fully with regard to the protection of fish life and so on, the new contour and layout of the water after a drainage scheme tends, naturally, to be different to what it was beforehand and the fish start to appear in different places. We are satisfied that the volume of fish has not been affected by any drainage scheme or by any measures taken by the Office of Public Works in conjunction with my Department. They make full provision for fish passes and spawning grounds. This work is done very assiduously by a specific section there and our chief engineer, Mr. McGrath, is regularly in touch with them. We have a very close administrative liaison. What sometimes perturbs people is that the fisheries change, new spawning grounds arise and old spawning grounds may be destroyed. Basically, the volume of fish life is enhanced by reason of the scientific co-operation and collaboration between the officials and engineers of the OPW and my Department.

Dr. West: Except in one case. The real problem is when a drainage scheme drops the level of a lake by six or eight feet. That is why I asked for something more than just consultation.

Mr. Lenihan: Obviously, in some cases, there is very little that can be done. The best we can do is ensure that everything possible from the scientific and engineering point of view is done to protect fish life. I am assured this is being done. I consulted with my officials and with my chief engineer on this aspect since the discussion in the Seanad and I was assured by him that he gets the utmost facility from the Board of Works in regard to doing what can be done. The case mentioned by Senator West is one where very little can be done if the drainage interest is taken to be the superior or main interest.

I have covered most of the points raised. The Bill is essentially a Committee Stage Bill. That is why we should have fruitful discussion on it on Committee Stage. Much of what is in the Bill will be done [270] by way of regulation under specific sections. It is only on a section by section discussions that we can tease out what I propose to do in the various regulations under the various sections. Matters such as the nature of the various boards, the particular catchment areas to be covered, the elections and the panels attached to the various boards, have to be dealt with by way of regulation. There are different fishing interests in different areas. For instance, in one fishing area the salmon interest will predominate. Obviously the salmon people will have to have a greater representation on the board of that area. In another area it might be brown trout, in another area it might be coarse fishing, and so on. We have to look at the situation, area by area. There will be seven areas ranging around Donegal in the north-west, two in the west, one in the south-west, one in the south-east, one in Leinster and one in the present Shannon area which remains the only area that will be unchanged. All of this will have to be done by way of order and the representation will be different in each case relating to the precise fishing interest in the particular regional areas. Much of this detail can be teased out on Committee Stage and I look forward to a constructive discussion.

The interest of the various voluntary groups in this area will be very helpful. Senators have referred to the submission by the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland. There will be a number of these submissions coming in and I am in the course of meeting a number of these interests already. By and large, they welcome the principle of the Bill. They have disagreements in matters of detail but they are constructive and can be examined. I would ask Senators to examine them and, in the meantime, I will be examining them with my officials.

Finally, I would like to refer to the report of the Inland Fisheries Commission which is a very good document. I thank the members of that Commission for producing a report which is, in effect, a blueprint for the future of our inland fisheries. It provided the main thrust in terms of ideas and so on for the Bill which is before the House.

Question put and agreed to.

[271] Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 14 March 1979.