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 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Expenditure (Continued)
 Header Item Harbours and Piers Funding
 Header Item Common Fisheries Policy Negotiations

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 3

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  7 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] The average size of a suckler herd is 16 cows while the average size of a suckler herd in the suckler cow welfare scheme is 18 cows. We are trying to prioritise smaller farmers. If we have moneys left over after that, then we will give it to the farmers who have more than 20 cows. I believe there will be some money left over to give top-up payments to farmers with 30 to 40 suckler cows.

This was the third year of the three-year sheep grasslands scheme. We have decided to continue with the scheme, which will be paid for by unspent moneys under pillar 1. While we have reduced the cost of it from €18 million to €14 million, we have made up for that by introducing a discussion group, similar to the ones that have worked so well for the dairy sector, which will bring farmers together to discuss how they can improve their businesses and make more money in the marketplace. We will spend €3 million on these discussion groups next year. The total spend on the sheep sector next year will be more or less the same as this year's. I have worked hard to achieve this, as I see the sheep sector as a vulnerable area.

Harbours and Piers Funding

 3. Deputy John Halligan Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 521 and 522 of 4 December 2012, when a decision will be made in relation the potential inclusion of Dunmore East Harbour, County Waterford, under the 2013 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Capital Development Programme; if he will confirm where Dunmore East Harbour sits in relation to other competing priorities; if his attention has been drawn to factors (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56183/12]

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department administers the fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure capital development programme every year. Dunmore East fishery harbour centre is one of the six designated fishery harbour centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department and, as such, it receives funding annually on foot of the programme.

  My Department continues to support the harbour's development with funding provided for maintenance, development and upgrading works each year. Indeed, expenditure under the programme for Dunmore East since 2007 has been in the order of €4 million. This is in recognition of the valuable contribution the harbour makes to the fishing industry as well as the local community in terms of the support the harbour infrastructure provides to the development of the tourism industry and the local economy generally.

  Dunmore East fishery harbour centre provides a dedicated and essential service to our fishing fleet. Both local and visiting fishing vessels, including vessels of significant dimensions, avail of the harbour facilities at Dunmore East. I am happy to report the investment in Dunmore East fishery harbour centre in recent years is bearing fruit. Indeed, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority's records indicate a year-on-year increase in fish landings in recent years.

  My Department's officials host a harbour users' forum regularly and meet with local stakeholders and harbour users. This forum provides a platform for harbour users to air their views and gives my officials an opportunity to hear at first hand the concerns and suggestions of the people using the harbour facilities. As recently as July of this year, the Dunmore East tourism group, which plays an active part in the harbour users' group, formally complimented both the appearance of the harbour and the good work being done there by my Department.

  The need for dredging works at the harbour has been recognised by my Department. Reports commissioned have indicated that 80% of the harbour sediment contains tributyltin, TBT. Unfortunately, the cost associated with the disposal of dredge is approximately €5 million. This is a figure we cannot afford immediately but I am conscious of the need to dredge the harbour. We are examining the best way of dealing with this as safely as we can given our budgetary constraints. The total harbours budget this year was €7 million and the cost of cleaning Dunmore East is €5 million. The Deputy can understand the difficulties I have.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

This represents a significant expenditure in the current economic environment and I can confirm that my Department's engineering division has engaged consultants to examine and report on a number of alternative options in terms of the structuring of the works and the outlay involved. I expect to have the report in early 2013 and will assess at that stage how best to proceed.

  Future investment at Dunmore East and the five other fishery harbour centres will of course be considered each year in the context of available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities. In early 2013, I expect to be in a position to identify projects for inclusion under the 2013 fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure capital development programme at each of the six fishery harbour centres.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Twenty-five years ago, up to 50 fishing boats worked out of Dunmore East employing hundreds of fishermen, with hundreds more employed in fish-processing plants around the harbour. Over the past decade, however, this long-established fishing industry has been under threat from restrictions designed to protect stocks. The local fishermen's co-operative is struggling enormously with EU fish quota restrictions, an aging fishing fleet and poor fish prices caused by low demand due to the recession. As fishing vessels become more technologically demanding, additional pressure has been put on resources and infrastructure. Reduced catches put pressure on employment in the processing sector. Several fish factories have already closed in Dunmore East over the past four years.

Dunmore East Harbour is suffering from inadequate infrastructure to address its potential needs. No dredging of the harbour has taken place for 17 years. Consequently, larger vessels cannot access the harbour. Silting has reduced the depth of the approach under the synchrolift. Despite the fact that it has a lifting capacity of 200 tonnes, it is only suitable for vessels with a maximum draft of about nine feet. Hence, many vessels have to divert to Cork or Howth for docking. This poor access has had a devastating impact on the local fishing fleet.

Since the recession hit, several hotels and restaurants in Dunmore East have closed. There is a significant scarcity of work and little or no investment in local industry. It is well recognised that the average income in the fishing village is below the national average. The local community has suffered significantly in the past several years, with a 12% decline in population. Without a properly functioning harbour, we may as well close down Dunmore East.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews There is only one minute left.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Will the Minister reconsider dredging the harbour there? Although he has acknowledged in the past that dredging works in Dunmore East are a priority, it is not possible to wait another five years for this to happen.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews This will have to be just a headline answer as there is only half a minute left.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The reality is that nothing can be done if one does not have the money. We have taken on consultants to examine the options-----

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan The harbour has a turnover of €10 million and we are asking for a €4 million investment which could increase that turnover and, in turn, bring more money into the Exchequer.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy is asking for more than half of my total harbours fund. I simply do not have it. If I had the money, I would be spending it on this. This is one of the harbours that has priority when it comes to dredging investment.

Fish landings at Dunmore East are actually increasing every year. Quotas are significantly up this year and it is my job to negotiate another good deal on the quotas next week. The stocks of cod, haddock, whiting and herring in the Celtic Sea are all up. It is not as bad as some people make out.

I agree there is a significant problem in the harbour and it needs to be dredged. I will do it when I can afford to. In the meantime, we will have to put a plan in place to do what we can do.

Common Fisheries Policy Negotiations

 4. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding the common fisheries policy review; the possible implications for Irish fishermen; when he expects this to be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56051/12]

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Before we continue, I must let Members know I had a tasty piece of sole before I came into the Chamber. I hope it came from Dungarvan.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Did the Acting Chairman have a bit of sole or a bit of soul?

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Sole is one of the species whose stock is under pressure in the Irish Sea.

Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne The Acting Chairman should not have eaten it then.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I am glad I did something good.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am hoping to get the best deal I can for fishermen next week in a whole series of areas, particularly with regard to prawns in the Irish Sea and area VII generally. As part of that, fantastic work has been done by the Marine Institute. One of the stocks under pressure is sole. I hope the Acting Chairman feels guilty now.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I am sorry to have added to the pressure.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I hope he enjoyed it because it might be the last one he gets.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews It was lovely and I recommend it.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Deputy Browne has been in this ministry before and will know the preparation required for the negotiations on total allowable catches, TACs, and fishing quotas. These preparations have been completed this year in an impressive manner.

There has been much talk about getting the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy done during the Irish EU Presidency. I am equally focused on the Common Fisheries Policy. We want to get a deal for all countries but one that will also shape policy to ensure the Irish industry can survive and grow. One of the key issues under discussion is how we deal with discards.


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