Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Priority Questions. - Drift Netting Ban.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 183 Next Page Last Page

 25. Mr. Dukes Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  his plans to seek a reversal of the EU ban on the use of driftnets for tuna fishing; if he will seek EU approval for the use of nets fitted with pingers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3720/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey The 1998 Council decision to ban drift netting for tuna with effect from 1 January 2002 is now in force. There is no realistic prospect of the Commission proposing a reversal by Council of its decision at this point. We need to look forward rather than back.

The Council decision was primarily driven by environmental concerns about the potentially fatal impact of multi kilometre drift nets on marine mammals. Ireland and France disputed the conclusive nature of the scientific evidence at the time and it is probably true to say that the jury is still out on the question. Arguments were also put forward at the time based on research into the deployment of electronic devices such as pingers to minimise the risk to marine mammals. However, bearing in mind the precautionary principle and being politically realistic, I do not believe that any attempt to reopen the EU debate will succeed. The best way forward for the Irish tuna industry is to work with the prevailing realities and maximise the undoubted returns available from alternative fishing methods.

During the negotiations in 1998, Ireland and France successfully achieved a four year postponement of the introduction of the ban on drift netting. Ireland also secured EU support for R&[1461] D funding for experimental fishing programmes and technology transfer. The objective was to prepare Irish tuna fishermen to convert to other fishing methods following the implementation of the ban on drift netting.

Since 1998, over £2 million has been invested in assisting Irish fishermen to develop alternative tuna fishing methods. A variety of fishing gears and techniques have been the subject of trials. Last year a number of Irish vessels successfully fished for tuna by means of mid-water trawls with prices reported to be excellent. This has led to a high level of interest from fishermen planning to participate in the 2002 tuna fishery by means of mid water trawls.

International negotiations in 2000 led to quotas being set for the first time for Albacore Tuna. Ireland negotiated a significant quota of 3,158 tonnes for 2001, the third highest in the European Union. A similar quota has been secured for 2002. We also won agreement at EU level to allow Ireland to double the number of vessels in the tuna fishery. This arrangement, together with our significant quota share, will enable up to 50 Irish vessels to participate in the tuna fishery in 2002 using the new fishing methods.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes Is the Minister aware that the ban which exists, which he will not even try to have reversed, effectively means the end of tuna fishing in the two principal ports here, namely, Castletownbere and Dingle? Can the Minister say how many fishing vessels are equipped for mid-water trawling this year? How many applications have been made for licences to use mid-water trawls or any other alternative tuna gear? How many vessels does the Minister expect will be fishing tuna from Irish ports this year?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey It is a mistaken view that the banning of drift nets bring to an end the tuna fishery and would have a devastating effect on Irish ports. In actual fact there were only 18 boats involved in the drift net fishing of tuna. I do not have the exact number of licences taken out for mid-water trawling this year. However, it was a hugely successful event for the people who got those licences, so much so that there will be an over subscription for the 50 licences available in 2002. A much higher quality fish is being caught by the mid-water trawling system and as a result much higher prices were achieved in the market in France this year. I am confident that the contribution of 50 fishermen this year and next year, although the full 50 licences were not taken up this year, will be much greater than that of the 18 fishermen in place as a result of the drift nets. The 18 fishermen did have significant results using drift nets and clearly there will be a loss of income. It would be foolhardy of me to try to roll back the clock on a decision made over four years ago. The specific condition was that the Irish would be given a four-year window and the Commission will not change its mind on that.

[1462]Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes How many applications have there been for licences for this year? How many vessels are equipped either for mid-water trawling or for any of the other fishing techniques for tuna, to which he has referred? If the Minister cannot tell me now how many licences have been applied for, what is the final date by which applications have to be made?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I do not have the information requested in regard to the number of applications made and the number of fishermen who fished for tuna last year—

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes It was 18.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey —using the mid-water trawls but I will make it available to the Deputy. I shall also provide the date by which applications must be made. The clear indication this year from the amount of interest shown, following on the success of those who went out last year, is that there will be an over subscription. More than 50 people will seek tuna licences this year. I cannot say exactly how many boats are equipped for mid-water trawling but I shall provide that information. Some £2 million was spent the year before last by BIM for the purpose of conducting trials with a number of boats. My information is that those who were serious about those trials were successful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison We must proceed to Question No. 26.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes Can I say something very briefly? I find it odd when there is one question on the Order Paper today about tuna fishing that the Minister cannot tell me how many applications have been made or the closing date for applications and that this information is not in his brief.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison We must proceed to Question No. 26.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes Will the Minister agree that I could be forgiven for saying that the only reason he does not have the information is that it does not bear out the assertion he is making?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey On a point of clarification, the Deputy did not ask anything about mid-water trawls. The question was about the use of drift nets and nothing else.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes The only reason the Minister does not have it is that he knows it does not stand up.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I will get the information for the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison Order, please, the Chair has called Question No. 26.

[1463]Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey We will get the information to the Deputy this afternoon. The Deputy did not ask that question. In fact, it was nowhere near it.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I hope it comes quicker than the last time the Minister undertook to provide information when it took a couple of weeks.

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey We will certainly provide the information this evening.


Last Updated: 03/05/2015 07:00:49 First Page Previous Page Page of 183 Next Page Last Page