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Priority Questions. - Fisheries Protection.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 26. Mr. Bell Information on Michael Bell Zoom on Michael Bell  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the terms under which the EU co-funded the purchase of the two CASA fisheries aircraft; the conditions set down by the Commission regarding fisheries surveillance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3437/02]

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey The purchase of the two fisheries protection CASA aircraft was co-funded by the European Community under the Fisheries Surveillance Package 1995-2000. The two aircraft cost approximately £36 million, €45 million, in total, excluding VAT.

In implementing the terms of the fisheries surveillance package the Commission took the general position that where capital assets were overwhelmingly dedicated to fisheries protection the full eligible expenditure would receive Community support. It was on that basis that the Commission funded 50% of the cost of the CASA aircraft. The Commission has subsequently, in 2000, seen fit to agree further funding support of over €500,000 for navigation equipment upgrade and mission support facilities for the aircraft. It has been regularly confirmed by the Irish authorities to the Commission that the vast proportion of CASA time is demonstrably spent on fisheries protection. The fact that the aircraft are primarily tasked with fisheries protection has not precluded their deployment from time to time on search and rescue, air ambulance, security and transport duties.

The day-to-day operation of the CASA aircraft is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Defence. I have primary policy responsibility for fisheries protection and my relevant requirements relate to efficient and effective standards of fisheries protection service delivery by the Naval Service and the Air Corps. Service delivery is based on agreed outputs and in line with overall fisheries protection priorities agreed each year. The pertinent CASA outputs for my Department and for the Commission are the numbers of fisheries patrols, flying hours and vessel sightings. These outputs are reported on annually to the Commission by my Department. In 2001 the CASA aircraft undertook 277 patrols, involving 1,392 flying hours and recorded over 5,000 sightings of fishing vessels. These represent an increase over 2000 and are broadly in line with performance in previous years.

[1464]In line with the White Paper on Defence, my Department is currently working to formalise fisheries protection delivery requirements through service level agreements with the Department of Defence, the Naval Service and the Air Corps.

Mr. Bell: Information on Michael Bell Zoom on Michael Bell Is any provision contained in the agreement for that substantial subsidy? I understand from inquiries made that strict conditions are set down. Is there any provision in a subsidy of £35 million for a fisheries surveillance aeroplane to be used, for example, for the opening of an off-licence or a pub or for private use by a Minister or Minister of State? Is there any provision within the regulations or the agreement with the EU for the use of those planes for that purpose?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey My concern with regard to the use of the CASA aircraft relates solely to fisheries surveillance, which is their primary role. The Department of Defence and, in particular, the Air Corps deal with day-to-day operational and deployment matters concerning aircraft resources. I understand, however, from the Department of Defence that the CASA aircraft are used for a relatively small proportion of operational time for a combination of search and rescue, air ambulance and security duties and, occasionally, as back-up to the ministerial air transport service.

Mr. Bell: Information on Michael Bell Zoom on Michael Bell Is either CASA aircraft or any other aeroplane under the Minister's control in the fisheries sector used for purposes other than those laid down by the Commission? Are there departmental regulations which stipulate that unauthorised use of aircraft must be paid for? Has the Commission indicated its disapproval of the use of these aeroplanes for purposes other than those for which they were grant-aided?

Mr. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey It has been regularly confirmed to the Commission that the vast proportion of CASA time is spent on fishery protection duties. The fact that the aircraft are primarily tasked with this role does not preclude them from deployment for other activities from time to time. This is acceptable to the Commission.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes What a mouthful of jargon.


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