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Written Answers. - Fish Stocks.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 53. Mr. Sheehan Information on P. J. Sheehan Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  his plans regarding the steps he will take to preserve the wild salmon species around the coastline. [3598/02]

 58. Mr. Shatter Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the way in which his proposals to provide for fishing limits on drift-netting will be applied; the way in which the proposed regional aspects of the proposals will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3612/02]

 72. 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  his proposals to deal with the set aside or buy out in relation to save salmon and wild trout; the details in relation to his proposals on drift net fishing; the quotas he is proposing where they will apply; the persons or groups to which it will apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3440/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 58 and 72 together.

I am committed to a sustainable commercial salmon fishery based on quality and value rather than volume. I have also made clear my commitment to investing in the ongoing development of salmon angling as a valued pastime and as an important tourist product. Both economic goals are fully compatible with the overriding objective to preserve the salmon resource in its own right.

It is clear from the scientific advice from the Marine Institute, based on latest stock assessment data, that reductions in overall fishing effort are required in order to sustain and rebuild salmon stocks.

Informed by the scientific advice, and with the assistance and input of the National Salmon Commission and the fisheries boards, I recently announced a number of management measures in relation to the commercial fishing sector in 2002 and beyond. These measures include: the introduction of fishery district quotas for the taking of salmon by all commercial fishing engines to deliver a percentage reduction over catches in recent years. The quota system will be administered by the fisheries boards through the salmon tagging scheme. There will be a fixed number of tags issued per licence which will set the number of salmon allowable per licence. These will not be individual transferable quotas. Accordingly, no individual entitlement or property right will be created; a review of the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order is under way by a subgroup of the National Salmon Commission working with my Department and the fisheries boards. The review [1578] is examining the changes needed to deliver significant rationalisation of categories and numbers of commercial fishing licences. Subject to the emerging advice any changes will be put in place for the 2003 season; in the context of the introduction of district quotas for commercial fishing engines I am prepared to consider in principle some adjustment in the current effort limitation measures for 2002. In particular I will positively review the case for the introduction of safety days as requested by the sector itself; a review of the case for standardising the length of offshore drift nets from 732 metres and 1,372 metres to a standard 1,000 metres in all districts; I have raised with my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, the concerns of fishermen regarding seal predation on salmon stocks.

I have requested the National Salmon Commission to respond to me very quickly on the overall shape of the commercial fishing quota scheme and I have also mandated the chief executives of the fisheries boards to finalise the detailed practical arrangements for its operation through the licence and tagging regime as quickly as possible. The chief executives will finalise these shortly.

The introduction of quotas for the taking of salmon by commercial fishing engines will not be accompanied by compensation. It is clear to me that a buy-out of fishing licences is most attractive to those who take few salmon and that it is not an effective means of achieving the objective of a restoration of salmon stocks. Accordingly, I have ruled out buy-out as the way forward. However, I will continue to support, subject to available Exchequer funding, local catchment-based setaside proposals with matching funding. I have invited all stakeholders and the regional fisheries boards to develop such proposals.

I wish to see a reduction in fishing effort by both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. The angling conservation measures already introduced for 2002 include a bag limit of one salmon per angler per day prior to 1 June and a ban on the sale of salmon caught by rod and line. In parallel with the introduction of quota for the commercial fishery, I have requested the National Salmon Commission to recommend on bag limits for the totality of the 2002 angling season and any other enhanced conservation measures which it considers appropriate.

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