Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider allowing an increase in the quota allocated to smaller vessels less than 20m in the Sentinel Celtic Sea Herring Fishery in the weeks prior to Christmas; if he is satisfied the 2011-12 review resulted in an equitable distribution of Celtic Sea Herring quota in view of the influx of vessels into the country’s only open-access pelagic fishery in the past two seasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Simon Coveney: The Celtic Sea herring fishery is a small boat, under 18m, herring fishery operating in a specific herring spawning area off the South East Coast known as the Dunmore Box. Following two devastating collapses of the Celtic Sea Herring Fishery, the recovery plan identified the special area known as the “Dunmore Box” as an important area for herring reproduction. The Sentinel fishery was established in order to have a small fishery which would act as a sentinel or indicator of the state of the overall herring stock in the area.
In 2011, I asked the fishing industry and other interested parties to make proposals on the future management arrangements for all Irish herring fisheries, the Celtic Sea stock, the stocks off the North West coast and the Atlanto Scandian stock. The objective of the review was to deliver a policy which would ensure an economically and biologically sustainable fishery. I received over 20 sets of proposals and comments in relation to herring stocks management. It was very clear from these documents that there was no agreement within the industry as to how the future herring fishing opportunities should be managed. I asked my Department to examine the proposals received and to prepare for me a number of options, which as far as practically possible, took the views of stakeholders into account while delivering proper and effective management.
On 22 December 2011, I published a draft policy document on the matter which I believe met the objectives to the greatest extent possible. I consulted and met industry regarding the draft policy and again there was no consensus.
Having considered all views and having regard to the sustainability of the fisheries, I came to a decision which I believe provides for the proper and effective management and conservation and rational exploitation of the herring stocks. The review increased the proportion of the overall proportion of fish which could be caught in the sentinel fishery from 8% to 11%. The outcome of the rebuilding plan has meant that the overall Celtic Sea herring quota has increased from a low of 6,000 tonnes in 2009 to a possible quota of over 19,000t for 2014. In real terms this means that between the review and rebuilding plan there will be an increase in quota for the Sentinel fishery from 480t in 2009 to a possible 2090t in 2014.
The decisions I made during the review were based on a clear, detailed and objective assessment of the fisheries in recent years and is intended to ensure the long term sustainability of the herring fisheries, which I believe it is delivering and I do not intend to revisit this policy.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the legal position regarding public access and fishing rights as they apply to naturally occurring lakes here.
Reply from Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd (pictured): Ownership of fishery rights, as distinct from ownership of the bed and soil of a river or lake, is a property right set out in relevant title or other relevant documents. In consequence, as the Deputy will appreciate, the complexity of the ownership of fishing rights means that the position varies from lake to lake. The owners of fishing rights and their agents have a right to reasonable access. The allocation of the right to fish is a matter for those who own fishing rights on particular lakes or rivers. In some instances ownership of fishing rights, going back significantly in time, is fragmented and can be ambiguous, with some lakes being in State ownership and some in private ownership. My Department has no role in the allocation of privately owned fishing rights, or in investigating fishery right title.
Some fishing rights are clearly identified property rights and are ‘rated fisheries’ whereby the fishery owner pays an annual rate (similar to a commercial rate) to the State via Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) – in these instances the fishery would normally be identified on their property title. There are other lakes where the fishing rights are owned by the riparian property owners.
IFI is working with my Department on a major project to modernise, consolidate and simplify the law pertaining to inland fisheries. The review of legislation is currently at the public consultation stage and my Department will be examining proposals improving access to waters as part of this process as well as seeking to clarify, in as far as possible, the issue of ownership of fishing rights.
A key objective of this process is to put in place the legislative basis to allow IFI to develop the potential of the sector, mainly by increasing the number of anglers utilising the resource, empowering stakeholders to take an active role in the development of the resource and to maximise the returns from the inland fisheries resource to local communities and the State.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his policy regarding the culling of seals to protect fish stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Transferred for answer to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan (pictured): There are two species of seals in Irish waters - the Harbour or Common Seal and the more numerous Grey Seal. Both are included in a list of species protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Consequently, Ireland is obliged to monitor and report on their status, including in relation to their population, every six years. The next such report is due this month. The assessments of seals will be available shortly on the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department at www.npws.ie.
My Department has carried out a number of surveys, including aerial surveys, on the population of both the common and grey seals in the past number of years. All data arising from these surveys from the previous years are now being analysed in advance of the forthcoming report to the European Commission.
The data from both the Harbour and Grey Seal monitoring programmes will be comparable with previously-collected data and will inform my Department’s view as to the current status of the respective populations.
In terms of ascertaining the likely effects of seals on the fishing industry, I will be informed not only by the population monitoring undertaken by my Department, but also by investigations into seal-fisheries interactions that have been commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara and I understand that both organisations will report later in 2013.
While seals are protected under the Wildlife Acts, licences may be obtained under section 42 of the Wildlife Act to hunt seals where damage is being caused. Licences are issued in response to specific applications and each application is considered on its merits. This redress is available to individual fishermen to control damage to fisheries by seals at particular locations.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.