Thursday, 14 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Frances Black (Independent)
The Minister is very welcome to the Chamber today. The manner is which this Bill has been brought before us today will impact on my position on the amendments that are up for discussion. I am very glad that we are only taking Committee Stage of this Bill today. The proposal to remove it from the schedule entirely would have been even more appropriate. When this Bill came before the Seanad two years ago, it was made very clear to the Government that it should only proceed if it was going to engage seriously with the affected fishermen. I agree with Senator Mac Lochlainn. The Minister is a very good man and very passionate about this issue. He is doing a good job but, with all due respect, the overwhelming majority of feedback from fishermen is that this dialogue with the fishermen has not happened over the past two years. The fact that a last-minute phone call was made last night further confirms this view. It is only fair that those who will be significantly impacted by this legislation are listened to. Many of them are in the Gallery today. We are pushing this through days before 29 March, the deadline for Brexit. At this crucial point we have no idea what the Irish fishing environment will look like after Brexit.
I will speak in support of Senator Nash's amendment. We are worried about conservation, people's livelihoods, and the capacity for huge trawlers to take advantage of this agreement. The reality is that we are living in a very different environment from that of the 1960s.It is now so much easier for huge international companies to register in the North and abuse the system. That is the worry. Senator Nash's proposal attempts to strike a balance to protect smaller fishermen, smaller boats and their fish stocks. If we are to have an agreement, some protection such as this is necessary. I fully support the amendment and commend the Minister on doing his best to deal with this issue. It would be great if further discussions were held with fishermen to hear what they have to say. They are worried and anxious and all they want is to be heard.