Thursday, 14 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 3, line 15, after “operated” to insert “by person(s) resident”.
This is an important amendment and I would like a dialogue on it today. It relates to the issue of residency. We are all on the one page as regards restoring access for all Irish vessels within a certain size to Irish waters around our coast and ensuring a level playing pitch. That is an objective on which we can all agree. The problem is that the good intentions relating to voisinagewere abused. A loophole developed over the years, particularly in the mussel industry, whereby major multinationals took advantage of having an address in the North to plunder Irish natural resources opportunistically to the extent that our seed mussel beds have been devastated. The difference in tonnage between 2016 and 2018 demonstrates that devastation.
It is critical that the residency issue be addressed. If the argument is that we need to protect the right of vessels in Kilkeel to fish in Dundalk Bay, that is no problem. If they have an address in County Down, Derry or Antrim and are within a certain size, they can go ahead. That will be done on the basis of a level playing pitch. However, if they are major multinationals using a loophole in our goodwill agreement - which is what it was - to fish, it is not right. This is one of the core issues that should have been defined in the first draft of the Bill and the Bill as presented to the Houses. The Minister should have clearly defined that accessing our precious resources is for Irish fishermen on the island of Ireland who can demonstrate their residency and attachment to the land. We are not discussing going out to sea, the CFP and super trawlers. That is another day's battle. Rather, we are discussing precious inland fisheries.