Thursday, 14 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Let us be clear on this issue. We have had this conversation previously in this Chamber and in other places. One of the main issues for the mussel industry is multinationals using addresses in the North of Ireland to access Northern Ireland fisheries to "plunder" our precious natural resource. In regard to tonnage, production collapsed from 29,500 tonnes in 2006 to 6,400 tonnes in 2016. Over ten years, there was a collapse of the mussel fisheries sector. This sector took its case because we are allowing multinational interests to use an address in the North to come in and do that. Am I correct that the Minister is confirming today that this legislation gives that practice legal footing. The Supreme Court took the view that the framework within which this is happening was not legal under Irish law. The Minister, by way of this legislation, is giving that profound injustice a legal footing. This is not about the two vessels from Kilkeel. This is a much bigger issue. A Donegal man had his catch seized by a sea-fisheries protection officer, which was devastating to and a huge hit for him. This man and the men involved in the Kilkeel incident are the people for whom I have compassion. I want legislation that protects them to fish in Irish waters. There is no way I can stand over legislation that provides legal cover for multinationals to plunder our precious natural resource. We have to defend that resource.
We all believe in the European Union and the four pillars of the free movement of people, goods, capital and trade but there are things that we must defend within that European union, including precious natural resources and common sense management. It does not apply to everything. The Minister should, at least, put up a fight. If this is an issue with European law then tell us what it is? If this is impossible under some European directive, tell us what it is? The Minister needs to show us that he is willing to fight the ground for our natural resources. He should, at least, go down fighting on this key issue. That is what we need to see into the future in regard to this serious injustice. This law is not just about the wee boats fishing in Irish waters, it is about much more than that. The Minister knows this. That is the nub of the issue and that is what needs to be resolved.