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Ferris calls for rejection of Fishing Bill

17 November, 2005

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fishing, Martin Ferris TD, has called for the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill to be rejected. Deputy Ferris was speaking during the debate on the proposed legislation this afternoon. Deputy Ferris also called for the entire basis of the Common Fisheries as it affects Ireland to be radically reformed.

Deputy Ferris said: "The fishing sector is clearly outraged by the proposals. In representations made to myself, and other TDs, the most common theme has been that they see this legislation as an attempt to criminalise fishermen. Apart altogether from the level of fines that are being proposed, fishermen are outraged by the provision contained in Section 18 of the Bill, for naval patrol vessels to fire live ammunition into fishing boats. For Irish fishermen, already frustrated by the seeming ability of trawlers from other member states, to break existing sanctions with impunity, such a proposal is totally unacceptable and must be withdrawn.

"The fishing organisations have also stressed that they are not opposed to conservation measures. Indeed, they of all people have most reason to wish to see stocks preserved because if they are destroyed then they will be the ones to suffer as it will be their industry that is forced out of existence.

"Again, in this respect fishermen do not accept that they and their communities ought to be made bear the major part of the responsibility for stock management. In fact unlike other member states, the fishing organisations here do not even have a statutory involvement in stock management. They also rightfully believe that the major reason why stocks in Irish waters have been depleted is the disproportionate part of the quota within our waters that is allowed to be taken by vessels from other member states. Allied to that then is the fact that there is a massive imbalance within the Irish fleet in favour of one particular large operator who seems to have been allowed swallow up a greater and greater part of the Irish quota at the expense of smaller operators who are finding it increasingly difficult to survive.

"In the current atmosphere of distrust and concern, many fishermen are genuinely convinced that there are those within the Department who see this legislation as a means of forcing more of them out of the business altogether. What will we be left with then? One factory ship registered here, dividing the Irish quota with large operators from other member states? Is that what the people who drafted this Bill want to see?

"Again, as pointed out by fishing representatives, this Bill ought not only be opposed but the debate on it ought to lead us to question the entire basis under which the fisheries sector here is regulated, or rather misregulated. Sinn Féin has pointed out for years the scandalous terms under which our fisheries were basically sacrificed in the early 1970s as part of the negotiation of EEC membership.

"One of our potentially most valuable resources was in large part given away, to the extent that the value of fish taken from our waters by other EU fleets since accession outweighs the value of all direct payments received from the EU since 1973. The last calculation I saw for this put the value of that catch at €40 billion, and that was three years ago. All of these issues must be addressed domestically but that will be impossible until the Irish Government goes to Brussels and insists on a complete and radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy." ENDS

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