By Cate McCurry, PA
A new system to bring in penalty points for masters of fishing vessels has been criticised as a “disaster and unfair”, an Oireachtas committee was told.
Members of the committee on Agriculture, Food and the Martin accepted a number of amendments to the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2021 as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny.
However, Sinn Féin TD Martin Brown called on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to “relook” at the contents of the Bill.
His party colleague Ruairi O Murchu said that, while people are not against a penalty points system which would target those who breach fishing regulations, he said the current proposals were “unfair”.
The Bill has been criticised over its appeals system and a lack of recourse for fishermen who risk being penalised.
Independent TD Michael Collins told the committee: “I think it’s very unfair.
“We find ourselves now facing severe penalties for good hardworking and honest to God fishermen of the Irish waters and it’s something that we as a nation and we as politicians in this Dail should oppose in every way we can.
“This whole penalty point situation for fishermen is a disaster from start to finish.
“It has been imposed from the word go from the main fishermen organisations who felt that there was little or no consultation and on that basis. So I will be opposing this.”
Mr Murchu said: “This is an utterly unfair system in relation to the operation of what’s being proposed in the operation of penalty points.
“We’ve had two false dawns in relation to putting this framework in place.
“People aren’t necessarily against a penalty point system, but there has to be fairness which isn’t going to be taken into account.
“There’s no level of fairness and our position on it will be voting against it all together.
“The individual issues pale in insignificance when you don’t deal with the unfairness that’s at the heart of the matter as regards to this legislation.”
Mr Brown said: “The whole bill itself is totally unfair to the fishing community.
“Fishermen themselves are not against the penalty point system but to the fairness in it.
“As we go through the bill itself, we will be pointing out where it is totally unfair to the industry itself and we’re asking that the minister go back and actually relook at all this.”
The committee will meet again to discuss further amendments to the Bill.