Q. What is the current status of the proposed Inland Fisheries Bill?
A. DCENR, working closely with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), is finalising a wide-ranging and comprehensive review of the 1959 and subsequent Fisheries Acts with a view to introducing a new Inland Fisheries Bill.
As part of the review, the Minister organised and attended public information meetings accompanied by Department and IFI personnel. These regional meetings, in Drogheda, Carrick-on-Shannon, Tuam, Clonmel and Dublin set out the principal themes for consideration in the context of new legislation.
At the meetings, the Minister invited interested parties to make submissions to the Department, as part of the public consultation process, on the shape of the proposed Inland Fisheries Bill and in particular the principal themes, which included development funding for the sector.
70 submissions were received and these are available on the Department's website, http://www.dcenr.ie/ While a diverse range of views was expressed there was broad support for the need to provide a fund for the development of the resource.
A draft discussion document was developed on foot of the submissions received. However, concerns were expressed both on social media and by some angling bodies. The Ministers consistent view is that a funding instrument will only work with broad support across the angling sector and equally must not be a source of division between representative associations.
The Minister has engaged from the outset in a comprehensive consultation with stakeholders and consistently welcomed all opportunities for debate. He has also undertaken to have further stakeholder engagement to seek the broadest consensus before finalising legislative proposals.
Q. What is the timeline for enactment of the legislation?
A. This depends on the schedule and other business of the Dáil. It is intended to bring a draft of the legislation to Government in 2014, taking into account the outcome of further stakeholder engagement. Once it is approved by Government, the Department will work with the Office of the Parliamentary Council and the Attorney General's office to draft a bill which will be then introduced in the Dáil, where it will be debated and considered in both houses. It is hoped that this legislation would be enacted sometime in 2015.
Q. Why is there a need to fund the development of the resource?
A. Fisheries is a dynamic natural resource and a strategy for funding its development is fundamental to finalising new legislation. The Minister has consistently supported a vision for inland fisheries and sea-angling which underpins the substantial economic and social potential of the sector. He has directed that IFI build on the enormous opportunities identified in the recent Socio-Economic Study of Recreational Angling in Ireland and formulate a National development strategy to ensure the maximum contribution to both community growth and the national economy.
In the mid 1990's the Tourism Angling Measure (TAM) highlighted the benefits that can be realised from having a significant consistent source of funding available for the development of the resource.
Sustainable funding for the development of the sector is paramount in any discussion of the review of the Inland Fisheries legislation. One proposal considered was a contribution based source of funds, ring-fenced for development and promotion projects, managed with inputs from anglers with initiatives undertaken by angling federations and clubs.
The Minister welcomes modified or alternative proposals which would address funding the development of the sector, from any interested party. There is a unique opportunity for the angling community to work as a unified group to finally secure the long term viability of the resource into the future.
Q. If an angler led funding proposal is introduced will this lead to a diminishing of central government funding to the fisheries sector?
A. No, any end-user stimulated funding mechanism for the sector would be separate and additional to core government funding for the sector. Any funding that comes from the sector itself would be ring-fenced specifically for the development of fisheries and this would be provided for legislatively, if introduced. The salmon conservation fund is is a good example of what can be achieved here.
Q. How will the Minister ensure that exchequer money continues to be made available for inland fisheries?
A. Everyone is aware of the economic realities facing the country and the pressures on state resources. However, the Minister is committed to ensuring that exchequer money is made available for the inland fisheries sector and indeed has fought hard for resources to be made available for the sector and in fact both 2012 and 2013 have seen increases in the funding made available
The reality is that funding for all public bodies is challenging. IFI is ahead of the curve in ensuring that core activities and operations can continue to be delivered by introducing innovative technology and smarter working practices
Q. Is a rod licence being introduced?
A. No. The Minister wants to make it absolutely clear that no rod licence was proposed, nor is it intended to introduce such a licence.
Twenty five years ago the state attempted to introduce a rod licence for brown trout and coarse fishing. This proposal was later withdrawn as it was not palatable to the angling community. The discussion document relating to a possible angling contribution was completely different and should not be mistaken with or misrepresented as a licence. The angling contribution discussion document set out one possible method to enable the creation of a fund exclusively for the development of the resource.
Q. Will my rights be affected by the introduction of a funding stream for the sector?
A. Any proposal that emerges, involving funding the development of the resource, shall in no way affect the entitlements or otherwise of any individuals to fishing rights. It would solely be designed to ensure the long-term viability of the sector through the funding of angling development.
In addition it would not confer any entitlement to access fishing that does not previously exist.
Q. How do I get a say?
A. The Minister has undertaken consistently to have further stakeholder engagement and not to finalise legislative proposals before this is concluded. The priority is to seek the broadest consensus possible. There is a unique opportunity for the angling community to work as a unified group to finally secure the long term viability of the resource into the future. The Minister is keen to ensure that any proposal for the funding of the sector has the broadest possible buy-in from the angling community. With this in mind, the Minister is proposing to host a representative workshop to facilitate the formulation of proposals to secure the future development of the resource.
The Minister is aware that not all anglers are members of clubs or federations and would urge these anglers to participate in the further round of consultative meetings he has committed to.