25 October 2007
Senator Ivana Bacik: I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to enable the House to debate Private Members' motion No. 30 on the Order Paper. The motion, which is proposed by me and seconded by my colleague, Senator Norris, is to annul the Cockle (Fisheries Management and Conservation Regulations) (Waterford Estuary) 2007. To give a little background, the regulations were signed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, in the summer and have been laid before the House. However, a provision in the enabling legislation allows either House of the Oireachtas to annul any regulations made under the relevant legislation provided the annulment is done within 21 sitting days. By my calculation, this is the 11th sitting day since the regulations were signed.
It relates to the Suir Estuary at Passage East, a special conservation area in County Waterford which many Senators will know. The regulation in question allows dredging for cockles within certain insufficiently restricted time periods. The national co-ordinator of Coastwatch Ireland, Karen Dubsky, has briefed me on the matter. Coastwatch Ireland has monitored the area and has found that enormous damage is being done to the seabed in the Waterford Estuary as a result of dredgers moving into the area on foot of this regulation and dredging up not only cockles but also other seabed life and matter. The practice is seriously damaging seabed life in the region and may be in breach of the Habitats Directive. If the Seanad agrees to annul the regulation, a more restrictive regulation could be introduced which, in keeping with European Union law, would prevent dredging for cockles in this manner.
I understand Ireland is out of line with other countries where dredging for cockles has been banned and cockle fishing is only allowed by hand. This does much less damage to the seabed, although it has resulted in cockles becoming very expensive. Virtually all cockles from Ireland are exported. The practice of dredging for cockles should not continue and the relevant regulation is too broad. I would be grateful if time were made available to debate the issue.