The “FoodWise 2025” strategy published this week by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and the Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney TD is the first time the aquaculture industry has seen a firm commitment to address the serious problems in the Irish aquaculture licencing system[i]. IFA Aquaculture Executive, Richie Flynn, said that “FoodWise 2025” took a clear direction from IFA’s “Removing Barriers” report from 2014 in highlighting this issue.
Richie Flynn said, “With 600 applications awaiting renewal, holding up vital business plans, investments and grant aid, the industry needs a short, sharp response with firm and measurable action. The independent review of licensing proposed in the report is very welcome and should take a minimal amount of time as all of the problems have been clear for many years and IFA has proposed constructive measures to revitalise the entire regime.”
Mr Flynn said, “Rapidly dealing with the backlog of applications, some waiting up to eight years for movement is the priority. Removing the bottlenecks and ensuring resources are effectively applied is a straightforward task. Setting clear and achievable time limits from receipt of an application to a decision is simply best practice. Benchmarking performance of the system against international standards, reducing all the red tape, imposing definitive deadlines and breaking the never ending cycle of unnecessary delays has to be tackled courageously.”
IFA Aquaculture has warned against proposing new legislation to deal with the issue as an unnecessary distraction. “With hard work and commitment to the principles of the existing Act (1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act) we can avoid a potentially endless road of legislation. Producers who are turning away valuable export customers cannot wait any longer for action.”
IFA Aquaculture will hold the government to the timelines in “FoodWise 2025” and push for a definitive solution to this long standing logjam. A sustainable, export driven and confident fish and shellfish farming sector is badly needed by coastal communities and islands. Together with the new National Strategy on Aquaculture and the Harvesting our Ocean Wealth report to be launched soon, we have all the tools to fix the systematic failure of the state to deliver a modern, customer-focused licence application process.”
Commenting on the other seafood action points in “FoodWise 2025”[ii], Mr Flynn said that the quality and reputation of Irish seafood combined with its economic importance in peripheral rural areas is a clear motivation to support the sector in any way possible. “Our products and our people are our major assets and through quantifiable policy measures with clear timetables we can ensure that the overall targets are met and a strong basis for growth is left to the incoming generation of young seafood entrepreneurs.”
[i] First Action Point on the Seafood Sector reads “Commission an independent review of the existing aquaculture licensing system involving all key stakeholders, to identify the current shortcomings and bottlenecks (legislative, resource and logistical), to report by early 2016 and implement necessary changes to the aquaculture licensing system as a matter of priority”