IFA Aquaculture officers from across all sectors of fish and shellfish farming held their first meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD in Dublin this week.
Chairman of the Irish Shellfish Association, Michael Mulloy and Chairman of the Irish Salmon Gowers’ Association, Damien O’Keefe pressed Minister Creed on the urgency of reviewing licencing to have a fit-for-purpose system in place to meet both the highest environmental standards and also the requirements of customers who are demanding increasing supply of top quality Irish seafood.
There is a clear commitment in the national policy document – Foodwise 2025 – to both expanding the industry and also reviewing licencing. The industry is currently worth €149 million at primary production level and supports 2.3 jobs in the wider community for every on-farm employee. Currently the industry employs 1,841 people around the coast and in freshwater facilities inland.
Responding to IFA, Minister Creed gave an unequivocal commitment to having an independent review carried out, beginning in the next few months. IFA responded by assuring the Minister of the industry’s co-operation and full input into the process and pointing out that the original deadlines outlined in the Government policy document had been missed, meaning that time was of the essence.
The industry representatives clearly made the case for closer attention to be paid to the business aspects of farming, without losing sight of the necessary regulatory controls – the current licencing system is too rigid to allow farmers to adapt to changing markets and physical environments and does not take into account the huge technological progress made across all sectors in the last 20 years.
In carrying out a review of licences, the IFA team made clear that nothing should impede the current process of dealing with long outstanding licence applications around the country and that applicants who have waited for four to eight years in some cases had to get their renewals processed in order to make investments, access grant aid and have some security of tenure.