The new Minister for the Marine, Michael Creed TD, must ensure swift and measurable action to review procedures, reduce red tape and encourage development of the indigenous Irish shellfish sector, a conference in Athlone heard today.
Speaking at the IFA National Shellfish Conference, outgoing Irish Shellfish Association Chairman, Jerry Gallagher said the industry needs to invest in sustainable growth, based on the clear commitments to better co-ordination between Departments, a more responsive licencing system, and measures to support producers in meeting environmental challenges.
Mr Gallagher said, “The industry needs to see specific actions to back up the very broad aspirations on the seafood sector contained in the Programme for Government. Coastal communities have waited too long for affirmative action by the state to encourage investment in aquaculture and create long lasting jobs in remote areas.”
New figures to be released by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) at the conference show an encouraging increase in value from the Aquaculture sector by €33 million, and export driven growth by SMEs in coastal counties. “Development in the last ten years has largely taken place without state aid and in the face of tremendous challenges and unnecessary obstacles in dealing with licence applications for renewals and new sites to grow shellfish.”
“Irish oysters, mussels, scallops, clams and other shellfish are highly prized around the world. Our members are recognised for their commitment to quality, our record in fighting to protect Ireland’s clean waters and the fact that we operate and run businesses within the EU’s environmental habitats conservation network of bays and inlets.
“Employment is steady and growing in the sector and interest is strong from a new generation of aquaculturists and entrepreneurs who want to get involved in farming shellfish as a career, combining a natural production cycle with international marketing in peripheral coastal areas.
“The message from today’s conference is that we can only maintain and increase our competitive advantage in Europe by reducing costs of red tape, improving infrastructure including broadband in coastal regions, using EU funds wisely to innovate and protect producers from algal blooms originating in the deep Atlantic and improving our presence and networking in new markets like Asia though agencies such as Bord Bia and BIM,” Jerry Gallagher said.
IFA President, Joe Healy said, “IFA’s remit extends to all Irish food producers. Aquaculture is not the ‘new kid on the block’ anymore. It has been producing food and jobs in counties like Galway, Donegal Cork and others for 40 years now and is the definition of a success story. Fish farmers have been part of the IFA since the late 1980s and shellfish growers decided to join in 1997 – almost 20 years ago.”
Joe Healy continued, “We have a lot in common as food producers. It is often challenging to be a farmer and whether it is incomes, stock losses or environmental issues, all food production goes through cycles and IFA is there for you when that happens. Most importantly we want to make regulation easier for you. That’s why our main job is to overcome the barriers of bureaucracy and red tape in the Department and its agencies.”