At a high level meeting in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in Dublin today (Thurs), IFA Aquaculture representatives of the fish and shellfish farming industries highlighted the extreme pressure and lost opportunities for jobs and exports being created by delays in publishing Conservation Objectives for dozens of designated conservation areas around the coast. Bays designated under the EU Habitats Directives more than 10 years ago where active aquaculture businesses were already in place now require to be surveyed and given a list of “conservation objectives” if those businesses are to acquire new licences and continue to grow seafood, provide jobs and bring in valuable export income.
The IFA Aquaculture team of Flor Harrington (Shellfish), Jan Feenstra (Salmon) and Richie Flynn (Executive Secretary) outlined the range of difficulties faced by an industry “in limbo” to Environment officials and said the sector was being discriminated against in comparison to other European aquaculture sectors and other coastal development projects such as local authority discharge licensing.
Richie Flynn said, “IFA Aquaculture representatives left the Dept of Environment in no doubt as to the extreme hardship being faced by our members because of the hold up in licencing and capital grant aid for environmental projects due to the absence of conservation objectives. Today we secured a commitment that a transparent timeline for the setting of conservation objectives for every bay would be published early in the New Year to give certainty and confidence to the industry and its investors.”
Mr Flynn continued, “It is obvious, given the current economic crisis, no government department wants to be seen to be holding back a sector which has very good markets, a fantastic product and pristine reputation. We can create a lot of jobs around the coast in fish farming and processing if we can overcome this logjam, which was created by many years of Government inaction, culminating in a European court case against Ireland in 2007. Our members want to see rapid action to restore competitiveness, bring jobs back to the coastal economy and produce a large increase in harvests of quality-assured salmon, trout, mussels, oysters and other farmed seafood.”
Mr Flynn concluded, “IFA Aquaculture will keep the pressure on the Dept of Environment as well as the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and its agencies who are responsible for licencing of the sector to ensure the quickest possible resolution to an issue which has dragged on for far too long.”