The Irish Farmers’ Association President, John Bryan, has welcomed the announcement by Minister Coveney of an innovative plan to set up an IDA-style “advance fish farm” site off the west coast to attract investment and create up to 500 much needed jobs in the coastal community.
Mr Bryan said, “Aquaculture in Ireland has huge potential for development, exports and job creation, but has been hindered by EU Directives and national bureaucracy which has seen the licencing system come to a virtual full stop. The industry welcomes the new approach whereby the State is applying for the licence, ensuring all legal and environmental concerns are addressed, and then franchising the operation to a successful bidder under a contract ensuring the highest standards are maintained.”
The IFA President continued, “Ireland’s reputation at home and abroad for the finest quality farmed seafood is renowned and the sector has put huge efforts into carving out a high value niche through certification and quality schemes with BIM. The biggest frustration for IFA members right around the coast has been that under the stalled licensing system, they are not allowed to produce what the market demands.”
IFA Aquaculture Executive Secretary, Richie Flynn, said, “In coastal areas, doubly hit by quota cuts in wild fisheries and the economic downturn, emigration has returned with a vengeance. A project such as this will see the return of opportunities for young people. We should export fish, not jobs.”
IFA’s Aquaculture section has put strenuous efforts into trying to resolve this problem at home and in Brussels to improve the licencing process and overcome the barriers caused by the designation of SACs and SPAs. We will continue to do that while at the same time working with the new owners of the deep-sea farm, which will be outside any designated area. While moving forward with the new state licence initiative, Minister Coveney should keep in mind the hundreds of inshore fish and shellfish farmers who have been waiting for years for renewals and new sites, many of whom have built up Ireland’s aquaculture sector from nothing to a thriving business employing 2,000 people today.