Written answers

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs

Environmental Policy

9:00 pm

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Question 367: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans regarding carrying out a humane seal cull similar to the Canadian initiative in view of the increase in the numbers. [8310/12]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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There are two species of seals in Irish waters - the harbour or common seal and the more numerous grey seal. While seals are protected under the Wildlife Acts, licences may be obtained under section 42 of the Wildlife Act to hunt seals where damage is being caused. Licences are issued in response to specific applications and each application is considered on its merits. This redress is available to individual fishermen to control damage to fisheries by seals at particular locations. However, I have no plans to sanction a more general cull.

It is also an obligation under the EU Habitats Directive that Ireland designates Special Areas of Conservation for both species of seal. The main breeding areas for seal are now legally protected. It should be noted that my Department is involved in a number of studies in relation to seals. These include making arrangements to complete a national survey of harbour and grey seals; liaising with Inland Fisheries Ireland concerning a research project to investigate seal-fisheries interactions in the Moy Estuary and Wexford Harbour with a view to informing management options; and liaising with Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute concerning a research project to investigate seal depredation and seal-fisheries interactions.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Question 368: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to carry out a cull of the deer population in view of the severe financial consequence to our farming community who live near forests and are constantly having their fences broken and grass eaten by these wandering deer. [8311/12]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Wild deer in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts. There is an annual open season during which deer can be legally shot under licence. The open season for deer operates generally from 1 September to 28 February, depending on the species and gender of deer. I am aware that deer species are increasing in range and numbers. My Department carries out localised annual deer counts on State lands such as National Parks. Where appropriate, and depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls may be carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences.

Control of deer on private property is the responsibility of landowners who may apply to my Department for a permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts to cull deer where this is necessary outside the annual open seasons. These permissions offer a facility whereby a person can obtain a permit, on a case by case basis, to prevent serious damage caused by individual deer on specific lands. Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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Question 369: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures he is taking to ensure that the Ward Union Hunt does not continue to break the law in relation to hunting deer as per section 23A (1) of the Wildlife Amendment Act in view of the new evidence which shows that they are continuing to hunt stag in contravention of the ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7569/12]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Minister, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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Officials of my Department monitor compliance with the Wildlife Acts across the country on an ongoing basis and carry out patrols and site visits to enforce the various provisions of these Acts as required. They also investigate reports of breaches of the Acts. Members of An Garda Síochána are also empowered under the Acts to investigate alleged offences and to prosecute, if they see fit. In this regard, my Department will follow up appropriately on any alleged breaches of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 which makes it an offence to hunt a deer with two or more dogs.

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