Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Bord Iascaigh Mhara Annual Report 2011: Discussion

12:50 pm

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome Mr. Whooley and the other officials from Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM. I recently had the opportunity to visit the seafood development centre in Clonakilty. It is a wonderful facility with excellent work being done there. I commend all the BIM staff for their excellent work.

Clearly BIM is not resting on its laurels and examines new sectors in the fishing industry which could be potentially developed. I know BIM has nothing to do with quotas. However, I have always been of the view that we need to examine added-value processing. The work done by BIM in this regard is encouraging. What is the position of the boarfish project? The blue whiting project has been very successful in Killybegs. There may be other fish species that could be used for human or animal consumption. Some of the processing plants are examining new technologies for dealing with boarfish. Will the delegation give us an update on this and quota allocations for this area?

The development of aquaculture and added-value processing is an integral part of Food Harvest 2020. Is it an industry-led bottom-up approach demand for added-value processing or is it being driven by BIM? If it is a case of the former, are the resources available to meet the potential demand?

I know plans are at an advanced state for salmon farming in Galway Bay. What is the status of it? What is the view on the theories being put forward by objectors about sea lice? How does one balance the creation of jobs and meeting the Food Harvest 2020 targets with the environmental concerns of locals in Galway?

The recent announcement by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, on vessel grants has to be welcomed as a significant step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy for it to occur but the grant-aid is still to be welcomed. Will it be rolled out through BIM? If so, will BIM advise us on this?

I have spoken to Údarás na Gaeltachta on seaweed harvesting and the Arramara plant in Galway. It is my understanding that 70,000 tonnes of seaweed would be harvested from Connemara to north Donegal. Can the delegation give us an idea of the potential tonnage? There seems to be a huge demand from China for Irish seaweed. Three products can be got from seaweed: the dried seaweed itself - which is exported, predominantly to China - and derivatives for use in facial products and food. We want to go more towards developing the food side because one gets more bang for one’s buck from this sector. I have met with companies that are interested in exploiting the seaweed resource and exporting the seaweed whole packed to China. What impact will that have on seaweed levels along the coast? Some of the companies working in this area already are concerned it might be over-exploited. Are there any controls in place? Do they need to be put in place? Should the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, the Marine Institute and BIM come up with guidelines to ensure the seaweed natural resource is not exploited cheaply for price and exported and that we do not lose out on the added-value end of things?

I am not sure if Mr. Whooley has any views on that, but controls need to be brought into that sector because if that does not occur, one could end up with a hugely valuable natural resource with many benefits being exploited for financial gain and the benefits being obtained by other jurisdictions outside our control. I thank the delegation for coming here. I am a great supporter of BIM and the work it does. This country and the fishing industry is better off because of the work BIM does. It is always nice to meet with its representatives and we wish them well in the future.


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