Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Aquaculture Industry: Discussion
Ms Teresa Morrissey:
Yes, the EMFF does not stipulate that. Once a business has applied to renew its licence after a ten-year term, those licences are deemed valid in that they are awaiting renewal. There is a massive delay on renewals that is not the fault of the industry. Appropriate assessments have to be done, and rightly so, for SACs and so forth. We have no issue with that. However, the decision not to grant aid is purely a decision of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is not a decision of the European Commission even though it involves European funds.
As regards engaging with the Department and its officials, they are engaging with us now. Engagement has greatly improved. There was probably a difficult period for a number of years where very little meaningful engagement took place. A basic level of engagement did occur but we have certainly improved our relationships and I am happy to say engagement has improved, particularly over the past 12 months. However, we would like to see a lot more action and the Deputy's suggestion that Department officials be invited to the committee to examine how best we could move forward would be helpful.
Deputy Flaherty mentioned job creation. We are directly responsible for about 2,000 jobs. That number could be significantly higher if the licensing issue were ironed out and if policy and regulatory reform were brought about. We could create jobs directly and indirectly. The seafood task force report was published last year as a result of the Brexit for fisheries to see how best we can move forward with the Irish seafood industry. Aquaculture's involvement in the seafood task force involved examining how best aquaculture can alleviate and take up some of the pressures that will arise from the loss of jobs and the displacement of jobs, especially indirect employment, as a result of the Brexit fisheries deal. Aquaculture can make up that shortfall by providing employment in marine engineering, seafood processing, and providing the product for seafood processing that will be lost because of the lost quota in fisheries as a result of Brexit. That was our input to the seafood task force and a number of recommendations were included that relate to job creation in the seafood industry. Aquaculture is the only other seafood producing industry aside from fisheries, which obviously brings fish into the ports and, as we know, has lost some of its quota. As I said, the national strategic plan will not happen unless the regulatory reform is brought about. We will not be able to create those jobs. There is a lot of very positive speak in the seafood task force report, but it will not happen unless it is brought about.