Dáil debates

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Priority Questions

Fisheries Development.

3:00 pm

Photo of Tom SheahanTom Sheahan (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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Question 4: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the national seafood development operational programme 2007 to 2013 will be finalised; if there is a time restriction at an EU level regarding the finalisation of this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43827/09]

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State with special responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries and the Marine, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Clare, Fianna Fail)
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The seafood development measure contained in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 is divided between the EU co-funded operational programme and the national seafood development operational programme. The EU co-funded operational programme has already commenced and has funded the 2008 decommissioning scheme which has allowed 46 boats to be decommissioned with grant aid totalling €36.6 million already paid during 2008 and 2009.

The national seafood development operational programme 2007 to 2013 was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Following this consultation process, issues were raised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of the Central Fisheries Board regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms.

This Department with its agencies working with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government developed a plan to deliver compliance with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan was submitted to DG Environment for consideration and has been subject to detailed discussions. While DG Environment had indicated that it was in principle supportive of the plan, it has recently advised that it remains concerned about certain aspects of the planned approach to delivering compliance for aquaculture licensing. I will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address the outstanding concerns of DG Environment.

In that regard, I secured €1 million for to the collection of baseline data for assessment purposes in 2009 in addition to funding provided by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Following an EU tender, the Marine Institute appointed personnel to operate the data collection exercise. This process is ongoing and will support compliance of aquaculture and wild fisheries with the terms of the Birds and Habitat Directives.

In regard to sea lice issues, I have met the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, on this issue, most recently early this month. I advised on the significant progress made in regard to managing sea lice levels on salmon farms and the concerns of the fisheries boards were also set down. I hope there is a better understanding of the issues involved from the perspectives of both Departments and that on this basis we can find a satisfactory resolution to the concerns raised

Grants payable under the national seafood development operational programme 2007 to 2013 will be fully funded by the Exchequer. There are no EU time restrictions on the adoption of the operational programme. Once the operational programme has been adopted, the individual schemes under the programme will have to be notified to the EU under EU state aid guidelines.

Photo of Tom SheahanTom Sheahan (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State said there are no time restrictions. Is there any hope of getting an approximate date or any indication of when this will be finalised? It is almost December 2009 and this programme runs from 2007 to 2013. What EU funding or co-funding has been lost due to the fact we do not have an operational programme in place?

The Minister of State said he received €1 million in 2009 for data collection. I remind him that €5 million was sent back which was not spent on surveys on aquaculture. This is an operational programme for fisheries but the Minister of State's reply would suggest he has no input into it. DG Environment, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, seem to have the clout and the decision-making ability in regard to the operational programme. Will the Minister of State indicate a date and state how much funding has been lost by not having the operational programme in place?

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State with special responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries and the Marine, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I am assured that no funding under the co-funding programme has been lost or is at risk arising from the delays encountered here. The Deputy mentioned €5 million which was apparently provided for aquaculture surveys. I understand that was approximately 12 years ago and that the funding was not used for the purpose for which it was provided.

In regard to the work under way, a considerable amount of it is scientific in nature and is conducted by, or on behalf of, the Marine Institute on behalf of this Department and some additional work is done with the national parks and wildlife service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am satisfied with the level of co-operation with the agencies and the Departments at this point.

Photo of Tom SheahanTom Sheahan (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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I am not satisfied. Up to €10 million per annum in funding is being lost which could be drawn down if an operational programme for fisheries was in place. Jobs are also being lost. Is that not the case?

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State with special responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries and the Marine, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I understand no EU funding of any kind is at risk. Of course, if the programme were in place, we would be in a position to provide funding for aquaculture and sea and inland fisheries sectors and processors. We are working very hard towards achieving that.

While I am satisfied with the level of co-operation between the Departments and the agencies at this point, I wish it was possible to have more positive engagement with the fisheries and aquaculture interests and the environmental NGOs and that we could manage to expedite our dealings with DG Environment at Brussels level.

Photo of Tom SheahanTom Sheahan (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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Up to €10 million per year in co-funding is being lost.