Thursday, 14 November 2013
Aquaculture Licences Applications
12. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the assessment of Waterford Estuary and Bannow Bay as suitable sites for oyster farming; if he is willing to meet with a person (details supplied) to discuss this matter further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48210/13]
This question pertains to a particular individual, Tomas Ffrench, with whom I have been dealing in Wexford. It has been a year since I asked the Minister, Deputy Coveney, whether he would consider meeting this man simply to hear his concerns. It does a Minister no harm to be in contact with people who work at the grass roots. The Minister has stated he is busy and I do not doubt he is a very busy and effective Minister. It is disappointing, none the less, that one year later, the Minister has not seen fit to meet this man. One can learn something from everyone one meets.
The bays referred to by the Deputy are designated as special areas of conservation under the European Union habitats directive or special protection areas under the EU birds directive or both. All applications in Natura 2000 areas are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU birds and habitats directives. The assessment process of aquaculture applications is being dealt with bay by bay. This process includes a detailed data collection in 91 bays or estuaries, detailed analysis of raw data collected, the setting of conservation objectives by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in respect of each site, the carrying out of appropriate assessments of each licence application or fishery plan against the detailed conservation objectives set, and a determination of licences and fisheries on the basis of the appropriate assessment and other relevant factors. Conservation objectives have been set by the NPWS for a significant number of bays, including Waterford Estuary and Bannow Bay. The appropriate assessments are being carried out by the Marine Institute on behalf of the Department and, to date, five bays have been assessed, namely, Castlemaine, Dundalk, Roaringwater, Lough Swilly and Donegal.
As outlined, the Department has been working closely with the Marine Institute, BIM and the NPWS to achieve full compliance with the birds and habitats directives through a multi-annual work programme. A key feature of this work is the identification of prioritised bays, based on the number of aquaculture sites, the ready availability of scientific data and other factors. The prioritised list of bays is kept under continuous review by my Department to facilitate the use of scientific and other resources on a flexible basis across the full range of bays, if deemed necessary. This approach is consistent with the maintenance of a prioritised list, which includes Bannow Bay and Waterford Estuary. It is hoped, therefore, that the appropriate assessments for these bays will be completed during 2014, subject to the ready availability of scientific data and other factors. Addressing the issue of aquaculture licensing in Natura 2000 areas is a key priority for my Department, and the Deputy can be assured that every effort is being made to expedite the completion of the overall process having regard to all the complexities involved. My Department’s officials are available to meet the individual referred to by the Deputy to discuss the matter, if this is considered helpful.
I am glad to hear the departmental officials will meet him. This guy has been farming oysters since 1993, has been exporting them to France for 17 years, and they are considered to be among the highest quality oysters available on the market. Not alone is this man giving employment, he is involved in the export trade and is enhancing Ireland's reputation in this industry abroad. I believe he has been treated unfairly over a long period and I certainly will convey to him that the Department is prepared to meet him. The Minister of State might let me know when that meeting can be facilitated.