Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the large number of individual Shellfish Aquaculture Licensing applications awaiting approval in respect of Dungarvan Harbour, County Waterford will be decided upon by his Department in view of the fact that determinations were expected in the first half of 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY (Minister Simon Coveney)
The applications referred to by the Deputy are in respect of sites located within Dungarvan Harbour which is designated as a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 site).
M y Department is constrained by law from issuing or renewing aquaculture licences for sites located within Natura 2000 areas until such time as an `Appropriate Assessment' has been conducted to assess the potential effects of the proposed aquaculture activities on the conservation objectives for that Natura site.
The licensing process must take full account of the outcome of that assessment in reaching a determination on any particular licence application.
My Department has been working closely with the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to achieve full compliance with the relevant Directives through a multi-annual work programme.
A key factor of this Work Programme is the identification of prioritised bays based on the number of aquaculture sites, the ready availability of scientific data and other factors.
The Appropriate Assessment report has now been completed by the Marine Institute in respect of Dungarvan Harbour.
The licensing process in Dungarvan Harbour is at an advanced stage. The examination, analysis, evaluation and findings phase following the carrying out of the appropriate assessment and public and statutory consultation has been completed.
However, final licensing determinations have yet to be made pending completion of investigations in relation to underwater archaeology, which was raised as an issue by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at the statutory consultation phase.
On foot of this issue an underwater archaeological survey is currently being carried out and it is anticipated that this will be completed within a short timeframe.