Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the latest estimates regarding the potential oil and gas reserves within Ireland’s 652,000 square kilometres of offshore; and his plans to encourage greater exploration.
Reply from Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd (left): While petroleum systems assessments for the Irish offshore frontier basins based on geological criteria and regional comparisons may indicate significant potential reserves, I must stress that the only commercial discoveries of petroleum made in the Irish offshore since exploration began in the early seventies are the three producing gas fields in the Kinsale area, along with the Corrib Gas Field which is currently being developed. To date, there have been no commercial discoveries of oil in the Irish offshore. Extensive exploration, including the drilling of hundreds of exploration wells, would be necessary in order to be able to quantify, or at least get a better understanding of the extent of our reserves.
Government policy in this area is directed at maximising the benefits to Ireland from exploration and production of our indigenous oil and gas resources, while ensuring that activities are conducted safely and with due regard to their impact on the environment and other land/sea users.
To this end my Department encourages exploration investment through an active and targeted promotion campaign, regular licensing rounds, supporting petroleum research projects that deepen knowledge of the petroleum potential of the Irish offshore and by maintaining an appropriate fiscal regime. In that regard I recently announced the headline details for the next licensing round to be held in Ireland's Atlantic Margin, with a closing date of September 2015. Providing advance details of the round will encourage industry to devote resources to preparing for participation in the round.
Conscious that the existence of quality data is key to encouraging exploration, last June my Department, in conjunction with exploration company Eni launched a major seismic acquisition programme to provide a regional grid of high quality seismic data over our Atlantic frontier basins, particularly in the Southern Porcupine, Rockall and Hatton basins. It is by far the largest regional seismic survey to be acquired in the Irish offshore and was designed to complement existing datasets and to fill data gaps that exist. The survey will add to the understanding of the petroleum potential of our frontier basins and should provide a boost to our efforts to attract international mobile exploration investment to Ireland in the next licensing round.
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress that has been made through mapping and other means by his Department’s underwater archaeology unit to establish the location of the estimated 15,000 shipwrecks lying in Irish territorial waters.
Reply from Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan: My Department’s National Monuments Service, through its Underwater Archaeology Unit, has been researching shipwrecks in Irish territorial waters since 1999 and, from documentary sources and local research and knowledge has, to date, built up a database of 17,000 wrecks, of which some 3,000 have been accurately located.
With the co-operation and assistance of the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute, the identity and location of a further 300 wrecks has been identified and verified through high resolution seabed mapping techniques. Further analysis of data already collected and continuing research is expected to increase the number of known shipwreck sites as time goes on.
Work is currently being finalised on the development of a shipwrecks database for inclusion in the National Monuments Service website, www.archaeology.ie, where it will be available to the general public. My Department has also produced two related publications in recent years: The Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland: Louth to Wicklow and Warships, U-Boats and Liners, the latter in co-operation with the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his policy regarding the culling of seals to protect fish stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Transferred for answer to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan (pictured): There are two species of seals in Irish waters - the Harbour or Common Seal and the more numerous Grey Seal. Both are included in a list of species protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Consequently, Ireland is obliged to monitor and report on their status, including in relation to their population, every six years. The next such report is due this month. The assessments of seals will be available shortly on the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department at www.npws.ie.
My Department has carried out a number of surveys, including aerial surveys, on the population of both the common and grey seals in the past number of years. All data arising from these surveys from the previous years are now being analysed in advance of the forthcoming report to the European Commission.
The data from both the Harbour and Grey Seal monitoring programmes will be comparable with previously-collected data and will inform my Department’s view as to the current status of the respective populations.
In terms of ascertaining the likely effects of seals on the fishing industry, I will be informed not only by the population monitoring undertaken by my Department, but also by investigations into seal-fisheries interactions that have been commissioned by Inland Fisheries Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara and I understand that both organisations will report later in 2013.
While seals are protected under the Wildlife Acts, licences may be obtained under section 42 of the Wildlife Act to hunt seals where damage is being caused. Licences are issued in response to specific applications and each application is considered on its merits. This redress is available to individual fishermen to control damage to fisheries by seals at particular locations.
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide funding for urgent improvements to the harbour slipway at Dunmore East, County Waterford, in view of the importance of this work being carried out before the summer.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney: The harbour at Dunmore East is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department. Funding is made available on an annual basis by my Department to the Fishery Harbour Centres, including Dunmore East, via the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Capital Development Programme. The allocation of funding for projects within the 2013 Programme is currently under consideration for each of the Fishery Harbour Centres.
Thursday, 21 February, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the input, if any, his Department has had into the review of Irish ports with a view to ensuring better regional balance within our €124 billion export sector.
Reply from Minister Richard Bruton: In the context of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012 I asked the Competition Authority to carry out a study of the ports sector in Ireland. As part of this study, the Competition Authority met with a number of Government Departments and agencies, industry representatives, port companies, terminal operators, shipping companies, stevedores, freight forwarders, hauliers and other port users.
The Authority also undertook a public consultation and I understand that the submissions received are currently being examined by the Authority. I am aware that the Authority met with and received a joint response from Forfás, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. I expect the Authority’s report to be published by Q4 of this year.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who is responsible for policy development and implementation in relation to ports, is also engaged in a review of national ports policy. I understand that Forfás, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland also made a joint submission to a public consultation that formed part of this review. I expect that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will take account of the Competition Authority’s study in due course.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.