Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department will allocate resources to expedite the processing of long-standing aquaculture licence applications within the Waterford Estuary once the Appropriate Assessment phase is completed, in view of the fact that such licences are required to access vital capital grant assistance.
REPLY (Minister Simon Coveney)
My Department is working with the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to achieve full compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives through a multi-annual work programme.
This programme requires the gathering of the necessary baseline data appropriate to the Conservation Objectives of aquaculture sites located within designated Natura areas.
This data collection programme, which is substantially complete, together with the setting of Conservation Objectives, will enable all new and renewal aquaculture applications to be assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
An Appropriate Assessment has to be carried out before any aquaculture licensing determination may be made in respect of aquaculture applications for sites in designated Natura areas.
The Appropriate Assessment process in respect of the Waterford Estuary, which is located within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), is expected to be completed by the Marine Institute in mid / late summer 2015 .
When completed, my Department will examine the outcomes of the Appropriate Assessment with a view to formulating policy recommendations in respect of individual licences held by operators in the Estuary.
Such policy recommendations will reflect full engineering, scientific, environmental, legal and public policy aspects of each licence application.
The Appropriate Assessment process represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue.
My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all aquaculture applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.