June 9, 2015
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.
May 6, 2015
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.