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Cabinet agrees 530m shellfish protection plan

IRELAND - The Cabinet has approved new protection measures for Irish shellfish waters which will involve spending 530m over the next 10 years. This comes as a response to a European Court of Justice judgment against Ireland on June 14 which found that the quality of shellfish waters was not up to the required standard.

The Government had until August 14 to respond and it has decided to take extensive action to comply with the regulations. A total of 40 new designated sites and enhanced enforcement mechanisms will improve water quality across our entire coastline, according to Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Eamon Ryan.

He announced that the Government is to select waters which will be designated as Shellfish Growing Waters. This will specify the minimum standards of water quality that must be maintained in bays and inlets around the coast where shellfish are grown.

The Irish Aquaculture industry employs 1,936 people and Irish exports of shellfish reached €126m. The Government's seafood strategy "steering a new course" envisages a further investment of more than €210m in the aquaculture sector over the next five years.

Yesterday's Government decision also provides for the establishment of strict measures and penalties to be applied to ensure the protection of the water quality in these areas and to commit the resources to implement these proposals fully. These penalties will be consistent with similar offences in the EC Drinking Water Regulations.

Public authorities will also be obliged to report information relevant to water quality in the designated areas to the Department, particularly when the water may be affected by activities carried out within their area.

Mr Ryan said:
"In water quality terms, shellfish are essentially the 'canaries down the mine'. Ensuring pollution reduction for shellfish waters will mean enhanced water quality in all these areas."

The Government, he said, was marketing Ireland as the "Seafood Island".