Red Tape Is Costing Shellfish Growers

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
7 October 2010, at 1:00am

IRELAND - Irish mussel farmers meeting in Galway yesterday (Wednesday) have called on the Government to immediately cut away the red tape preventing the creation of much needed jobs and exports in the seafood sector.

Irish Shellfish Association (ISA) Chairman, Flor Harrington addressing the meeting of growers from around the coast called on Ministers Brendan Smith and John Gormley to speed up the process of bay by bay assessment which had been delayed by over a decade to remove the logjam of over 500 licence applications for aquaculture businesses.

“Not only are the unnecessary delays hitting our licences but also preventing farmers from accessing vital capital grant aid for modernisation, improving quality and environmental management,” he said.

The audience at the joint BIM / IFA workshop in Claregalway village heard presentations on improving efficiency, new markets for shellfish in Europe and ongoing environmental monitoring in Irish coastal waters.

The farmed shellfish industry is worth over €50 million in mostly export earnings to coastal communities each year. Mussel growing is a key part of the sector providing quality seafood to the fresh and retail market as well as raw material for the important seafood processing sector at home.

Mussel farmers, in common with other licence aquaculture producers, have been left in limbo by the Department of the Environment’s failure to implement the European Habitats Directive since it was introduced into law in the 1990s.

The Department’s inaction resulted in a European Court of Justice judgement in 2007 which requires the State to carry out “Appropriate Assessments” on all licenced activity in areas designated as SACs (Special Areas of Conservation) or SPAs (Special Protection Areas for birds). At least 80 per cent of all Irish aquaculture takes place in these areas.

Mr Harrington continued: “The industry is very concerned that there appears to be no urgency whatsoever in getting these assessments done. Our members are being left high and dry – unable to get licence renewals or develop their farms to meet the demands of the market or the environment. These delays are costing real jobs and our competitors around Europe are steaming ahead with development in their own sectors.”