‘Root and branch’ reform of the aquaculture licence application process is necessary, according to a report (Review of the Aquaculture Licensing Process) published by the Independent Aquaculture Licence Review Committee.

The reform needs to be ‘comprehensive in scope’ and to focus on ‘immediate actions which can produce results in the short term as well as initiatives which will bear fruit in the longer term’.

Leeane 2017

Killary Fjord, Co Galway. Action plan prosposes 24 recommendations to increase Ireland’s aquaculture output by 45,000 tonnes. Photo G Mills 

It concludes that an implementation strategy ‘will assign responsibility for recommendations, accountability and set milestones for delivery and identify the necessary resources to support the implementation process’.

For the past ten years, salmon and shellfish farmers have been campaigning “non-stop for a fairer and faster licensing system”, remarked Joe Healy, IFA President.

Urgent reform would bring Ireland’s licensing process “into line with modern, professional and responsive permitting services at work throughout the industry worldwide and in many similarly complex areas at national level”, he added.

“Minister Creed and his department must implement all of the recommendations as soon as possible,” he said. 

The report is a “significant and serious blueprint for the survival and development of a key food sector in the rural economy. It particularly addresses many of the deficiencies and delays that have cost the industry millions of euro and hundreds of jobs,” Joe Healy stressed.

Welcoming the report, Michael Mulloy, Irish Shellfish Association, said achievement of a 20-year licence term was “hugely significant” for the sector, and would allow for “proper business management” and succession planning in the industry.

“As well as the pre-assessment procedure, we welcome more transparency in public consultation and the emphasis on seeking managerial and financial assistance in advance of new licences being granted, as well as proof of activity on all existing licensed sites to allow for streamlined commercial use.”

Damien O’Keeffe, Irish Salmon Growers’ Association chairman, said the report contained many welcome proposals for simplification, increased transparency and customer service for both land-based and marine finfish farming.

“The ability to implement best technology and environmental practice without expensive reviews is crucial to encourage investment and a high quality industry. The 20-year licence proposal is a huge step and a majoar achievement for industry stability and planning.”

The IALRC was established in December 2016 as part of FoodWise 2025 and the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development which proposes 24 actions to grow production by 45,000 tonnes.

Aquaculture production increased by 9% (volume) to reach 44,000 tonnes in 2016 and first point-of-sale values increased by roughly 13% to €167m. The primary driver was ongoing development of the gigas oyster and salmon industry. 

2017 BIM Annual Aquaculture Survey