* To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will be continuing with all the recommendations of the Irish Seafood national Programme 2007 to 2013 with particular reference to its exclusion of financial assistance to marine salmon aquaculture licence holders in view of concerns over sea lice.
– Seán Kyne.
The Irish National Seafood Programme was published in July 2010 and sets out a framework for Exchequer grant aid for certain aspects of the seafood industry, including aquaculture and seafood processing. The National Programme is complimentary to the Seafood Development Operational Programme 2007-2013, which sets out a framework for EU co-funded grant aid to certain other aspects of the seafood industry, primarily fleet decommissioning. Both Programmes seek to implement the National Strategic Plan for the Seafood Sector for the period 2007-2013.
In the course of the public and statutory consultation process of the strategic environmental assessment of the National Programme, concerns were raised by the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources concerning the negative impact on migratory wild salmonids from sea lice emanating from salmon farms. The then Minister agreed with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that until such time as the sea lice issue has been satisfactorily resolved, no financial assistance would be given to marine salmon aquaculture licence holders during the course of this National Programme, on a precautionary basis.
A policy document entitled “A Strategy for Improved Pest Control on Irish Salmon Farms” was developed by my Department, in consultation with the Marine Institute and BIM in 2008. The Strategy included a number of recommendations to provide for enhanced sea lice control, including the establishment of a National Implementation Group to oversee the implementation of the Strategy and its recommendations. This Group was established in December 2008 and its report was published by my Department in December 2010. That Report concluded that over the course of its work, the vast majority of salmon aquaculture sites maintained sea lice levels below treatment trigger levels and, in all instances when notices to treat were issued, effective treatment plans were put into practice.
Despite the positive conclusions of the National Implementation Group, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources wished to see further progress before their concerns were allayed. My Department is keeping in regular contact with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on this issue.