Irish authority clarifies salmon farm applications

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Licencing quagmire still complicated.

On Thursday evening, Mowi Ireland reported that it can now expand operations in Bantry Bay, Cork.

But the Irish proverb “there is not a tree in Heaven that is higher than the tree of patience” comes to mind.

Mowi Ireland (then Marine Harvest Ireland) first applied for the licence way back in June 2011. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine originally granted the licence in 2015, but this was appealed to the Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board.

Demand
Though Mowi can now develop and invest EUR 6 million in the new site for organic salmon in Bantry Bay. But the company said that “the single biggest issue facing Irish salmon producers today is that they cannot meet the demand for their product”.

Visual Impression of proposed development. IMAGE: Mowi Ireland

Last week, the Journal reported that 22 salmon farms are currently operating with expired licences and without environmental impact assessments having been carried out. Eight farms have been operating for between 10 and 15 years as they wait for their licences to be renewed.

The publication wrote that Mowi has 12 sites are operating without licences because of this backlog.

Clarity
But, following up, a spokesperson for Mowi told SalmonBusiness that the company does in fact have licences for the sites in question. “It’s probably a query which is best directed to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. As the licencing authority, they’re best placed to provide clarity on their own system,” he said.

SalmonBusiness then got in touch with the department who pointed the finger at the EU for the origins of its salmon farm licencing quagmire.

“In 2007 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a negative judgement against Ireland for breaches of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. In order to address the judgement, a process was agreed with the European Commission which would lead to full compliance by Ireland with the relevant EU Directives,” said a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine spokesperson.

“National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Department and its Agencies agreed a ‘Roadmap towards the Management of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Natura 2000 sites’ which involved putting in place a system for data collection, the definition of scientific interests and the relevant assessment of aquaculture licence applications in Natura 2000 areas,” he added.

Processed in the normal way

From then on, a “time-consuming of collection of data” spanned several years.

“Although licence applications continue to be processed, the shellfish licensing backlog has been effectively eliminated as an issue affecting the industry,” he said and added that it has “actively engaged in the elimination of the marine finfish licensing backlog”.

“The department has received a large number of EIS/EIARs (environmental impact statement/environmental impact assessment. ed) reports recently in respect of marine finfish applications and these applications are being processed in the normal way. This involves statutory and public consultation processes together with appropriate environmental impact assessment procedures in accordance with the applicable national and EU legislation,” added the spokesperson.