18th December

Excessive bureaucracy blocking marine jobs and exports

IFA president, Eddie Downey, says jobs and export targets in peripheral coastal ares cannot be met without "radical streamlining and reprioritisation of the bureaucratic bottlenecks stalling the industry".

In a report published March 17, Removing Barriers to Irish Aquaculture Development, the Irish Farmers' Association icalls on government to actively support the Food Harvest 2020 aims to increase aquaculture output, 'starting with a reduction in the number of competiting agencies and officials holding back the sector.'

Richie Flynn; IFA Aquaculture; Eddie Downey, IFA President, Jerry Gallagher, IFA Aquaculture Chairman and Jan Feenstra, Irish Salmon Growners' Association

Richie Flynn; IFA Aquaculture; Eddie Downey, IFA President, Jerry Gallagher, IFA Aquaculture Chairman and Jan Feenstra, Irish Salmon Growners' Association

The report highlights delays in fish farm licencing decisions that are costing areas up to €60m in lost investment over five years. And it criticises delays costing the economy 'tens of millions in unfilled orders for fish and shellfish', as well as 2,000 skilled and semi-skilled jobs with a 'huge impact on peripheral local services and infrastructure'.

The report contrasts Ireland with Scotland which is governed  by the same EU rules and where the Orkney Islands farm more salmon than all of Ireland. Salmon production provides vital jobs in coastal areas of Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork and Kerry and the product is widely recognised on the organic market.

"The logjam can only be broken by putting clear agreed steps driven by economic and employment targets where the delivery of jobs in a proven sustatnable industry take precidence," remarked IFA Aquaculture chairman, Jerry Gallagher. 

"The six agencies, nine statutory consultees, four government departments and seven-person appeals board... take endless months and years arguing their own vested interests."

Jan Feenstra, Irish Salmon Growers' Association said the report highlighted "concrete examples" of failures at national level impacting on confidence, investment and growth in the industry. 

"Decisions that take months and are dealt with transparently in the salmon sector in Norway and Scotland can take many years here. Unilateral policies that prevent us from fulfilling customer needs and employing more people have reduced the size of the sector from a high of over 20,000 tonnes in 2001 to half that output today. 

While acknowledging that the focus of licensing has been on individual bays with large numbers of licensees now granted, "this should not detract from the fact that hundreds of good farmers with excellent products and business plans with applications that will take many more years to process," Eddie Downey stressed.

"Management momentum must be urgently injected into the system. Every week our members are declining good commercial businesses and investment because of a lack of decisive action and hands-on management of the licensing problem. 

"Long-term confidence can only be achieved with a trimmed down bureaucracy guided by a clear plan for jobs and exports under a streamlined and business-friendly licencing process," he said. 

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