Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 02 November, 1994

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Fish Farming.

[1483] 31. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for the Marine the total moneys which will be available to grant-aid fish farming activities during 1994; and the amount of money which will be used to rélocate some of the current fish farms. [46/94]

Mr. Andrews: Under the National Development Plan an aquaculture development programme is being put in place to cover the period 1994-99. It is envisaged that total investment under the programme will comprise up to 50 per cent EU funding and at least 5 per cent national aid with the balance provided through private investment. The planned investment has the potential to generate more than 1,000 new permanent jobs in the aquaculture sector. A significant number of jobs will also be created downstream in added value processing and marketing and in the supplies and services area. Growth in output of the shellfish sector is the major objective of the programme.

The Operational Programme for aquaculture is awaiting the approval of the EU Commission which is expected very shortly. Pending that approval I am not in a position to give details of the grant aid available for the remainder of this and future years. The amount of grant aid will also, critically, depend on the number of eligible projects submitted and approved in each year of the plan.

The role of Exchequer funding is primarily to support and stimulate the pace of private investment as well as to maximise the drawdown of EU funding for the aquaculture sector. An acceleration of development will bring forward job creation and help us to meet the considerable market opportunities which exist for Irish aquaculture production. Support will also be geared to meeting the policy objectives of better quality and improved environmental and management practices.

In that context I can advise the Deputy that capital investment by the [1484] salmon farming industry in fallowing sites and other alternative sites and technologies will also be eligible for funding. Any such proposals put forward by the industry for support will be duly and sympathetically considered under the programme.

Mr. Bradford: Has the Minister's Department or the EU drawn up proposals concerning the relocation of fish farms? Is his Department in favour of such relocation and does he think financial assistance can be provided for this purpose?

Mr. Andrews: This has been part of the ongoing argument under the heading “salvation of the sea trout”.

Mr. Carey: A magnificent fish.

Mr. Andrews: Indeed. I caught a few of them towards the end of the season but under my conservation regulations I had to put them back.

The recommendations of the sea trout task force have been fully implemented and should be given an opportunity to take their course. In fairness to them, salmon farm owners have responded to these recommendations in a very positive fashion. Two years ago a major controversy arose about the possible extinction of the white trout or sea trout. I addressed that issue head on and have gone a long way towards solving it. The proper approach is to strike a balance which ensures that the white trout or sea trout survive and that salmon farms, which preferably are not located near the estuaries or rivers, are given a chance to survive. If they respond to the regime in place in relation to hygiene, water management and fallowing it would be beneficial to improving the quality and quantity of our farm salmon and ensure the survival of sea trout, which is part of our heritage, not for this generation but for future generations. As an example of what has been achieved one had only to look at Waterville this year where we [1485] had the highest ever inflow of sea trout in 60 years. That in itself tells a tale.