Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Marine Institute Data.

Peadar Clohessy

Question:

35 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for the Marine the staff, if any, which have been appointed to the Marine Institute to date.

Martin Cullen

Question:

38 Mr. Cullen asked the Minister for the Marine the proportion, if any, of the budget allocation for the Marine Institute which has been spent to date; and if he will itemise the spending so far.

Helen Keogh

Question:

42 Ms Keogh asked the Minister for the Marine if the forthcoming annual report of the Marine Institute will be made public.

Peadar Clohessy

Question:

50 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for the Marine when it is intended to appoint a Chief Executive to the Marine Institute.

Richard Bruton

Question:

60 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Marine when it is intended to appoint a Chief Executive to the Marine Institute; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35, 38, 42, 50 and 60 together.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity in replying to a number of questions from Deputies relating to the Marine Institute, to re-emphasise the high priority which is being given to developing our national marine research capability. I am also committed to ensuring that the institute, which will have the central role in meeting this challenge, is brought fully into operation as quickly as possible.

Good incremental progress has been made since the appointment of the board some eight months ago and I am hopeful that outstanding matters can be advanced fairly quickly to enable the institute to become a full working reality without further delay.

The strong commitment to strengthening the national marine research capability is reflected in the significant research funding provision in the Department Votes in 1992 and 1993 in addition to the grant-in-aid of £160,000 provided for the immediate setting-up costs of the institute this year.

The gross funding provision of £2.896 million for marine research and development in 1993 reflects the marine research measures being funded under Ireland's STRIDE operational programme as well as the ongoing marine research programmes of the fisheries research centre. It recognises the development potential of the marine research area as well as the acknowledged need to apply additional resources to secure and develop that potential. This significant level of funding is in the process of being transferred to the Marine Institute and will provide a solid basis for the work of the institute in co-ordinating and executing marine research priorities.

We are also seeking to underpin the present level of investment in marine research facilities and programmes with further support from EC Structural Funds over the next six years. In that regard I take this opportunity to thank the board of the institute for its constructive advice and input into the preparation of proposals as part of the national development plan. I am confident that these funding proposals for the marine research area will stimulate additional development and related job creation in the marine sector. In the meantime, I understand that the board is pressing ahead with a review and audit of national marine research capacity and priorities. This review will be critical in determining the content of programmes to be undertaken in the immediate years ahead.

The appointment of a chief executive and the transfer of staff to the institute will be critical steps forward in bringing it into full and effective operation. Following recent ministerial approval of the terms and conditions which will apply to the appointment of a chief executive, I understand that the board intends to begin the process of recruitment shortly. Discussions are continuing with employee organisations in relation to the terms and conditions of employment for staff who move from the fisheries research centre to the institute. I am committed to ensuring that all genuine concerns are met in a spirit of consensus and goodwill which will enable a smooth and successful transfer as soon as possible.

We have an excellent and committed board which is working hard to place the institute on a solid foundation from the start and is already proceeding to deliver on its remit to advise on, co-ordinate and focus the national marine research effort. The institute's first annual report can be expected on completion of its first full year of operation, towards the end of 1993 and I assure the Deputies that the report will be made publicly available.

Finally, I am very pleased to announce that this week I appointed Mr. Matt Murphy, Director of Sherkin Island research station, to be a member of the board of the institute. Mr. Murphy has an unrivalled record in pressing the importance of marine research in national terms and I know he will bring enthusiasm and commitment to the work of the institute.

I thank the Minister for a very full reply.

Will the question of the conflicting claims in regard to aquaculture be one of the priorities of the institute given that aquaculture has such fantastic potential for added value and job creation? What connection or relationship will there be between the institute and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara whose task it is to promote the consumption of fish at home and internationally?

I do not wish to pre-empt what is stated in two questions further down the Order Paper.

Let us be careful not to pre-empt those questions.

There will be cordial relations between all aspects of the aquaculture sector and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. I have no objection to that and I am sure neither will the institute. The thrust of the institute is to create an atmosphere in which fishing can become an important part of our economy.

When exactly will the chief executive officer be appointed? This matter has been ongoing for a long time. Will the Minister agree that it is a pointless exercise appointing an institute if there is no chief executive officer to run and manage it? Will the Minister also agree it is essential that the institute be up and running as soon as possible as this country has lost enough to date because of a lack of proper development of our fisheries industry?

Terms have been agreed in regard to the appointment of a chief executive officer, which is imminent.

Has an individual been appointed?

The terms have been agreed and a person will be appointed shortly. Of course, I agree that moneys invested in research are important. I have no objection to what the Deputy outlined. We have fallen behind on research, particularly in the fisheries area, that is one of the reasons for setting up the institute.

I welcome the Minister's expectation in regard to condial relations between the new institute and An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and hope that will be the case. What I want to find out is what working relationship there will be, given that the institute will be engaged in research, not for the sake of research, but presumably for the purpose of ensuring the protection of species and providing for the commercial exploitation of our fish industry. Clearly since the remit of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is to promote the consumption of fish both internationally and at home, there is a need not just for a cordial relationship but for a close relationship between the institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Will the Minister indicate whether there will be a structured relationship rather than simply a cordial one?

Finally, I would put it to the Minister that the major obstacle to the development of our aquaculture industry is the conflicting claims about the effects of fish farming. It is essential that these conflicting claims be resolved and steps taken to ensure that our fish farming industry can grow.

I have the greatest confidence that the board members will look at all aspects of activity the institute takes on. That is one of the reasons I appointed Mr. Matt Murphy who will bring enthusiasm to the board. Professor Maire Mulcahy, Chairperson of the board, is also an excellent person in her own right and a valuable person to have on that board. I have the greatest confidence that aquaculture will be a major priority of the board in any future research into that area.

Will the Minister use his good offices to ensure that the institute investigates the ferocious outbreak of sea lice in the white trout population along the west coast?

That problem is already being tackled.

Would the Minister consider including on the board of the institute somebody who is also a member of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara?

All places on the board are filled at the moment but we will look at that possibility if and when a vacancy occurs.