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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 29 Mar 2001

Vol. 533 No. 5

Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 2000 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Early enactment of the Bill is needed to fill two important gaps in the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, to enable the independent Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to do its work in as effective, efficient and transparent a way as possible. The board is a key element of the comprehensive and transparent aquaculture licensing arrangements established under the 1997 Act. The Bill was passed by Seanad Éireann on 20 June 2000. Before dealing with the Bill, it is appropriate for me to comment on aquaculture licensing generally. My concluding remarks will point the way for accelerating the sustainable growth of aquaculture which is in the national interest.

A solid licensing framework is in place to facilitate the sustainable development of aquaculture to its full potential. Aquaculture provides more than 3,000 jobs, has an annual income of £67 million and has enormous potential for increases in both areas. I am determined to ensure that the licensing framework works as effectively and speedily as possible in the interests of both the industry and the public whose support is essential.

Since I spoke here in December 1998 on the Fisheries and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill, 1998, I have secured substantial progress in processing the huge arrears of licence applications which had built up over the years while the licensing law was being reformed and made operational. A total of 347 licences, comprising 319 aquaculture licences and 28 trial licences for aquaculture purposes, have been granted compared with an annual average of approximately 70 licences granted for aquaculture purposes in previous years. Licensing decisions have been made in a further 35 cases, of which 30 await the end of the one month appeal period before licences can issue in any event, and five await the determination of the independent Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board on appeals.

There are approximately 250 applications on hands, which my Department aims to progress and pass to me for decision as quickly as possible after completion of the necessary consultation and assessment procedures. The rigorous assessment of all licence applications is fair to all concerned and is designed to ensure that only sustainable projects proceed. Applications for major expansion of marine finfish farms must be accompanied by a comprehensive environmental impact statement for consideration by the public and specialist organisations. Inevitably, larger marine aquaculture developments will only be feasible further off-shore. The more complex or controversial the application, the longer it takes to process. In straightforward new cases, usually small in nature, a decision is made within three to four months, and sometimes earlier if no objections or concerns emerge during the necessary consultation process.

My Department and I, in consultation with the aquaculture industry, are keeping the licensing procedures under close review to ensure that good practices will continue to prevail both in the preparation and processing of licence applications and necessary supporting documentation. A suite of detailed monitoring and other protocols for matters such as water quality and benthic monitoring and amelioration, audit of farms, sea lice monitoring and control and fallowing of sites has already been devised for the marine finfish sector in consultation with the industry and other interested parties and made part-and-parcel of aquaculture licences.

Work is proceeding on devising further protocols for both the marine finfish and marine shellfish sectors, with priority for visual impact assessment and lighting and marking of structures.

The industry and my Department intend to address priority licensing issues concerning freshwater aquaculture later this year in consultation with other permitting authorities in order to streamline the permitting and monitoring procedures and to allow the sector to develop to its full potential in a sustainable way.

Enforcement of licence conditions and action against illegal operations will be intensified in order to ensure proper standards of aquaculture operations generally and close off potential sources of complaints for other operators or the public generally. Full industry co-operation and good practices will, of course, enhance the public acceptability of aquaculture operations and pave the way for the continued growth of the sector.

The provision of an independent statutory appeals mechanism, as well as a mechanism for public consultation and consultation with specialist organisations, is a key feature of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. It is essential that the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board performs its duties efficiently and effectively and has the necessary powers to do so.

The board has dealt with a substantial caseload since it was established on 30 June 1998, with 62 cases already determined. In two cases, the board did not uphold the ministerial decision to license. Only two of the 13 ministerial decisions to refuse to grant a licence for shellfish operations were appealed to the board which upheld the refusal in one case and has yet to determine the appeal in the other case, as well as appeals against five ministerial decisions to license marine finfish operations. I commend the board for its vital work. In all, 68 out of 404 ministerial decisions have been appealed under the 1997 Act.

The board has pointed to the lack of any power or obligation in the 1997 Act for its refusal to explain determinations made, in contrast to the specific statutory obligation on An Bord Pleanála under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts. This has created obvious difficulty for licence applicants and for me as Minister with responsibility for national policy on aquaculture licensing and so calls for early remedy via the Bill. It is only proper, in the interests of transparency and fairness of procedures, that all future determinations of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board shall be explained when made, and that the board shall, on request, give a summary of the main reasons and considerations for past determinations. That is the purpose of section 2 of the Bill which inserts a new subsection (8) in section 40 of the 1997 Act dealing with appeals to the board. Only minimal additional work for the board is expected from those necessary provisions.

The other priority matter concerns inspection powers. The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board requested a clearer statutory statement of its own power, and the power of any consultant or adviser engaged by it, to visit any land or foreshore or area or water to which an appeal relates, whether or not an oral hearing of the appeal is to be held. There is doubt that the current inspection power may be limited to appeal cases where an oral hearing is held, which was not the intention. I am delighted to be able to accede to the board's request in a timely way via section 4 of the Bill which provides comprehensive inspection powers for the board and for any consultant or adviser engaged to perform functions on behalf of the board. A number of consequential amendments to the 1997 Act are provided for in sections 3 and 5 of the Bill.

More importantly, since the Bill was passed by Seanad Éireann on 20 June 2000, the Attorney General has confirmed that the 1997 Act, as worded, precludes the board from recruiting its own staff directly. The volume of board business was not anticipated when the 1997 Act was being prepared and is such, and likely to be such, as to require flexible staff recruitment arrangements which my Department is unable to provide by the expedient of temporary assignment of staff. I will, therefore, be proposing amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage, modelled on the staffing provisions for An Bord Pleanála in sections 120, 121, 122 and 123 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. I will be taking the opportunity to propose additional amendments so as to copperfasten long-standing arrangements for the renewal, consolidation and assignment of licences for aquaculture purposes.

Section 6 of the Bill requires amendment to take account of the enactment of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 2000, and delay in enactment of the present Bill until this year. The text of the proposed amendments will be circulated as soon as possible after the Second Stage is completed.

In relation to sustainable aquaculture development, the aquaculture licensing framework in place and the important provisions of the Bill before this House are an essential element of our strategy to develop aquaculture as a high quality and high value contributor to local and national development as soon as possible. My vision is of Ireland being the premier producer of top quality aquaculture products for the European and global markets.

The Government is committed to the further sustainable development of aquaculture and has earmarked £25 million in the National Development Plan, 2000 to 2006, for aquaculture, which is more than double the funding made available under the last round of Structural Funds. Details of the investment scheme for aquaculture were deposited in the Oireachtas Library last month. More than a doubling of annual aquaculture production is projected in that period, that is, to over 95,000 tonnes, as compared with 44,000 tonnes currently.

A strong partnership between my Department, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Marine Institute and Udarás na Gaeltachta, the industry and myself will ensure that we achieve our objectives for the aquaculture sector and position the industry to compete successfully in growing international markets. Even more innovation and sustained efforts will be required also in the longer term so that aquaculture can reach its potential as a provider of significant income and jobs in remote rural areas such as coastal areas.

The CIRCA report, which we commissioned in 1999 and published in June last year, provides a major strategic analysis of the future directions and opportunities for aquaculture. The report concludes that sustainable development of our aquaculture industry is in the national interest and vital for the well-being and future of our coastal communities, as Deputies like me representing those communities will verify. The report recommends that the industry must achieve critical mass in production terms, diversification into new species, best practice in line with stringent environmental guidelines and high standards of quality assurance. These are the key challenges to address in order to position the industry internationally over the next decade, and allow it to develop and prosper thereafter.

The report recommends the achievement of an annual production of at least 150,000 tonnes by 2015 in order to underpin at least some 9,000 jobs and annual income of at least £450 million by adopting the following four strategies: quickly build critical mass in salmon, sea reared trout and mussels and increase the level of value added in the production chain; create additional peripheral coastal income and high quality jobs in species with lower capital costs and less potential value added; the State must enhance its services underpinning quality, sustainable development, regu lation and other technical and policy areas, and there must be greater support for innovation-led development, which ensures that research and development, technology transfer and technical services will better meet the needs of the industry. The CIRCA report clearly puts a tough ambitious agenda before us all. The potential rewards in terms of significant jobs and income provision have been highlighted and are achievable.

In relation to jobs, most people will know that I live on the Hook peninsula in County Wexford, which is between Bannow Bay and Waterford estuary. Both areas have extensive aquaculture, which provides full-time employment for many people living close to me. Without aquaculture, those people would have had to leave their home parish of Templetown or many of the other parishes around the country to go to the cities, or maybe to emigrate. People now live at home and work in good well-paid jobs in their own area. They are part of the community and are able to play for local hurling and football teams. I assure this House of my total commitment to work with all concerned to secure the prospects that are available as quickly as possible.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 2000, which has already been before the Seanad. Fine Gael will support this Bill. I fully concur with the main thrust of the Bill although we may table amendments. This is a short Bill but a very important one in that it raises some fundamental questions relating to aquaculture licences, including how they are given out and how appeals against ministerial decisions to grant or refuse aquaculture licences under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, are determined.

In itself the Bill might appear to be short but in my view it is very important and raises some very fundamental questions about matters relating to aquaculture licences, how they are given out and of course the whole question of how the appeals are determined against ministerial decisions to grant or refuse aquaculture licences under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. I will have a lot more to say about that shortly.

This Bill also proposes to clarify the power of the board or any consultant or adviser engaged in it to inspect any land, foreshore or area of water to which the relevant appeal relates whether or not the appeal is subject to an oral hearing. I had assumed current legislation actually covered that but that must not be the case.

One of the things worth mentioning in this Bill is that the Government proposals for the future of the aquaculture industry are quite extensive, and I compliment the Minister on this. If the plans are to be realised, and we all hope they will, there will be far more people getting into the business and as a consequence there will have to be order in how we run and are perceived to run it. There will have to be a transparent appeals mechanism as in the case of many other Depart ments. The aggrieved person should have the opportunity to make oral appeals and they should also in the case of refusal of an application be told why and on what grounds their application was refused. According to the Minister 68 out of 404 ministerial decisions have been appealed.

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to another aspect. As well as giving the opportunity for a transparent appeal that gives reasons for its decisions, it is very important that there should be retrospection on decisions that have been made without clarification since the introduction of the Act. It is very inappropriate that any appeal would be refused without reason being given. People go to a lot of trouble and invest a lot of time and effort with an application and they should be told why an appeal was refused. I assume the Minister, in his summing up, will give an undertaking that it will be retrospective.

The whole appeals mechanism is a matter that has taken up a great deal of time in many Departments particularly over the last four or five years. The most notable case is in Social Welfare where they have a well honed system of written and oral appeals based on a decision given by the appeals officer in writing concerning the reasons an appeal was either rejected or granted. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is currently in the midst of setting up a new appeals system. This is badly needed and the Minister knows it is something farmers have been looking for for some time. It is being introduced because, while many farmers knew they could make oral or written submissions, they never understood why their particular case was not successful. That is the culture that exists and for that reason I hope this goes through and we have an open transparent system.

I see also in section 2 of this Bill, paragraph (b), that there is to be a supplementary section to require the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to provide on request a summary of the main reasons and considerations on which were based the determination of appeals before enactment of this Bill. I have no idea how many decisions are there but where people do want a report it should be made available to them quickly.

Section 4 is also very important in that the insertion of the new section 57A in the Act of 1997 gives comprehensive inspection powers to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board, its consultants or advisers in relation to any land to which the relevant appeal relates whether that appeal is subject to an oral hearing. If there was any doubt about that Minister it would be a grave constraint on restriction on the workings of the board if the nominated person could not actually go on site. Will the Minister give some indication why it was not possible previously?

We also have the whole question of making it an offence to obstruct the board or a consultant or adviser who wishes to inspect the land. There are considerable penalties for this. I understand that there were huge arrears and delays in dealing with licence applications over the years. One would hope that is now being streamlined. I understand that 294 licences, comprising 272 aquaculture and 22 trial licences for aquaculture purposes, have been granted. This usually worked out at 60 or 70 in previous years. It appears that the system is working better. How many applications are now on hand in the Department? The Minister might also inform me how many applications for finfish culture are in train at the moment.

When one gets down to dealing with those licences there are many aspects that have to be looked at and I understand that EIS studies are part and parcel of this. It all has to do with water quality, the ability of the sites to take the tonnage that is being applied for, etc. Sea lice monitoring and control of and the use of fallowing sites come into play here. I would like the Minister to outline how many cases actually went to the appeals board every year over the last five years. As the years go by, are there more objections and appeals because we live in an appeals culture?

The aquaculture industry has exciting prospects provided it is handled properly. The £25 million that was earmarked in the National Development Plan, 2000-2006 certainly should see a greater number of jobs created in aquaculture. One would hope that there would be a huge increase in the annual aquaculture production between now and 2006. The CIRCA report on this subject which was published late last year certainly would give reason to believe that a major opportunity presents itself for growth in this industry.

What is terribly important about this is the help it should give to the coastal communities. This is an area on which I want to reflect for a minute. In my travels up and down the coastline I notice that, given the constraints on fishing generally and certainly under the Common Fisheries Policy which will be negotiated next year, there is no reason to believe fishing is actually going to expand. Rather the opposite would be the case. From everything I read and hear it seems that the next review of the Common Fisheries Policy will show there are fewer people involved. That is why it is so important that aquaculture in the peripheral areas should be made work now.

We all know that there has been a severe clampdown on fishing activities since the last meeting of Fisheries Ministers at Christmas.It is notable in many of the fishing communities that no ancillary projects have been carried out. It was mainstream fishing or nothing. One would have hoped through the CIRCA report and the investment in aquaculture that we would have witnessed the same kind of activity in the coastal villages as in inland towns as a result of the tiger economy. I am not talking about huge industry because we are realistic enough to know the infrastructure does not exist in many of those small half parishes. Through the Leader groups, county development teams and the various interests in the fishing area one would have hoped it would be possible to bring communities together and build this project around them because it will have to be their project. There is no way it can be imposed on them. Irrespective of what BIM or the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources says, if it does not suit a local community and if they do not have ownership of it, it will not work.

One would have assumed it would be possible, through good planning, sound investment projects, training methods and retraining of the workforce, to quickly build critical mass in salmon, sea reared trout and mussels and increase the level of value added in the production chain. The whole concept of creating additional coastal income is important as is the enhancement of State services. However, frequently those services are diluted by the time they get to those areas. In the world of agriculture which includes severely handicapped areas, there is a great need for an injection into the coastal economies. There is a great need for this integration at local level.

I know of a number of instances where unsuccessful applicants for licences could not understand why they were refused, particularly in the finfish area. I shall give a few general examples. I recall a particular case in the northern end of the country which goes back to 1988 or 1989. In this case a designated line was drawn in the bay with a certain limited tonnage. However, as the years went by it appeared that some people could breach that line and the tonnage has dramatically increased. The person who was refused a licence would want to know the reason those things happened. In another case where licences were granted to all the applicants on one occasion but because of an appeal by the other applicants against a particular person who had already got the licence, the case went to the appeals board. It appears after a long drawn-out procedure the objectors' appeal was upheld. The strange thing about this case is that the applicant was never given the reason the Minister decided to grant him a licence. However, on appeal from the other stakeholders the appeals board decided to accept their objections. I find that difficult to understand. This applicant who worked on a temporary licence was extremely successful but his business was terminated.

This brings me to the appeals section and the necessity to ensure the appeals system is transparent and that reasons are given for either the refusal or granting of a licence. It reminds me of a motorist who takes his car for the NCT and is told the car did not pass the test but is not given the reason. That would not work. That is similar to what happened in the appeals case. It sums up the theme of this legislation. It is extremely important that decisions are transparent, open and understood. When the legislation is enacted I hope the applicant will be in a position to understand the decision, in other words, that it is not in legal text which the ordinary person may not understand. Appeals will have to be published and the reasons will be retrospective to the time the appeals board was established.

I understand there are seven members on the appeals board. I know only a few of them and they are highly respectable people and do a good job in difficult circumstances. Given that the industry is geared for greater things in the future, this is a job that not everybody would want to take up. I compliment them on the work being done. This legislation is aimed primarily at ensuring that every possible opportunity is given to the applicant whose appeal has been rejected and that he is informed of the reason. We are not casting aspersions on anybody here. That provision should have been included in the earlier legislation. I am surprised at the omission in the first place.

I assume that the obligations imposed by the legislation on the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board are similar to those imposed on An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála will, on request, provide a copy of decisions, but also a full copy of the written report by the inspectors; I have seen it and it is extremely useful. I assume that will happen in the case of the appeals board.

An important factor is the quality of water in many of the bays where aquaculture operations have commenced. This is a major issue for local authorities. It is obvious there is a need for huge investment for the purpose of overcoming the problem of raw sewage getting into bays and rivers. This is a matter that has been debated here since I became a Member. It is only in recent years, since we have had access to European funding, that we are in a position to do something about it. Irrespective of what legislation is on the Statute Book, and if the water quality, which is the driving force behind any new proposals in the aquaculture industry, is not right, nothing can be done about it.

For the future development of aquaculture it is important to have a co-ordinated approach between BIM, the Marine Institute and Údarás na Gaeltachta. If ever the concept of organised rural communities came into play, it would be in this area. I am always wary of putting things on a statutory footing as it usually does not work. There should be various initiatives and financial inducements to small coastal communities to do this work. Given the commitment shown by the Government to this sector in the next five or six years, I hope many new jobs will be created in remote coastal areas in which industrialists are not interested. This is the problem for small coastal communities which must make a few pounds from fishing and farming. The land is these areas is generally poor and off-farm employment is not readily available.

It is important that we shorten the length of time allowed for licensing decisions. There is a two-month period for decisions on planning applications to local authorities. However, this does not always apply because if further information is sought on the last day of the original two-month period, one is into a second two- month period. Is it possible to introduce a statutory limit on the time allowed so people know that if they supply the relevant information a decision will be taken by a certain date? I commend the Bill and look forward to discussing it further on Committee Stage.

I do not have much to say on this short but important Bill. I said most of what I wished to say on this issue during debate on the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, and the Fisheries and Foreshore (Amendment) Act, 1998. This Bill closes gaps in those two Acts which we forcibly pointed out at the time.

The Minister of State referred to amendments he would table on Committee Stage. Will he ensure that we receive those amendments in good time? On previous legislation we dealt with amendments on Committee Stage which we received at the start of committee's proceedings. I remind the Minister of State that, on that occasion, I asked that such things should not happen again.

I am pleased the Bill will deal with staffing arrangements as it seems ludicrous to place legislation on the Statute Book without providing the necessary finance and personnel to implement its provisions. At one stage, the Minister indicated that funding and staffing would be reviewed before the end of 2000. Has this been done and, if so, what are the results? The appeals board was concerned about this issue.

The Bill rightly draws a parallel between the appeals board and An Bord Pleanála which will be generally welcomed. However, one important aspect regarding An Bord Pleanála is the revised rules which place a time limit on appeals. There was a backlog of a couple of hundred licence applications which had not been dealt with and many people were operating without licences. Are people still operating without licences as many were doing so on the last occasion we discussed this issue? A serious effort was made to reduce the number of people operating without licences and to increase the number of licences granted. What is the current situation? There was no reference to this issue in the Minister of State's speech.

I forgot to include that information.

The Minister of State's speech did not refer to the effect this industry is having on wild salmon and wild trout. There is another element to this issue. There is a good combination in the Department in that the Minister, Deputy Fahey, is from the west coast and the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, is from the east coast. However, the main effects of this Bill will be felt in the west which experiences most difficulties regarding wild salmon and trout.

Deputies will be aware of campaigns organised by anglers and organisations in the west and south concerning the contamination of wild salmon and trout and the damage being caused. It has been scientifically established that the problem is caused by traps and their locations, particularly in estuaries.

The Bill does not include provisions regarding the contamination of shellfish. Perhaps this issue could be dealt with by regulations under the Bill. Shellfish are harvested on many rivers and estuaries which are contaminated by sewage. Substantial work has been carried out on a number of rivers on which shellfish are being farmed, particularly with regard to domestic sewage. I do not know of the Department's intentions in this regard but if we are to spend £25 million developing the industry we will have to examine the contamination of shellfish in particular by domestic and industrial sewage.

The Labour Party supports this Bill. However, I am more interested in the amendments which will facilitate a more in-depth consideration of this important legislation. I ask the Minister of State to take on board the points I have raised and to refer to them in his reply.

I welcome this technical legislation. As a backbencher I put pressure on the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, to address some of the concerns brought to my attention in the context of the determination of the appeals by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for the efficient manner in which they dealt with these concerns. As a result people will now have confidence in ALAB's decisions.

I thank ALAB for its work. It had a difficult job to perform and, on occasions, its personnel had to travel extensively to familiarise themselves with concerns brought to their attention by applicants for licences or those with concerns regarding the issuing of such licences by the Department. The Minister of State has highlighted that, over the past two years in particular, since the introduction of the legislation in 1997, the board has dealt with 68 cases brought to its attention while six remain to be determined. The legislation will underpin the transparent licensing provision which was provided for in the 1997 Act. The further refinement of the 1997 legislation will allay some of the concerns that have been brought to our attention. This is a new venture, and one we all welcome, which is giving independent effect to a decision that can have a huge effect on a community. It will add to the fairness involved for everyone concerned, including applicants, the public at large and statutory bodies involved in aquaculture. They will be completely satisfied that their applications have been dealt with as fairly and transparently as possible.

Deputy Bell adverted to a backlog of licence applications. In time, the Department will be in a position to make decisions on applications currently before it and there will be an opportunity to appeal, if necessary. Over the past two years, the ALAB has been very fair and transparent in its operations. The legislation will add to that transparency by allowing people to become familiar with the board's decisions. It will also allow the public, who may have opposed a development, or an applicant, whose appeal has been refused, to see where they have gone wrong. It will be helpful to the Department which will be able to fine tune what it has done where an appeal has not been successful.

I thank the departmental officials who have had to deal with quite a difficult job in a new industry which has had its ups and downs. We had, and to a certain extent still have, unlicensed operators, which is a situation that we wish to address as quickly as possible. I commend the Department for dealing as efficiently and effectively as possible with 404 applications in the past two years.

The application process can sometimes take time but, through the provision of EIS and public consultation, we have brought the industry beyond the fledgling stage it was at some years ago. At that time, people were afraid of the possible consequences of future development, but we are now in a position to fine tune the industry. Concerns remain and we have to achieve a balance between the industry's aims and those of tourism which are important for scenic areas, particularly in coastal communities such as the one I represent. I have a good working relationship with the industry in my own area of Inver Bay where we saw an opportunity for many fishermen to move from traditional inshore fishing, which had no future prospects, to aquaculture. I agree with Deputy Connaughton that there must be joint ownership of these developments by fishermen and the community. People will always be afraid of others coming to work in a close-knit coastal community. What was achieved in my locality, however, has worked very well. Local people were involved and as a consequence we have had total support for the development of the industry, because the tradition was there.

There are still opportunities in coastal communities, in small isolated areas in particular, to allow for increased production in the aquaculture sector, to which the Minister adverted. We are not just talking about finfish farming, but also about the entire spectrum of aquaculture, including the fish-farming of salmon, trout and shellfish. I am delighted to see that more and more people are interested in eating shellfish, which is a popular dish in restaurants and whose overseas sales, particularly to the French and other continental markets, have a huge impact on the viability of coastal communities.

I thank the Minister and his officials for the tremendous work they have done with the problem of Biotoxins, and for introducing the compensation scheme for some fish farmers who found themselves in serious difficulties. It is acknowledged that the Department needs to deal with that problem. I thank the Minister for the work he has done in trying to sustain something that is beyond the realm of those directly involved in the industry. Those efforts were very welcome and I thank both the Minister and the Department for their support for the industry, in particular in my constituency in County Donegal.

Cé go bhfuil mé anois mar Aire Stát na Gaeltachta tá tionchar mór ar an bhfeirmeoireacht éisc sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Roinn. Tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag plé leis an tionscal an-tábhachtach seo fosta. Cuidíonn an tionscal go mór leis na háiteanna iargúlta atá againn, áiteanna in a bhfuil sé deacair tionscail eile a chur ar fáil ionntu. Ní amháin go gcuidíonn sé le muintir na háite agus le saol an phobail ach leis an teanga fosta. Tá suim an-mhór ag an Údarás agus ag comhlachtaí an Údaráis leis an tionscal úr seo. Cuireann an tÚdarás fáilte fosta roimh an Bille. Oibríonn an tÚdarás, Bord Iascaigh Mhara agus Roinn na Mara le chéile.

Ceanglaíonn an tionscal teicneoilíocht nua-aimseartha leis an traidisiún atá sna Gaeltachtaí beaga. Tá sé an-nádúrtha fosta do na ceantair sin, mar shampla tá comhlacht amháin i gCill Chiaráin, ag díol bradán ar fud na tíre agus tá siad ag íoc £55m. Tá an fhorbairt sin ag dul ar aghaidh agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil sé níos fearr ná comhlacht ar bith eile a bhfuil baint aige le feirmeoireacht éisc agus le sliogéisc. Tá sé cosúil le co-op ach is comhlacht príobháideach é.

Leis an tionscal seo tá tú ag caint faoi fhostaíocht sa bhreis a chur ar fáil do cheantair Ghaeltachta. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go bhfuilimid ábalta níos mó béime a chur sa tionscal anois agus dul ar aghaidh le margaíocht sa bhFrainc nó sa tSeapáin. Tá an t-airgead le fáil – £25m anois – faoin NDP agus cuideoidh sin go mór le pobal na Gaeltachta in áiteanna iargúlta. Seo tionscal an-tábhachtach dúinn sa Ghaeltacht. Tá sé in am dúinn, agus tá seo luaite sa Bhille seo, go mbeadh struchtúr neamhspleách ann anois.

Deputy Sheehan is preparing notes for his contribution and I will be obliged to listen to what he has to say because he enjoys huge support from members of the fishing industry in the Gaeltacht area in his constituency. As already stated, this industry has huge potential in Gaeltacht areas and the value added aspect is extremely important.

One must be politically correct when making certain remarks. In the past one could state that women did the cooking but I do not know if any women or men have time to cook nowadays. Families cannot spend hours preparing food, particularly fish, and providing a meal. They want to have access to a product they can place in the microwave and prepare almost instantaneously.

Donegal Catch.

Donegal Catch is a prime example of what can be done when a product, which only takes 20 minutes to cook, is marketed properly. Products from fish farms could also be marketed in this way. In that context, proper research and development, marketing methods and co-operation are vital.

One of the problems with the fishing industry is that products are not marketed properly in many areas. For example, everyone in Killybegs markets their products separately. In my opinion, those involved in the industry in the town should market their products under the banner of, for example, "Killybegs Catch". The aquaculture industry should follow the example of the beef, lamb and other meat production industries in using marketing tools to sell their products. There is strength to be gained from working together. Everyone is aware of the way companies in Bantry have used the name of the area to promote the mussels caught there. In my opinion, this enhances the value added aspects of the areas in which people live and work.

As the Minister of State indicated, there is an absolute necessity to promote best practice because this will add to the sustainability of the industry and enhance support for it. Development should take place on a managed basis and people's concerns must be addressed. Those on both sides of the fence with regard to fish farming must be reasonable. The sustainability of peripheral areas in particular must be taken into account when considering what is best practice for such areas.

I accept that those involved in the industry work hard. I have seen fishermen going to work on fish farms on days when one would not put a hen out and taking risks to ensure that cages are secure and that the fish are looked after. I commend those involved in the industry, the majority of whom are young people, which creates additional employment in isolated areas to which it is difficult to attract other industries. Aquaculture products are difficult to market and we need to put in place a comprehensive marketing strategy in order to support this fledgling industry.

I thank the Minister of State for introducing this legislation which will copperfasten what he intends to do in the context of developing the aquaculture industry and will add openness and transparency to the procedures used in the licensing process. It will also support the work being done by his Department and the ALAB, in particular. I am glad the clarification sought by the ALAB, regarding visits to sites in respect of which applications will be made, is dealt with in the legislation and I welcome the provision to make available to it additional supports and staff.

Mar a dúirt mé cheana, molaim an Bille atá os ár gcomhair agus tá súil agam go gcuideoidh sé go mór leis an tionscal úr an-tábhachtach atá againn, ní amháin i mo cheantar féin ach i ngach Gaeltacht eile.

This is an important Bill because we have arrived at a stage where the putting in place of an appeals mechanism appears to be more important than the initial application process. An application cannot be made in this country without it being automatically assumed that an appeal, or a series thereof, will be lodged. The test of any legislation is the practical effectiveness of how it operates.

I listened carefully to the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, which contained a number of fundamentally correct points. The board has dealt with a number of applications on appeal and made some decisions. In doing so, it has gained necessary experience because the difficulties that arose in respect of the initial appeals with which it dealt will invariably crop up on later appeals.

The Minister of State also indicated that it is his ambition, as a point of principle, to have an aquaculture industry which will produce the finest foodstuffs in the world. I strongly support that assertion. As a maritime nation, Ireland has been slow to reach the kind of standards to which it should aspire. In a peculiar way, the devastation being wreaked on our economy by the foot and mouth outbreak is an indication of both the strength and fragility of an economy and an industry. As an island nation, we have a unique advantage in that we can set down world class standards and develop a reputation for finest quality and best value added products. When I served as Minister for Tourism and Trade I visited a number of countries with warmer climates than Ireland's where farmers operated small, individual aquaculture units. The standards which obtained at some of the locations I visited sometimes left a great deal to be desired and the products which emanated from them might not have matched the quality of those we are discussing here.

The aquaculture industry has emerged from a difficult period which lasted 20 years. Everyone recalls the public meetings that were held, the scares about the use of Nuvan, the rows about sea lice and the disappearance of set trout and the escape from cages of reared and farmed salmon as opposed to wild salmon. To a great extent, the industry has developed and fought back against that negative image and those involved in it have learned lessons about the need for clarity and understanding and the necessity of putting people's fears at rest.

The Minister of State referred to water quality, cleanliness, best practice and professional standards. Yesterday we received news that President Bush has given the two fingers to the Kyoto Agreement, which dealt with greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollution. We are discussing an appeals system for the aquaculture industry. The latter can only develop in the absence of pollution and is dependent on clean water, hygienic standards, etc. The money included in the national development plan for this development is important but the costings that were put in place for that plan have altered radically because of cost increases, etc. I do not know the element of cost increase in the national development plan in so far as aquaculture developments are concerned but the Minister's Department, along with others, and the Government as a unit would do well to examine the development of the national plan across all fronts. We all support it, by and large, as a means of developing the community and our people but it is being implemented in an amateurish fashion. It requires a public private partnership between the Government and all its Departments and a consultancy or implementing group – of whom there are a number in Ireland – of world class standard who have set about implementing on time and on budget development plans in other cities and countries of major proportions.

People on the street have little understanding of the intricacies of the aquaculture developments that are planned around the coastline or in freshwater facilities and the Minister's Department should go on a marketing offensive to explain to people the value of these developments in terms of career options and the way the product can add to both a local and an individual economy. That would be well worth while.

The Minister of State, Deputy Coughlan, spoke about the Gaeltacht areas and the fact that the Bill deals mainly with the west of Ireland and the Atlantic. That is true, but we have developments on land and offshore. Take the example of planning applications in, say, the west coast of north Mayo, which come before the appeals board. If one drives beyond Belmullet and towards Faulmore, and stands over the village of Glosh looking west to America and south to the black cliffs of Achill, one can see a community that is dying. There is a village where one-third of the houses are empty. We are sending out calls to emigrants to come back to Éireann to play their part in the Celtic tiger, yet those who want to come back from America or from England, who are natives of the area, cannot get planning permission to build houses for their wives and families. An appeals board such as this, however, can decide on an aquaculture development offshore which is a commercial interest with its own way of either adding or subtracting to the view, whichever opinion one accepts.

This type of development should be complementary to the quality of life and the economic success of a community. There is little point in an aquaculture appeals board granting an application on appeal in a community where the people on the shore are being deprived of the opportunity to live there and play their part in that community. This development should be complementary to the kind of overall development we all want, including the Minister of State, namely, communities which are alive and which have diverse activities to generate some economic development in their areas.

In the case of An Bord Pleanála, an applicant applies for a development. Objectors appeal to the local authority. The local authority refuses the application on the basis of the objections. That file is then obsolete. The applicant then appeals to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála can grant that application on appeal without reference to the original objectors, and if they are not vigilant in checking whether an appeal has been lodged, the application to which they originally objected can be granted over their heads. There is no statutory requirement on An Bord Pleanála or on the local authorities to notify anybody about that and in this instance it might be worthwhile if the appeal body were to place a notice in the local papers or inform the local radio station, for instance, to the effect that an appeal had been lodged in respect of a particular application. If that were done everybody would know about it. As time passes and the digital communications era comes more into its own, this kind of development should be discussed on local television and radio so that everybody understands that what is intended to be put in here is a world class facility, part of the world class standards to which we should aspire in everything we do as an island nation.

If the Minister of State goes into a restaurant, as I am sure she does in her capacity as Minister for the Marine, on most occasions the restaurateur, waiter or waitress will not know whether the salmon being offered on the menu is farmed or wild. Very few people can tell the difference. As a native of a western county who has long experience of this, it is possible to know from natural or acquired taste whether it is farmed or wild salmon but the industry has developed to the point where the colouring, quality, size and taste of the farmed salmon cannot be differentiated by most people. A man in a restaurant with a plate of mussels or cockles in front of him usually has little understanding of the investment, care, attention and diligence that it takes to produce that dish as a quality product.

It is essential, in terms of the national development plan, that our adherence to European directives on water pollution, etc. has to be rigorously enforced and advanced to a point where we can be justifiably proud of the standards here. At the moment they are deplorable in many cases. Raw sewage flowing into lakes, rivers and streams at a time when the Minister of State is doing her best to put in place a world class facility for shellfish and aquaculture is unacceptable. Entire sewerage systems are flowing into nearby waters and polluting them. This industry can be strong but fragile and given the parallel attack we are now experiencing in terms of a virus in animals, red tide and other problems can wipe out an industry overnight.

There remains some tension between those who are involved in the fishing of natural fish and those involved in the production of farmed fish. There was a breaking of the cage, if that is the proper term, at the back of Clare island some time ago. I do not know what studies have been done on the effect of the integration of the Atlantic salmon with escaped farmed salmon, and whether there is a diminution of the species in terms of its genetic quality, strain or whatever. These are issues that need to be discussed and explained to people. In that sense the Minister's Department has an important role to play.

I know a number of shellfish farmers on the west coast and they are committed not only to development of their product but to marketing and selling it abroad. One would be surprised at the extent of sales coverage of west of Ireland shellfish to the markets not only in France but to many other countries, including the Middle East and the Far East. It takes a great deal of logistical management to get the lorries and trucks, with their refrigerated units, etc., through customs, particularly with a product that will perish quickly, to the French market to get the value added.

It is a good idea to put a notice in a local newspaper that an appeal has been received. One often finds at public meetings on the west coast that people who came to the country many years ago do not have a relationship with the area in which they live. I am not criticising them, but people do not have a right in law to a view. Most of the objections to aquaculture developments relate to their visual impact and to the fact that the bay will be destroyed. What is law in one case should apply equally in another. The Minister of State did not say whether bays in certain localities have been deemed suitable for aquaculture development and that such development will take place, subject to conditions, such as licensing, visual impact, water quality, tonnage capacity etc.

I would like to think we would pump more money into research and development as a result of applications for aquaculture development. I do not know where we stand in terms of world research on the future of aquaculture. The store of man's knowledge almost doubles every five years. I am sure there is ongoing intensive research into the possibilities and potential for aquaculture in the future. I do not know what links the Minister of State has with the Marine Institute, the universities and the institutes of technology.

After the devastation wreaked on the economy by the foot and mouth crisis, perhaps we could adopt a resolution which states we are proud of what we produce from the sea and from aquaculture developments, whether in the sea or in fresh water. We should send a message to every country in Europe and beyond that our standards are world class and that everyone involved in the business can be trusted. We must ensure that cowboys are not allowed in the industry and that the developments granted under licence prove themselves and are tested on their merit. If we set standards over the next five, ten, 15 or 20 years and rigorously implement them, it will pay off in the longer term. People abroad are becoming more conscious of quality, standards and hygiene. Aquaculture has an important part to play and the Minister of State can take the lead by not taking any prisoners when setting standards. If he does not believe it is right, it should not happen. This business is too sensitive and important to allow cowboys into it. We have seen parallel disasters in recent days.

There are 13 wild brown trout fisheries left in the great lakes in the west and the tributaries which run into the sea. Perhaps when the Minister of State is summing up on Second Stage he will refer to the projections for the native Atlantic salmon stocks and outline what is happening with sea trout. I often receive bulletins from those involved in the sea trout industry. These two things have proven to be complementary.

This board is an important economic entity. There should be discussions and open days so that young people can become involved in a tough but worthwhile career and play their part in the development of the economy far from the maddening crowd in cities, such as Dublin. I wish the board well. I hope lessons will be learned as it continues to make decisions on appeals. Anyone wanting to apply for an aquaculture licence should clearly understand that when the application is lodged, it will be dealt with rigidly and that it should better measure up to the highest standards set down for this development. This means that when the appeals board makes a decision, it will do so in accordance with those standards and it will not be afraid to do so.

Like other Members of the House, I welcome the Bill which tries to regulate the appeals system. It also gives us an opportunity to express our views on the future of the aquaculture business. We are talking not only about the sea based aquaculture business but also about the land based business. Fresh water aquaculture could become as big a player as sea aquaculture. Recently I saw a television programme which outlined the value of producing fresh water fish in fish farms on the Continent and in other parts of the world. We have the resources to capitalise on this growing market. We are all aware that pike, which is a humble fish here, is a delicacy in Germany and commands a higher price than salmon. We are not making the most of the available opportunities. We also know that Irish eels are extremely valuable. Some individuals are considering becoming involved in commercial eel farming.

We talk about rural development. Many people think that rural development can only take place in the agriculture or industrial sectors. However, aquaculture can have a major input in rural development. We are all aware that aquaculture has been the lifeline of many coastal communities over the years. Shellfish farming has proved successful and has been a source of income and employment in areas where industrial development was not possible and did not make commercial sense. We must look at this in the context of the overall development of the fishing industry.

Many Members spoke about the effects on communities of people objecting to developments. We have seen An Bord Pleanála, which is responsible for housing and other developments on land, take decisions which did not meet the wishes of the majority of the people in an area. We have also seen cases where people, who had little or no contact with an area, lodged planning appeals on spurious grounds and were successful. There was a case recently in my constituency where people who had recently moved into the area objected to a development and, as a result of a decision by An Bord Pleanála which went against the wishes of 99.9% of the community, 15 people lost their jobs. I hope the same does not happen in the fisheries area. We hope the process is transparent so that those who object must state whether they have a vested interest and their detailed reasons for objecting. We all know there are people who are good at putting together long-winded documents which do not address the facts and these documents are often used in appeals. Those involved in the fisheries appeals system must give full details of their vested interests and whether they feel their community will benefit or lose out as a result of the developments.

We have all seen that fish farming and fish cages can be unsightly. As Deputy Kenny said, however, looking at villages deserted because of lack of employment is much more undesirable. There must be a proper assessment of proposed developments to see if they will be of benefit to the community and the economy. The effects of pollution are seen in my own constituency. A number of fish farms in the Sligo area were closed down because of the problem of red tide. The compensation offered will not be sufficient to bring those people back into production quickly. They need to recover their investment and they are dependent on pollution being cleared up.

It is imperative that the feed used in fish farming conforms to regulations. We have seen the problems that exist now in the livestock industry. These problems, such as BSE, were caused by feed. I hope the controls to be put in place regarding feed, unlike the use of meat and bonemeal as feed for bovines, will be sufficient to ensure that there is no danger of pollution or infection. There is need for major research into the use of foodstuffs and the effect this feed may have, not only on the farmed fish, but on wild fish. Our sea trout stocks are disappearing at the moment due perhaps to sea lice. The use of chemicals in fish farming must be properly assessed. Fish farm operators may have licences but they must be subject to proper controls. The use of controls is just as important in fish farming as in other areas of agriculture. If operators decide to break the law or take actions that are not in the best interests of the industry, they should be aware that they will be closed down. That is the only way to make this industry grow. The opportunities for the expansion of aquaculture are endless. We have the necessary coastal areas and the inland freshwater hatcheries used by the salmon industry have been quite well managed.

If we are to see a doubling of its potential over the coming years, as suggested in the Minister's speech, it will be necessary to have proper controls, investment and infrastructure. A proper processing industry working as a complement would avoid people being led into a market cul-de-sac and is equally important. Bord Iascaigh Mhara should be involved as a marketing umbrella for the entire fishing industry. Deputy Coughlan referred to the fact that all the processors in Killybegs and around the country are competing against each other for market share. This is not in the best interest of themselves or those who produce the raw material. A marketing umbrella body to take control of the entire fishing industry is essential.

In the beef industry, for example, Irish companies were competing against each other in foreign markets, so instead of the price being maintained, it became depressed. That does not help farming practice. If an operator is not achieving an economic production price for his product, then he cannot stay in business.

If fish farmers get sufficient reward for their labours, they will not have to resort to undesirable practices. I ask the Minister to tell the House what type of supervision will be implemented for the continual monitoring of licence holders. That is a very important provision. There should be random inspection without notice and the inspectors should be rotated. We all know that familiarity breeds contempt, and we know that this has caused problems in the livestock industry and they have been highlighted by the foot and mouth scare. I hope this will not happen in the fishing industry.

I would be interested to hear how the Minister and his Department plan to develop the freshwater fishing industry. That is an industry which we can capitalise on. It produces a product in high demand as shown by the price of salmon compared with the lowly pike. It has probably been one of the causes of the problem experienced in the west where, down the years, unscrupulous European anglers fill camper vans with pike which they have netted illegally. Nobody is taking action to stop them. Fisheries officers often do not arrive in time to catch these poachers and they are back in Hamburg or Munich before anyone can stop them. We must guard against people coming to this country and plundering our fisheries and waters, to the detriment of the genuine angling industry. Poaching and pollution are affecting stocks in many of our rivers, especially in the north-west and the Border counties. Poaching has contributed more to the problem than has pollution.

We must ensure that the industry is properly controlled and monitored. Local people must have a proper input with regards to their own rights and to development. Outsiders with vested interests, many of them non-nationals and with all due respects to them, are objecting to proposals for development because their view of the bay might be affected for the one week that they spend in the locality. They are not taking into account the local people who need a source of income for 52 weeks of the year.

Earlier this year, I was annoyed. The first salmon of this year was caught in the Drowes river. The local angling club asked RTE to cover the tagging of the fish at the river. RTE was not in a position to send a camera crew, but UTV came down and broadcast the event on its news bulletin the following day. The media have a part to play. Most of the programmes on television dealing with fish farming have shown the industry in a negative light. The bias was very clear in some cases and the local community were denied the opportunity that was needed. I hope this Bill will result in the creation of a transparent appeals system.

I urge the Minister to ensure quality production mechanisms and processes are prioritised in the implementation of aquaculture supervision. Our aquaculture products should command top prices in the market and that can only be achieved through quality processes.

I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this timely legislation which proves he has the interests of the aquaculture industry at heart. Aquaculture is very well suited to the Irish coastline. The industry already provides more than 3,000 jobs and generates £67 million annually, a figure which is only the tip of the iceberg. If this industry is properly managed, it will go from strength to strength and could employ up to 6,000 people in the next five years.

In the absence of proper supervision, the aquaculture industry could have been crippled in its infancy. The Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, albeit a short Bill comprising six sections, provides for the fundamental aspects of the industry's future development. However, we should not delude ourselves and become over-enthusiastic. It is most important that the industry is put on a level keel and receives the required Exchequer backing to ensure it will play a dominant role in our economy in the future.

Since coming into this House, I have always expressed the view that aquaculture had vast potential. Coming from the maritime constituency of Cork South-West, I have seen the changes effected in that area by the mariculture industry. Bantry Bay boasts one of the finest mussel industries in the world. The Minister recently opened a new factory which has breathed new life into an area which was withering away. I am well aware of the difference the fishing and aquaculture industries can make to the livelihoods of people living around the coastline from the south-west to Donegal and the Minister of State's constituency in Wexford. The latter area has played its part in the development of the industry.

Shellfish and salmon farming are the primary elements of the industry at present but I believe there is an opening for other types of fish farming such as turbot or cod farming. Perhaps the Minister would investigate the possibility of widening the scope of fish farming throughout the country. Rural Ireland cannot survive if its natural resources are not developed. People there cannot live on fresh air and water.

Overstocking can be as damaging in the aquaculture industry as it can in agriculture. We are well aware of the consequences of putting 20 cows out to pasture on grass intended for only ten. The same applies to overstocking our waters. The Minister and the appeals board must ensure that no over-stocking occurs in any bay in which there is an aquaculture industry. We are a greedy race and could risk killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Reference was made to objections from people who do not have an interest in this industry. Such people have a right to object but this legislation should allay their fears. The proper planning of the aquaculture industry can go hand in hand with other development.

The Minister stated that larger marine aquaculture development will only be feasible further off-shore and I concur with that view. Huge salmon farming developments must be moved away from estuaries and bays into deep water. Sea trout fishermen have stated that sea lice are primarily responsible for the decimation of sea trout stocks and the Minister must bear this in mind.

On 7 January, BBC 2 aired a documentary entitled "Warnings from the Wild". The programme portrayed in no uncertain fashion the serious situation in some parts of Scotland and Norway because of overstocking of aquacultural development. The Norwegians were open about it. The Secretary General of the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries readily admitted that it was known that sea lice from farms were responsible for killing wild salmon smolts. This has been proved to happen.

We have heard a great deal about the decimation of wild salmon stocks by illegal fishing. However, I speak for the half-decker salmon fishermen who try to make a living for their wives and families by fishing salmon, which is a natural way to make a livelihood. These people are bedevilled with regulations and are debarred from making an income from an occupation which their forefathers operated. Statistics prove salmon fishermen are not responsible for the decimation of wild salmon stocks, rather it is the intermingling of wild salmon with farmed salmon. I am not happy with the situation regarding sea lice which can be transmitted from farmed salmon to wild salmon.

It was interesting to hear Deputy Kenny say that, if a person orders salmon in a hotel, the waiter will not be able to say whether it is wild or farmed salmon. All meat must be sourced nowadays and the same should apply to fish in restaurants. They should be able to prove to customers whether their salmon is wild or farmed. That is very important for the survival of the industry.

It is evident all is not well in the fish farming industry. I have seen Bantry Bay, which is in my area of south-west Cork, closed for a considerable period during the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. It has only recently been opened for mussel production. The bay was bedevilled with a red tide substance. Will the Minister investigate this fully and involve all sections of his Department to ascertain the cause of this red tide phenomenon which appears in the waters off the south-west coast? It happened recently and has happened often during the past few years. I do not know if it is as a result of over-intensive fish farming or the discharge of sewage through the main bay outlets, but it is something the Minister must investigate if he wants to preserve this industry. He will not make a success of the aquaculture industry unless he finds the root cause of this red tide phenomenon.

Since 1994, sea trout stocks in Connemara have remained in a critical state and rod catches are low. Some improvements have occurred in individual fisheries, largely as a result of improved lice management. Effective management of sea lice on salmon farms remains the key to the recovery of the sea trout industry. It is of paramount importance for the Minister to understand that new strategies must be introduced. He must ensure that promoting one section of the aquaculture industry is not to the detriment of other fisheries sections on which we rely to a great extent. It is also of paramount importance that we utilise the aquaculture industry to the best of our ability. It is no good looking at depopulated areas along the western seaboard from Mizen Head to Malin Head and not looking at a body of water which could provide a huge income for those areas.

It is also important that we insist that proper management control takes place in all these enterprises. I do not have any time for the cowboy developer who will not obey the Minister or comply with the policy of the Department with responsibility for fisheries. Were it not for the fact there is strict control by the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, the future of the aquaculture industry would be a shambles. The Minister and his Department must be very vigilant when granting licences for aquaculture development throughout the country that they do not interfere with natural fish spawning grounds. Some of those grounds have been decimated by over-production in the aquaculture industry. Each section of the industry must go hand in hand in the development of the fishing and aquaculture industries.

A wide range of information is to be required under the Bill and, while giving the Minister absolute power, it also gives the appeals board in the area a relative amount of power. I am pleased to see that 250 applications for aquaculture development are on hands. The rigorous assessment of all licence applications is fair to all concerns and is designed to ensure that only sustainable projects proceed.

Debate adjourned.