The statement of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, will present a co-ordinated picture of the Estimates from our Department's perspective. Therefore, I will confine my opening remarks to my areas of responsibility.
My own sectoral responsibilities include coastal zone management, marine research, inland fisheries, seafood and fishery harbour development. The gross provision in the 2007 Estimates for the marine related subheads is more than €172 million. In common with other sectors under the Department's remit, the key challenge in the marine area is to ensure long-term sustainability, given the productivity and economic growth imperatives. In particular, the Department must ensure that resources are managed and developed appropriately to deliver and protect employment in rural and coastal communities.
Future investment and activity in the marine sector will be informed by a number of recent important strategic developments. The new national seafood strategy charts a course towards a sustainable future for that industry, while inland fisheries policy is informed by the report of the independent working group on salmon. In the area of marine research, the new sea change strategy provides a framework for selective and management investment that will transform the Irish maritime economy.
The provision for seafood and harbour development is €97.55 million. More than €70 million is provided for the seafood sector in 2007, generating total annual revenues of more than €702 million and providing employment for 11,500 people. The Irish seafood industry is vital to coastal communities and the country as a whole. The industry is currently facing serious challenges to its future development, and indeed survival, primarily related to declining fish stocks and quotas and consequent structural imbalances at catching and processing levels.
In January 2007 the Taoiseach, the Minister and I launched a new national seafood strategy entitled, Steering a New Course, A Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-2013. The strategy is based on a comprehensive report carried out by an independent expert group in consultation with all key interests and stakeholders in the sector. The strategy sets out a roadmap towards achieving an Irish seafood sector that is sustainable, profitable, truly competitive and market focused. Exchequer funding of €334 million is required to match private funding of €263 million, creating a total investment package of €597 million for implementation of the strategy. This strategy will be implemented through a co-ordinated series of initiatives to address challenges in the areas of marketing and sales, processing, fisheries and aquaculture. I have now established a seafood strategy implementation group with an independent chairman, Dr. Noel Cawley, to ensure effective and timely delivery on all objectives.
Subhead D1, together with the associated carryover from 2006, provides funding of almost €50 million in 2007 in respect of the operations of Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The provision will support investment in seafood development, including inshore fisheries, seafood market development, innovation and diversification in the catching sector, the installation of safety equipment on fishing boats, training and local aquaculture management.
Over €18 million is provided for an extension of the existing white fleet decommissioning scheme in line with the new seafood strategy. The seafood strategy recommends the restructuring of the fish processing sector to incentivise consolidation and sustainable long-term value creation. The provision of €1.8 million under subhead D3 in 2007 will support the restructuring process with immediate priority being given to the development of robust programmes to deliver the objectives of the strategy. The provision of almost €6 million under subhead D4 will support investment in capacity for sustainable production of fin fish and shellfish with high value-added potential. The seafood strategy document highlights a significant development opportunity for the aquaculture sector. Future initiatives will aim to realise the development potential of the industry, allowing it to play a much greater role in supplementing fish raw material supplied to the seafood processing industry and meeting the growing consumer demand for seafood.
I recognise the key role the development of local harbours and upgrading of harbour infrastructure must play in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities. A key policy objective is the development of the infrastructure, operational efficiency and range of supply and support services at the five fishery harbour centres and other key fishery harbours. More efficient and commercial fishery harbour centres will allow us to exploit our geographical competitive advantage to attract a greater proportion of EU landings. A sum of €27 million is provided under subhead D6 and the associated carryover in respect of fishery harbour infrastructure development. The 2007 programme includes significant infrastructural developments at Castletownbere, Greencastle, Dingle, Dunmore East, Ros a Mhíl and Clogherhead.
In accordance with the provisions of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority was established on 1 January 2007. The authority is wholly independent of my Department and is legally charged with the State's sea-fisheries law enforcement functions. Under subhead D, €10 million is provided to meet the running costs of the authority which will enforce the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and sea-fisheries law generally, in addition to food safety law on fish and fisheries products.
Subhead E1 provides more than €27 million in 2007 for inland fisheries, including over €24 million to provide for the operations and activities of the central and regional fisheries boards, salmon management initiatives, contributions to trout and coarse fisheries development societies, inland fisheries management and development generally. As our contribution to the costs of the Loughs Agency, €2.7 million is being provided.
The central and regional fisheries boards are the statutory bodies with responsibility for maintaining and improving the environmental quality and developing and protecting the resource. Their activities have increased significantly following the implementation of the habitats directive, the water framework directive and the Government decision to align the wild salmon fishery fully with scientific advice from 2007.
The committee will be aware that the first phase of a high level review of the Government's involvement in inland fisheries has been completed and that the second phase has commenced. The Government has agreed to the establishment of a new regulatory regime for the management of this important resource. The reforms are necessary to ensure the inland fisheries sector thrives and reaches its full potential. They will enable the Government to harness the expertise of local stakeholders involved in fisheries while providing a coherent and effective strategy for the sector.
In late 2006, the Government adopted the report of the independent working group on salmon which contained recommendations to address financial hardships arising from the Government's decision to align the management of wild salmon fisheries fully with scientific advice. Just last month, I announced details of the €30 million hardship fund for commercial salmon fishermen, of which €10 million is to be provided in 2007 under subhead E2. On foot of the strong interest shown in the scheme, I have recently extended the deadline for applications to 27 April 2007.
Under the marine research and development heading, €33 million has been provided. Subhead C1 provides funding in excess of €29 million in 2007 for marine research activities, especially the operations of the Marine Institute. The 2007 provision will contribute to the first year of activity under Sea Change, the recently launched marine knowledge, research and innovation strategy for the period 2007 to 2013. Sea Change will build on the solid foundation of marine infrastructural research capacity established under the 1998 marine RTDI strategy. Sea Change presents a co-ordinated national agenda comprising science, research, innovation and management activities and aims to drive the development of marine sectors as a dynamic element of Ireland's knowledge economy. The key to the strategy is a policy support measure through which the knowledge gained from research will be applied to inform public policy, governance and regulation. In February 2007, a new research awards scheme was announced to attract researchers of international standing to join the Irish marine research community working in the priority research areas identified in Sea Change.
Subhead C2, with associated carryover from 2006, provides funding of €4 million in 2007 for the second year of the Infomar programme. The programme is designed to map Ireland's shallow inshore waters to complete a process initiated under the national seabed survey 1999-2005 which mapped offshore areas. The survey of the Irish seabed area completed to date has already provided a series of integrated data sets for marine and shell life. The data has been produced in map form and as integrated data assets and been supplied to customers in digital form.
The extension of the survey to inshore areas will facilitate the development of new marine research projects, environmental monitoring, navigation and engineering projects in coastal zones. The main priorities for 2007 are the mapping and sampling of priority bay areas including those in Galway, Waterford, and the remaining areas in Dunmanus Bay and Bantry Bay and the mapping and sampling of 4,000 sq. km. off Kerry and Cork. The Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute will continue to co-operate with other agencies and third level institutions to optimise the value generated from the survey data.
Funding of €4.34 million is provided for coastal zone management. Funding of more than €3 million has been provided under subhead B1 for coastal protection works in 2007. Investment in this area is intended to tackle coastal erosion and manage coastal flooding to minimise their impact on the commercial and social activities of coastal communities. The outcome of the national coastal protection strategy study will lead to a more targeted approach to programme delivery.
The Department is responsible through the legislative codes governing foreshore aquaculture for ensuring the appropriateness and environmental acceptance of aquaculture and other coastal developments. The Department's priority is to ensure that any development involves sustainable projects appropriately located and carried on in accordance with the high standards of environmental and ecological protection. In light of increasing development pressures, the aim of the Department is to manage competing demands on the State's foreshore resource to achieve a balance between development needs and conservation imperatives. The provision of €1.3 million under subhead B4 is intended to meet the cost of foreshore evaluations, liabilities in respect of refundable deposits paid by some foreshore licensees and possible costs of removing unauthorised structures from the foreshore.
The provision in the Estimates of more than €172 million for the marine sector in 2007 is significant. Investment will focus on achieving sustainable and regionally balanced development. I commend the Vote to the committee.