Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (214)

Martin Ferris


345 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the concerns being highlighted by persons (details supplied) in County Donegal with regard to the licensing of mussel dredging in a fashion that threatens the existence of indigenous wild oyster beds in the River Swilly and consequently the livelihoods of these persons; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that under EU regulations this is totally illegal and that it threatens the existence of one of the few wild oyster beds in Europe; and the action he intends to take to alleviate this national scandal. [25312/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

Following the granting of two aquaculture licences for the bottom cultivation of mussels in Lough Swilly, local oyster fishermen claimed that parts of the licensed areas overlapped with wild oyster beds in the lough. On foot of these complaints, the aquaculture initiative was asked to undertake a survey of the lough. This survey examined the location and size of the oyster beds and sought to ascertain if there was any overlap between these areas and the sites licensed for mussel cultivation. The results of the survey confirmed that there was an element of overlap. Following consultation with the persons to whom the aquaculture licences had been granted, it was agreed that they would surrender the parts of their areas that had been found to contain oysters. Arrangements were made also to have mussels removed from the areas concerned, and any oysters retrieved in the process were relaid.

Since then, the oyster fishermen have applied for an aquaculture licence in respect of oyster beds in the lough. This application is being considered by my Department which is in the process of arranging a meeting with the fishermen at local level later this month.

Question No. 346 answered with QuestionNo. 341.