Government policy in relation to the development of the aquaculture industry is set out in the Cawley Strategy — Steering A New Course, Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007 — 2013. The National Seafood Development Operational Programme 2007-2013, which provides for grant aid support to develop the aquaculture industry, was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Following this consultation process issues were raised by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of CFB (Central Fisheries Board) regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms.
This Department with its agencies working with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government developed a plan to deliver compliance with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan was submitted to DG Environment for consideration.
A meeting between this Department, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Agencies and DG Environment took place in Brussels on 13 May 2009 to discuss the plan with a view to securing DG Environment's support for the approach set down in the plan.
DG Environment advised that it was, in principle, favourably disposed towards Ireland's plan subject to a positive response to the issues raised and further clarifications from the Irish authorities on the details of the plan. Additional material has now been forwarded to DG Environment where it is being examined. When these matters have been satisfactorily addressed, DG Environment expects to be in a position to formally respond on the plan at an early date.
A meeting at Ministerial level was held last week between my Department and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Minister Killeen advised on the significant progress made in relation to managing sea lice levels on salmon farms and the concerns of the Fishery Boards were also set down. I am hopeful that there is a better understanding of the issues involved from both Departments' perspectives and that on this basis we can find a satisfactory resolution to the concerns raised.
It is noteworthy that the delay in the launch of the National Seafood Development OP has not held up grant aiding aquaculture developments in 2009 as the European Commission have agreed to the continuation of grant aid under the 2000-06 OP until 30 June 2009. A provision of €5m has been made for aquaculture development in the Agriculture Vote for 2009 and I have approved the spending of €4.5m of this for aquaculture projects in both the BMW and S&E regions under the 2000-06 OP which will assist the continued operation of aquaculture projects in these areas and the employment that they support.