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Fishing Industry Development.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Questions (5)

Tom Sheahan


5 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Bord Iascaigh Mhara returned funding to the Exchequer in 2009; if so, the level of funding that was unspent; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12148/10]

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Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

As Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, is an independent statutory agency, the internal financial management is a matter for the board exclusively and the Minister does not have a role in it.

In 2009 BIM showed a total spend of €37.240 million, comprised of bi-monthly drawdowns totalling €34.932 million, a figure of €2.683 million brought forward from 2008 less €375,000 carried forward to 2010.

The revised Bord Iascaigh Mhara 2009 budget allocation amounted to a total of €40.8 million, comprising €17.2 million in current allocation and €23.7 million in capital allocation. In 2009 Bord Iascaigh Mhara achieved current savings of €2.4 million and the agency advises me that the savings were achieved through a reduction in the use of consultancies and contractors, legal and professional fees and travel, planning and communication costs. This reduction in spending was in response to the Government's efforts to reduce reliance on consultancies, contractors, external providers and measures to become as self-sufficient as possible using central, shared or managed services and procurements frameworks. BIM also advises that capital savings of €3.5 million resulted mainly from the delay in the adoption of the national seafood operating programme and also through information technology and training expenditure reductions. The level of savings was also achieved by ensuring that the operating surplus carried forward into 2010 was reduced to the lowest possible amount.

Following a European Court of Justice judgment in December 2007 that Ireland was not in compliance with certain obligations under the EU birds and habitats directives, my Department and its agencies worked with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to develop a plan to deliver compliance with the directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan was submitted to the Directorate-General for the Environment for consideration and has been subject to detailed discussions. While the Directorate-General had indicated that it was in principle supportive of the plan, it has recently advised that it remains concerned about certain aspects of the planned approach to delivering compliance for aquaculture licensing. I will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address outstanding concerns.

In that regard, €1 million was secured for the collection of baseline data for assessment purposes in 2009 and a further €750,000 for 2010 in addition to funding provided by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Following an EU tender, the Marine Institute appointed personnel to operate the data collection exercise. This process is ongoing and will support compliance of aquaculture and wild fisheries with the terms of the directives.

I met Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Conor Lenihan, on the issue of sea lice on several occasions, most recently last November. I advised him on the significant progress that has been made on managing sea lice levels in salmon farms and the concerns of the fishery boards were also outlined. I am hopeful 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.

The first set of guidelines on corporate governance in State bodies, entitled State Bodies Guidelines, was issued by the Department of Finance in March 1992 and updated in October 2001. To take account of recent developments and consultations the Department of Finance issued an updated version of the code in 2009. The new code requires all State bodies to operate in an efficient and cost effective manner in order to make the most of constrained resources. With this objective in mind the board of BIM reduced the surplus of €2.7 million brought forward from 2008 to €300,000 carried forward from 2009 to 2010.

Is that it? My question was not answered in that load of waffle. The Minister of State has outlined his own competent incompetence. BIM, which is the statutory body to support the fishing industry, returned funds to the Exchequer because an operational programme has not yet been put in place by him even though he has been in his position for nearly two years. He is being talked up for a senior ministerial position but he could not even achieve this programme in a two year period. The money was returned because BIM is precluded from awarding capital investment to small fishing concerns along our coast.

Has the Deputy a question?

At present, 100 small and medium-sized enterprises around the country are looking for funding in order to create jobs but this money cannot be allocated because we do not have an operational programme. This is competent incompetence.

I ask the Minister of State not to pass the buck. When will an operational programme be implemented for the fishing industry?

My original reply addressed in considerable detail Deputy Sheahan's question in so far as what he was asking was obvious. It went into more detail than was required on the amounts of money involved. It also explained the factual position on the operational programme. Deputy Sheahan may choose not to deal in facts and the evidence suggests that is the case.

Allow the Minister of State to reply.

He should address his question regarding the timescale involved to the European Commission but in my view it will not be in a position to make a judgment. I have explained that the information is being collated over a period of time and that we invested €1 million last year and €700,000 this year in additional funding from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to draw this material together. Some would argue this should have been done a long time ago but I have committed to undertake the work. The Deputy should understand that the material to be collated relates in many instances to the migratory patterns of birds, which do not choose to arrive at our convenience.

They do the same thing every year. When will we have an operational programme for fisheries? Is the Minister of State receiving co-operation from the two Green Party Ministers? The potential for creating jobs in the fishing industries is being choked by the Minister of State because funding is not being made available.

For the sake of completeness, in February 2010 four key schemes to support the efforts of the industry were launched under the EU co-funded operational programme. These schemes, which are administered by BIM and co-funded by the EU, will provide for a total investment of €4.5 million in 2010 to assist the industry under a number of headings. I have already explained that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has come in with funding to support the collection and collation of the data. That is an indication of support from that quarter. I have held discussions with the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, regarding the concerns of the fisheries boards and I believe progress is being made. Ultimately, however, progress will depend on the presentation of this data to the Directorate-General for the Environment and receiving that party's agreement.