As indicated in my previous replies the area for which the licences are sought is a designated Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 site).
In the case of aquaculture sites located within Natura 2000 areas my Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of these areas. This process is ongoing and significant progress has been made. The comprehensive data collection programme together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives will enable all new and renewal applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Once the relevant data has been collected, conservation objectives for the site have to be established by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The establishment of these conservation objectives by NPWS will allow individual licence applications to be assessed against the conservation objectives.
The area in question remains part of the package of prioritised areas under assessment. This package is reviewed on a regular basis with a view to expediting the appropriate assessment process. My Department, working with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of these cases having regard to the complexities of these cases and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.