The delay in the processing of aquaculture licences largely arises because the majority of areas for which aquaculture licences are sought are located in Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites). An additional factor is that all aquaculture applications now undergo Environmental Impact pre-screening assessment which requires significant input from my Department's scientific and technical advisors.
All applications in ‘Natura 2000 areas' are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU Habitats/Birds Directives. My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of ‘Natura 2000' areas. This data collection programme is substantially complete. Analysis of the data, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This work represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue. The Appropriate Assessment of aquaculture applications is being dealt with on a bay-by-bay basis.
My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all aquaculture applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.