The number of licence applications awaiting determination largely arises because the majority of areas for which aquaculture licences are sought are located in areas designated as Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (known as ‘Natura 2000’areas). All applications in 'Natura 2000’ areas are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU Habitats/Birds Directives. 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.
The average timeframe for processing each particular application varies depending on location, species, scale and intensity of production, statutory status of sites, potential visual impact etc. Other factors include consideration of any submissions or observations raised during the public consultation period. There were 115 Ministerial determinations in 2012 in relation to aquaculture licence applications. At present there are in the order of 580 aquaculture licence applications awaiting determination. 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.