Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 187.

Fisheries Protection

Questions (191, 192)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

191. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to monitor fish stocks with particular reference to the degree to which particular stock in Irish waters have suffered a downturn in recent year by reference to comparisons over the past twenty years; if measures taken to date which have impacted severely on the Irish fishing industry are being fully honoured by all fishing interests throughout the European Union and outside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21799/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

192. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which conservation measures already adopted in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy or otherwise continue to improve fish stocks in traditional Irish fishing waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21800/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 and 192 together.

Details on fish stocks in Irish waters are monitored by the Marine Institute (MI) and published annually in their 'MI Stock Book' which is prepared by the Institute's Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services (FEAS) and presented to my Department in October each year. The publication also contains important up to date scientific advice on the state of fisheries resources which informs fishing opportunities for the following year. The Stock Book contains impartial scientific advice developed by the Marine Institute working with other international scientists and is developed using the latest available research, assessments and advice on the fisheries resource. The Stock Book is available to download electronically on the Marine Institute's web site at www.marine.ie. The information provided helps to form the policy and positions adopted when negotiating annual fishing opportunities each December.

Ireland manages and enforces its Fishing quotas in accordance with the specifications of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Our existing quota management system involves regular consultation with fishing industry interests and is designed to ensure the rational management of the available quotas, having regard to fishing patterns and market conditions, the best possible spread both between fishermen and also in terms of take up of quota during the year.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority is the national body for the control and enforcement of sea fisheries law and works with the Irish Naval Service to control and enforce compliance with quota management arrangements and accurate reporting of landings. In common with procedures which operate here in Ireland individual EU Member States have similar responsibilities for the management of fisheries quotas. Inevitably the precise nature of these enforcement procedures may vary from one Member State to another. Any issues which may emerge in terms of management by individual member states are a matter for the EU Commission in terms of its responsibility to ensure the rules of the CFP are fully respected.

The seas around Ireland (ICES Sub Areas VII and VI) are among the most productive and biologically sensitive areas in EU waters. Most of the fisheries resource within the area comes under the remit of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In June 2012, the European Commission reported that fish stocks in European waters are improving (EC COM(2012) 278 final). The proportion of overfished stocks in the Atlantic declined from around 90% of all stocks between 2005-2009 to 47% in 2012. Several stocks in the west of Scotland, Irish Sea and Celtic sea have suffered from being over fished in the past and remain at relatively low levels (i.e. Cod in Divisions VIa and VIIa, Sole in Division VIIa, Whiting in Divisions VIa and VIIa).

Optimum levels of biological and economic productivity are in part management decisions, but though considerable progress has been made in recent years in terms of addressing sustainability issues it is clear that for many stocks there is still room for further improvement.

Proposals for a significant reform of the existing CFP are currently under consideration and have been prioritised for action under the Irish EU Presidency. In particular, a range of innovative proposals for the conservation of fish stocks are under consideration such as the eliminating the practice of discards, achieving appropriate maximum long term sustainable yields (MSYs) and the introduction of effective fair transparent regionalisation mechanisms. It is my belief that the introduction and implementation of these necessary and timely reforms (which must be adopted under co-decision jointly by the EU Fisheries Council and the EU Parliament) will support the ongoing development of a sustainable and thriving Irish and European fishing industry for the future.

If as I hope, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament reach final agreement on these measures in the coming weeks, the reform process should help support the ongoing development of a sustainable and thriving Irish and European fishing industry into the future.

Ash Dieback Threat

Questions (193)

Seán Kyne

Question:

193. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update on the progress of measures introduced to combat the effects of the ash die-back disease. [21866/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since the first confirmed finding of Chalara Ash Dieback disease in October 2012 at a forest site planted in 2009 with saplings from a consignment of imported plants, my Department has been carrying out a nationwide survey of ash forests which are known to have been planted in recent years with imported saplings. This survey since been extended to cover ash plantations established since 1992 as well as trees planted under AEOS and REPS.

In order to mitigate the risk of further infected ash stock entering the country and causing further outbreaks of the disease, the Department introduced legislation on 26th October 2012 to prohibit the importation of plant material from areas known to be infected with the disease. On 6th November 2012, further legislation was introduced to limit the movement of ash wood into the country.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Northern Ireland in order to implement an all-island approach to tackling the disease.

My Department is liaising closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain to update the Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for Chalara fraxinea. This document will address the issue of wood as a possible pathway for the disease and examine the appropriateness of the current legislation. The PRA is currently undergoing external peer review. In addition, the two Departments are working to finalise an all-island Chalara Control Strategy.

To date, 36 forestry plantations have tested positive for the disease at various locations across the country. The disease has also been confirmed at 15 horticultural nurseries, 8 roadside landscaping projects, 3 garden centres, 2 private gardens and 10 farms. All findings to date have been associated with imported plants.

Arrangements have been put in place to remove all ash trees from sites where the disease has been confirmed and from associated sites where trees from the same infected batch has also been planted. Approximately 535 hectares of ash woodlands have been identified for removal so far.

A grant scheme has been introduced to support forest owners in the removal and destruction of infected, and potentially infected, trees and to replant with alternative species.

In the coming weeks our efforts from an awareness point of view will be focussed on the relevant Divisions within my Department working closely with Teagasc to deliver a series of Chalara Information Meetings around the country. The Department will send a text alert out to 90,000 farmers about the events.

These 22 meetings will focus on the background to Ash Dieback, how to recognise the ash tree and ash leaves, how to recognise symptoms of ash dieback and to give farmers information on what steps they should take if they spot the disease as part of their young forestry plantation or AEOS planting. This is all in an effort to seek out and eradicate the disease.

Horse Passports

Questions (194)

Seán Kyne

Question:

194. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made to date in reforming the horse registration and passport scheme in view of the recent shortcomings identified. [21875/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The identification and registration of equidae is governed by EU Council Directives 90/426/EEC and 90/427/EEC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008 of 6 June 2008. The EU legislation has been transposed into national legislation via S.I. No. 357 of 2011 - European Communities (Equine) Regulations 2011 (as amended). Regulation 504/2008, which came into effect on 1 July 2009, provides that if an equine animal has not been identified within six months of the date of its birth, or by the 31st of December in the year of its birth, whichever date occurs later, it cannot be admitted to the food chain. It also provides that all equine animals registered after that date must be identified with a passport and a microchip.

With regard to the issuing of passports, Regulation 504/2008 provides that, in the case of equidae which qualify for registration with a breed society, the passport must be issued by the relevant breed society. At present, 9 Passport Issuing organisations are approved to issue passports in Ireland.

I made an announcement in March that I would like to see the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Organisation which would necessitate an amendment to EU legislation. Subsequently, the EU Commission published an Action Plan for dealing with the fall-out from the horsemeat issue, indicating that it intended to submit a proposal to the Agriculture Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to amend existing legislation to provide that competent authorities take over responsibility for issuing passports. A formal Commission proposal is expected in the second half of 2013. My Department is awaiting these proposals. I will move to the final stage in the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Agency once EU legislation provides me with the overarching legal base to put this into effect. In the meantime, my Department is engaged in discussions with the PIOs with a view to enhancing the controls on passports at all stages of the process, including veterinary certification, quality of the paper used, security features etc.

In line with a commitment I gave earlier in the year, my Department has taken significant steps to establish a central equine database on the Animal Identification and Movement [AIM] system. Data for over 70% of equine animals registered with the Passport Issuing Organisations since 1 January 1980 were downloaded onto the central database in recent days. The central database will include information from records obtained at slaughter plants, knackeries, sales and live exports. The information on the central equine database will be used by my Department veterinary staff to supplement the current checks at slaughterhouses, in particular to check that any horses presented for slaughter have been correctly identified and are eligible for slaughter for the human food chain.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that I have acted swiftly, as I promised to do, to deal with the issues arising from the equine DNA issue.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Questions (195, 196)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

195. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has studied the international experience of privatisation of public forests, particularly in New Zealand and the brief experiment in Sweden, in his consideration of the sale of the harvesting rights of Coillte; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21882/13]

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Finian McGrath

Question:

196. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has studied the international experience of privatisation of public forests, particularly in New Zealand and the brief experiment in Sweden, in his consideration of the sale of the harvesting rights of Coillte; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21883/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 196 together.

Further to the Government's decision that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte's forests be considered for sale, NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department have worked to examine the financial and other implications of a potential transaction. As part of that process, similar international transactions and precedents were considered in detail to identify issues that arose in those transactions and to learn from those precedents. In-depth comparative analysis is essential here as different ownership structures or marketing conditions may apply in those countries. The precedents examined included those in Australia and New Zealand.

As the Deputies may recall, the outcome of the debate on the proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights was that the Dáil acknowledged from evidence gathered from similar transactions completed in other jurisdictions that a transaction can be structured in such a manner as to include provision for the maintenance of the Open Forest Policy reflecting public access to recreational land, the continuation of the existing replanting obligations, and the incorporation of biodiversity requirements, and the Dáil also noted that it is the Government's intention that similar appropriate provisions will be included in any sale of Coillte harvesting rights.