I propose to take Question Nos 398 to 402, inclusive, together.
I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that there is no proposal to establish an interpretative centre at Cong, Co Mayo. IFI owns and operates a fish hatchery located in the centre of Cong, and is currently carrying out a review of hatchery operations generally with a view to rationalising and improving efficiency and cost effectiveness in this operational issue. The primary focus of the proposal is business efficiency, centred on examining the feasibility of using existing capacity at Cong to yield efficiencies and cost savings in line with the Government's reform agenda.
In developing rationalisation plans for its core business, IFI is keenly aware of the existing educational value of the Cong operation in facilitating requests for school visits to a working hatchery. I am advised that as a modest element of the strategic operational review, IFI is examining possibilities to improve the visitor experience within the Cong facilities. IFI is anxious, that in the context of business improvements, they should not lose sight of the educational and community benefits of the existing Cong facilities which are consistent with the organisation’s statutory role to promote all species in the inland fisheries resource.
In particular consideration has been given to increasing understanding and awareness of the rare ferox trout which is unique to Cong. The area is a vital link in the life cycle of this rare, separate and ancient species that originates in Cong, and has existed in Lough Corrib since the ice age.
IFI is also cognisant and supportive of the existing proposal in Ballina for the development of a Salmon Life Centre, which is being led by the local Town Council. The feasibility study in relation to this proposed development was undertaken by Tourism Development International and was completed in November 2008. I understand that the Local Authority led proposals could entail a very significant investment should the estimated €6m to build the facility be secured for this stand-alone development proposal.
IFI's commitment to Ballina and the importance of the River Moy to the salmon species and to inland fisheries is well recognised as demonstrated by the investment of over €1m by IFI in the restoration and development of the iconic salmon weir in the centre of the town.
I have undertaken to meet with the Deputy and the Chief Executive Officer of IFI to discuss the issues she has raised.