The application for an aquaculture licence referred to by the Deputy is in respect of a site located in Carlingford Lough, which is designated as Carlingford Shore Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive and Carlingford Lough Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites).
All aquaculture activities in Natura site areas require an Appropriate Assessment to be carried out before any aquaculture licensing determinations can be made. My Department is working with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to achieve full compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives through a multi-annual work programme. This data collection programme, which is substantially complete, together with the setting of Conservation Objectives, will enable all new and renewal aquaculture applications to be assessed.
Conservation Objectives have been set for the Carlingford Shore SAC and the Carlingford Lough SPA. The next step in the process is the carrying out of an Appropriate Assessment by the Marine Institute. This is being progressed and my Department has been advised by the Marine Institute that the Appropriate Assessment Report should be available, at the latest, during Quarter 1, 2019. While the Appropriate Assessments are carried out on a bay by bay basis, each licence application within the bay must be assessed individually.
Addressing the issue of aquaculture licensing in Natura 2000 areas is a key priority for my Department and the Deputy can be assured that every effort is being made to expedite the completion of the process in Carlingford Lough having regard to all the complexities involved.