I propose to take Questions Nos. 1265, 1266, 1273, and 1275 to 1278, inclusive, together.
In my speech at the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth Summit in 2018, I clarified that certain rights, of both a formal and informal nature, to harvest seaweed exist and will be respected in the context of the determination of applications to hand harvest seaweed under the 1933 Foreshore Act. The registration of such rights is a matter for the Property Registration Authority of Ireland (PRAI) and those wishing to register their rights should engage directly with the PRAI. In the context of the potential interaction between existing rights and foreshore licence applications to harvest wild seaweed, my Department has engaged on a number of occasions with the PRAI to ensure a common understanding of the issues involved.
All foreshore licence applicants are required to engage in a pre-application consultation with my Department. At that stage, the requirements around public consultation and all other aspects of the application process are explained. In addition, applicants in the course of their application, have ongoing contact with my Department, through which clarification is provided on any issues arising in relation to searches for formal and informal rights.
Following clarification of the legal position, all applicants have been made aware of my Department’s position on the interaction between existing rights and foreshore licence applications to hand harvest seaweed. Applicants are required to engage in a very thorough process of researching where existing rights to harvest seaweed might exist.
No licence applications to harvest wild seaweed have been determined by my Department in the last five years. All applications for foreshore leases or licences including those to harvest wild seaweed, when deemed complete, are published on my Department’s website.
During the consultation on the National Marine Planning Framework that concluded recently, it was suggested that a forum on seaweed be established and I will consider this suggestion. Currently, my responsibilities regarding seaweed are limited to the provisions of the 1933 Foreshore Act that do not include either the promotion or economic development of the sector.
As I outlined during a debate on Sustainable Seaweed Harvesting during Dail Private Members' time on 7 March 2018, any regulatory regime cannot focus solely on the sector from one viewpoint. We must take into account the interests of a multiplicity of stakeholders, balancing the existing rights of traditional harvesters with commercial potential, while also ensuring sustainability of the resource and compliance with the State's obligations under domestic and EU environmental law.
Finally, in relation to the biomass of the wild seaweed resource, funding was secured under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for two seaweed related projects. The first project is focused on seaweed biomass assessments and the other on the socio economic importance of seaweed. The Marine Institute are presently finalising the terms of reference of both projects.