Written Answers. - Load Line Licence Exemptions.
54 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for the Marine the position concerning load line licence exemptions for sea angling boats under the terms of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992 with particular reference to those operating within 15 miles of port and three miles of land.
I am glad to have this opportunity to clarify the regulatory position in relation to sea angling boats. Boats used for sea angling are defined as fishing vessels under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, and as such do not require a passenger boat licence under that Act. All fishing vessel operators, including the operators of sea angling boats are encouraged to comply with comprehensive safety requirements including the carriage of lifejackets and other essential safety equipment.
Sea angling boats must, however, be regularly surveyed and certified by the Department under the Merchant Shipping (Load Line) Rules, 1968, for compliance with construction standards. Vessels, including sea angling boats, are exempt from the load line rules if they are less than 80 registered tons and do not carry cargo; do not carry more than 12 passengers; and do not operate more than 15 miles from the point of departure or more than three miles from land.
57 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Marine the reason he has granted temporary licences to permit the extension of fish farms despite public concern on the matter.
I have granted permission to a small number of salmon farm operations to implement fallowing trials for a limited period this year and under strict conditions. The permissions involve the stocking of smolts at additional sites for a number of months. This will enable existing sites to be fallowed and will provide a basis for further evaluation and environmental assessment of the additional sites as possible components of overall fallowing strategies for the fish farms in question.
Fallowing, or rotation, of sites in marine fish farm culture is now an internationally accepted strategy with demonstrable benefits for fish husbandry, health regimes and control of sea lice levels. The sea trout task force has called for the full and effective implementation of fallowing regimes and single bay management both as sound farm practice and as an effective long term means of controlling lice and other pathogens.
Technical guidelines for the fallowing of sites have been formulated by the fallowing advisory group which I established last year and marine fish farmers are being actively encouraged to develop fallowing strategies in accordance with these guidelines. It is a key objective to ensure that fallowing proposals are planned and implemented in an integrated way. The strategy is, therefore, being informed by detailed assessment of each such proposal from the local perspective in regional fisheries advisory groups representing fisheries boards, the Salmon Research Agency, the Department, salmon farmers and fisheries interests. Proposals are also assessed, from technical and other perspectives, by the Department's Aquaculture Licence Vetting Committee following consultation with local authorities, the Office of Public Works, Bord Fáilte and other relevant interests.
The present permissions are subject to full compliance with standard fish farm licence conditions, together with stringent environmental, sea lice and fish health monitoring and management requirements. All structures and fish will be removed in the event of the water quality results or general performance at the sites not meeting with the standard set by the Department. The permissions are, therefore, stringently circumscribed and conditional in nature. Implementation will be closely monitored by the Department. I would stress that none of the proposals involves an overall increase in licenced fish production for the operations concerned. All fish will be transferred back to existing licensed sites in due course.
The decision to permit these sites to operate on a trial basis does not represent any commitment to the granting of more permanent licences. The companies have been instructed that, if it is their intention subsequently to seek longer term permissions for the sites, environmental impact statements should be finalised and published during the course of the year.
Any future decisions will be informed by the performance of the sites, the results of environmental, fish health and sea lice monitoring, environmental impact assessment, further consultation with all relevant interests and all other appropriate considerations, including visual, amenity and tourism considerations.