The seafood development measure contained in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 is divided between the EU co-funded operational programme and the national seafood development operational programme. The EU co-funded operational programme has already commenced and has funded the 2008 decommissioning scheme which has allowed 46 boats to be decommissioned with grant aid totalling €36.6 million already paid during 2008 and 2009.
The national seafood development operational programme 2007 to 2013 was advertised for public consultation in October 2008. Following this consultation process, issues were raised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of the Central Fisheries Board regarding the grant-aiding of projects where environmental issues arise relating to compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and sea lice control on salmon farms.
This Department with its agencies working with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government developed a plan to deliver compliance with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives for wild fisheries and aquaculture over a determined timeframe. This plan was submitted to DG Environment for consideration and has been subject to detailed discussions. While DG Environment had indicated that it was in principle supportive of the plan, it has recently advised that it remains concerned about certain aspects of the planned approach to delivering compliance for aquaculture licensing. I will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address the outstanding concerns of DG Environment.
In that regard, I secured €1 million for the collection of baseline data for assessment purposes in 2009 in addition to funding provided by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Following an EU tender, the Marine Institute appointed personnel to operate the data collection exercise. This process is ongoing and will support compliance of aquaculture and wild fisheries with the terms of the Birds and Habitat Directives.
In regard to sea lice issues, I have met the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, on this issue, most recently early this month. I advised on the significant progress made in regard to managing sea lice levels on salmon farms and the concerns of the fisheries boards were also set down. I hope there is a better understanding of the issues involved from the perspectives of both Departments and that on this basis we can find a satisfactory resolution to the concerns raised
Grants payable under the national seafood development operational programme 2007 to 2013 will be fully funded by the Exchequer. There are no EU time restrictions on the adoption of the operational programme. Once the operational programme has been adopted, the individual schemes under the programme will have to be notified to the EU under EU state aid guidelines.