Marine Harvest Ireland slams extension to seven-year wait on license decision

Published on
September 5, 2018

Organic salmon producer Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI) has voiced its disappointment at the latest delay by authorities in reaching a decision on a proposed finfish license for Bantry Bay. The Donegal-based firm originally submitted its application to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2011.

The application for a site at Shot Head was approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine in September 2015 but was subsequently appealed to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB). MHI were among the appellants since some of the conditions set-down in the license rendered it unfit for purpose and grossly out-of-kilter with international best-practice.

Having indicated it would reach a decision by October 2018, ALAB has now stated that it is extending its latest deadline until 30 June, 2019. 

The application is the preferred single license size for MHI’s organic operations and is smaller than its operations at Clare Island off the Mayo coast. It involves an investment of EUR 3.5 million (USD 4.1 million), which would initially create six full-time jobs during the farm set-up and a further two additional jobs when fully operational. 

The company confirmed that it would also commission a marine vessel with a local ship builder to service the Shot Head site.

In a statement, MHI said that with ALAB not making its decision until the middle of 2019 at the earliest “sends out a very negative message to the Irish aquaculture sector and doesn’t provide any of the certainty which is necessary for those seeking to invest and create employment in the industry.” 

MHI said that its workers are “bearing the brunt of this inaction and suffering most” because with the company unable to grow enough fish, they don’t have the certainty and security of regular work.

“The Minister for Agriculture has been asked to address the serious bottlenecks in the aquaculture licensing system in an independent report commissioned by his own department which was published in May 2017. MHI and the IFA have asked the minister to implement the recommendations of the report to break the never-ending cycle of unnecessary delays," Marine Harvest said. "As it stands, ALAB is quite obviously under-resourced. It needs to be given adequate resources to do its job especially with the minister putting further work its way by making promises about clearing the backlog of license applications and committing to the issuance of 300 shellfish licenses both this year and next.

The company, which has operated in Ireland for 39 years, estimated that it already contributes more than EUR 21 million (USD 24.3 million) to the Irish economy annually.

“MHI has EUR 22 million [USD 25.5 million] earmarked for investment in Irish sites which would create 250 jobs in rural, coastal locations," the company said. "Ireland’s failure to meet aquaculture targets set out in various government strategy documents will result in lost income of EUR 1.3 billion [USD 1.5 billion] by 2020 if no tangible, progressive action is taken by the department."

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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