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Written Answers - Fishing Industry Development

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 38.  Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  [117] his plans to encourage those who fish the Irish quota to land their fish in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7080/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As a member of the EU, Ireland is obliged to ensure that national laws do not restrict the freedom of establishment of economic operators, including persons or companies, to carry on an economic activity in one or more Member States. The Treaties also establish the right to freedom of movement of goods between Member States. Derogations may be granted but are subject to strict tests regarding their purpose (such as the protection of human health and life) and cannot be based solely on a restriction on trade between Member States.

On this basis, to oblige fishermen to land catch from Irish waters in Irish ports would not be in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties. Contravention would run the risk of a successful challenge by operators or others in the EU Courts. The principles of freedom of establishment and freedom of movement of goods are at the core of the operation of the EU internal market, the main destination for Irish seafood exports. Accordingly, mandatory obligations are not feasible.

These are the concerns I have in relation to the introduction of any form of privatisation of national quotas (Individual Transferable Fishing Concessions) as has been proposed by the EU Commission in the Common Fisheries Policy Reform. The principles of freedom of establishment and freedom of movement of goods would preclude, I believe, the successful application of conditions to land into Ireland in respect of Irish quotas purchased by international companies. I am very concerned that this policy proposal from the EU Commission would pose a high risk of Ireland’s coastal communities losing the benefit of our national quotas in terms of economic activity and employment.

I promote initiatives that encourage vessel owners, both Irish and non-Irish, to land into Irish ports. BIM has taken a strong lead in working with industry to increase landings into Ireland and value added processing. Most recently BIM held an intensive networking seminar on 25th January where key seafood companies in Ireland met to discuss how to achieve scale in the Irish seafood sector. BIM’s Seafood Development Centre (SDC) has been open for two years now and in that time has brought market-led seafood innovation and new product development to the forefront in the Irish seafood industry. The SDC is working with over 330 large, small, and innovative start up companies to develop Ireland into an international seafood leader. New product sales developed by the Centre are estimated at roughly €10 million per annum to date and growing. The Centre is also leading graduate placement and sustainable innovation through training programmes. BIM will continue to work closely with the seafood sector to promote initiatives that will strengthen the seafood sector in Ireland and deliver on the substantial potential of this sector.

My overarching goal for Ireland’s Fishing industry, is for a sustainable, profitable and self reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector, while balancing these objectives with the need to deliver a sustainable and eco-centred fisheries landscape for future generations.

 39.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  the extent to which he can envisage the growth and or redevelopment of the fishing industry with particular reference to the need for adequate income for fishing dependent families; the extent to which the fishing industry here remains or expects to be competitive in the European context; if sufficient emphasis has been placed on the need to process the catch to final or added value stages here; the extent to which processing facilities have been upgraded; the degree to which specific coastal areas deemed to have suffered a reduction in activity arising from con[118]servation or other measures have been identified for specific or particular supports in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7198/12]

 200.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  the total number of jobs generated by the fishing industry in this country at all levels; the extent to which this might be increased or expanded in the future in view of the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7463/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 200 together.

I am committed to continuing the path set out in Food Harvest 2020 for the development of the seafood sector in Ireland into 2012. Food Harvest 2020 identifies the potential of the seafood industry to increase employment from the present level of 11,000 to 14,000 full time equivalent jobs by 2020, mostly in peripheral coastal communities. It also identifies the potential to increase turnover in the sector from €700 million to €1 billion by 2020. These opportunities for the growth of our seafood industry will be driven by an expected growth in world population, particularly in Asia, and a consequent increased demand for seafood.

I am pursuing three key strategies to grow the Irish seafood industry and realise the potential identified in Food Harvest. These are — growing our aquaculture production, adding value to our product and improving the scaling and competitiveness of our processing sector.

Access to raw material supply will be a key issue in the increasingly global marketplace. All indicators suggest that in the medium to long-term, wild caught fish quotas will not increase to any great degree, limiting access to raw material. Growing our aquaculture industry will be essential in increasing the raw material supply to fuel the expansion of our processing sector. Irish Organic Salmon is considered of exceptional quality on the global market, but we are not producing enough product to meet the demand. In order to increase production, create employment and raise revenue BIM is promoting the development of three deep sea salmon farms. It is expected that each farm will be capable of producing up to 15,000 tonnes of Irish organic farmed salmon annually, valued at €102 million. My Department is also working with BIM and the Marine Institute to overcome the present constraints on aquaculture development in our inshore waters, by systematically conducting the environmental assessments required under the EU Habitats Directive. The first three bays were assessed in 2011 and this process is continuing and gathering pace.

As the global demand for seafood continues to rise, there is an opportunity for Ireland to position itself as a producer of premium, sustainable seafood with a clean green branded image. In tandem with Bord Bia promotional activities, Irish seafood can develop a unique and differentiating brand in the internal market place. BIM has targeted the creation of an additional €50 million in value added sales by 2013 through a number of actions. For example, by encouraging the European fishing fleet to partner with Irish processors, value can be added to raw material here rather than shipping direct to the continent. This will provide logistical advantages to both parties. Also, BIM’s Seafood Processing Investment Scheme supports value-added investments in the sector. In 2011, investment in seafood processing amounted to €7 million, including State grant aid of €1.7 million. The 21 projects supported are projected to generate 191 jobs and increased sales of €38 million by 2014.

BIM’s Seafood Development Centre (SDC) has been open for two years now and in that time has brought market-led seafood innovation and new product development to the forefront in the Irish seafood industry. The SDC is working with over 330 large, small, and innovative start up companies to develop Ireland into an international seafood leader. New product sales [119]developed by the Centre are estimated at roughly €10 million per annum to date and growing. The Centre is also leading graduate placement and sustainable innovation through training programmes.

In relation to scaling and competitiveness, there are 40 key Irish processing companies handling nearly 80% of seafood for the export and domestic markets. The companies range in size from €5 million to €50 million in turnover. There are a further 70 smaller companies operating at under €1 million in turnover. In contrast, the turnover of a typical European competitor is in the order of €20 million. The lack of scale in the Irish sector leads to higher production costs, lower investment in strategic areas of planning, business development, marketing and product innovation, all adversely affecting profitability. The peripheral location of the Irish seafood industry can, for companies relying on group logistics, result in a time to market from order to delivery of between 4 and 6 days, compared to 24 to 48 hours for a competitor based on mainland Europe. The effect of this is reflected in the average net profitability of Irish seafood processing companies which stands at 0.94% compared to that of European competitors which is typically between 4%-6%. Last month, BIM convened a workshop of senior managers of Irish seafood processing companies to consider these competitive disadvantages and to encourage the industry to work together to overcome them. I understand the workshop was well attended and very well received by all involved.

Ireland’s coastal areas reflect many of the central challenges facing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors both nationally and in the wider EU. To aid coastal communities face these challenges it is proposed under the Seafood Development OP 2007-2013 to form 6 Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGS) in 2012. These FLAG’s will operate in a bottom up approach, with the fishing communities having a major input into developing local strategies to tackle socio-economic problems in these areas while endeavouring to maintain economic prosperity and jobs in peripheral coastal communities. Grant aid of €1.6 million, co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund, will be made available to the FLAG’s to develop and implement their local strategies up to the end of 2015, leveraging an additional €0.7 million of private investment. This area of support is given a much greater emphasis under draft proposals for the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to operate from 2014, and the level of future investment is likely to reflect this.


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