Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has criticised the Government over the continuing delays in decisions over oyster farms in Donegal.
Deputy Doherty had an exchange with Minister for the Marine Michael Creed yesterday evening over delays in decisions relating to controversial aquaculture licence applications and appeals for oyster farm developments which have been proposed at a number of scenic Donegal beaches and strands.
During the Dáil debate, Deputy Doherty highlighted the mounting fears and distress of marine communities due to decisions yet to have been made in West Donegal.
Deputy Doherty said countless coastal communities are living in a state of constant dread and unease as their coasts face an uncertain future. He said the fears are caused by “imposition of large scale, poorly planned and – in some instances – unsightly aquaculture developments.”
“The prospect of trestles and other cultivation equipment on beaches and scenic coastal locations for proposed oyster farms has created much anxiety in areas where it’s felt that, should such developments get the go ahead, then much harm will be done to the local marine environment, its lure as a natural amenity, and its potential consequence for tourism, recreation and the local economy.”
“In Donegal, communities have been left in limbo for months while decisions in respect of controversial licence applications for oyster farms are still pending, while decisions on appeals have still to be reached for others.
“Minister, you mentioned that an Environmental Impact statement is required if an application relates to finfish, while for shellfish the department can carry out a screening, but yet the Department waived the requirement for an EIS for the application at Cruit Strand which some 3,200 people in the community lodged a submission against.
“I’m not sure if the Minister, before issuing the Ministerial direction which waived the requirement for an EIS to be carried out on that large scale development, has ever even set foot on this part of our country.
“If he stood on the bridge at Cruit and looked out at where the trestles would be located then he wouldn’t have put pen to paper.
“Minister, if you stood at Rann na Feirste, in Rann na Mónadh, in Anagaire or in Carrickfinn and looked out at the bay and envisaged the 99 acres of aquaculture planned for these locations, and the impact this would have on tourism and culture here on the Wild Atlantic Way and the beauty of that area which has inspired many artists over the years, then you never would have waived that requirement.
“Minister, in the recent report from the Independent Review Group which you yourself set up a number of months’ ago, that report showed that the licencing process is flawed.
“My party and I, including local area Councillors Marie-Therese Gallagher and John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh put together a serious submission as part of this review and, thankfully, certain parts of our submission were upheld by that review.
“The process is flawed and it’s been found that it is taking too long to make determinations in respect of applications for these developments.
“We are now calling for you to do two things. We want you to fix the licencing process and speed up determinations but, ultimately, we want you to ensure that those communities will not be living in fear indefinitely as a result of aquaculture licences which are too large is size and scale.
“Minister, I want to make it clear that I support many small entrepreneurs in communities involved in aquaculture and I’ve also helped individuals secure licences previously.
“I believe that Oyster farms and aquaculture can be a positive for a local community overall but only when they are the right size and scale.
“This is indeed not the case in the applications which I’ve mentioned here tonight, and I’m calling on you to refuse them.”Tags: