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Single System of Marine Consents May Exclude Key Marine Activities

5th December 2019
Fishing activities may be omitted from the long-awaited Marine Planning and Development Management Bill Fishing activities may be omitted from the long-awaited Marine Planning and Development Management Bill

A Government plan to streamline marine planning and consent has been stymied by refusal of one key department to become involved writes Lorna Siggins

A new “one stop permit shop” for offshore wind farms, ocean energy and other marine activities will not now cover fish farming or sea fisheries.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed intends to retain responsibility for aquaculture and sea-fisheries related development, his department has confirmed.

As a result, these activities may be omitted from the long-awaited Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, which is due to come before the Oireachtas shortly.

The new legislation billed as “revolutionary”, intends to underpin a single maritime area consent system for economic activity off the coast which avoids conflicts between competing interests.

The failure by Mr Creed’s department to sign up was criticised at a consultation meeting on the Government’ s new national marine planning framework in Galway this week.

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English, who is spearheading the new framework, told the meeting his department would be hiring planners with a marine background as part of the approach.

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Aquaculture Executive Teresa Morrisey, who represents fish and shellfish farmers, challenged Mr English to explain why Mr Creed’s department had declined to sign up.

She said that the current system of aquaculture licensing had been acknowledged as not fit for purpose.

“How many government departments does it takes to manage the native flat oyster?"

Mr Diarmuid Kelly of Cuan Beo, the Galway Bay environmental organisation, also highlighted the anomalies when he asked Mr English if he knew “how many government departments it takes to manage the native flat oyster”.

“Seven,” Mr English replied, acknowledging there was an issue of duplication.

“The situation with the Department of Agriculture is not finished yet,” Mr English added, referring to the new legislation.

The national marine planning framework has been hailed by Mr English as a “milestone” and “Ireland’s first complete marine spatial plan”.

Under the associated legislation, maritime area consents will be granted by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment for developments such as offshore renewable energy.

The Government’s target of 70% renewable energy by 2030 as part of its climate action plan means Ireland “will have to prepare now for a significant offshore wind capacity in our system”, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said recently.

Maritime area consents for all other development will be granted by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

A newly designated “nearshore” area will fall under local authorities, which will regulate “minor activities” such as horse racing on beaches.

Just three months have been given for submissions to the marine planning framework, which is one central piece in a jigsaw designed to meet the EU requirement for national marine spatial plans by 2021.

Mr English’s department is hosting a series of regional consultative meetings around the coast before the submission deadline of February 28th, 2020.

Published in Environment
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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