THE shellfish industry employs 1,500 people and is worth more than €60 million a year to coastal communities, a conference was told in Westport, Co Mayo, yesterday.
However, the Irish Shellfish Association (ISA) chairman, Flor Harrington, said expecting the industry to accept that the development programme for fisheries won’t begin until next year is not on.
He told the national shellfish conference that to gain the industry’s trust and respect, the two new ministers responsible for the fisheries brief would have to move quickly to deal with outstanding issues.
Mr Harrington welcomed Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith and Minister of State Tony Killeen to their new positions.
He said he had looked for an urgent meeting with them to discuss the national development programme and licencing issues.
Given the urgency of these issues, he said the ISA expects both experienced politicians to hit the ground running and to work actively with the industry to find urgent solutions.
Mr Harrington said the ISA wanted a starting date for the processing of licences, a starting date for the grant-aid schemes proposed in the Cawley Report and a pro-active approach to dealing with inshore pollution.
“It has been a great year for the ISA in terms of activity, but a frustrating one. The transfer of the old Department to sit in Agriculture with the rest of food sector was welcome. However, months of valuable time were lost,” he said.
Mr Harrington also called for a broad coalition of interests to defend the rights of people who earn their living from the sea.
“A coastal alliance would effectively represent the interests of coastal communities and defend us from the vagaries of official policy which turns its back on the ocean — whether that be at local level or in state Departments or in Brussels,” he said.
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