A Fine Gael TD launched a heavy attack on Inland Fisheries Ireland for its board of directors’ decision to cease the majority of its operations.
It announced this decision in April but is waiting to go through with a consultation process on how best to exit the field without causing harm. Fine Gael’s Peter Burke calls this consultation an “insult” and says it is not “meaningful”. He said:
“People might be aware that in 2015, a report was commissioned by Canadian Aquaculture Systems, Inc. which found that there was no explicit reason for IFI to cease its operation in fish farms. Indeed, it found that the operations were comparable to those of the private sector. When one considers how dated the plant is in Roscrea, it was a significant achievement.
"The report also explicitly stated that in the past, IFI issued a public tender for the supply of rainbow trout for put-and-take fisheries and there were no responses or bids to the tender. This clearly states that there is no alternative to the current operation and, therefore, a view being advanced that we should look to the private sector to fill in the void does not hold water.
“The CEO of IFI normally states there are opportunity costs. I would put to him clearly the opportunity cost of the assessment in the unique position held by IFI in having minimal access to large volumes of high-quality water. Water supplies are available at the fisheries at little or no cost, relying on longstanding arrangements. If these arrangements are terminated, these will almost certainly not be repeated in any sector. A conservative estimate of the volume of water used by the three fisheries amounts to 25,000 cu. cm per day which would cost in excess of €35,000 per day. What is the opportunity cost of that?”
Mr Burke also spoke of the economic cost involved in the closures.
“A socio-economic study into recreational angling indicates that angling is responsible for €750 million in revenue per annum and in excess of 10,000 jobs so what is the opportunity cost of compromising that sector?
“I want to be very clear about this. The Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, has been exceptional. He came to Mullingar yesterday evening and attended a public meeting with all the anglers' associations and concerned representatives. We took a tour of the fish farm in Cullion and we could see clearly its self-sufficiency.
"There have been workers there for generations who have brought together a strong strain of trout that they have spent 40 or 50 years breeding. Why should we compromise this to import fish from outside Ireland that could bring germs or diseases? There are no pumps at Cullion as the water is brought in from Lough Owel, going to Lough Ennell through the Brosna.
"It is operated with natural gravity. We must stand up and be counted on this issue, making it very clear to the board of Inland Fisheries Ireland, IFI, that this will be done at its peril. It is a key industry that must be protected.”
However, Fianna Fáil’s Robbie Gallagher took aim at Mr Burke’s party in the Seanad when he said the Government should be providing more funds to IFI to ensure they continue operations.
The submission period IFI’s closure for the public is until 5 p.m. on 19 August. Online submissions are welcome.