The transfer of aquaculture licensing to the Loughs Agency, which was legislated for in 2007, is being blocked by the Lough Foyle border dispute, the fisheries minister Michelle McIlveen has revealed.
She explained how the Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 had provided for the extension of the licensing and development of aquaculture in the Lough to the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (FCILC), which is comprised of the Loughs Agency and the Lights Agency.
“The Order provided for a new aquaculture licensing system in the Foyle and Carlingford Areas under the control of the FCILC,” she said.
However, the ongoing dispute over who owns Lough Foyle, which was reignited by Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire’s recent reiteration of the British claim, has prevented this from taking place, the minister explained.
“You will be aware, that the transfer of aquaculture licensing to the Loughs Agency cannot take place until such time as the jurisdictional issues surrounding Lough Foyle have been addressed,” said Ms McIlveen.
“The ownership issue of both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough is not a matter within the competence of this Assembly. However, I know that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Crown Estate have been talking about this issue for some time.
“I understand that the next meeting between the two Governments is scheduled for later this month in Dublin,” added the Minister.
She said the regulation of aquaculture was one of the departments main concerns.
“The pressing priority for all those involved in these discussions should be to come to an arrangement which will allow the Loughs Agency to properly fulfil its role in relation to the regulation of aquaculture in both the Foyle and Carlingford Areas,” she added.