IRISH Shellfish Association (ISA) members will meet in Dublin on 16 October for their annual conference – and there’s a lot for oyster and mussel producers to discuss in advance of the busy Christmas sales season.
When a sector’s success is often beyond the control of individual growers and in the hands of government, buyers, state agencies, local authorities etc, a strong representative body like the ISA and its parent, IFA, is essential.
The industry has gone through major changes in structure, markets and regulation over the past few years. The stress and frustration caused by licensing delays have discouraged planning and investment in the business, due to the lack of commitment by successive governments.
ISA members today are far from satisfied with progress but at least they are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel on licensing.
Large multi-user bays such as Bantry, Cromane and Roaringwater have gone through the process. Renewals in Donegal, Clew, Kenmare and Galway and Dungarvan bays will soon see dozens more ISA members and thousands of tonnes of product being regularised within the licensing net.
ISA must ensure that members do not face the same unnecessary bureaucracy in 10 short years at the next renewals.
Minister Coveney and IFA President Eddie Downey are on the conference guest list as well as all agencies who interact with industry on a daily basis.
Changes to the biotoxin regime and market prospects in Europe and further afield in Asia, will be discussed and many growers will be looking to the ISA for leadership on a campaign at home and in the EU against proposed new rules to penalise growers for human Noroviruses that local authorities and the EPA allow into inshore waters.
Proposals to bring in crude PCR testing and setting draconian low targets will devastate the Irish fresh export trade and ruin the entire industry.
The ISA is leading the charge against these proposals and highlighting the issue wherever possible. Support is being sought from its agencies at home, from MEPs and from other member states to block these dangerous moves.
The new EU Maritime and Fisheries Fund is a hot topic with the potential for grant aid for most of the industry open after many years of being frozen out due to licensing.
What this 40 per cent aid will be spent on and priority areas for investment are items which will be keenly debated now as the open consultation on its next Operational Programme will be getting in full swing during the Dublin Conference.