EC Challenge on Strangford 16 March 2012
EC challenge on Strangford Lough
The Department of
Environment and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development confirmed
that a letter has been received from the European Commission outlining their
final position in respect of the management of Strangford Lough.
The Commission has raised concerns about the protection of the remaining communities of Horse Mussels (modiolous), the control and assessment of pot fishing and acquaculture activities and enhance restoration of habitat.
Alex Attwood said: “A formal letter has been received from the EU commencing a process of investigation and dialogue. Our response must be decisive. We need to demonstrate that the horse mussel reef issue is being conclusively addressed. I will be discussing this issue with my Executive colleague Michelle O’Neill. We have until May this year to convince the EU that any deterioration is being addressed, beyond which infraction awaits”
Minister O’Neill added “My Department has responsibility for fisheries management in the Lough. I remain disappointed with the Commission interpretation but I am determined to develop a response which fully matches our responsibility under the Habitats Directive. I have undertaken to meet fishermen in the near future to discuss options with them and officials from both Departments will be working hard together to develop a satisfactory management regime for the future.”
Minister Attwood concluded “Following my meetings in Brussels, I am arranging to return to Brussels in the next few weeks to discuss with senior EU officials – and I hope with the Environment Commissioner – to attempt to ensure understanding of measures to protect the horse mussel reef, a sustainable fishing industry working in harmony within the ethos of the Habitats Directive and to show an unambiguous determination to settle the matter once and for all”.