THE EUROPEAN Commission has warned that Ireland will be fined over €3.8 million if it fails to implement a European Court of Justice ruling on shellfish water quality.
The warning issued by EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas states that Ireland has three months to “complete the necessary steps”.
Otherwise, the Government faces a lump sum fine of over €3.8 million and a daily penalty payment of nearly €40,000.
In a separate case, the European Commission is also sending Ireland a final written warning for “allowing changes to development plans without requiring a strategic environmental assessment”.
The warning relates to Ireland’s response to a European Court of Justice ruling in June 2007, which found that Ireland was neglecting its shellfish stocks by failing to designate shellfish areas and by failing to establish “pollution reduction programmes”.
The original complaint was submitted by the Irish Shellfish Association, which was concerned about the impact of untreated raw sewage in areas where shellfish were being cultivated.
“Clean waters support the sustainable production of shellfish, as well as enhancing the general state of the coastal environment.
“The shellfish industry is a significant employment sector in coastal areas and one of Ireland’s assets. Ireland should urgently complete the necessary steps to comply with the judgment as soon as possible,” the commissioner said.
Since the judgment, Ireland has designated 49 shellfish areas in addition to 14 which had already been selected. One area, Rostellan in Cork harbour, still requires designation, and the Department of the Environment said yesterday that it was “very confident” that the measures would be completed before the three-month deadline.
However, the European Commission says that “finalised and adopted pollution reduction programmes are still missing for all of the additional designations”.
These programmes have to be agreed with local authorities.
“Since the shellfish industry represents a significant employment sector in many of the areas affected, failure to ensure the necessary conditions for shellfish production may have wider economic implications. The absence of pollution reduction programmes also affects the general coastal environment,” the commission has stated.
The association’s executive secretary Richie Flynn said yesterday that the EU warning was “regrettable”, and “a signal to Government that it must pay more attention to rural industries, based on indigenous natural resources”.