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Mowi threatens legal action over licence delays

Legal letter claims the operation of Co Donegal site has been prejudiced, writes Sean Pollock

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View of Lough Swilly

View of Lough Swilly

View of Lough Swilly

Mowi, a Norwegian seafood company, has threatened the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with future legal action regarding a "significant delay" to a fishing licence application.

The company's Irish subsidiary first applied for a revised fishing licence for its Lough Swilly site in Co Donegal in 2006 and then again in 2014, but the application has yet to be progressed. In a legal letter seen by the Sunday Independent, sent on January 20, it is claimed that Mowi's ability to operate the site has been prejudiced by the delay.

The letter, which was sent by law firm Matheson on behalf of Mowi, asks that the department confirm it has proceeded the 2014 application to public and statutory confirmation within eight weeks. It also asks that the department outline the reasons for the two-year delay to Mowi.

Matheson has also claimed that Mowi "reserves all of its rights" with regards to any loss it has suffered as a result of the delay.

The letter outlines that Mowi initially applied to review and renew the licence for Lough Swilly in 2006, seeking to amend the conditions of the licence due to it being more than 15 years old. The application sought to ensure "best scientific and fish health practices" at the site.

The law firm said there was a "significant delay" in progressing the 2006 application. According to the letter, Mowi, which was formerly known as Marine Harvest, was advised this was a result of the State's "failure to set conservation objectives" in a timely manner.

It was as a result of this delay that Mowi was asked to submit another application in 2014.

As part of the latest 2014 application for Lough Swilly, Mowi again requested to change the terms and conditions of the licence. The letter references introducing the metric standing stock biomass, which is the amount of live fish at a site, in place of harvest tonnage limits.

The department made queries with Mowi on the new application. Matheson stated that Mowi had addressed these queries two years ago. It claimed the department had not identified any other matters to be addressed since.

The letter claims the department has still not progressed the applications.

It said the lack of progress meant Mowi's ability to run its business in Lough Swilly was being "prejudiced", due to the "outdated conditions" of its current licence. It said this had been caused by the two-year delay, since January 2018, to progress the application further.

Mowi has 13 operations across five coastal counties in Ireland, employing nearly 300 people here, with annual sales of €66.1m. Last year, Mowi said it could move a €22m capital investment programme here to other countries due to the slow pace of seafood licensing reform.

Sunday Indo Business