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A 20 million euro scheme to support the Irish aquaculture sector affected by Brexit has been approved by the European Commission under EU State aid rules.”

The scheme is aimed at “mitigating the adverse impact on employment in the coastal communities, by supporting the development of an alternative source of raw material supply for seafood processors and by enhancing the viability of aquaculture companies”, the European Commission has said in a statement.

It will be open to aquaculture producers who will “purchase and install new machinery and equipment, as well as construct new premises, with the aim of increasing the production, enhancing the quality of the aquaculture products or substantially increasing energy efficiency”, the Commission says.

It explains that the aid will take the form of direct grants, covering up to 50% of the actual investment costs. The scheme will run until December 31st, 2023.

The plan is to finance it under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), which was set up to mitigate the economic and social impact of Brexit, subject to approval under the specific provisions governing funding from that instrument.

The Government has already said that the Seafood Task Force recommendations relating to dealing with the negative impacts of Brexit in relation to substantial loss of fish quotas and market disruption after Britain withdrew from the EU are due to be funded through the BAR.

The Commission assessed the measures under relevant legislation and guidelines, and found that the scheme facilitates the development of an economic activity and does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

On this basis, the Commission says, it approved the Irish measure under EU State aid rules.

It says the non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.102229 in the State aid register on the Commission's competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Fishing and seafood organisations say they are “shocked and disappointed” at the Minister for Marine’s failure to address the fuel crisis facing the sector.

A joint statement from eight representative organisations calls on the Government and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue, to set up a national scheme and draw down existing EU funds to cover extra fuel costs.

The statement follows a lengthy meeting with Mr McConalogue earlier this week, which the minister had described as “productive”.

However, the eight organisations have warned that the survival of the entire seafood sector is at stake and that he must “act now”.

On July 6th, the same day as the meeting with Mr McConalogue, the European Parliament had voted to allocate unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to tackle the fuel crisis.

“Some member states have had a quick and effective response, leading to a reduction of fuel prices for fishing vessels,” the joint statement by the organisations says.

“ Others such as Ireland, have refused to compensate their fishermen - a response which has sparked port blockades in, for example, the Netherlands,” the statement says.

‘’There is no excuse for the minister to delay in immediately setting up a national scheme to cover the additional costs, particularly fuel -the EU funding is there,” the statement continues.

“Failure to act is a major threat to the survival of the fishing/seafood sector, which is worth € 1.26 billion to the Irish economy. It’s also a blow for the coastal communities which depend on our sector for their survival,” it says.

“We are disappointed that the Minister did not announce a scheme at our meeting last night. However, we do expect he will act, having reflected on the magnitude of the crisis very clearly articulated by us at the meeting.”

The joint statement was issued on behalf of the delegation which met the minister. 

They include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture (IFA Aquaculture), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

Published in Fishing

Eight Irish fishing industry groups have warned that traditional fish and chips “may not be on Irish restaurant summer menus” due to Government inaction on high energy prices.

“Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors,” Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), has warned.

He says the crisis is “a threat to food security”.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers OrganisationAodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation

The seafood sector says it is calling on the Government to “act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control”.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

A joint statement issued in advance of a meeting with Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue this week has been issued by the eight groups.

They include the IFPO the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23rd.

“This was to enable member states to use the flexibility of State aid rules to compensate for high energy prices,” Byrne says.

“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption. It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) ”he says.

The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

Enda Conneely of the IIMRO says the Irish government has “abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy”.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

“The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities,” Dr Flannery says.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO also says that “the Irish government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry.

“Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations,” Lynch says.

“We need to prevent a wipeout of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”

Norah Parke, on behalf of KFO, says her organisation supports the Irish fishing industry’s stance.“

“We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used,” she says.

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO says “we have a united Irish seafood industry of fishing, fish processing, and aquaculture sectors. Together we demand that the Irish government act now”.

“The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” Murphy says.

Published in Fishing

Applications are being sought for the fourth Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech Innovation Studio programme - due to take place part-time in Kerry and Dublin, with a site visit to Bergen in Norway - later this year.

The Innovation Studio, delivered by aquaculture accelerator Hatch, and supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, is an equity-free programme to develop commercial scalability, technological readiness and an industry fit for projects that aim to increase the sustainability of aquaculture – whether in Ireland or further afield.

The 37 start-ups that have been through the programmes in the last four years now employ over 160 people and have raised over €13 million to date. Participants have gone on to fund businesses in seaweed, genetics and specialist technology for meat and seafood processors.

Successful applicants this year will have the opportunity to connect with a global network of aquaculture industry experts to validate their ideas, understand key market insights, learn to pitch for investment and effectively interact with customers.

Aquatech can involve everything from AI sensors and satellites to aquaculture systems for species, but it also has ability to revolutionise small-scale production and safeguard food security.

Since the launch of the initiative, BIM, Ireland's seafood development agency and Hatch, the company behind the world’s first aquaculture accelerator programme, have together helped to foster a notable rise in the number and revenues of the country’s aquaculture entrepreneurs.

This year’s in-person programme has a brand-new format, with participants spending two to three days a week over the course of July in Kerry and Dublin, and the programme also include a site visit to Bergen later in the year.

Richard Donnelly, BIM’s Innovation and Development Manager, said that Ireland is one of the global leaders in the aquatech development sector:

“Contingents from other countries have made site trips here to see the work and innovation that is going on. But more importantly, Ireland is also exporting this expertise and knowledge, with several spin-out companies and outposts in other parts of the world.

“This programme, which we run with Hatch, is a fantastic way for someone with an interest in the area - or an idea they want to test – to come onboard and learn a huge amount.”

Wayne Murphy, co-founder and managing partner at Hatch, said that participation in the 2022 Innovation Studio is a fantastic way to trial an aquatech business idea or see if it can be brough to fruition:

“As well as a chance to meet and learn from aquaculture industry experts, potential investors and business development gurus, participants will have the opportunity to travel to Bergen to visit other initiatives, expand their international networks and experience life in one of largest aquaculture ecosystems in the world.”

How to apply

There are up to 10 places available for the studio and applications are sought from start-ups, tech innovators and academics who are keen to commercialise their research. Applicants must be focused on developing their business in Ireland or targeting the Irish aquaculture market but do not need to be based in Ireland. The closing date is June 10th next.

Click here to apply for the 2022 BIM / Hatch Aquatech Innovation Studio.

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The Chairman of IFA Aquaculture has called for more Government support to be given to fish farming.

Fish farmers are members of IFA Aquaculture, part of the Irish Farmers’ Association. There have been lengthy delays over many years in the issuing of farming licences and environmental opposition and controversy.

Aquaculture is an increasingly important source of seafood, according to Michael Mulloy, Chairman of IFA Aquaculture.

Michael Mulloy, Chairman of IFA AquacultureMichael Mulloy, Chairman of IFA Aquaculture

In Scotland, a survey of people living near fish farms in Argyll and Bute, the North-West Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, has shown that they are broadly supportive of them. 54 per cent of those with at least some knowledge of the sector were “favourable.” – That was over twice the number who were unfavourable at 23 per cent.

Mulloy owns Blackshell Farm in Clew Bay where he began mussel farming in 1983. He says aquaculture in Ireland is a “poor relation” in terms of the way that it is treated, compared with other maritime countries

On my Maritime Ireland Radio Show, he said that vociferous individuals had held the industry back.

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Farmed salmon is Britain’s largest food export by value – more valuable than anything else except beer.

Sounds impressive, but nutritious wild fish caught to sustain salmon farming is being squandered a new study maintains.

Scientists analysing the Scottish salmon farming industry calculate that an extra six million tonnes of seafood would be available annually if wild caught fish is diverted away from aquaculture feed.

The new study, as Afloat reported previously here published in the research journal PLOS Sustainability and Transformation says that limiting salmon farming to using feed made from fish by-products could result in 3.7 million tonnes of fish being left in the sea.

Dr Karen Luyckx of the Feedback ngo, which welcomed the findings, said that “until the salmon industry kicks its wild-caught fish oil and fishmeal habit, chefs and retailers should help citizens switch away from unsustainable salmon by offering ultra-nutritious mussels and small oily fish instead.”

Study author Dr David Willer, research fellow at the University of Cambridge, spoke to Wavelengths this week about the study and the reaction from industry.

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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Shellfish and fish farmers are due to gather in Westport, Co Mayo today (Thursday, April 7) for the IFA aquaculture conference and annual general meeting.

Speakers from the aquaculture industry, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Bord Bia and the Marine Institute will contribute to the two-day conference. The event includes a mussel workshop hosted by BIM.

Presentations at the mussel workshop will address the priorities of the upcoming European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund ( EMFAF) with a focus on

  • the continued development of a sustainable and competitive sector
  • supply of quality, healthy and safe seafood
  • documentation of the carbon footprint of the Irish mussel industry and management of marine biodiversity.

BIM is organising a site visit to Blackshell Farm Ltd on Friday, April 8th.

The event is being supported by the EMFF, and a full agenda and details on how to register are here

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Nutritious wild-caught fish is being squandered if it continues to be used as feed for farmed salmon, a new study maintains.

Scientists analysing the Scottish salmon farming industry calculate that an extra six million tonnes of seafood would be available annually if wild caught fish is diverted away from aquaculture feed.

Farming fish is often billed as a way to relieve pressure on wild stocks, but caged-reared species such as Atlantic salmon rely for feed on fish oil and meal made from millions of tonnes of wild-caught fish.

The new study published in the research journal PLOS Sustainability and Transformation says that limiting salmon farming to using feed made from fish by-products could result in 3.7 million tonnes of fish being left in the sea.

Global annual seafood production could increase by 6.1 (six point one) million tonnes by avoiding use of nutritious wild-caught fish, the team of scientists from Cambridge, Lancaster and Liverpool universities and environmental NGO Feedback Global, state.

The team collected data on fish nutrient content, fishmeal and fish oil composition, and salmon production, and examined the transfer of micronutrients from feed to fish in Scotland's farmed salmon industry.

The scientists say that results showed that over half of the essential dietary minerals and fatty acids available in wild fish are lost when these fish are fed to farmed salmon.

The team developed alternative production scenarios where salmon were only produced using fish by-products, and then added more wild-caught fish, mussels or carp for human consumption.

All alternative production scenarios produced more seafood that was more nutritious than salmon, and left 66-82% of feed fish in the sea.

The researchers then collected global salmon, fishmeal and oil production data to apply their alternative scenarios at a global scale.

One scenario shows that farming more carp and less salmon, using only feed from fish by-products, could leave 3.7 million tonnes of wild fish in the sea while producing 39% more seafood overall, according to their calculations.

“Fish and seafood provide a vital and valuable micronutrient-rich food source to people worldwide, and we must make sure we are using this resource efficiently,” the study leader, Dr David Willer of Cambridge University, said.

“ Eating more wild fish and using alternative feeds in salmon farms can achieve this,” he said.

The authors acknowledge that not enough is known about the source and species composition of fishmeal, but there are positive signs that use of plant-based feeds is growing.

Dr James Robinson of Lancaster University said more data on the volumes and species used for fishmeal and fish oil was required, as “this can show where salmon farming places additional pressure on fish stocks”.

Dr Karen Luyckx of the Feedback ngo said that “until the salmon industry kicks its wild-caught fish oil and fishmeal habit, chefs and retailers should help citizens switch away from unsustainable salmon by offering ultra-nutritious mussels and small oily fish instead.”

The authors call for a reduction in marine aquaculture feeds, as this will offer opportunities to produce more nutritious seafood while reducing pressure on marine ecosystems.

Maximising sustainable nutrient production from coupled fisheries-aquaculture systems by David Willer, James Robinson, Grace Patterson and Karen Luyckx is published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation.

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Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is expected to question a license application by the world’s largest farmed salmon producer for a fish farm in Ballinakill Bay off Cleggan in Connemara.

As The Sunday Independent reports today, Mowi Ireland plans to open public consultation shortly on its license application for a 22-cage fish farm in Ballinakill Bay.

The bay is within a special area of conservation, and part of a proposed natural heritage area.

The details of the project have been circulated to notifiable bodies, including IFI and the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency.

Both State bodies are believed to have serious reservations about the location due to potential impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks.

Pot fishermen working in the area could also be impacted by an aquaculture project of this size, according to local interests.

Mowi Ireland, which is part of the Mowi Group Norwegian global seafood company, says it contributes over €20million to the domestic economy annually, working with some 920 Irish suppliers

Over the past 41 years, the company, formerly known as Fanad Fisheries and Marine Harvest, has employed 300 people between its salmon farms, hatcheries and processing facility in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork and Kerry.

A Mowi Ireland spokesman confirmed that the company is “engaged in the initial stages of statutory consultation regarding a potential aquaculture facility off the Galway coast”.

“ The next steps will be set out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s aquaculture and foreshore management division,” the spokesman said.

“The applicant will engage in a full round of public consultation in line with current aquaculture legislation,” the spokesman added.

IFI is the State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, and has received a scientific report on the Mowi application for Ballinakill Bay.

IFI told The Sunday Independent it had "submitted observations on the application which will go to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine who will decide on the application and whether the license should be issued or not".

However, IFI is already seeking a judicial review of a license granted by the Aquaculture License Appeals Board to Mowi for an 18-pen farm in Bantry Bay, west Cork.

Mowi was granted permission last July to harvest up to 2,800 tonnes of salmon over a 24-month production cycle, with no restriction on the timing of harvesting, at Shot Head in Bantry Bay.

The Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages group has written to Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue objecting to the new license application.

It argues that the proposed farm would have a “devastating impact on the Dawros (Kylemore River) – which flows into Ballinakill Bay- and on salmon and sea trout populations and angling tourism on the Delphi, Erriff, Culfin, Bunowen, Carrowinskey, Owenglen and Ballynahinch rivers.

Mowi Ireland’s managing director Jan Feenstra has announced plans to retire on July 1st, 2022, after 40 years working in salmon aquaculture.

Mowi CEO Ivan Vindheim has paid tribute to Feenstra, stating he is “ most grateful for Jan’s long tenure with our company, during a period that has seen our Irish business unit grow into a world-leading supplier of premium organic salmon”.

Read more in The Sunday Independent here 

Published in Aquaculture

A total of 9 start-ups with backgrounds in areas including engineering, IT and farming took part in BIM’s Innovation Studio at the RDI Hub in Killorglin this month.

The programme, formerly known as BIM’s Aquaculture Accelerator, is run by BIM in partnership with global accelerator Hatch and took part as an in-person event over two weeks.

To date, 38 such start-ups have taken part in BIM’s Innovation Studios, raising more than €9million and generating more than 40 jobs in aquatech in Ireland.

An Aquatech Community Day was held during this year’s Innovation Studio at which Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. gave the opening address.

Guests at the Open Day event included aquaculture industry members, Irish and international investors, government representatives and the 2021 Innovation Studio participants plus alumni.

Speaking to the audience via a live-streamed video, Minister McConalogue referred to how major technological advances have been recurring features in our history and how this emerging innovation and new technology focus for the aquaculture industry is already transforming the industry, on this island and around the world.

The Minister also spoke of the role the Innovation Studios are playing to help achieve the ambitious goals set out in his Department’s Food Vision 2030 Strategy, namely ‘Attract global investment in aquaculture technology’ and to ‘Promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract investment on our knowledge base’.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM, presented on the future of aquaculture in Ireland, highlighting Ireland’s unique and fortunate position to have a young, skilled and dynamic population, where the average age is 38 and where almost 6 in every ten adults has a third level education.

The continued purpose of BIM’s Innovation Studios is to create a dynamic environment for start-ups with new ideas for aquatech where they can innovate, experiment and test their ideas with leading experts from backgrounds in aquaculture, finance and marketing. The Studios are also giving these start-ups access to funding from venture capital - where they can secure early-stage funding quickly – and where they can quickly and with agility fill gaps in the global aquaculture market. The fastest growing protein sector in the world.

BIM is currently working to create a dedicated Irish Aquaculture Fund to further support the growing aquatech businesses that have already taken part in their Innovation Studios. Hatch are also in the process of raising a €75million fund for global aquaculture innovation.

The Innovation Studio is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and is helping to nurture early-stage ideas in aquatech.

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Marine Institute Research Vessel Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean after the renowned County Kerry seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

Ireland's new multi-purpose marine research vessel RV Tom Crean, was delivered in July 2022 and will be used by the Marine Institute and other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping surveys; as well as maintaining and deploying weather buoys, observational infrastructure and Remotely Operated Vehicles.

The RV Tom Crean will also enable the Marine Institute to continue to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland's position as a leader in marine science. The research vessel is a modern, multipurpose, silent vessel (designed to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research), capable of operating in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Tom Crean is able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and is designed to operate in harsh sea conditions.

RV Tom Crean Specification Overview

  • Length Overall: 52.8 m
  • Beam 14m
  • Draft 5.2M 

Power

  • Main Propulsion Motor 2000 kw
  • Bow Thruster 780 kw
  • Tunnel thruster 400 kw

Other

  • Endurance  21 Days
  • Range of 8,000 nautical miles
  • DP1 Dynamic Positioning
  • Capacity for 3 x 20ft Containers

Irish Marine Research activities

The new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

According to Aodhán FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager of the MI, the RV Tom Crean will feature an articulated boom crane aft (6t@ 10m, 3T@ 15m), located on the aft-gantry. This will be largely used for loading science equipment and net and equipment handling offshore.

Mounted at the stern is a 10T A-frame aft which can articulate through 170 degrees which are for deploying and recovering large science equipment such as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV’s), towed sleds and for fishing operations.

In addition the fitting of an 8 Ton starboard side T Frame for deploying grabs and corers to 4000m which is the same depth applicable to when the vessel is heaving but is compensated by a CTD system consisting of a winch and frame during such operations.

The vessel will have the regulation MOB boat on a dedicated davit and the facility to carry a 6.5m Rigid Inflatable tender on the port side.

Also at the aft deck is where the 'Holland 1' Work class ROV and the University of Limericks 'Etain' sub-Atlantic ROV will be positioned. In addition up to 3 x 20’ (TEU) containers can be carried.

The newbuild has been engineered to endure increasing harsher conditions and the punishing weather systems encountered in the North-East Atlantic where deployments of RV Tom Crean on surveys spent up to 21 days duration.

In addition, RV Tom Crean will be able to operate in an ultra silent-mode, which is crucial to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research purposes.

The classification of the newbuild as been appointed to Lloyds and below is a list of the main capabilities and duties to be tasked by RV Tom Crean:

  • Oceanographic surveys, incl. CTD water sampling
  • Fishery research operations
  • Acoustic research operations
  • Environmental research and sampling operation incl. coring
  • ROV and AUV/ASV Surveys
  • Buoy/Mooring operations