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Aquaculture
Aquabusiness graduates (from left to right) Dr Karen Hennessey, Head of CIT Wexford campus, James > Roche of Kilmore Quay (to graduate shortly), Amy Allen, course director,  HDip graduate Seamus O'Flaherty Jnr of Kilmore Quay, Dr Janette Davies, deputy head of Wexford Campus, Brian O'Loan, BIM Resource Development Officer,  and HDip graduate Carmen Bates of Duncannon.
Students from Norway and other countries are participating in a higher diploma in aquabusiness which is now in its fourth year in Wexford. A total of 19 students have registered for the one-year part-time diploma in “business in aquabusiness” which…
Currently, harvesters are paid €55 a tonne for Ascophyllum nodosum
Hand-harvesting seaweed on the Irish Atlantic coast experienced an unexpected boost due to Covid-19, according to Canadian-owned seaweed company Arramara Teo. Construction workers with coastal connections opted to supplement incomes on the shoreline, and there are now large quantities in…
Lehanagh Pool sea site, Connemara, Co Galway
Increasing the value and sustainability of aquaculture will be the focus of ASTRAL, a new EU funded research project, that involves the Marine Institute and partners across the Atlantic. Ireland’s aquaculture sector produces 38,000 tonnes annually, providing a valuable food…
Aquaculture workshop helps position Ireland as leader in next phase of industry’s innovation – participants of this year’s aquaculture workshop
Ten start-ups from backgrounds including tech and AI took part in this year’s Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquaculture Workshop. This year’s event, run by Hatch and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund took place entirely online due to…
Rope mussel farmers suffered a 34% fall in sales between February and June
Speaking at the IFA Aquaculture Webinar today Thursday 22 October, the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., announced a special Covid-19 financial support scheme for rope mussel and oyster farmers under his Department’s European Maritime and…
The MSC UK award - made from recycled fishing nets -  which was presented to this year's award winners including BIM
Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s role in certifying the Irish mussel industry as “sustainable” has earned it an “Ocean Hero” award from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC, based in Britain, is an international non-profit organisation which sets “globally recognised, science-based…
Cockles in an Irish supermarket
The Dubliners' ode to Irish shellfish in their song Molly Malone may have been relying on inaccurate information. New research by University College, Cork (UCC) scientists reports there is “inconsistent” data on the location of Irish cockles in previous studies. Cockles…
A Dublin Bay Prawn emerges from its seabed burrow
The Marine Institute is collaborating with scientists in Spain as part of a new project, Smart Lobster, to monitor the digging activity and maintenance of burrows of the Nephrops norvegicus, commonly known as the Dublin Bay Prawn, using the EMSO…
Inventor Grzegorz Skawiński with his oyster device
A Polish man says he has quite literally turned oyster farming on its head - by inventing a revolutionary device that allows for three times more oysters within the same area of seabed. Grzegorz Skawiński developed the product over two…
Fish Health Controls in Ireland Show High Level of Compliance
The Marine Institute says that its fish health inspection and monitoring activities in 2018 and 2019 indicate that there is a high level of compliance with EU and national legislation, and as a result, Ireland continues to maintain its high…
Local produce from Mulroy Bay Mussels. The County Donegal firm were awarded €75,900 in the Sustainable Aquaculture Scheme to invest in new handling equipment
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen T.D. today announced €3.4 million in new investment by 15 aquaculture enterprises, with his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme providing grants of €1,282,277. Minister Cowen said, “I am…
The IMTA Impaqt pilot site at Lehanagh Pool, in Connemara
Seafood is a popular and healthy food product in Ireland with the average Irish person consuming about 22kg of fish per year. People recognise the health benefits with fish being low-fat and a good source of omega-3 fats, which are…
Marine Minister Michael Creed
Frustration is building around the coastline over a reluctance by Minister for Marine Michael Creed to avail of EU funding to ease the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fishing and fish farming industries. As The Sunday Times…
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD pictured with managing director John Nolan on a visit to the Castletownbere Fishermens Co-Operative Society Ltd
Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. today announced the award of €2,369,801 in grants to 17 seafood enterprises in 9 different counties under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme for the seafood sector.…
Minister Wants EU Funding For Irish Aquaculture & Seafood Processing
#Seafood - Marine Minister Michael Creed has called for European Maritime & Fisheries Funding (EMFF) for small to medium enterprises in aquaculture and seafood processing to be continued post-2020. Addressing the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meeting in Luxembourg…
Full-scale demonstration of a new aeration technology for fish farms
#Aquaculture - Researchers in Galway and Athlone are leading a project to identify technologies that can improve the management of freshwater fish farming and reduce its impact on the environment. As Green News reports, the teams at NUI Galway and…

Aquaculture Information

Aquaculture is the farming of animals in the water and has been practised for centuries, with the monks farming fish in the middle ages. More recently the technology has progressed and the aquaculture sector is now producing in the region of 50 thousand tonnes annually and provides a valuable food product as well as much needed employment in many rural areas of Ireland.

A typical fish farm involves keeping fish in pens in the water column, caring for them and supplying them with food so they grow to market size. Or for shellfish, containing them in a specialised unit and allowing them to feed on natural plants and materials in the water column until they reach harvestable size. While farming fish has a lower carbon and water footprint to those of land animals, and a very efficient food fed to weight gain ratio compared to beef, pork or chicken, farming does require protein food sources and produces organic waste which is released into the surrounding waters. Finding sustainable food sources, and reducing the environmental impacts are key challenges facing the sector as it continues to grow.

Salmon is the most popular fish bought by Irish families. In Ireland, most of our salmon is farmed, and along with mussels and oysters, are the main farmed species in the country.

Aquaculture in Ireland

  • Fish and shellfish are farmed in 14 Irish coastal counties.
  • Irish SMEs and families grow salmon, oysters, mussels and other seafood
  • The sector is worth €150m at the farm gate – 80% in export earnings.
  • The industry sustains 1,833 direct jobs in remote rural areas – 80% in the west of Ireland
  • Every full-time job in aquaculture creates 2.27 other jobs locally (Teagasc 2015)
  • Ireland’s marine farms occupy 0.0004% of Ireland’s 17,500Km2 inshore area.
  • 83% of people in coastal areas support the development of fish farming
  • Aquaculture is a strong, sustainable and popular strategic asset for development and job creation (Foodwise 2025, National Strategic Plan, Seafood
  • Operational Programme 2020, FAO, European Commission, European Investment Bank, Harvesting Our Ocean Wealth, Silicon Republic, CEDRA)
    Ireland has led the world in organically certified farmed fish for over 30 years
  • Fish farm workers include people who have spent over two decades in the business to school-leavers intent on becoming third-generation farmers on their family sites.

Irish Aquaculture FAQs

Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants, and involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions- in contrast to commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments and in underwater habitats. Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture (such as seaweed farming), and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which integrate fish farming and plant farming.

About 580 aquatic species are currently farmed all over the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which says it is "practised by both some of the poorest farmers in developing countries and by multinational companies".

Increasing global demand for protein through seafood is driving increasing demand for aquaculture, particularly given the pressures on certain commercially caught wild stocks of fish. The FAO says that "eating fish is part of the cultural tradition of many people and in terms of health benefits, it has an excellent nutritional profile, and "is a good source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and essential micronutrients".

Aquaculture now accounts for 50 per cent of the world's fish consumed for food, and is the fastest-growing good sector.

China provides over 60 per cent of the world's farmed fish. In Europe, Norway and Scotland are leading producers of finfish, principally farmed salmon.

For farmed salmon, the feed conversion ratio, which is the measurement of how much feed it takes to produce the protein, is 1.1, as in one pound of feed producing one pound of protein, compared to rates of between 2.2 and 10 for beef, pork and chicken. However, scientists have also pointed out that certain farmed fish and shrimp requiring higher levels of protein and calories in feed compared to chickens, pigs, and cattle.

Tilapia farming which originated in the Middle East and Africa has now become the most profitable business in most countries. Tilapia has become the second most popular seafood after crab, due to which its farming is flourishing. It has entered the list of best selling species like shrimp and salmon.

There are 278 aquaculture production units in Ireland, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) *, producing 38,000 tonnes of finfish and shellfish in 2019 and with a total value of €172 million

There are currently almost 2,000 people directly employed in Irish aquaculture in the Republic, according to BIM.

BIM figures for 2019 recorded farmed salmon at almost 12,000 tonnes, valued at €110 million; rock oysters reached 10,300 tonnes at a value of €44 million; rope mussels at 10,600 tonnes were valued at €7 million; seabed cultured mussels at 4,600 tonnes were valued at €7 million; "other" finfish reached 600 tonnes, valued at €2 million and "other" shellfish reached 300 tonnes, valued at €2 million

Irish aquaculture products are exported to Europe, US and Asia, with salmon exported to France, Germany, Belgium and the US. Oysters are exported to France, with developing sales to markets in Hong Kong and China. France is Ireland's largest export for mussels, while there have been increased sales in the domestic and British markets.

The value of the Irish farmed finfish sector fell by five per cent in volume and seven per cent in value in 2019, mainly due to a fall on salmon production, but this was partially offset by a seven per cent increased in farmed shellfish to a value of 60 million euro. Delays in issuing State licenses have hampered further growth of the sector, according to industry representatives.

Fish and shellfish farmers must be licensed, and must comply with regulations and inspections conducted by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Marine Institute. Food labelling is a function of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. There is a long backlog of license approvals in the finfish sector, while the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine says it is working to reduce the backlog in the shellfish sector.

The department says it is working through the backlog, but notes that an application for a marine finfish aquaculture licence must be accompanied by either an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR). As of October 2020, over two-thirds of applications on hand had an EIS outstanding, it said.

The EU requires member states to have marine spatial plans by 2021, and Ireland has assigned responsibility to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF). Legislation has been drawn up to underpin this, and to provide a "one stop shop" for marine planning, ranging from fish farms to offshore energy – as in Marine Planning and Development Management Bill. However, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine confirmed last year that it intends to retain responsibility for aquaculture and sea-fisheries related development – meaning fish and shellfish farmers won't be able to avail of the "one stop shop" for marine planning.

Fish and shellfish health is a challenge, with naturally occurring blooms, jellyfish and the risk of disease. There are also issues with a perception that the sector causes environmental problems.

The industry has been on a steep learning curve, particularly in finfish farming, since it was hailed as a new future for Irish coastal communities from the 1970s – with the State's Electricity Supply Board being an early pioneer, and tobacco company Carrolls also becoming involved for a time. Nutrient build up, which occurs when there is a high density of fish in one area, waste production and its impact on depleting oxygen in water, creating algal blooms and "dead zones", and farmers' use of antibiotics to prevent disease have all been concerns, and anglers have also been worried about the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild fish populations. Sea lice from salmon farmers were also blamed for declines in sea trout and wild salmon in Irish estuaries and rivers.

BIM says over 95% of all salmon farmed in Ireland are certified organic. Organically grown salmon are only fed a diet of sustainable organic feed. They are also raised in more spacious pens than traditional farmed salmon. The need to site locations for fish farms further out to sea, using more robust cages for weather, has been recognised by regulatory agencies. There is a move towards land-based aquaculture in Norway to reduce impact on local ecosystems. The industry says that antibiotic use is declining, and it says that "safe and effective vaccinations have since been developed for farmed fish and are now widely used". Many countries are now adopting a more sustainable approach to removing sea lice from salmon, using feeder fish such as wrasse and lumpsucker fish. Ireland's first lumpsucker hatchery was opened in 2015.

BIM says over 95% of all salmon farmed in Ireland are certified organic. Organically grown salmon are only fed a diet of sustainable organic feed. They are also raised in more spacious pens than traditional farmed salmon. The need to site locations for fish farms further out to sea, using more robust cages for weather, has been recognised by regulatory agencies. There is a move towards land-based aquaculture in Norway to reduce impact on local ecosystems. The industry says that antibiotic use is declining, and it says that "safe and effective vaccinations have since been developed for farmed fish and are now widely used". Many countries are now adopting a more sustainable approach to removing sea lice from salmon, using feeder fish such as wrasse and lumpsucker fish. Ireland's first lumpsucker hatchery was opened in 2015.

Yes, as it is considered to have better potential for controlling environmental impacts, but it is expensive. As of October 2020, the department was handling over 20 land-based aquaculture applications.

The Irish Farmers' Association has represented fish and shellfish farmers for many years, with its chief executive Richie Flynn, who died in 2018, tirelessly championing the sector. His successor, Teresa Morrissey, is an equally forceful advocate, having worked previously in the Marine Institute in providing regulatory advice on fish health matters, scientific research on emerging aquatic diseases and management of the National Reference Laboratory for crustacean diseases.

BIM provides training in the national vocational certificate in aquaculture at its National Fisheries College, Castletownbere, Co Cork. It also trains divers to work in the industry. The Institute of Technology Carlow has also developed a higher diploma in aqua business at its campus in Wexford, in collaboration with BIM and IFA Aquaculture, the representative association for fish and shellfish farming.

© Afloat 2020

At A Glance - Irish Aquaculture

  • Fish and shellfish are farmed in 14 Irish coastal counties
  • Salmon is the most popular fish bought by Irish families. 
  • In Ireland, most of our salmon is farmed, and along with mussels and oysters, are the main farmed species in the country.
  • The industry sustains 1,833 direct jobs in remote rural areas – 80% in the west of Ireland
  • Every full-time job in aquaculture creates 2.27 other jobs locally (Teagasc 2015)
  • Ireland’s marine farms occupy 0.0004% of Ireland’s 17,500Km2 inshore area.
  • 83% of people in coastal areas support the development of fish farming

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