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Aquaculture
The Marine Institute will be exhibiting at two stands at the Irish Skipper Expo this Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February at the University of Limerick
The Marine Institute will be exhibiting at two stands at the Irish Skipper Expo this Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February at the University of Limerick. Firstly, the institute’s shellfish team will present the work it carries out on data…
Designed to equip students with the skills to become ocean leaders and marine champions of the future, the Bursary Scholarship Programme is a key initiative of the Marine Institute's Strategic Plan 2023-2027
The Marine Institute has announced its 2024 Summer Bursary Scholarship Programme, inviting third-level students to apply for work experience in a variety of marine areas. The programme, which has been running for over 30 years, provides essential career development, support,…
File image of oyster trestles
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Marine Institute will host a workshop for industry this week on the requirements relating to sanitary surveys for shellfish harvesting areas and Ireland’s implementation of the relevant legislation.…
Deployment of a data buoy off Deenish Island in Co Kerry for the EuroSea aquaculture observatory project
Extreme marine events such as marine heat waves are increasingly threatening to degrade ocean ecosystems and seafood security with potential devastating consequences to aquatic related businesses. In order to prepare for such events, the Marine Institute, with colleagues in the…
File image of Ardmore Peninsula on Clifden Bay in Connemara
An aquaculture start-up is celebrating the launch of its first seaweed farm in Connemara, as vegan business magazine Vegconomist reports. US-based Sea&Believe develops ingredients for food and cosmetics using Palmaria palmata, a red seaweed more commonly known as dillisk or…
UKSA trainees examine one of the oyster baskets that have been installed in Cowes
Following the launch of the Isle of Wight’s first oyster regeneration project in October last year, the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA) has now made it part of the sustainability modules on its education courses. UKSA worked in partnership with…
An update from Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine officials on aquaculture policy and licensing is also on the agenda at February's IFA Aquaculture Conference
Offshore renewable energy and its impact on Irish aquaculture and the implications of the Nature Restoration Law are among themes for this year’s annual Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) aquaculture conference next month. An update from Department of Agriculture, Food and…
David Lawlor with oysters at Dun Laoghaire Marina. Lawlor is starting what may be a 15 to 20-year project with a pilot, cultivating a series of “oyster gardens” in several yacht marinas at Poolbeg, Malahide and Dun Laoghaire in Dublin
Diver, sailor and coffee distributor David Lawlor is not that mad about oysters – he’ll eat them out of politeness – but he is mad about what they can do as keystone species in stabilising marine habitats. That’s why he…
Colm Lynch is the new chief executive of Irish Water Tech Company Aquamonitrix
An Irish technology company specialising in monitoring of drinking water, along with aquaculture and the environment, has appointed Colm Lynch as its new chief executive. Aquamonitrix develops and sells “next generation” analysers for nitrite and nitrates, to prevent contamination of…
The Medevac of the casualty from the vessel off the Galway coast
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has said that boarding and disembarking risk assessment and associated policies and procedures should “immediately be reviewed” after the serious injury of a diver working on salmon farms off the Galway coast. The 33-year-old…
File image of Deenish Island (left) and Scariff Island as seen from the Co Kerry mainland
The Irish arm of the world’s largest farmed salmon producer has applied for an Aquaculture/Foreshore Licence for a proposed facility at Deenish Island in Co Kerry. Silver King Seafoods Ltd, which is wholly owned by Mowi Ireland, is seeking to…
A reared 11 months old juvenile European spiny lobster
French and Corsican marine scientists have succeeded in rearing juveniles of the vulnerable European spiny lobster. A team from the University of Corsica and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) has achieved what it terms a “scientific and…
Ger and Mag Kirwan pictured at the fish ponds at Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown Co. Kilkenny
Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, has completed a €1.68 million investment, which will allow it to increase production of its popular trout products and improve efficiencies. The investment, which included a factory extension, upgrading and introducing new state-of-the-art…
Farming mussels on a long line. In 2022, the Irish aquaculture sector contributed €208 million to the economy, according to the 2022 report from BIM
The Irish aquaculture sector has shown significant growth and sustained employment opportunities, according to the Annual Aquaculture Report for 2022 published by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). Despite a reduction in the number of Production Units (PUs) due to consolidation within…
Eight seafood organisations, representing catching, fish-farming, processing, and inshore sectors, made the submission to the Department of Environment as part of public consultation over draft maritime area plans (DMAP) for the Irish south coast
If Government targets on offshore wind are met by 2050, Ireland’s seas will have turbines stretching for at least twice the length of Ireland, according to calculations by a group of seafood organisations. A submission to the Department of Environment…
BIM staff operate a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) near a mussel farm in Leenane, Co Galway
Ireland’s potential in “aquatech” is the theme of a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) conference in Kerry today, when one of the keynote speakers will ask why there has been no innovation in this area here in the last two decades.…

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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