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Aquaculture
From L-R: Minister McConalogue; Dympna Keogh, 2021 Atlantic Strategy Committee Chair; Michael Gillooly, Acting Joint CEO Marine Institute
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD, today attended and addressed the Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference taking place in the Convention Centre, Dublin. The conference is part of a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU.  Speaking on his…
Report of Seafood Sector Task Force
The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced that he has received the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force that he established in March 2021. The Taskforce examined the impacts on the fishing sector and coastal…
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD has welcomed the publication of today's revised National Development Plan. The NDP will set the Department’s new five-year rolling capital allocations. It will support economic, social and environmental development across the country. ‘As we emerge…
Inland Fisheries Ireland logo
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has confirmed that it is seeking a judicial review into the granting of an aquaculture licence for Atlantic salmon at in Bantry Bay. As the matter is due before the High Court tomorrow, Tuesday 28 September,…
EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius
EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius is due to begin a two-day visit to Ireland this morning with a visit to Killybegs fisheries harbour in Donegal. The commissioner plans to meet representatives of the fishing industry…
File image showing an example of mussel seed
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has signed a new Statutory Instrument that permits fishing for mussel seed within the State’s exclusive fishery limits. SI No 461 of 2021 — Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction (Mussel Seed) (Opening of Fisheries) Regulations 2021 —…
File image of the Dawros River in Letterfrack
The State agency responsible for the protection of freshwater fish and habitats is investigating an incidence of farmed salmon recovered from the Connemara Fishery. Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) Western River Basin District in Galway were alerted by anglers…
BIM’s higher diploma in business in fisheries and aquaculture
Applications are being sought for a business diploma with a “salty air taste” run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the Institute of Technology (IT) Carlow. The closing date is September 3rd for prospective participants in BIM’s higher diploma in…
Mussels on a longline. The grant awards will support total aquaculture investment of €2,917,572
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced the award of €1 million in grants to 13 aquaculture enterprises under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme. The grant awards will support total investment…
Overhead drone image of the Marine Institute’s Lehanagh Pool research site in Co Galway
A new, free online training course in integrated multi-trophic aquaculture has been developed as part of the IMPAQT research project. Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) involves farming multiple, complementary species from different levels of the food chain together for their mutual…
The hour-long event includes a panel of aquaculture entrepreneurs who all began their careers in different sectors and are now applying their skills to aqua-tech to help revolutionise the sector in Ireland and internationally.
Ireland’s fast emergence as an innovation and new technology hub for a pioneering generation of aquaculture entrepreneurs is the focus of an event being held by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, on Tuesday, 27 July at 13:00…
Oyster trestles in South East Galway Bay at Kelly Oysters
Shellfish growers have welcomed a new research project which will measure the benefits to the coastal environment of their activity. The ShellAqua project led by researchers at the Ryan Institute in NUI Galway (NUIG) aims to quantify the "benefits to…
Five up and coming young chefs successfully appointed to the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Taste the Atlantic Ambassador Programme, an exciting initiative created by BIM in partnership with Chef Network to drive awareness of the provenance of Irish seafood among young and aspiring chefs. Pictured l-r: Lucas Serpa Maciel Lisboa, Junior Chef de Partie, Bunnyconnellan Coastal Restaurant, Myrtleville, Co. Cork, Jake Kennedy, Chef de Partie (Fish Section), Glovers Alley, Dublin, Sarah Jane Browne, Chef/Manager, Time & Tide Café, Annagry, Co. Donegal, Andrew Zeppa, Chef de Partie, The Yacht Pub & Upper Deck Restaurant, Co. Dublin and Kevin King, Senior Sous Chef, Connemara Sands Beach Hotel, Co. Galway
Five up and coming young chefs, aged between 21 and 24, have been successfully awarded places on BIM’s Taste the Atlantic Ambassador Programme, an exciting initiative created by Bord Iascaigh Mhara in partnership with Chef Network to drive awareness of…
Salmon farm in north Co Donegal
TheJournal.ie reports that Ireland’s largest operator of salmon farms has been granted a licence for an 18-pen facility in Bantry Bay. Nine years ago Afloat.ie noted proposals for the salmon farm at Shot Head, with local campaigners arguing then that…
File image of a wild Atlantic salmon
The latest investigation from TheJournal.ie’s Noteworthy platform looks at the impact of salmon farming on marine biodiversity — and the findings make for sober reading. Concerns over the impact on wild Atlantic salmon from sea lice and disease in salmon…
Drakes Pool in Cork Harbour - The government aims to expand a network of MPAs to cover 30% of Ireland’s total maritime area of 488, 762 square kilometres by 2030
Government officials seeking public views on an expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) have expressed concern at the low level of feedback so far from the fishing and fish farming sectors. Officials at the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local…

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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