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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 GMT.

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.

Kate Dempsey, Aqualicense, Ronan Loftus, IndentiGEN, Ashie Norris, MOWI Genetics and Brian Wellis, CEO Wellfish Genetics will share their views on how the cross-pollination of ideas and skillsets is allowing Ireland’s aquaculture sector to grow beyond its primary production to the development of industry-leading technologies that could revolutionise the global blue economy.

Richard Donnelly, Shellfish and Innovation Manager, BIM will moderate this event that includes a Q&A session.

“In the long-term, we want Ireland to be the Silicon Valley of aquaculture,” Donnelly said. “BIM want to expand the service industry around aquaculture and see innovations in IT, feeding systems and treatments for disease. Ireland is well-placed to become a leader in this space.”

BIM is hosting its third Aquaculture Innovation Studio, this October. Ten start-up businesses from Ireland will have the opportunity to work directly with and receive mentorship from a global team of experts from aquaculture, fin-tech and marketing disciplines. The two-week programme is being run by aquaculture accelerator, Hatch and is being supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Niall Rahilly, Hatch will be joining the panel discussion to share details on how to apply.

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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 human wellbeing provided by the natural environment from healthy ecosystems, potentially provided by shellfish aquaculture".

It has secured funding by Bord Iascaigh Mhara through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund funded Knowledge Gateway Scheme, and was developed from partnerships and engagement with industry through an Atlantic Area Interreg project.

It aims to develop an ecosystem services-based tool using operational and monitoring data for case-study shellfish aquaculture sites and develop life cycle datasets on mussel and oyster production.

This will allow for monitoring of environmental performance after the project is over.

The project also aims to assess the economic benefits and engage in knowledge transfer of methods, results and approaches.

Oyster seed ready for grading at Coney Island Shellfish. Photo: Dr Ronan Cooney, NUI GalwayOyster seed ready for grading at Coney Island Shellfish. Photo: Dr Ronan Cooney, NUI Galway

Industry partners supporting it include Coney Island Shellfish Ltd, Blackshell Farm, and Kelly Oysters.

The application was also supported by the Galway Bay community-based organisation Cuan Beo and the representative body for Irish Aquaculture, Irish Farmers’ Association Aquaculture.

Datasets and profiling of mussel (Mytilus edulis) and oyster (Crassostrea gigas) aquaculture will take place in Galway Bay, Clew Bay, Co Mayo, Sligo harbour and Drumcliffe bay, Co Sligo.

"The ShellAqua project is valuable for the future and helps take the industry in the direction we need to go," IFA Aquaculture chairman Michael Mulloy, who is owner of Blackshell Farm, said.

" The project will provide the tools we need to verify the sustainability of our industry,"he said.

Mussels long line: Organic rope grown mussels ready for harvest at Blackshell Fam Ltd. Photo: Dr Ronan Cooney, NUI GalwayMussels long line: Organic rope grown mussels ready for harvest at Blackshell Fam Ltd. Photo: Dr Ronan Cooney, NUI Galway

Alan Kennedy, MOREFISH and ShellAqua project manager at NUIG described it as "another example of how proactive engagement between researchers and the aquaculture sector can support the industry's sustainable development with significant potential benefits for broader society.”

Cuan Beo's Diarmuid Kelly said that "while we have always known the importance of having healthy bivalve populations within our bays, this project will provide us with the scientific evidence of the ecosystem services provided by such communities".

"It will also give us the necessary information needed to inform policymakers of the benefits of protecting shellfish waters," Kelly said.

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced the award of €1,105,022 in grants to 19 aquaculture and seafood processing enterprises under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme. The grant awards will support total investment in these businesses of €2,957,627. The grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and are subject to terms and conditions.

Announcing the grants, Minister McConalogue said, “I am delighted to announce today grant awards to a further 16 aquaculture investment projects, adding to the grants to 28 aquaculture projects I announced on 5 March. Despite the uncertain business environment created by Brexit and Covid, our aquaculture sector is showing a very strong appetite to invest in and grow their businesses. Taken together, I have now announced some €2.8 million in grant awards to 44 aquaculture enterprises in 2021 and these awards are supporting €6.9 million of investments in our aquaculture sector”.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TDMinister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD

Minister McConalogue added: “County Donegal has accounted for 13 of the aquaculture investment projects supported so far in 2021, while there has been 8 in Kerry and 7 in Cork. Investments on oyster farms have dominated the aquaculture projects supported by my Department’s EMFF Programme in 2021 and some 11 of the 13 Donegal based projects supported have been investments in oyster farms. This places Donegal at the centre of our growing oyster sector”.

Grant Approvals - Sustainable Aquaculture Grant Scheme

Beneficiary

Location

Project

Total Investment

EMFF Grant

Allihies Seafood Limited

Cork

Development of a Seaweed Farm

€121,764

€60,882

Crookhaven Fishermen’s Association Ltd.

Dublin

Building of a seaweed grow-out farm

€143,963

€71,981

Atlantic Sea Farms Limited

Cork

Expansion of production capacity on existing mussel farm

€90,722

€36,289

Mr. Sam Lowes

Kerry

Set up a new oyster farm in Kenmare Bay

€14,019

€7,009

Bantry Marine Research Station Limited

Cork

Investment in farm infrastructure and equipment

€139,201

€55,680

Mr. Carl Daly

Kerry

Upgrading of mussel floatation barrels to conform with special area of conservation (SAC) recommendations.

€5,580

€2,231

Loughros Beg Specials Ltd

Donegal

Expansion and development of new oyster sites

€180,581

€72,232

Feirm Farraige Oilean Chliara Teoranta

Donegal

Pole System, AGD Bags & Workboat

€1,158,443

€347,533

Killary Fjord Shellfish Limited

Galway

Increase efficiency and to provide a safe clean environment for packing shellfish).

€94,783

€37,913

O’Sullivan McCarthy Mussel Development

Mayo

Purchase Bagging machine & conveyor for oyster processing

€17,470

€6,988

Realt Na Mara Shellfish Limited

Kerry

Purchase of barge, teleporter & generator to improve harvesting methods.

€159,237

€63,695

Tavne Ltd t/a Achill Oysters

of Mr. Hugh O’Malley

Clare

Capacity increase in oyster production and new equipment purchase

€14,950

€5,980

Sliogéisc na Rossan Teoranta

Donegal

Expansion of oyster production

€105,490

€42,196

Sliogéisc Inisheane Teoranta

Donegal

Capacity increase in oyster seed production

€18,000

€7,200

Total:

   

€2,264,203

€817,810


Grant Approvals - Knowledge Gateway Scheme

Beneficiary

Location

Project

Total Investment

EMFF Grant

Mr. Simon Hogan

Waterford

Professional advisory services to support establishment of Seaweed farm at Dungarvan Bay

€5,000

€2,500

NUI Galway

Galway

ShellAqua – The development of tools to quantify the ecosystem services provided by the shellfish aquaculture sector in Ireland

€162,729

€162,729

Total:

   

€167,729

€165,229


Grant Approvals - Seafood Processing Capital Investment Scheme

Beneficiary

Location

Project

Total Investment

EMFF Grant

Errigal Bay Limited

Donegal

Errigal Bay Capital Expenditure

€399,695

€84,183

Ilen Seafood Limited

Cork

Adding Value to Sprat

€63,000

€18,900

Atlantis Seafood

Wexford

Adding Value to Sprat

Fish Waste & Offal Utilisation

€63,000

€18,900

Total:

   

€525,695

€121,983

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A resolution by Green MEP for Ireland South, Grace O'Sullivan, calling on the Commission to block the use of a toxic neonicotinoid in the EU's fish farms will be voted this week by the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

The Imidacloprid pesticide, which has been linked to biodiversity loss and a decline in bee populations, has been banned in the EU for certain agricultural uses on land. There is mounting evidence that the use of this neonicotinoid has a devastating impact on rivers and waterways and its use in Japan has been linked to a dramatic collapse of fish stocks.

Despite this, the European Commission is proposing to establish a Maximum Residue Level for Imidacloprid, which will clear the way for the pesticide's use in EU aquaculture as a treatment for sea lice.

Speaking before the Committee meeting today, Grace O'Sullivan said "I am very concerned by the Commission's proposal which would allow the use of dangerous neonicotinoids in fish farming. We know that this very chemical has devastating impacts on the environment and biodiversity. For this very reason the EU already banned its use on certain crops, a decision more recently upheld by the European Court of Justice. If Imidacloprid is too damaging to go on our crops, how can we accept it in our marine environment?"

The objection was considered in Committee on Thursday, 27 May 2021, and a vote will take place this morning, Friday, May 28th.

Published in Aquaculture

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. today (Tuesday 25th May) spoke with a group of transition year students from schools in Buncrana, Carrick, Donegal town, Milford, Letterkenny and Killybegs in Co. Donegal via a live Zoom broadcast to welcome the expansion of the Aquaculture Remote Classroom (ARC) programme to second level schools from September 2021 onwards.

Career opportunities in the aquaculture sector is the focus of the new programme that seeks to build greater awareness among second-level students of the breadth of career options available. Skills and qualifications needed for diverse roles including commercial diving, science, sales and marketing will be brought to life in the programme by way of real-life profile interviews with some of the women and men who work in Ireland’s seafood sector.

Speaking at the launch, Minister McConalogue welcomed the expansion of the programme to second-level students and said:

“I am delighted that this programme is being expanded to include students at second level and with a focus on careers in the seafood sector. Its online format also means it will get to audiences more swiftly and in bigger numbers. Attracting skilled and talented young people to work in Ireland’s seafood sector is central to its continued development. My hope is that the new programme can help to inspire students considering their career options when they leave school and to realise the breadth of opportunities that exist within the sector. ”

The interactive mobile classroom is part of the Farmed in the EU campaign and was launched three years ago in 2018 by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development. The ARC is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and was initially developed to help younger audiences learn about aquaculture in a fun and interactive way using immersive technologies including VR headsets and augmented reality. The ARC programme also covers modules on the socio-economic and nutritional benefits of aquaculture.

Áine O’Donnell, Aquaculture Remote Classroom (ARC) facilitator with students during a schools visitÁine O’Donnell, Aquaculture Remote Classroom (ARC) facilitator with students during a schools visit

Up until now, the ARC has been available to only primary level pupils in Ireland. In the last 12 months, the ARC has been adapted and delivered entirely online to ensure teachers and students have been continuously able to access the resource.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM highlighted the enduring importance of the seafood sector to Ireland’s coastal communities and said:

“ The seafood sector provides a vital source of jobs and economic activity for coastal communities across Ireland. The continued success and development of the sector is contingent on being able to attract young talent from across different disciplines so that the sector continues to prosper and thrive.”

For more information, click here

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency today launched its 2021 aquaculture accelerator programme. The programme is aimed at early stage tech, fintech and AI start-ups with ideas in aquaculture innovation and is taking place between the 11th and 22nd of October in the RDI Hub in the South West of Ireland in Co Kerry.

Richard Donnelly, Salmon and Shellfish Manager, BIM said: “ The idea for an accelerator is to put start-ups on the path to growth and scale. We are at the birth of a new field of innovation in aquaculture. More people from different disciplines are getting involved, including those with backgrounds in AI and other areas of tech. They’re beginning to think about systems and software that can transform aquaculture to help meet the growing demand for safe, nutritious and sustainable seafood.”

The programme is being run by Hatch and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. It will bring in between eight to twelve start-ups to connect with BIM and Hatch staff in addition to leading entrepreneurs and investors from the global aquaculture industry to leverage their expertise and to support their commercial ideas.

Applications are now open. For more details go here

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Swansea University in collaboration with the Waterford Institute of Technology has announced the line-up of speakers for its webinar entitled Application of Sensors in Precision Aquaculture. The webinar will take place on the 25th of May 2021 and is free to all attendees.

Ten speakers will present a range of cutting-edge sensors being developed in Wales and Ireland to support the aquaculture industry. The webinar will feature talks from entrepreneurs, academics, and government agencies committed to supporting aquaculture companies in decision-making to help make ecological aquaculture an achievable target.

The webinar promises to be an unmissable opportunity for professionals working in the aquaculture of fish, shellfish and seaweeds, but also across this dynamic sector.

"We encourage everyone interested in aquaculture – farmers, researchers, consultants, suppliers, and environmental interest groups to attend this exciting webinar", said Dr Sara Barrento, Swansea University, speaker and organiser of the webinar.

This is the first joint webinar in a series of webinars organized and supported by the European projects: Access2Sea and STREAM. 

Access2Sea

Access2Sea aims to facilitate aquaculture expansion in the Atlantic zone by enabling new aquaculture business opportunities for a more competitive and sustainable blue growth. Access2Sea is funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme through the European Regional Development Fund. The project runs from March 2019 to February 2022. Website link here

STREAM

STREAM: Sensor Technologies for Remote Environmental Aquatic Monitoring, aims to develop sensors to collect environmental data and accelerate the dissemination of information. Quick, reliable, and accurate data is essential to inform decision making. STREAM is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme. Website link here

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As lead partners in a three year Interreg funded project Predicting the Impact of Regional Scale events on the Aquaculture Sector (PRIMROSE), the Marine Institute has developed a web portal that helps predict the risk and impact of harmful algal bloom events (HABS), providing an important tool for Europe's aquaculture industry.

A project meeting recently hosted by the Marine Institute was attended by the 10 partners from Ireland, United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain. The project is due to be completed in July 2021 and has successfully delivered considerable developments in the area of bloom forecasting.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) occur when certain species of microscopic algae grow in response to favourable environmental conditions and result in a variety of harmful impacts. Some can produce biotoxins that can be passed on via filter-feeding shellfish, making them unfit for human consumption. Commercial shellfish production is tested year round to ensure their quality before harvesting, but these blooms can occasionally cause substantial damage to the aquaculture industry through prolonged site closures and loss of produce.

While scientists are aware of the many factors that contribute to HABs, how these factors come together to create a "bloom" of algae is not well understood. HABs occur naturally, but human activities that disturb ecosystems seem to play a role in their more frequent occurrence and intensity. Increased nutrient loadings and pollution, food web alterations, introduced species, water flow modifications and climate change all play a role.

The web portal developed as part of the PRIMROSE project, provides early warning for HABS events along the Atlantic coast. The forecast system provides shellfish producers and official authorities with advance warning that allow them to take rapid mitigating measures to affected shellfish beds and, if necessary, post warnings in coastal areas where there is a direct health risk.

"We cannot prevent Harmful Algal Blooms, but we can be better prepared," said Joe Silke, Director of Marine Environment and Food Safety Services at the Marine Institute. "Having the ability to forecast when such events might happen is a very valuable tool for the shellfish industry, helping to safeguard the product and minimise farming mortalities."

The aquaculture sector in Europe produced and sold 1.4 million tonnes of seafood with a value of nearly €5 billion in 2018. The economic impact of HABs has been estimated at €919 million per year in the EU. The new PRIMROSE web portal will add value to monitoring programmes already in place by re-using valuable data that is already being generated to develop regional HABs forecasts and predictions.

The Marine Institute works closely with authorities and the shellfish industry to monitor shellfish production areas to ensure that Irish shellfish are produced to the highest standards. The Marine Institute also issues weekly HABs Bulletins with information on the potential development of toxic and harmful phytoplankton. Part of the PRIMROSE project has involved gathering feedback on shellfish industry requirements, to improve these weekly HABs bulletin.

The Interreg funded project PRIMROSE includes a consortium of 10 partners from five countries across the European Atlantic area with expertise in areas such as marine ecosystems, aquaculture husbandry, geographic information systems, commercial farming, environmental monitoring, modelling, oceanography, dissemination risk assessment and training.

For more information on the PRIMROSE project visit here

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today announced the award of €1,811,461 in grants to 28 aquaculture companies under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme. The grant awards will support the total investment of €4.5 million in the aquaculture sector. The grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and are subject to terms and conditions.

Minister McConalogue said, “I am delighted to be in a position today to provide €1.8 million in grants to 28 ambitious aquaculture companies to further the growth of their businesses and our aquaculture sector. These grants will support €4.5 million in investment in oyster, mussels, trout and seaweed farming. Despite two major challenges in the form of Covid and Brexit, these 28 aquaculture businesses are showing confidence in the future of their sector and are expanding their production to meet strong market demand for their quality products.”

 Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue

Minister added, “In recent years my Department invested in eliminating the licensing backlog for shellfish aquaculture producers and this is I believe being reflected in the large number of grant applications being submitted by shellfish aquaculture producers, showing renewed confidence in their capacity to expand with regulatory certainty.”

Grant approvals - Sustainable Aquaculture Grant Scheme

Beneficiary

Location

Project

Total Investment

EMFF Grant

Dúlra Iorras Teoranta

Mayo

Capacity building in a new seaweed production farm and purchase of equipment

€88,202

€44,101

Mannin Seafoods Ltd

    

Cork

Mussel Organic Certification

€1500

€750

Mulroy Bay Mussels Ltd

Donegal

Mussel Organic Certification.    

€1000

€500

B.C. Shellfish Ltd

Kerry

Capacity building and increasing production on your oyster farm

€608,007.00

€243,203

Donegal Aquaculture Services Ltd

Donegal

Construction of Oyster packing facility

€290,000

€116,000

Cooley Oysters Ltd

Louth

Capacity building and expanding of your oyster farm

€330,115

€132,046

Crocknagee Oysters Ltd

Donegal

Construction of oyster handling facility and purchase of equipment including tractors.

€670,899

€268,360

Fitzpatrick Oysters Ltd

Wexford

Phase 2: Purchase of Farm Equipment

€78,000

€31,200

Goatsbridge Trout Farm Ltd

Kilkenny

Upgrade of Production Facilities

€1,250,000

€500,000

Inish Sal Teoranta

Donegal

Purchase of trestles, hooks, bags and other equipment to further establish the existing business.

€21,158

€8,463

Irish Oysters Harvest Ltd

Donegal

Capacity building and expanding of an oyster farm

€100,200

€40,080

Dingle Bay Shellfish Ltd

Kerry

Purchase of a new flat bottom oyster barge and grader

€75,280

€30,112.00

Keenan Oysters Ltd

Louth

Increasing the production area of an oyster farm

€448,656

€179,462

Mr. Liam O’Connor

Kerry

Increase capacity of oyster farm

€18,258

€7,303

Mr. Kevin Kilroy

Mayo

Start of New Business & Capacity Building of Oyster Farm

€33,109

€13,243

                                                          

Mr. Michael Scannell

Kerry

Capacity Increase of Oyster Farm

€15,128

€6,051

Natura Mussels Ltd 

Donegal

Enhancement of offshore lines to produce oysters using floating bags.

€32,197

€12,879

Ocean Run Ltd

Cork

Improvement of mooring system and expansion of reusable collector rope

€22,793

€9,117

Poulnasherry Oysters Ltd

Clare

Purchase of Oyster Bagging Machine

€8,500

€3,400

Saddle Rock Fisheries Ltd

Donegal

Purchase of trestles and bags to develop new oyster sites at Saddle Rock Fisheries Ltd.

€58,730

€23,492

Sofi Shellfish Ltd

Mayo

Increase capacity of an Oyster Farm

€11,990

€4,796

Trabay Ltd

Donegal

To increase and secure oyster production

€38,400

€15,360

Turkhead Enterprises Ltd

Cork

Purchase of mussel line moulds, ropes and bags

€34,075

€13,630

Wild Atlantic Sea Products Ltd

Cork

Deployment of seaweed farm

€20,180

€10,090

Cromane Bay Shellfish

Kerry

Purchase of circular grader and oyster barge

€151,266

€60,506

Sciana Mara Teoranta

Mayo

To build capacity and upgrade, to increase efficiency and deal with bigger volumes

€24,067

€9,627

Oisri Min an Chairn Teoranta

Donegal

Capacity building of new oyster sites

€12,755

€6,378

Dooriel Fisheries Ltd

Mayo

Upgrade to Water Oyster Grading Line

€53,280

€ 21,312

Total:

 

 

€4,497,745

€1,811,461


Ireland’s EMFF Operational Programme 2014-2020 provides €240m in funding to the seafood sector (fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing) over the period 2014 to 2020. The Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Two EMFF support schemes are available to the aquaculture sector to help achieve the aims of the Government’s National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development, published in 2015. The Plan is seeking to sustainably grow production by 45,000 tonnes. The Plan is presently being updated for the 2021-2030 period.

The EMFF Sustainable Aquaculture Scheme supports capital investment by licensed aquaculture enterprises to sustainably grow production and reduce environmental impact of aquaculture, together with costs of organic certification of aquaculture production. The EMFF Knowledge Gateway Scheme promotes and supports innovation, technological development and disease management in the aquaculture sector.

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On Thursday 25th February 2021, the Marine Institute will host the Burrishoole Research Day, a virtual symposium showcasing the wide network of researchers connected to the Marine Institute’s Newport Research Facility in Co Mayo.

The symposium will include short talks from 26 researchers representing seven Irish and UK Higher Education Institutions, including the Marine Institute. Researchers will share insights into their research projects and advances in areas such as climate change, fish telemetry, genomics, aquaculture and ecological change.

The Newport Research Facility in Co Mayo has been in operation since 1955, and has been part of the Marine Institute since 1999. Located at the base of the Burrishoole catchment, the facility is located at the interface of the freshwater and marine ecosystems. The combination of the unique location, and long time series of environmental datasets have attracted national and international researchers to the facility for many decades.

Fisheries research at the Newport Research Facility focuses on migration, ecology, genetics, population dynamics and management advice for species including salmon, sea trout, eel, sea bass, blue fin tuna, pollack and stickleback. There are also a range of research projects on the impacts of climate and land use change on aquatic ecosystems, limnology, oceanography and sustainable aquaculture.

Researchers based at the Marine Institute’s Newport Research Facility have secured competitive funding in a number of research areas. As part of the Marine Institute’s Cullen Scholarship Programme, a number of postgraduate students have also been based at the Newport Research Facility to work on projects relevant to the Marine Institute whilst studying for a higher degree. The resulting research network, encompassing researchers from the Marine Institute and Higher Education Institutes, is diverse and collaborative. This symposium will highlight progress on research projects in the last three years, as well as introduce some new projects.

The symposium will include four sessions via Zoom from 10am to 4pm on Thursday 25th February 2021. To access the programme and the Zoom link, email [email protected]

Published in Marine Science
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Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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