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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has published its annual classification list for commercial shellfish (bivalve mollusc) production areas across Ireland.

This assesses 135 classifications in 60 production areas against strict safety requirements for human consumption.

Across Ireland, nine production areas received “upgrades” during the 2022 review of classifications, one production area received a shift in Seasonal A classification, twelve production areas received “downgrades”, one production area was de-classified for mussels, two production areas were declared as dormant, and two production areas received additional classifications, the SFPA says.

Ireland produces an estimated 28,100 tonnes of shellfish - including mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops - from classified production areas annually, the SFPA says.

An additional 2,700 tonnes of scallops are landed from offshore sites, it says.

Live shellfish can only be harvested from production areas which meet strict classification requirements for human consumption, as set out under European and Irish Food laws.

The SFPA, in collaboration with the shellfish industry, conducts regular shellfish sampling in all production areas, monitoring the levels of bacterial contamination of shellfish to determine the risk and classification status. Each production area is designated a rating that determines the conditions, if any, which need to be observed before shellfish can be sold for human consumption.

The Irish aquaculture sector is worth an estimated €64 million annually (at the first point of sale) and employs around 1,984 people across the country. Around 90% of shellfish produced in Ireland is exported, principally to European and Asian markets, and Ireland is the second largest producer of oysters in Europe after France, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said that Ireland’s shellfish monitoring programme was important for both consumers and commercial producers.

“One of the principal remits of the SFPA is to ensure that Irish and international consumers can be assured of the quality and safety of fish and seafood harvested here, and that we have sustainable stocks for generations to come,” he said.

“Shellfish production is an important industry in many coastal communities around Ireland and it is essential that the highest standards of food safety are maintained at all times,” he added.

“ The SFPA works in collaboration with industry and other state agencies to ensure that production areas are of the highest possible standard and meet rigorous assessment criteria to ensure that the safety and quality of the shellfish placed on the market is not compromised in any manner,” he said.

“ This work is an important pillar in both preserving and further enhancing Ireland’s global reputation for quality, safe and delicious seafood. It is incumbent upon all working in the industry to remain vigilant to any risks which have the potential to impact our seafood production areas and that we adopt a collective approach throughout with a focus on quality and sustainable seafood,” Hayes said.

Sinéad Keaveney, who is the Marine Institute’s shellfish microbiology team leader said that the publication of the classification list is the annual culmination of the ongoing partnership between the Marine Institute and SFPA in the microbiological monitoring of shellfish production areas in Ireland.

“As the National Reference Laboratory for monitoring E. coli contamination in bivalve shellfish, the Marine Institute oversees the national E. coli testing programme,” she said.

“ This contributes significantly to the assessment of the risk of microbiological contamination in shellfish production areas and the overall classification status of individual production areas,” she said.

The SFPA carries out its annual review of all shellfish classifications, drawing on the previous three-year dataset of microbiological results for classifications.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is used as a proxy or faecal indicator; E.coli levels in shellfish samples are used to determine the classification status of production sites and determines the required harvesting protocols.

During the period January 2019 to January 2022, approximately 4,788 microbiological E.coli samples were taken by the SFPA and reviewed.

Published in Aquaculture
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Engineering, scientific and aquaculture entrepreneurs gathered for the annual Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech Community Day at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin’s CHQ Building on Tuesday, July 26.

The event, now in its fifth year, is the culmination of a month-long Innovation Studio where ten business start-ups from different disciplines took part in an intensive programme to help fast-track their business ideas for commercial viability in the Irish and global aquaculture industry.

To date, 46 start-ups have participated from BIM’s Innovation Studio, supported by the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and run in partnership with global aquaculture accelerator Hatch.

The initiative has seen more than €13 million invested and g130+ new jobs generated in aquatech in Ireland.

Sound technology that monitors oyster welfare 

Lee Hunter, a young Donegal oyster farmer was among the start-ups taking part in this year’s programme. His business, The Oyster Pitch, uses sound technology to monitor oyster welfare and to reduce mortality.

Another 2022 Innovation Studio participant included Aquamontrix, a continuous real-time sensor technology to monitor nitrate and nitrite levels in sea water.

Pictured from left to right, Lee Hunter, Founder and CEO, The Oyster Pitch, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation ServicesPictured from left to right, Lee Hunter, Founder and CEO, The Oyster Pitch, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation Services

Fostering aquaculture discipline

Giving the opening address at the event, BIM CEO Jim O’Toole spoke about food security and the long-term strategy to develop and foster local aquaculture talent. This involves attracting other crucial disciplines like engineering, analytics and finance to help them develop Irish aquaculture businesses with a global reach.

“Investing in aquatech is specifically targeted in the Government’s Food Vision 2030 strategy and is something BIM is intent on delivering. Our ambition is to position Ireland as a global centre for aquaculture innovation and to support companies to grow and develop in this sector in collaboration with other agencies.”

Wayne Murphy, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Hatch, referred to the risk-taking intrinsic to entrepreneurship and central to the continued innovation and growth within aquatech in Ireland and globally. He referred to the initial approach Hatch made some 5 years earlier with BIM and how the State seafood development agency had been supportive from the outset.

“Aquatech has entrepreneurship at its core - and entrepreneurship is about risk-taking. BIM were enthusiastic partners when Hatch first approached the agency. 5 years on and 46 start-up businesses from a wide range of disciplines have taken the risk, creating more than 130 jobs.”

During a panel discussion with Teresa Morrissey, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Aquaculture, Carsten Krome, Founder & Partner, Hatch, Martin Dempsey, Founder and CEO, Sealac Ltd. and Richard Donnelly, Shellfish and Salmon Manager, BIM, Richard Donnelly drew parallels with the IFSC’s ability to spur investment and innovation following its established three decades earlier.

“It is just 35 years since the IFSC was established. It is remarkable to consider how its establishment was truly visionary at the time, and how many other sectors followed in its path. The aquatech sector in Ireland has the potential to achieve this same effect.”

The global aquaculture industry is the fastest-growing food sector today. Its value exceeds €280 billion. The Irish aquaculture industry is currently valued at €175 million with primary production (fin-fish and shellfish farming) at its core.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

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

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

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

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

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

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

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

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

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

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

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to apply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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