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Ten start-ups from backgrounds including tech and AI took part in this year’s Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquaculture Workshop. This year’s event, run by Hatch and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund took place entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-week event had been originally due to take place in the RDIhub in Killorglin, Co Kerry, but was instead live streamed.

Richard Donnelly, BIM Salmon and Shellfish Manager highlighted the breadth of innovation needed to power the aquaculture sector today and said:

“ The aim of these workshops is to continue to position Ireland as a leader in the next phase of aquaculture innovation by helping to speed up the development of promising start-ups. Events such as these are vital to the continued development of Ireland’s aquaculture sector because of the role they play in driving new ideas and innovation.”

Wayne Murphy, COO, Hatch also highlighted the quality of this year’s participants and their range of skills and said:

"We were incredibly pleased with the demand for places on this year’s workshop and with the quality of participants and range of technologies applying. Their appetite for learning and for accessing the tools, knowledge and networks to scale their ideas and technologies has been very encouraging throughout this first phase of the workshop. Sessions with the Hatch team ranged from the global aquaculture landscape industry pain points, venture capital with Aquaspark, strategy and planning, investor readiness and to the protection of IP, making it a busy and productive week. It has been exciting to connect and work with these ambitious entrepreneurs and we look forward to seeing how they develop and grow over the months and years ahead." 

Transparency in seafood production and trade, revolutionary energy-saving technology for land-based systems and wastewater expertise are just some of the areas of focus for the 2020 participating businesses.

This year’s workshop ran from Monday 5th until the 16th October 2020.

Published in Aquaculture
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Speaking at the IFA Aquaculture Webinar today Thursday 22 October, the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., announced a special Covid-19 financial support scheme for rope mussel and oyster farmers under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Announcing the new support scheme, Minister McConalogue said, “Rope mussel and oyster farmers were significantly impacted in the first half of 2020 by the market access and price difficulties caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic. While these issues eased as the first wave of the Pandemic passed, the impacts of lost sales and production left a lasting financial burden on these aquaculture enterprises. Rope mussel farmers suffered a 34% fall in sales between February and June, while oyster farmers suffered a sales drop of 59%. The continued viability of these SME enterprises is jeopardised by these unprecedented shocks to their businesses, with many struggling to cover their fixed costs and to fund the cost of purchasing seed to grow their next crops.”

Minister McConalogue added, “I am announcing today a special support scheme for these oyster and rope mussel producers that will provide a fixed, one-off payment of between €6,800 and €16,300 to each eligible oyster farming business and between €1,300 and €9,000 for rope mussel producers. The payments will vary according to three size classes based on records of previous production levels held by BIM. I anticipate that BIM will be inviting applications in early November with a view to paying successful applicants in 2020”.

Rope Mussel & Oyster Farmers Only

The new Covid-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme will be available to rope mussel and oyster farmers only. Eligibility will be confined to those enterprises that had stock on site in 2020. Terms and conditions will include, inter-alia, compliance with aquaculture and foreshore licence conditions, tax clearance certification, and submission of returns to BIM of the Aquaculture Production and Employment Survey in each of the three years 2017-19.

For the purposes of the scheme, producers will be classified according to their previous production levels over the period 2017-19, based on three categories, 0 to 50 tonnes production, 50 to 100 tonnes and greater than 100 tonnes. The table below details the fixed one-off payments that will be offered to successful applicants and the number of enterprises expected to benefit.

 

Rope Mussels

Oysters

Historic Production

0-50 T

50-100 T

>100 T

0-50 T

50-100 T

>100 T

No. enterprises

16

10

24

82

26

23

Fixed payment

€1,300

€3,600

€9,000

€6,800

€11,300

€16,300

Further details of the Scheme will be available from BIM shortly.

Published in Aquaculture
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The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s latest Annual Review and Outlook for the fisheries sector is a generally positive one — though tempered by the challenges of Brexit and the coronavirus.

Published today, Thursday 8 October, the review cites CSO figures for 2019 which put the value of Irish seafood exports at €577 million with increases in the value of both salmon and mackerel, Ireland’s most valuable export catches.

Mackerel’s 7% value increase was particularly remarkable as it came despite an 8% drop in volume, following a reduction of the quota by one fifth — thanks in part to a bullish market in Asia.

Shellfish exports had a challenging year in 2019, however, with volumes and values down significantly in the oyster sector.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen similar challenges experienced across the fisheries and aquaculture sectors over the course of 2020 thus far.

“Nonetheless, in spite of the difficulties, the fishing industry has continued to keep food in our shops and on our tables during this extraordinary time,” the report says.

“This has highlighted the vital role that the fishing industry plays in the food chain. This, in turn, underscores the importance of ensuring the sustainability of our fish stocks.

“Due to the closure of the food service sector around the world during the pandemic and transportation issues, exports of fish from Ireland were down around 20% in value during the first four months of 2020.”

Meanwhile, Brexit remains a serious concern, with fears that more than 70% of the Irish fishing fleet could lose access to their regular grounds in UK waters in the absence of a deal on fisheries.

The report outlines: “The UK demand is that quota shares are established on the basis of ‘zonal attachment’ and each year access to the UK fishing grounds are ‘purchased’ using the transfer of EU quota to the UK as recompense for this access.

“If the UK zonal attachment demand was applied, it would have huge negative consequences on Irish fisheries because the UK could claim a much higher proportion of the available fishing quotas for each stock each year.”

It continues: “The UK ‘zonal attachment’ claim is based on the level of catches taken from UK waters. If this criterion was used, it would result in Irish fish quotas being cut by 35% in value.

“The displacement of the EU fleet from the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and/or the reduction in EU quota shares, if remedial measures are not taken, is likely to lead to serious over-exploitation of stocks in our own EEZ; deliver substantial cuts to many of our quotas; [and] cause a substantial control challenge for the Irish navy, and potentially conflict at sea.”

The report also comes on the same day that the High Court struck down the ban on larger vessels fishing within Ireland's six-mile nautical limit, as reported earlier on Afloat.ie, which could have significant conseqences for Ireland's inshore fishing fleet.

The department’s 2020 review and outlook for fisheries and aquaculture can be found attached below, and the full review is available from the DAFM website HERE.

Published in Fishing
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The Dubliners' ode to Irish shellfish in their song Molly Malone may have been relying on inaccurate information.

New research by University College, Cork (UCC) scientists reports there is “inconsistent” data on the location of Irish cockles in previous studies.

Cockles are a well-known shellfish across Europe, valued for their “meat, cultural symbolism and ecological value”.

The UCC scientists involved in a Europe-wide “Cockles” project state that records can be found throughout history, from a wide range of sources including museums, scientific works and fisheries records.

A buried cockleA buried cockle

However, they have described as “worrisome” the lack of “focus” in previous work.

“An understanding of cockles’ past survival is essential in order to predict how species will fare in a future of climate change,” they say.

The data included locations of where they were found, and how many were there, according to Kate Mahony, of UCC’s School of BEES, AFDC, MaREI and Environmental Research Institute.

“Growing up in Ireland, cockles were part of my childhood. One of the first songs you learn here is about Molly Malone, selling “cockles and mussels” on the streets of Dublin,” she said.

“Because of the importance of the species, here and across Europe, I wasn’t surprised that we were able to gather large amounts of data,” she said.

However, this data was gathered and reported in an inconsistent manner, highlighting the lack of focus on studying the historic and geographic trends of this species, she said.

The scientists compared cockle density (the number of cockles in an area) with changing climate in the Atlantic.

They said it was “evident that cockles were influenced by a wide range of parasites, temperature fluctuations, and varying methods of fishing and legislation”.

The team also examined the sources of their information. Despite the large volume of data, large differences existed in data quality and methodology.

“What really stood out to us was the lack of communication between stakeholders such as scientists and fishery managers,” co-author Dr Sharon Lynch said.

“ We examined the sources of the data and found a large knowledge gap between researchers and those that require this information practically”.

The researchers recommend ensuring improved, knowledge-based fisheries by “standardising monitoring and creating an online portal to increase the knowledge transfer both locally and internationally”.

“These steps will be vital in order to protect this emblematic species into the future,” they state.

Their study is published in the online journal Plos.Org here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A Polish man says he has quite literally turned oyster farming on its head - by inventing a revolutionary device that allows for three times more oysters within the same area of seabed.

Grzegorz Skawiński developed the product over two years which uniquely has a rotating cage system.

Oyster sacks are placed one above the other, rather than traditional farming of side by side on trestles, saving space on the seabed and increasing production.

And when the device rotates, it allows the oysters to move freely, aiding growth.

Normally each oyster bag is turned by hand – five in a row on a trestle. Grzegorz’s system allows 16 to be turned in one rotation.

The project currently in prototype stage has other benefits.

Along with a high-quality oyster in terms of shape and meat, the device can farm in deeper waters, previously inaccessible.

And because of the rotating system, back pain is relieved, common in the industry.

Sea pollution is also eliminated as rubber bands that hold bags in place on a trestle, are not required on the device.

He developed the product having worked in oyster farming in Co. Waterford for eight years.

He saw the potential of a new product to help with ease of farming and plastic pollution, but vitally production levels and increased profits.

Grzegorz said: “When you work with oysters, you understand intimately how farming methods work, and importantly for me, how they can be improved.

"The idea of rotation was born while working on the project. The main goal of the project was to place as many oysters as possible on the seabed surface."

Grzegorz first started on the project in 2017 and created the device for testing and research purposes.

It’s currently patented in Ireland, along with patents expected in the UK and France.

Grzegorz is now keen to move on with the next phase of the business – either to sell the licensed patent or work with a manufacturer to market the product globally.

Published in Aquaculture
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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen T.D. today announced €3.4 million in new investment by 15 aquaculture enterprises, with his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme providing grants of €1,282,277.

Minister Cowen said, “I am delighted to announce the approval of a €3.4 million investment by 15 aquaculture enterprises with €1.3 million support from my Department’s EMFF Programme. The latest investments are aimed at boosting production at oyster, mussel and salmon sites around our coast. It is heartening to see this continuing confidence in the future by these ambitious aquaculture enterprises. While recent months were challenging for many aquaculture businesses, the overall trend has been one of growing world demand for our seafood products.”

As SMEs, most of the aquaculture businesses received grants of 40% towards the cost of their investments, with one non-SME receiving 30%, a new entrant to the sector receiving 50% and one investment in organic certification also receiving 50%. The grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and are subject to terms and conditions.

Grant approvals - Sustainable Aquaculture Scheme

Beneficiary

Location

Project

Total Investment

EMFF Grant

Rate

Derrylea Holdings

Galway

Organic Certification of Farmed Atlantic Salmon

€7,500

€3,750

50%

Sliogéisc Inisheane Teoranta

Donegal

Capacity increase in oyster seed production

€28,723

€11,489

40%

Feirm Farriage Oileán Chliara Teoranta

Donegal

Phase 3: Installation of grid frames and construction of Aquaculture Workboat

€761,595

€228,478

30%

Glenn Hunter

Sligo

Construction of an oyster handling facility

€68,747

€34,373

50%

Ocean Farm Ltd

Donegal

Phase 3: Upgrade of salmon farm technology

€1,261,663

€504,665

40%

Skipper Shellfish Ltd

Kerry

Phase 2: Increase capacity of oyster farm

€25,876

€10,350

40%

Northern Bay Oyster Ltd

Donegal

Increase capacity of oyster farm

€29,670

€11,868

40%

Mulroy Bay Mussels Ltd

Donegal

Investment in new handling equipment

€75,900

€ 30,360

40%

Killary Fjord Shellfish Ltd

Galway

Upgrade of rope mussel farm to continuous longline system

€17,120

€6,848

40%

Woodstown Bay Shellfish Ltd

Waterford

Phase 2: Increase capacity of oyster farm

€606,815

€242,726

40%

Oceanic Organic Oysters Ltd

Donegal

Phase 2: Increase capacity on oyster farm

€183,145

€73,258

40%

Rosmoney Shellfish Ltd

Mayo

Increase capacity of oyster farm

€124,980

€49,992

40%

Seastream Ltd

Mayo

Purchase of smolt feeding system

€60,000

€24,000

40%

Rodeen Fish Farms Ltd

Cork

Phase 3: Introduction of continuous rope mussel system

€83,197

€33,278

40%

Seal Harbour Enterprises Ltd

Cork

Phase 3: Upgrade of rope mussel equipment

€ 42,100

€16,840

40%

Total:

 

 

€3,377,031

€1,282,277

 

Published in Aquaculture
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Seafood is a popular and healthy food product in Ireland with the average Irish person consuming about 22kg of fish per year.

People recognise the health benefits with fish being low-fat and a good source of omega-3 fats, which are vital for brain function, heart and many other benefits. Salmon is the most popular fish bought by Irish families. In Ireland most of our salmon are farmed, and along with mussels and oysters, are the main farmed species in the country. 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 tonne 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 from 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.

One innovative solution being investigated to deal with these issues is called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, or IMTA.

Growing of scallops at Lehanagh PoolGrowing of scallops at Lehanagh Pool

IMTA is a different way of thinking about aquatic food production and is based on the concept of the ´food chain’. It involves farming multiple, complementary species from different levels of the food chain together for their mutual benefit, where the waste by-products from the fish providing food for another species. Shellfish filter out microscopic plants and organic content from the water column to grow, and seaweeds and plants absorb the minerals from the water for them to grow. Growing shellfish and seaweed species in close proximity to fed fish mimics these natural cycles in the seas and creates a local ecosystem where the wastage and impacts are reduced, and the productivity and diversity of products from the site is increased.

The Marine Institutes’ aquaculture research site in Lehanagh Pool in Connemara is an example of IMTA, where salmon are reared on site, with scallops and seaweeds growing alongside helping to remove the organic inputs. IMTA is seen as a promising solution for sustainable aquaculture development.

The Institute is coordinating the innovative Horizon2020 IMPAQT project which is working to promote aquaculture production based on IMTA, by addressing the lack of data and tools to assess the factors that affect IMTA, and to enable a real-time response to production challenges, environmental impacts and seafood quality.

Growing of seaweed on a lineGrowing of seaweed on a line

The project is developing a computerised, artificially intelligent, management platform which analyses the environment, the fish behaviour, and data from other sources such as satellite data, image analysis, and inputs from the farmer on site. This is used to inform fish welfare and water quality and to provide real-time operational feedback and advice to the farmer on the management of their site. The technologies include new sensors, wireless communication systems, and state of the art software utilising the internet of things. This system is being designed and tested at the Institute’s research site in Lehanagh Pool, at Keywater Fisheries IMTA site in Sligo, in collaboration with our international partners at other sites across Europe, and in Turkey and China.

Published in Marine Science
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Campaigners against salmon farms have raised concerns over the state of Irish wrasse stocks after it was confirmed the fish have been taken en masse to help clean lice from farmed salmon.

As Donegal News reports, a number of salmon farms in Donegal, Galway and other areas owned by Mowi — the former Marine Harvest — have between them moved in tonnes of wild wrasse, a known ‘cleaner fish’ that feeds on sea lice, over the past four years.

Responding to a Dáil debate question from Catherine Connolly TD this past summer, Marine Minister Michael Creed confirmed that “several special of cleaner fish are used in Ireland as a method of controlling sea lice”.

But there are fears that the mass withdrawal of wrasse and other such species from the wild could tip the balance of Ireland’s delicate marine ecosystem.

“The absence of wild wrasse in bays may result in stress and disease in other large species of fish which rely on wrasse to keep them clean of parasites,” said Billy Smyth, chair of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.

Donegal News has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

Galway Bay FM reports that An Bord Pleanála has refused planning permission for a development at a Connemara site overseen by Udarás na Gaeltachta.

Plans for the Páirc na Mara facility were previously approved by Galway County Council, but continued to face opposition from local groups concerned that the initial proposals would develop into a full-scale salmon farming facility.

That decision has now been overturned by the national planning authority, according to Galway Bay FM.

Four months ago the Páirc na Mara marine project had welcomed the announcement of €2 million in funding from the Business, Enterprise and Innovation to develop a market-focused marine innovation and development centre at the Cill Chiaráin site.

Published in Coastal Notes

The latest research and knowledge on oyster diseases was presented at a meeting on Pacific oyster health held recently by the Marine Institute’s Fish Health Unit.

The event attracted more than 80 participants from Ireland’s oyster farming industry, as well as representatives from Ireland’s seafood development agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Presentations focused on mortality, disease management and current national and international research in oyster health.

Oyster mortalities in recent years in Ireland have been mainly associated with either Ostreid herpes virus-1 μVar (OsHV-1 μVar) infection or the bacterium Vibrio aestuarianus. Both diseases cause significant oyster mortality events and an economic loss to oyster farmers and producers.

Researchers from the Marine Institute and University College Cork presented the major findings from the REPOSUS project, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s FIRM programme.

The three-year REPOSUS project focused on reducing the impact of pathogens associated with mortalities in Pacific oysters. This included results from sentinel trials in disease impacted bays, molecular and pathogenicity characterisation studies on isolates of OsHV-1 and rache and studies on environmental parameters which influence mortality.

French institute IFREMER also presented the latest results from the VIVALDI project (Preventing and Migrating Farmed Bivalve Diseases) funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

VIVALDI combines European research resources to better understand shellfish diseases and improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the European shellfish industry. The Marine Institute is one of 21 partners involved in this research project.

Industry representatives from Ireland also shared their experience of managing losses in shellfish production due to oyster disease and mortality on their sites.

This feedback, along with research presented, will be used to update the current best practice guide for disease control and management in Ireland's oyster industry.

Published in Fishing
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

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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