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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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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in association with IFA Aquaculture, is hosting a two-day seminar today (Thursday 13th February 2020) for members of Ireland’s vibrant oyster farming sector, valued at €43million according to the latest (2018) Business of Seafood report. The sold-out event, taking place in Carlingford, Co Louth, has attracted participants from more than 85% of businesses in the industry.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole said, “The demand for Irish oysters continues to increase in Ireland and overseas. Consumers in Europe and Asia are actively seeking out Irish oysters and cite the unique characteristics and diversity in taste between brands. This strong and growing reputation has translated into strong prices for Irish oysters and excellence in food safety management and stringent attention to quality control among industry members accounts for much of these successes. BIM continues to support and work closely with the sector. It is a sector that has enormous potential to continue in its upwards growth trajectory and to further benefit those living and working in coastal communities throughout Ireland.”

The sector enjoyed a positive year in 2018, according to the BIM Business of Seafood report, producing an all-time high of 10,300 tonnes of oysters and employing 1,300 people nationwide. The seminar is taking place in an area renowned for its quality oyster production and will feature presentations from a host of experts on practical topics of immediate interest to the Irish sector.

Despite recent health and socio-economic challenges presented by the Asian market that have affected exports Irish oyster producers remain at the forefront of the luxury offering, with the sector showing continued investment in packaging and branding, focusing on Irish oyster’s superior quality. The latest figures show nearly 30% of Irish oysters are now packed and branded in Ireland prior to export, adding extra value to the sector. While France remains our largest export market at 74% of total export volume in 2018, we are continuing to diversify into alternative European markets such as the Netherlands and Belgium (2019 saw a 31% increase in exports to the Netherlands).

The morning session will include short ‘flash’ presentations from IFA Aquaculture on where we are as an industry, the latest BIM initiatives which aim to further promote sustainability, innovation and competitiveness in the Oyster Sector as well as some of the more innovative approaches from industry to further develop their businesses.

The second part of the morning session will look at some of the results from BIM’s Bluefish Climate Change project, funded by the Ireland Wales Programme. There will be an overview of our current trade position and opportunities for further expansion. We will also be joined by Bord Bia to highlight oyster promotional events in Europe throughout 2020 and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to take us through some of the possible implications of Brexit in terms of food safety regulations.

Speakers from the Marine Institute, the SFPA and other industry experts will focus the afternoon session on topics such as water quality biosecurity, biotoxins and other environmental factors which significantly affect both oyster production and trade

The final aspect of the workshop will be an informed panel discussion, based on the day's presentations and addressing questions posed by workshop attendees.

Published in Fishing
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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

#Oysters - Unauthorised oysters farms have exploded in number on Lough Foyle amid a continued dispute over its ownership, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The estuary between the counties of Donegal and Derry remains a point of contention as Brexit looms, with both the UK and Irish governments claiming dominion over its waters.

As a result, there has been a proliferation of unregulated oyster farming that could be worth £20 million or €22.89 million each year, according to the Loughs Agency.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on this story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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On Tuesday 5th June 2018, a man was convicted by Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court for being in possession of 1,425 undersized native oysters (Ostrea edulis), contrary to Bye-Law 628 of 1982.

Patrick Cormican, with an address at Newline, Maree, County Galway, pleaded guilty to a single charge of being in possession of the undersize native oysters when apprehended by Fisheries Officers at approximately 1pm on 7th December 2017, at Blackweir, County Galway.

Solicitor Dioraí Ford, representing Inland Fisheries Ireland, outlined to the court that Fisheries Officers observed Mr. Cormican loading bags of oysters into a tractor-trailer at Blackweir on that date. The officers were aware that these bags contained undersized oysters. Mr. Cormican is a licenced oyster fisherman and on the day in question had approximately 5,000 oysters, of which 1,425 were undersized. Officers spent over an hour and a half measuring and counting the oysters.

The court heard that Mr. Cormican was co-operative on the day in question and had a previous conviction in relation to oysters dating from 1991. Judge Fahy commented on how serious a matter this was, particularly with the local connection with the world famous Clarinbrige Oyster. Mr Ford outlined that the Fisheries Officers involved in the case had never seen such an amount of undersized oysters before while carrying out an inspection of this type.

Judge Fahy convicted Mr. Cormican and imposed a fine of €750. Costs of €800 were also awarded against Mr. Cormican.

Oysters in Ireland

There are two species of oysters commonly eaten in Ireland – the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the non-native Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The native oyster grows wild and is typically caught by licensed dredging, while the Pacific oyster is most commonly farmed on trestles and harvested mechanically.

Native oyster stocks are under threat and sustainable fishing requires adherence to size limits, in order to allow oysters to grow large enough to breed before harvesting. The minimum legal size is 76mm. Inland Fisheries Ireland is charged with protection of oysters, and conducts regular inshore patrols to check for compliance. Sales outlets such as fishmongers and restaurants should be familiar with the legal requirements and refuse to accept undersize oysters.

Published in Fishing
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#Fishing - Fishermen wishing to apply for oyster dredge licences for the 2018 season must submit a completed official form to the relevant River Basin District Office before noon on Friday 24 November.

This process became necessary due to the fact that there are many Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natura 2000 sites in Ireland that also contain oyster fisheries.

As the exploitation of these fisheries will require dredging, appropriate assessment of these fishing activities will have to be undertaken.

In the absence of appropriate assessments, against predetermined conservation objectives, it is necessary to ensure that no intensification of the fishing activity for oysters be permitted.

This has been further strengthened by the issuing of a direction from the minister in accordance with Section 278 (5)(a) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as amended and the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (SI 477/ 2011).

As yet, no appropriate assessment of the potential impact of the wild oyster fishery has been completed for most locations within SACs and, in the absence of the necessary advice, Inland Fisheries Ireland must ensure that no intensification of the oyster fishery takes place.

As a consequence, IFI must continue to limit the number of licences that can be issued for 2017.

The official procedure and application form are available for download at the IFI website HERE.

Applicants must complete the application form in full and ensure that any relevant information that will assist IFI in assessing their application is submitted with the application.

The relevant licence fee for 2018 is €89 and this must also accompany the application. Unsuccessful applicants will have their fee refunded in full. Further information on the process is available with the application form.

Application forms are also available from Inland Fisheries Ireland, Teach Breac, Earl’s Island, Galway, H91 K6D2 (Tel 091 563118), from any Inland Fisheries Ireland District Office, or from Inland Fisheries Ireland head office, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin 24, D24 Y265.

Published in Fishing
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#Fishing - Fishermen wishing to apply for oyster dredging licences for the 2017 season must apply with the official form via the relevant River Basin District Office before 12 noon on Friday 25 November.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) say this process became necessary due to the many Special Areas of Conservation and Natura 2000 sites in Ireland that also contain oyster fisheries.

As the exploitation of these fisheries will requires dredging, appropriate assessment of these fishing activities will have to be undertaken.

In the absence of appropriate assessments, against predetermined conservation objectives, it is necessary to ensure that no intensification of the fishing activity for oysters be permitted.

This has been further strengthened by the issuing of a direction from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in accordance with Section 278 (5)(a) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as amended and the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (SI 477/ 2011).

For further information on the official application procedure, visit the IFI website HERE.

Published in Fishing

#MaritimeFestivals - The 2016 Carlingford Oyster Festival kicks off this evening (Thursday 4 August) on the shores of Carlingford Lough with the official opening of the event that runs till Monday 8 August.

This Saturday (6 August) is when the festivities really under way, with local restaurants offering samples of their finest seafood dishes.

Visitors will have an opportunity to try some of the Co Louth town's renowned local oysters at the Festival Oyster Tent.

There will also be guided tours of what's one of Ireland's few remaining Medieval walled towns, to coincide with Irish Walled Towns Day on Sunday 7 August.

For more on the weekend's festivities see HERE.

Published in Maritime Festivals

#Missing - RTÉ News reports that a body was found yesterday morning (Sunday 19 April) in the search for a missing fisherman off the Clare coast.

The search and rescue operation began in the early hours of yesterday morning after four people working with tractors in the oyster beds at Poulnaserry Bay got into difficulty when the tide came in.

Three of the fishermen were rescued by a local boat. RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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#Seafood - Donegal's oyster industry has been hit by an import ban in Hong Kong over an outbreak of food poisoning.

According to The Irish Times, food safety investigators in the Chinese territory were notified by Irish authorities two weeks ago that the presence of norovirus was confirmed at a raw oyster processing plant in the north-eastern county that services the crucial Asian market.

Hong Kong subsequently banned the import of raw oysters from Donegal "for the sake of prudence". More HERE.

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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