Bord Iascaigh Mhara has acquired a new inshore survey vessel for monitoring the state of mussel bed stocks on the south-west and east Irish coastlines.
The 12m-long survey vessel, named T Burke II, was built by Cork company Safehaven Marine.
The Wildcat 40 vessel is one of 19 built by Safehaven and in service worldwide, and has a maximum speed of 26 knots and 18 knots operational speed. It is fitted with crane gear to deploy sonar equipment and a bottom sampling dredge.
Safehaven Marine says its seakeeping abilities were demonstrated during rough weather trials off the south coast in 50-knot winds and five-metre seas during Storm Gareth.
It will be deployed by BIM in Dingle Bay, Co Kerry, and on the east coast from Wexford’s Carnsore Point to Carlingford, Co Louth.
The Irish mussel industry was valued at 11.7 million euro to the economy in 2018, and almost 14,000 tonnes of mussels were produced in Ireland last year.
Bottom grown mussels made up 4,800 tonnes of that total.
The sector has had Marine Stewardship Council accreditation – the “gold standard” for sustainable fisheries – since 2013. The bottom grown mussel industry is almost “entirely export-led”, according to BIM, and employs almost 200 people, directly and indirectly.
Its potential was highlighted during the recent Supreme Court action by four mussel fishermen over the “voisinage” agreement north and south of the border.
The T Burke II was launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed in Kinsale, Co Cork on Monday morning with Olivia Moylan Burke.
Ms Burke is the wife of the late Dr Tomás Burke, formerly technical officer with BIM, after whom the boat is named.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Creed said that the surveys conducted by the vessel would form “an integral part of the management of the seed mussel fishery, which has been awarded the prestigious MSC sustainability certification”.
This accreditation “opens up access for our Irish mussels into the very best markets in the EU and further afield”, Mr Creed said.
BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said the surveys conducted by BIM’s technical officers would “provide invaluable data to help drive the growth of this important sector”, while also minimising its carbon footprint.