Foras na Mara

Ireland Considered a European Leader in Offshore Aquaculture

A major international workshop and foresight exercise – “Offshore Aquaculture in Europe-The ‘Next Steps’” ─ took place today (Monday 24th September) in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, to coincide with the World Seafood Congress. It was opened by Sean O’Neachtain, MEP and attended by some 70 delegates from all over the world.  

“Ireland has a reputation in Europe as one of the world leaders in open aquaculture production,” Mr. O’Neachtain said. “As we experience both dwindling stocks and an ever increasing demand for seafood products, aquaculture appears to be the most realistic and sustainable way to provide quality fish products to consumers.”  

The Workshop, which has been funded under the EU 6th Framework Programme, was designed to provide anyone with an interest in offshore fish farming the opportunity to submit their thoughts on the next steps for future development. This information will now be included in a comprehensive report outlining the way forward for the European aquaculture industry and submitted to the European Commission in February 2008.

  “The Irish fish farming industry is now producing more than 60,000 tonnes of fish per annum at a value of over €100 million,” said Mr. O’Neachtain. “In fact, production value doubled over the last 15 years. In real terms, the industry has created over 1,600 jobs.”  

Speakers at the Workshop described experiences in the USA, Spain and Ireland in farming a variety of fish and shellfish in offshore conditions. Future trends in offshore aquaculture were discussed by Mr. Donal Maguire of BIM.  

The objective of the EU project funding the Workshop is to investigate the opportunity and usefulness for the aquaculture industry of promoting offshore fish farming through a “technological platform” – a consortium of international experts and stakeholders.   Achieving this objective requires the collection, validation and collation of data from a diverse range of sources on the opportunities and requirements of European offshore aquaculture and it’s evaluation to assess the appropriateness of a technological platform as a suitable promotional vehicle.

The Dublin Workshop is a key part of this process.  

Full details of the Workshop will shortly be available on www.offshoreaqua.com   

The picture above shows Sean O Neachtain, Dave Jackson, Arne Fredheim and Rosa Fernandez at the Workshop.

ENDS    

Media enquiries to:  Dr. John Joyce – Marine Institute Ph: 087 2250871  

Notes to Editor  

The “Offshore Aquaculture Technology Platform” (OATP) project includes sixteen partners from seven countries: Ireland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Malta, Belgium and the UK. The consortium includes service providers, manufacturers, aquaculture practitioners with offshore experience, research and development organisations and agencies from across the sector.

These partners operate in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and in many cases have operations or interests in the aquaculture sector outside of Europe.

All participants will be involved in the main activities of this 14 month project: collecting and collating information by way of survey and questionnaire, participating in the main workshop and contributing to the final report, to be submitted to the EU Commission in February 2008.  

OATP is part of the European Aquaculture Technology Platform (EATP) which had its inaugural meeting on March of this year in Brussels. Its aim is to influence the EC research agenda in order to transform European fish farming into a knowledge-intensive industry in order to improve its competitiveness and economic contribution to society. Full details are available on www.EATPnet.eu 

Offshore Aquaculture in Ireland

Ireland has pioneered the development of offshore aquaculture since the mid 1980’s and the introduction of the “Bridgestone” rubber-collar fish cages off the west coast.

Since then, a number of designs capable of withstanding severe wind and wave conditions, including flexible rubber collars, jointed steel collars and even semi-submersible case units have been tested commercially.  

The 2004 conference “Farming the Deep Blue” organised by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) suggested that Ireland’s aquaculture industry could increase its current output of farmed fish by 150,000 tonnes (with a first sale value) of some €500 million per annum, if it could only perfect the technology to commercial farm its offshore “Class 3” sites.