An AquaReg Forum hosted by the Marine Institute at Day's Hotel, Galway last week brought together researchers and inshore fisheries and aquaculture representatives from the BMW region, Ireland, Galicia in Spain and Trondelag in Norway. Participants from the three regions presented the results of 12 co-operative projects carried out over the last two years. These ranged from the recycling/re-using of aquaculture by-products to the development of innovative packaging for the transport of fresh mussels, to cultivation of cod, and restocking clawed lobster.
AquaReg, an Interreg III C funded project, successfully funded 12 sub-projects to the value € 2,730,000 with 35 organisations from the three regions participating. Ten of the projects involved Irish participation with organisations such as the Irish Seaweed Centre, Martin Ryan Institute, IFA Aquaculture and the Marine Institute taking a lead role and working closely with local business such as Oyster Creek Seafood, Oranmore.
AquaReg differed from many other Interreg funded programmes in that it involved small businesses at a local level in areas such as sea-angling, finfish farming, shellfish gathering and allowed them to build strong working relationships with their counterparts in Galicia and Trondelag" according to Mr. Alan Drumm, Aquareg Co-ordinator, Marine Institute. "The programme yielded very successful results and our aim now is to further develop these projects and working networks into the future".
Opening the forum, Mr. Seán O'Neachtain, MEP, said that while the BMW's inshore fisheries sector was not as strong as that of Galicia and Trondelag, "we must look forward, and can develop a very strong industry with co-operation and common understanding of how things are done in other regions. I am very hopeful that the Interreg Initiative will continue and that AquaReg will go ahead and be extended into the future".
The success of AquaReg according to Mr. Mark Norman, Taighde Mara Teo, was the result of its focus on bringing together people with a common interest in aquaculture, the marine environment and inshore fisheries. "There was a strong bottom-up approach which focussed on the needs of the businesses on the ground. Gaining experience from other regions and learning from their practical experience, and indeed mistakes, is very valuable. We should continue to support these links to help develop our own resources."
During the forum delegates visited the Marine Institute's new Headquarters and laboratory facilities at Rinville, Oranmore, which will be officially opened by An Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, TD, the 9th June 2006.
Five politicians from the Trondelag region in Norway also met with Pádraig Ó hAoláin, Chief Executive, Udarás na Gaeltachta and community groups in Kilkieran, Connemara to discuss potential collaboration on coastal community development initiatives such as marine tourism, seaweed harvesting and traditional boat building.
Following the Galway Forum the steering committee will propose a number of potential areas for future co-operation, having already identified coastal zone management as an important area of collaboration. They also aim to broaden participation within the Atlantic Region and include Canada, which already has established links with Ireland and Norway.
For more information on AquaReg visit www.aquareg.com