Value of Irish aquaculture up 20% to €150 million

Irish oysters command a premium price in the Chinese and Hong Kong markets

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) publishes Annual Aquaculture Figures at National Shellfish Conference

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23 May 2016 | 0

2015 saw a strong recovery in fish and shellfish farming production, with the industry increasing in value by €34 million to a first point of sale value of almost €150 million, according to new data from BIM, the Irish Sea Fisheries Board.

Aquaculture is defined as the farming of fish, shellfish and seaweed. Data from the BIM Annual Aquaculture Survey was published recently at the annual Irish Shellfish Association Conference in Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Overall production volumes witnessed an impressive recovery, increasing by over 25% to 40,140 tonnes, with employment figures stabilising at 1,840.

Welcoming the positive upturn in the aquaculture sector, BIM’s CEO, Tara McCarthy said BIM was looking forward to working with the shellfish sector to maximise the opportunity for the industry through product differentiation, co-operation and consolidation. The board is running two aquaculture schemes to promote the sustainable growth of output, value and employment in the aquaculture sector.

“While 2015 was a challenging year for some operators in the shellfish industry, overall, it has been a positive year for Irish aquaculture,” McCarthy added. “The 27% increase in production volumes is a welcome step towards the targets set out in the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture, which sets a growth target of 45,000 tonnes across all aquaculture production by 2020.  The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is providing almost €30 million to further assist the sector to develop and achieve these ambitious targets.”

In total, salmon farming accounts for 64% of total aquaculture production, valued at €95 million. The next largest segment, shellfish farming is valued at €51 million with oysters accounting for €38 million of this and the mussel farming industry valued at €13 million. Shellfish farming is labour intensive and over 1,600 of total aquaculture jobs are in shellfish production.

The market for Irish oysters in Hong Kong and China was actively targeted in a collective manner by Irish producers, with the assistance of BIM, in 2015.  Irish oysters have received a warm welcome, commanding a premium price in the Chinese and Hong Kong markets and are now the highest priced oysters in this region.

Oyster farming employed 775 people in 2015, providing valuable employment in coastal areas that often offer little alternatives.  Over 90% of Irish oysters are exported, the majority going to France, however 2015 saw 10% of Irish oyster exports going to Hong Kong and China.

The full results of BIM’s production survey can be viewed here.

 

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