Land-based fish farms more sustainable, says Inland Fisheries Ireland chief executive

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Head of the Irish organisation that manages publicly-owned freshwater fisheries Dr Ciaran Byrne said that he wants the aquaculture industry to look inland.

Inland Fisheries Ireland chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne has said that the evidence is “pointing towards” moving fish farms onshore for more sustainable aquaculture industry, reports the Irish Examiner.

Inland Fisheries Ireland chief executive Ciaran Byrne. PHOTO: LinkedIn

Inland Fisheries Ireland is the state agency responsible for fisheries management of freshwater fish and coastal fish while Bord Iascaigh Mhara is responsible for sea fisheries.

Byrne said Inland Fisheries Ireland, the State organisation managing publicly-owned freshwater fisheries, had “always argued for a sustainable aquaculture industry, one in which farmed fish are not negatively impacting on wild fish”.

“This can be achieved in tightly controlled circumstances — however with increasing climatic and environmental variables, this is becoming more difficult to achieve and sustain,” he said.

Bryne was inspired by Denmark’s Environment Minister Lea Wermelin (Social Democracy) who recently announced that her administration will now stop the creation of new facilities as well as the expansion of existing fish farms (mainly rainbow trout).

Irish organic salmon farms produce a relatively small amount of fish per year – 19,305 tonnes in 2018 – despite it being one of its top-selling species.

An Ireland-based salmon farming source who wished to remain anonymous told SalmonBusiness:

“I don’t have strong views on this, but simply deem land-based production to be unrealistic. Ireland and Denmark differ greatly in geography and hydrography, the latter produces 46 thousand tonnes of trout (Ireland’s total salmon and trout production is very small at roughly a quarter of this); in Denmark 27% of its production is grown in the sea so most of its salmonid (i.e. trout) production is already land-based. Salmon rearing needs to complete its cycle at sea in order to achieve a natural product of a pure taste (for which Irish salmon is famous); the latter is not possible in land-based re-circulation units which are also very energy and capital intensive. It is my understanding that generally speaking Denmark’s coastal waters are not suitable for salmon farming as they are relatively shallow and carry elevated Nitrogen levels (presumably from the country’s intensive agriculture). Finally, all salmon production in Ireland is to the European standard of organic salmon production; fish are produced in a natural way in harmony with the local environment, and full-cycle RAS technology (recirculation) is not permitted (nor possible) within the organic standard.”