Salmon production in Ireland was down 33 per cent in 2018

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Limited production sites stifling Irish salmon industry.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM), Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Board, latest statistics on the country’s seafood industry that show that growth in its most valuable seafood export slowed down significantly in 2018.

Organic salmon
In its Business In Seafood 2018 report, on the farmed side, salmon production declined 33% by volume. This was partly offset by increased demand for organic salmon that saw prices increase by 7%. Despite salmon dominating exports – 8,200 tonnes – it fell 30% in value.

Salmon continues to be Ireland’s most valuable seafood export. Overall, market demand of Irish aquaculture production remained strong throughout the year, particularly in the organic sector and totalled EUR 176 million with EUR 119 million of that from salmon (down 19 per cent from last year).

Graph: Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)

BIM wrote that “due to limited production sites and the production cycle of this key aquaculture species, the volume produced in 2018 was lower than the previous year.”

“Improved factors indicate that production should return to previous levels in 2019,”  it added.

Regulatory framework
Ireland’s authorities have not updated its regulatory framework and therefore has not granted any licenses for a salmon farm for 11 years – despite organic salmon farming being a major contributor to the sector. At a Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine debate last October Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that he was shocked at the failure to develop “this industry that is of real importance to rural, coastal communities.”

“The salmon farming industry is 75% of aquaculture yet the Department focuses on shellfish. That is low-hanging fruit. The Department goes for 300 licences this year and 300 licences next year in the shellfish area. The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board is not adequately resourced. These low-hanging fruits, applications in shellfish, are 25% of the overall industry and the aquacultural appeals licensing process will be backlogged without being resourced adequately,” he said.

Funding
However, there is some small solace. On Friday, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Michael Creed announced the award of EUR 2,369,801 in grants to 17 seafood enterprises in 9 different counties under his Department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme for the seafood sector.

EUR 900,000 in funding will go towards a EUR 3 million expansion in Keohane Seafoods’ salmon processing and smoking capacity. Organic salmon farmer Ocean Farm will get EUR 1,1 million towards an upgrade of salmon farm technology. And Curraun Fisheries will get EUR 187,000 towards the modernisation of salmon farm management systems.