60,000 visited seafood trail in one season, new aquaculture report

Sixty thousand people visited the Taste the Atlantic seafood trail which stretches from Malin Head to Kinsale in just one season, the new draft national aquaculture plan has confirmed.

The success of the food tourism initiative has been outlined in the Draft National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development 2030 which is out for consultation.

"The Taste the Atlantic is a joint programme between Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Bord Bia and Fáilte Ireland runs along the entire Wild Atlantic Way route and offers a platform to showcase Ireland’s exceptional seafood producers from the Inishowen Peninsula at the top of Donegal right down to Oysterhaven Bay in Cork.

"To date, visitors to aquaculture sites along the ‘Taste the Atlantic’ route exceeded over 60,000 in one season (2019 data). The feedback from producers and visitors alike is that there is strong desire to become informed about aquaculture practices, in particular salmon, oyster, mussel and abalone farming. Overall, there was little if any negative feedback," the consultation document states.

The Lough Foyle flat oyster

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Eight shark species swimming off Derry and Donegal

The report points out that there are now 22 aquaculture producers and processors enlisted to the route and in addition to this, 'exhibition/interpretation centres demonstrating farmed oyster and mussel culture were opened in Donegal, Sligo and Kerry'.

A study on the impact of aquaculture in communities in certain bays around the Irish coast in 2021, quoted in the report, pointed to its importance, particularly in parts of Donegal.

"Eleven of Ireland’s most representative bay areas for aquaculture were studied. The Irish aquaculture sector is an important component of the Irish seafood economy. This is particularly the case in some of the country’s more peripheral coastal economies (e.g., rural Donegal). It found that aquaculture is a relatively large and resilient employer in the bay economies," the report states.

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It also observed the presence of salmon and trout farming in the county.

"Other land-based units include 12 salmon hatchery units based in Donegal, Galway, Cork, Mayo, Tipperary and Wexford, ten of which support the on-growing aquaculture sector and two support wild fisheries.

"From 2011 to 2021 trout production output has remained mainly stable within a 600 to 700 tonne trend, averaging 624 tonnes, and with a value of €1.81 million. Output in 2020 was 604 tonnes, worth €1.88 million," the report observes.

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On opening the consultation, Fisheries Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “The Aquaculture sector has become a key part of Ireland’s seafood industry and has become a significant contributor to food supply for the Irish and export markets. This Plan will provide a roadmap to allow the sector to reach its potential in a sustainable manner, while also creating jobs and new opportunities for seafood businesses.”

The Plan was developed to build on the preceding plan which ran from 2015 to 2020 and aims to mainstream guidance for the sustainable development of EU aquaculture (2021 – 2030) into national aquaculture sector planning, inform the investment priorities for aquaculture in Ireland’s new Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 (EMFAF), and ensure that strategic planning for the aquaculture sector in Ireland responds to the latest thinking in terms of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Irish aquaculture in order to promote the development of a sustainable and forward-looking sector.

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The Plan which runs up to 2030 is based on four strategic objectives, including Building resilience and competitiveness, Participating in the green transition, Ensuring social acceptance and consumer information, and Increasing knowledge and innovation, with a significant number of actions under each.

Minister McConalogue added: “My recent announcement of the €20m Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme will provide immediate stimulus for aquaculture businesses to grow and meet the growing demand for Irish seafood.

"However, we also need to take a longer-term view on how aquaculture in Ireland can continue to develop into a more resilient and competitive industry, while also ensuring our coasts and natural environment are protected. The draft National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development 2030 contains actions to contribute to these important aims”

The draft Plan is available on gov.ie - gov.ie - Public consultation on the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development, 2030 (www.gov.ie) and the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment will be available shortly.

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Submissions can be made to [email protected] . The closing date for submissions will be six weeks after the publications of the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. A specific closing date will be advised on gov.ie once the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessments are published.