Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ireland considered a European leader in offshore aquaculture, workshop told

IRELAND'S role as a major player in the aquaculture sector has been underlined at an international workshop and "foresight" exercise held yesterday to coincide with the World Seafood Congress. The event was opened by MEP Sean O’Neachtain and attended by around 70 delegates from across the world.

“Ireland has a reputation in Europe as one of the world leaders in open aquaculture production,” Mr. O’Neachtain said. “As we experience both dwindling stocks and an ever increasing demand for seafood products, aquaculture appears to be the most realistic and sustainable way to provide quality fish products to consumers.”

The Workshop, which was funded under the EU 6th Framework Programme, was designed to provide anyone with an interest in offshore fish farming the opportunity to submit their thoughts on the next steps for future development. This information will now be included in a comprehensive report outlining the way forward for the European aquaculture industry and submitted to the European Commission in February 2008.

“The Irish fish farming industry is now producing more than 60,000 tonnes of fish per annum at a value of over €100 million,” said Mr. O’Neachtain. “In fact, production value doubled over the last 15 years. In real terms, the industry has created over 1,600 jobs.”

Speakers at the Workshop described experiences in the USA, Spain and Ireland in farming a variety of fish and shellfish in offshore conditions. Future trends in offshore aquaculture were discussed by Donal Maguire of BIM.

The objective of the EU project funding the Workshop is to investigate the opportunity and usefulness for the aquaculture industry of promoting offshore fish farming through a “technological platform” – a consortium of international experts and stakeholders. Achieving this objective requires the collection, validation and collation of data from a diverse range of sources on the opportunities and requirements of European offshore aquaculture and it’s evaluation to assess the appropriateness of a technological platform as a suitable promotional vehicle.

The Dublin Workshop, it is said, is a key part of this process.