A report on the sustainable development of Irish aquaculture has been welcomed by the Irish Farmers Association who says it supports their long-term call for a more focused and coherent policy towards marine and freshwater farming.

Richie Flynn, Executive of the Aquaculture section of the IFA, said the report, Sustainable Development in Irish Aquaculture, published by the National Economic & Social Council, recognises the key role that aquaculture plays in terms of employment and economic activity in rural areas as well as maintaining and enhancing the environment.

NESC report

There is an urgent requirement now to build resilience in the aquaculture sector through an overhaul of the licensing system and this report should spur Minister Creed and the Department into action to finally tackle this issue,” he said.

The NESC report is based on over thirty interviews with departments and agencies; fish farmers; representatives of seafood processing companies; marine scientists and representatives of Irish environmental NGOs and local campaign groups. It shows how the local is shaped by global market dynamics and by EU and national regulatory frameworks and policies.

It also argues that future Irish aquaculture development can be achieved which balances economic, environmental and social goals.

The full report has already been circulated to government departments and was noted by the Cabinet at its meeting on the May 21 last. Research for the report, by Dr Patrick Bresnihan, examines how the dynamics of environmental sustainability have been experienced and managed within Irish aquaculture.

Three key themes emerged from Professor Bresnihan’s research:

1. Diverse economies for development are required There is potential for aquaculture to provide safe, nutritious food and other materials, to sustain livelihoods in coastal areas, and to ensure and even enhance the quality of the marine environment. Opportunities for the future can be grasped in relation to the quality of Ireland’s marine environment, both in terms of its protection and preservation, but also as a unique selling point for the industry.

2. Environmental risk requires building resilience The business of aquaculture depends in a fundamental way on an ability to manage environmental risks. In aquaculture these can have a particularly detrimental impact on production and the viability of a business. Local actors can play a critical role in identifying and avoiding risk through early identification. For these producers, sustainable livelihoods, quality of life and environmental integrity are inseparable.

3. Conflict resolution, engagement and decision-making can be improved Aquaculture is a highly contested sector and conflicts have arisen over its development and the way decisions are made about the allocation and use of the foreshore. There is a need for a focused approach to finding, testing and adapting suitable forms of public participation for natural resources management. Different, often competing, perspectives and values need to be articulated and negotiated. There is still a gap in our understanding of the kind of structures, processes and agencies that can best progress constructive engagement, and this is evident across many different areas of policy.

Sustainable Development in Irish Aquaculture (NESC, No 143): http://files.nesc.ie/nesc_reports/en/143_EnvSus_and_LocDev_Aquaculture.pdf