Irish shellfish producers have called for action on what they say is ‘a shocking report’ from the EPA on raw sewage discharges to sea.
IFA’s shellfish farming sector chairman, Michael Mulloy, said the report, which shows a dramatic increase in breaches of sewage treatment regulations around the coast, “must be acted upon immediately” if Ireland is to retain its reputation for safe quality seafood.
In May 1989, many of the sea trout smolts returning early to their native rivers along parts of Ireland’s west coast after only a short time at sea were emaciated, and the flesh of others was white rather than pink. As to why these fish were starving and unable to find food are questions that have never been answered.
Sea cages in Bealacragher Bay near Mulranny, Co Mayo
That same year, a population collapse occurred in most mid-western sea trout fisheries although most populations had been in slow decline for many years.
The Marine Institute - as the EU designated national reference laboratory for shellfish toxins and shellfish microbiology in Ireland - has launched a shellfish safety website. Incorporating user-friendly info-graphics and maps, the site hosts information on recent trends analysis as well as current status of shellfish production areas.
The Institute carries out a year-round national testing programme to ensure all shellfish are safe before being placed on the market for human consumption.
"With over one hundred coastal aquaculture production areas farming a variety of shellfish species, and many more offshore areas being fished commercially, it is essential that an efficient and accurate method of communicating these test results is in place," explains Joe Silke, manager of shellfish safety at the Marine Institute.
The open status of shellfish production areas is necessary before product can be placed on the market. This open status depends on clear tests being obtained for a comprehensive range of shellfish toxins; harmful algal species from water samples must also be tested on an ongoing basis. Microbiological classification status is assigned on the basis of ongoing testing.
Irish aquaculture production topped 44,000 tonnes in 2016 – a 9% increase in volume over the previous year which translates to a first point-of-sale value of €167m and accounts for 1,900 jobs, up 6%, according to the 2017 BIM Annual Aquaculture Survey.
Mussel farming. Photo courtesy SFPA
In 2016, the survey notes that Gigas oyster production at 10,000 tonnes accounted for 25% of Ireland’s overall aquaculture production – up 11% on 2015. Even more significant however was the increase in value of this species over the previous year – up from €35m to €41m. In value terms, Gigas oysters now account for 74% of Ireland’s shellfish aquaculture.
'Root and branch' reform of the aquaculture licence application process is necessary, according to a report (Review of the Aquaculture Licensing Process) published by the Independent Aquaculture Licence Review Committee.
The reform needs to be 'comprehensive in scope' and to focus on 'immediate actions which can produce results in the short term as well as initiatives which will bear fruit in the longer term'.
Killary Fjord, Co Galway. Action plan prosposes 24 recommendations to increase Ireland's aquaculture output by 45,000 tonnes. Photo G Mills
It concludes that an implementation strategy 'will assign responsibility for recommendations, accountability and set milestones for delivery and identify the necessary resources to support the implementation process'.
In 2014, wild capture fisheries landed 93m globally; this figure has remained stable for over 25 years.
Over the same duration, global per capita demand for seafood has risen from 14 to 20kg person. To meet this demand, aquaculture, which now provides more than half of all seafood destined for human consumption, has intensified. In Ireland, salmon aquaculture has been cited as a ‘growth area’, with government estimates suggesting a 78% increase in farmed production by 2020, is achievable.
Author, Liam Carr
22nd January 1957 to 5th December 2016
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
It is with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Richard FitzGerald on 5th December 2016.
Richard was a Kerryman, reared in Beaufort, close to Killarney, where he was educated at St Brendan’s College. He completed a primary degree (B.Sc.) in Zoology at University College Cork where he was further awarded a PhD for studies on ecological interactions of fish-parasite communities under Professor Maire Mulcahy. He was involved in research and development in aquaculture for almost 30 years in a variety of roles and posts. Richard also held MBA and accountancy qualifications.
In the 1987, Richard began his career as Technical Director of Aquahatch - a salmon farming company, owned by the State venture capital agency NADCORP, based both in Lough Allen, Co. Leitrim and at Ballinaclash, Co. Wicklow.