Oysters contribute €58m to the rural economy and support 760 full-time jobs, according to a new report published by IFA Aquaculture. A further €6m and an additional 77 jobs could be produced with every 10% increase in production, says the author and leading agri-food economist, Professor Alan Renwick.

IFA oyster report

Oyster farm, Co Mayo

Jerry Gallagher, chair of the Irish Shellfish Association (a part of IFA) however said that challenges regarding regulation and licensing continue, particularly for application processing at new and renewed sites.

“Shellfish stock health and food safety requires ongoing attention with continuously improving water quality in our inshore areas being the key to the future of the sector. Oysters are so highly dependent on clean water for every aspect of their business that the sector is effectively Ireland’s first line of defence against threats to our coastal environment.”

Alan Renwick’s recommendations following on-site interviews and farm visits are ‘strong and pragmatic and should be the compass for the sector in the medium term to grow successfully,’ a statement reads. 

Recommendations include simplifying regulation; introducing contingency plans; strengthening market identity and creating more added-value outlets. More effort towards improving technical efficiencies, and greater collaboration between producers on common issues, are also identified.

“Each subsector of the seafood industry has its peaks and troughs, and oyster farming is no exception. It it vital that government supports the sector in times of crisis, such as during the recent very serious vibrio mortality issue or when Karenia blooms hit certain bays during the summer months,” Gallagher added.

“The medium to long-term analysis of the industry here shows the huge potential for us to grow and market a unique seafood production internationally, based on a significant network of people and businesses at local level. 

“We continue to rely on the best advice available from both BIM and the Marine Institute to deal with challenges posed by the environment, but our goal is to become a self-sustaining, export-led business, beating off any competition by virtue of the quality of our shellfish and our coastal waters.”

“The board of BIM is a key partner with industry in moving the sector forward and creating jobs and exports in line with its own strategic plan and Foodwise 2025,” Gallagher added.