Scientific information compiled by Irish and Welsh researchers and hosted on a portal, is set to benefit the mussel industry of both countries.

The €1.4m pilot project coordinated by Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency (BIM) and the Centre for Applied Marine Sciences at Bangor University in Wales, will test the feasibility of a larger repository by initially focussing on shared information on seed mussel along with the latest data on the location of shellfish seed sites to broaden the understanding of shellfish larvae movement.

This information is essential for sustainable development of the mussel industry.

Irish Sea Portal

Ben Dallaghan, GIS Officer, BIM, the Seafood Development Agency, Hugh Doyle, mussel farmer from Wexford and Dr. Shelagh Malham, Centre for Applied Marine Sciences, Bangor University, Wales

The economic benefit of aquaculture and fisheries in the Irish Sea is valued at €254m (€58m to Wales; €196m to Ireland) of which the mussel industry is a major component. According to BIM figures, 2016 was a ‘challenging year’. Production volumes of 16,000 tonnes with a value of €12m reflect a slight decline on 2015 values and underpin ongoing challenges for the industry.

Seed mussel supply is a constraining factor to industry expansion and locating seed is often a prohibitive cost for small and medium sized enterprises.

Shelagh Malham of the Centre of Applied Marine Sciences said that working with BIM afforded the opportunity to manage common value resources “and to improve our understanding of the processes involved’.

Also commenting at the launch, Ben Dallaghan, GIS office, BIM, said that seed mussel and other shellfish in the Irish Sea were a shared resource.

“In order to manage them effectively, research effort should be conducted using geographic units relevant to the species in question and not country borders.”

Any data and scientific conclusions leading to a better understanding of seed settlement patterns would enormously benefit the shellfish industries in both Ireland and Wales, he added.

The pilot project will focus on improved knowledge flow, as well as enhancing research, development and innovation in the shellfish industry concentrating on working with SMEs.

Crucial to economic development of the Irish Sea region and to this operation in particular “is the understanding that although oceans do not have territorial boundaries, they have fronts, gyres and residual currents, all of which alter in response to weather and environmental conditions”, Shelagh Malham added.

“Shellfish larvae are highly mobile and it would be impossible for any one country to correctly manage this shared resource.”

The Irish Sea Portal Project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Wales Ireland Cooperation.