A draft Plan to increase Irish aquaculture production by 45,000 tonnes across all species by 2023, recommends peak biomass for individual site licences of 5,000 tonnes ‘based on full assessment of environmental considerations, e.g. site characteristics, carrying capacity and separation distance from adjacent operations.’
Single salmon-farm licence biomass will be capped at 7,000 tonnes if the proposed limit is accepted
Additional tonnage may be sought ‘subject to a total maximum of 7,000 tonnes (peak biomass)’ and other conditions.
Launching the public consultation (deadline July 24 see http://www.inshore-ireland.com/Notice-board/) on the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, said Ireland’s targeted production increase reflected growing seafood demand worldwide, projected to reach 85 million tonnes by 2022.
“While the targets in the Plan are ambitious in the context of past performance of this industry nationally, they are modest in the context of the global expansion this industry will experience over the next seven years.”
Ireland’s aquaculture industry has the potential to grow significant value and employment and sustainably provide the raw material to enhance processed seafood exports, he added.
“Clearly that has not happened, and there are many complex reasons for that. Concerns have been raised about environmental sustainability.”
The Plan includes 24 actions to boost sustainable growth, “while allaying legitimate areas of concerns. With these initiatives, I believe we can get our aquaculture sector back on a path of sustainable growth and provide much needed jobs in our coastal communities”.
The largest site in Ireland is licensed for a biomass of just under 3,000 tonnes.
The reformed Common Fisheries Policy requires Member States to prepare multi-annual national strategic plans to progress sustainable development of aquaculture; the draft Plan has been prepared in that context.
Actions proposed include Guiding Principles for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture, and Scale Limits and Phasing in Relation to the Development of Individual Offshore Salmon Farms, recommended to the Minister by the Marine Institute.
‘International experiences’ in Norway, Scotland and British Columbia were taken into consideration to determine the ‘appropriate scaling and phasing of individual offshore salmon farms’.
Other initiatives include a review of the regulatory framework for aquaculture licensing and associated administrative procedures; financial supports to build capacity, foster knowledge, innovation and technology transfer, and expert advice and training for aquaculture operators in business planning, disease management and environmental best practice.
In a statement to Inshore Ireland, BIM welcomes the draft plan, in particular its ‘primary objective’ to sustainably grow annual production from the current level of 37,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes by 2023.
And it ‘notes with interest the new scaling guidelines for offshore salmon farms provided by the Marine Institute…These new guidelines may offer a route to achieving greater consensus among all marine stakeholders in regard to the planned growth…
‘As the State Agency responsible for developing Ireland’s aquaculture industry, BIM will reflect these guidelines in any future aquaculture licence application or development initiatives…’
In 2012, BIM applied for an aquaculture licence to produce 15,000 tonnes in Galway Bay ‘and awaits communication and guidance from the licensing authority as to whether or not the new scaling guidelines will be applicable to that application.
‘BIM worked closely with the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials to ensure that the application was produced to the highest scientific standards and in accordance with all the legal procedures and requirements.
‘The key parameters associated with the project were agreed from the outset by all concerned. The Galway Bay application continues to stand on its own merit from a scientific and technical point of view.’
Inshore Ireland also invited the Marine Institute to outline the modelling used in BIM’s application in 2012, given the 7,000 tonnes ‘appropriate maximum’ now proposed.
In reply, the Marine Institute explained it acts in an ‘advisory capacity’ to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as part of its statutory process feeding into licensing decisions.
‘We are, regrettably, not in a position to comment on licence applications under consideration by the licensing authority.’
Richie Flynn, IFA Aquaculture executive, told Inshore Ireland they were studying the details and would be consulting with the committee.
“There’s an awful lot of information to be digested, and in due course we will make our submission. For the Irish aquaculture industry, the most pressing key issue remains licensing,” he said.