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Minister Browne highlights increasing value of Fish Farm Production

Mr John Browne TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) today received the "Status of Aquaculture Report - 2006"

at a regular meeting of the Aquaculture Forum of DAFF. Minister Browne said the value of fish and shellfish from Irish fish farms rose in 2006 by 13% over 2005 figures, from €110.2 million to €124.6 million. This figure is just short of the all-time peak value for Irish aquaculture production of €125 million, which was achieved in 2002 in spite of the fact that in 2006 production tonnage actually dipped by 8% to 57,422 tonnes.

Minister Browne said the rise in value in the sector was due to a dramatic increase in the price of farmed shellfish (29%) and a stable price for farmed finfish, such as salmon and trout. Exciting developments in 2006 include the farming of cod, perch, sea urchins, abalone and even seahorses on Irish fish and shellfish farms.

"The growing world market for fish and shellfish, coupled with an increasing consumer appreciation of the health benefits of seafood and pressure on wild stocks to supply, means that aquaculture will be called on more and more to meet demand," said Minister Browne at the launch of the report. "Even though the Irish aquaculture industry is modest in world terms, it is an important economic contributor in rural areas. Villages in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork and Kerry now derive a significant portion of their incomes from farming the sea."

The report is a joint collaboration between the three main state agencies involved in the development, monitoring and scientific support of the fish and shellfish farming industry in Ireland - An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Marine Institute and Taigdhe Mara Teo. It gives a detailed analysis of the Irish aquaculture industry in 2006 with sections on wide variety of subjects, from production and employment to research and development to quality and monitoring. Special sections on the implications of Sea Change - A Maritime Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 - 2013 and the Cawley Report on the fishing industry - Steering a New Course are also included.

Copies of "Aquaculture Status Report 2006" - the fourth report since the series began in 2003 - are available from BIM and the Marine Institute.

For further information contact:
Press Office, DAFF - 01-6072190
Dr. John Joyce - Marine Institute - 087 2250871
Ian Long, Communications Executive, Bord Iascaigh Mhara
Tel: 01 2144192 or Mobile: 087 4158354
Mairéad Mhic Fhionnlaoich, Údarás na Gaeltachta - Tel: (091) 503110

3 October 2007

NOTES FOR EDITORS Overview of the Report

Modern Irish aquaculture began its development in the early 1970s and has become an important contributor to rural economies and the national exchequer, generating incomes in many areas where there is little other primary wealth creation opportunity.

Production value grew from €37.2 million (26,573 tonnes) in 1990 to a peak in 2002 of €125 million (60,984 tonnes). The return of 2006 production value figures of €124.6 million and an output of 62,838 tonnes represent the industries ability to overcome significant production and marketing challenges.

Employment in the Irish fish and shellfish aquaculture industry rose by 12% in 2006 over 2005 figures to 2,058 full and part-time jobs.

Finfish

While the national finfish harvest volume decreased from 15,384 tonnes in 2005 to 12,726 in 2006 (a drop of 17%) the total harvest value of €61.4 million dipped by only 0.2% due to an increase in the average price per tonne for salmon. The production drop was due to disease problems (primarily Pancrease Disease (PD) and Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN)) which continued to adversely affect salmon production.

Production of freshwater rainbow trout increased from 897 tonnes in 2005 to 970 tonnes in 2006 with a total value of €2.5 million, which was up 8.6% on the previous year. Production of novel finfish species, such as perch, Arctic charr and ornamental fish on Irish farms netted over €200,000 in 2006, while the cultivation of cod in sea cages represents a major step forward for Irish aquaculture towards supplementing harvests from the sea fishing industry.

Shellfish

During 2006 total shellfish production volume decreased from 47,454 tonnes in 2005 to 44,696 tonnes, but was balanced by a significant increase in market value of almost 30% to €15 million.

Bottom cultured mussels generated the highest volume (52.7%) of shellfish production and the highest total value (56.5%) of all shellfish produced, along with an increase in price per tonne from €871 in 2005 to €1,517.

Pacific (or Gigas) oyster production made up 14.5% of the total volume of shellfish produced in 2006 and 23% by value. The remaining shellfish species produced included; rope cultured mussels (31% of total shellfish production) native oysters, clams, scallops and novel shellfish such as abalone.

The Aquaculture Forum

This forum was set up in 1999 to improve dialogue and co-ordination between government bodies and industry and meets on a regular basis. Meetings are chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and attended by representatives of the Irish aquaculture industry, BIM, the Marine Institute and Údarás na Gaeltachta (whose subsidiary Taighde Mara Teo, fulfils a developmental role for aquaculture agencies in Gaeltacht areas).

BIM is the leading State agency responsible for the development of the Irish seafood sector. Its mission is " to promote the sustainable development of the Irish seafood industry at sea and ashore and support its diversification in the coastal regions so as to enhance the contribution of the sector to employment, income and welfare both regionally and nationally." It is also charged with implementing the findings of the Cawley report on the fishing industry - Steering a New Course.

Support for the aquaculture industry is provided through three of its specialist divisions in Aquaculture Development, Market Development and Marine Services to support the industry with technical and financial assistance, marketing and quality control, training and engineering services.

The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to " undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist" in the development of marine research and development in Ireland and takes the lead on monitoring and research in the aquaculture industry. It has grown into an internationally respected science body with some 220 staff, two purpose-built vessels, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and a new headquarters and laboratory at Oranmore on the shores of Galway Bay.

It operates a number of monitoring programmes aimed at assisting the industry in the areas of biotoxin and phytoplankton, water quality, contaminants in shellfish and shellfish waters, fish and shellfish health status, sea lice, residues and benthic monitoring.

The Marine Institute also administers
Sea Change - A Maritime Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007.

Taighde Mara Teo, a subsidiary of Údarás na Gaeltachta, brings an integrated approach to the development of aquaculture through a wide range of development projects in the seafood sector in the Gaeltacht areas of Donegal, Mayo, Connemara, west Kerry, Cape Clear island and Dungarvan, Co. Cork. Support for these projects includes technical assistance, such as technology transfer, provision of technical staff while developing human resources within an enterprise as well as administration, IT, and business skill support. Financial assistance can be provided through investment by means of preference or redeemable shares, as well as grant aid for capital, training, research and development.

Date Released: 03 October 2007