THE huge potential for aquaculture development was described at a meeting convened by Mowi Ireland in Castletownbere last week.
Richard Murphy, the South West’s elected representative on the Regional Inshore Fishermen’s Federation (RIFF), addressed the meeting which – in addition to politicians, IFA, BIM and tourism representatives – was attended by more than 40 members of the aquaculture industry in Cork and Kerry.
Mr Murphy and Teresa Morrissey, the IFA’s aquaculture spokesperson, called for the continued support of the aquaculture industry saying it offered tremendous potential for growth over the next 10 years.
‘When Ireland joined the EU back in 1973 we gave away almost all of our fish,’ said Richard Murphy. ‘We should not do that with our aquaculture industry. We should continue to support all small, medium and large scale businesses.’
Jim O’Sullivan, treasurer of Beara Tourism, quantified the value of the commercial fishery – according to Sea Fishery Protection Agency figures – as €39m per annum, whereas he said aquaculture exceeds €90m, just on the Beara Peninsula alone.
‘Aquaculture – such as seaweed, mussels, oysters and salmon farming – has been here for over 40 years and has created a lot of employment on the peninsula,’ he said.
Richard Murphy pointed out that the commercial fishing fleet has taken a massive hit as a result of Brexit. That, he said, is another reason to support aquaculture locally, particularly in Bantry and Kenmare bays.
However, Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns, one of the public representatives attending the meeting, said it was no secret that she is opposed to salmon farming.
‘At a time when other countries are banning salmon farming due to its massive environmental impact, how are we simultaneously granting new licences?’ she asked.
She pointed out that Ireland’s largest salmon farm operator was recently granted a licence in Bantry Bay after a six-year appeal process, and strong opposition from locals, fishers, campaign groups and environmental groups.
‘Various Irish and international studies have confirmed that sea lice from salmon farms can have a significant impact on sea trout and wild salmon populations. This,’ she added. ‘has a knock-on effect on the environment, the inshore fishing sector and tourism.’
Independent TD Michael Collins said he is aware that inshore fishing is ‘an area that causes controversy’ but he said he gladly accepted the invitation by Mowi Ireland to see the benefits of aquaculture to the local economy.
‘Representatives of the tourism sector said it is no problem in Castletownbere, but there is absolute fury in other places like Kinsale, where people don’t want to see 100 acres of aquaculture farms,’ he added.
‘My phone lights up with objectors whenever an aquaculture licence is applied for or granted,’ said Deputy Collins, who suggested that closer links need to be developed between the local inshore fishermen, where these applications are made, and tourism groups.
he said he did not agree with the lengthy licence application process and that decisions – for or against – should be made within 12-months.