Farmers of oysters, mussels and other shellfish will converge at an IFA conference in Athlone on May 19th to discuss issues affecting this rapidly developing export-driven food industry with a growing domestic market that employs hundreds of coastal inhabitants and generates economic development in peripheral areas.
Irish Shellfish Association Chairman, Jerry Gallagher, said the new government has a lot to do to implement the national strategic plan for the industry. Reports such as Foodwise 2025, Our Ocean Wealth, the National Seafood Operational Programme and the CEDRA committee report chaired by Pat Spillane and others have all agreed that licensing is a barrier to growth and investment in the sector.
Jerry Gallagher said, “The incoming Minister must ensure that as part of the overall Irish food basket, the Department of Agriculture speeds up reform of the licence sector and reviews its service to industry on the most important aspects of security of tenure, options for working in the environment and the provision of clean coastal waters.”
Speakers at the conference will include representatives of the European Commission, the CEO of BIM, Tara McCarthy, the Department’s Licencing Division, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Marine Institute, Bord Bia and the President of the French Shellfish Growers Association (CNC) M. Gerald Viaud.
- A report carried out for IFA in 2015 by leading agri-economist Professor Alan Renwick showed that the Irish oyster sector contribute €58 million to the rural economy and support a total of 760 full time jobs, with the vast majority of income earned from exports. He states that a further increase of €6 million and an additional 77 jobs can be produced with every 10% increase in production.
- An opinion poll carried out in summer 2015 found a significant increase in local residents happy to see aquaculture in their locality from 27% (2008) to 49% (2015) giving the main reasons for support of a fish farm in the locality as employment (59%), ensuring fish stocks (27%), provides a healthy food to eat (22%), creates wealth and helps support local communities (18%).
- The Wild Atlantic Way initiative has seen a number of shellfish farmers set up retail outlets for their products on the route and has encouraged a resurgence in food and culture based tourism festivals such as the Connemara Mussel Festival and the Carrigaholt Oyster Festival as well as others in Achill, Carlingford and Galway.
The Conference takes place in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone on Thursday 19th May, 9.00am – 4.00pm