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High hopes for aquaculture in Milford Haven

New trials to grow native oysters are seen as the first step in a considerable expansion of aquaculture in one of Europe’s largest natural harbours, Milford Haven.

There used to be oyster farms in the Pembrokeshire port and now the plan is to bring them back, along with other shellfish, fish and seaweed businesses.

“It has some of the best water and best potential sites in the world and one of the things we have been looking for is how can we bring aquaculture back and also how do we balance the environment with the commercial needs of any company which wishes to start,” says Alaric Churchill, trading and business development manager for the Port of Milford Haven.

“We feel that over the next 20 years this will become one of the focal areas, not just for small businesses but also for some very large business we are hoping to attract to this area now.

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“There are a few reasons why aquaculture hasn’t taken off in the haven previously. Yes, we do have oil and natural gas deliveries, but on that basis this is also an SAC [Special Area of Conservation], which means that you don’t get all the outflows from the boats, pollution elements at all.

“The potential is massive, we are working very heavily with Swansea University and universities in Ireland to look at mapping exercises which allow people to see the potential species plus the return on investment for companies in aquaculture in the haven, west Wales and the whole of Ireland.

“The greatest thing is that we have a blank canvas, which means we can take the best of everything from all over the world and bring it to Milford Haven so we’ve just started on tests with native oysters. We’re looking to bring in seaweed options here but the mapping element we are doing here at the moment will tell us what species can be farmed most effectively and where.”

Algal options 

Last year the port authority collaborated with marine biologists from Swansea University to build a new seaweed farm to investigate the potential of algae as a biofuel. The 100 metre double longline structure was seeded with juvenile seaweed and it is hoped there will be food and health benefits to the project as well.

“We are a trust port which means that when we make profit we actually invest it back in our business and the businesses in Milford Haven, which means we are in a unique position to help businesses thrive,” says Alaric.

“We can actually invest for a much longer term than most businesses. We are looking to devise aquaculture villages, there will be shared services on land that we can actually build and run which drives down the investment costs for any company coming in and allows the businesses to do what they want to do, which is grow the product,” he adds.

Following a recent aquaculture forum meeting, 16 companies are now interested in moving into the Haven.

Justyn Jones

Justyn Jones

Justyn Jones is an international award-winning documentary producer/director having made numerous films for the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery and Sky. 

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