Overall production volumes showed a strong recovery increasing by over 25 per cent to 40,140 tonnes, with employment figures stabilising at 1,840.
Welcoming the positive upturn in the Aquaculture sector, BIM’s CEO, Tara McCarthy added that BIM was looking forward to working with the shellfish sector to maximise the opportunity for the industry through product differentiation, co-operation and consolidation.
Speaking at the event Ms. McCarthy said: “While 2015 was a challenging year for some operators in the shellfish industry, overall, it has been a positive year for Irish aquaculture. The 27 per cent increase in production volumes is a welcome step towards the targets set out in the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture, which sets a growth target of 45,000 tonnes across all aquaculture production by 2020. The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is providing almost €30 million to further assist the sector to develop and achieve these ambitious targets. BIM is running two aquaculture schemes to promote the sustainable growth of output, value and employment in the aquaculture sector. In line with BIM’s industry wide priorities, our keen focus is to assist aquaculture producers to attract new talent to the sector, build on its already strong sustainability credentials, supporting its drive to add value thus creating a strong and competitive industry for the future.”
Salmon farming accounts for 64 per cent of total aquaculture production, valued at €95 million.
Shellfish farming is valued at €51 million with oysters accounting for €38 million of this and the mussel farming industry valued at €13 million. Shellfish farming is labour intensive and over 1,600 of total aquaculture jobs are in shellfish production.
The market for Irish oysters in Hong Kong and China was actively targeted in a collective manner by Irish producers, with the assistance of BIM, in 2015. Irish oysters have received a warm welcome, commanding a premium price in the Chinese and Hong Kong markets and are now the highest priced oysters in this region.
Oyster farming employed 775 people in 2015, providing valuable employment in coastal areas that often offer little alternatives. Over 90 per cent of Irish oysters are exported, the majority going to France, however 2015 saw 10 per cent of Irish oyster exports going to Hong Kong and China.