It is hoped that the successful trialing of the pilot project will pave the way for the sharing of valuable data across the board in relation to the Irish Sea. It has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Wales Ireland Cooperation.
The initial stage will test the feasibility of a larger repository by initially focusing on the sharing of information in relation to seed mussel. It will make available all the latest data on the positions of shellfish seed collection sites and seek to broaden the understanding of shellfish larvae movement within the Irish Sea. This type of information is essential to mussel producers and could greatly assist in the future sustainable development of the industry.
The economic benefit of aquaculture and fisheries in the Irish Sea is very important to both the Irish and Welsh economies, valued at €254 million in total (€58 million Welsh and €196 million Irish). The mussel aquaculture industry is a major component of this and, according to the latest figures from BIM, the Irish mussel sector experienced another challenging year in 2016 production with combined production volume of 16,000 tonnes and a value of €12 million. This value is slightly down on 2015 values and reflects the continued challenge of acquiring seed mussels.
Seed mussel supply is a limiting factor to industry expansion and the lack of seed availability reduces the volume and profitability of production within the cross-border area. Locating shellfish seed can often be a prohibitive cost for small and medium enterprises.
Announcing the launch of the project at a mussel workshop in Wexford this week, Shelagh Malham, from the Centre for Applied Marine Sciences at Bangor University, Wales said: “Working with our Irish counterparts gives us the opportunity to manage common valuable resources between our shores, and to improve our understanding of the processes involved.”
Also speaking at the launch of the project, Ben Dallaghan, GIS Office, BIM said: “Seed mussel and other shellfish in the Irish Sea are a shared resource and in order to manage them effectively research effort should be conducted using geographic units relevant to the species in question and not country borders. Any data and scientific conclusions leading to a better understanding of seed settlement patterns would enormously benefit the shellfish industries in both Ireland and Wales and BIM are delighted to collaborate with Bangor University on this project.”
The pilot will provide industry with new and more complete data sets to considerably add value to their business.
Explaining the portal objectives, Ms Malham added: “The Pilot operation will focus on improved knowledge flow as well as enhancing research, development and innovation in the shellfish industry concentrating on working with SMEs. Crucial to the economic development of the Irish Sea region, and to this operation in particular, is the understanding that although Oceans do not have territorial boundaries, they have fronts, gyres and residual currents, all of which alter in response to weather and environmental conditions. Shellfish larvae are highly mobile and it would be impossible for any one country to correctly manage this shared resource.”