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Bottom Grown Mussel

Consultative Forum


The aquaculture sector is continuing to develop towards a sustainable indigenous industry with a significant number of new licences being awarded since 1999, allowing the industry to expand and diversify. This expansion towards critical mass is necessary to promote stability in the industry and to promote market presence of produce from the area.

The Resource Development Section’s main objective is to increase volume, value and employment within the region. The Resource Development Officers have worked hard to ensure the Initiative has established itself as a genuine organisation effecting real change on the ground. This has been achieved through a varied work programme which has resulted in the development of a solid credible relationship with the aquaculture sector. These activities translate as supporting the existing long established aquaculture ventures, while also providing the crucial guidance and practical support which is needed by investors looking to aquaculture as a start up business. Currently the Initiative provides the only dedicated aquaculture development support in Northern Ireland. This is particularly important as the aquaculture industry in Northern Ireland has historically been underdeveloped when compared to the Republic of Ireland. The section consists of four officers each of whom are based regionally to maximise their effectiveness. Officers are based in Donegal, Louth and Antrim. The work of the Section encompasses many technical aspects such as site evaluation, stock enhancement, technical advice and assistance with grant and licence applications. The Resource Development section assists producers across a wide variety of species and production methods.

The aquaculture industry in the border counties and Northern Ireland has a mix of businesses, the majority being microbusinesses and small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s). However, the industry in the area does include the largest finfish and scallop producers on the Island along with some of the largest pacific oyster farms and bottom mussel production areas. The species produced include Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Sea Trout, Arctic Charr, Perch, Rope Mussels, Bottom Mussels, Pacific Oysters, Native Oysters, Scallops and Clams.

The majority of the clients of the Aquaculture Initiative are operating in an extremely competitive environment with little influence on price and markets. Many of the companies lack the necessary critical mass and generate sub optimal profit levels both as a consequence of the competitive forces and their own company dynamics. Some of the major challenges for the Aquaculture sector in the future are:

Small operators in the sector have weak bargaining power, high distribution costs and supply chain inefficiencies, making it very difficult to access high value markets.

Overheads are increasing, particularly the cost of insurance and fuel.

Aquaculture is not perceived to be an attractive career. Therefore recruitment of quality staff is particularly difficult.

A more positive image of aquaculture needs to be developed.

The emergence of significant competition from other countries with low cost/large-scale aquaculture industries competing on traditional EU markets.