GOAL: Aggressive aquaculture expansion underway in Ireland
Ireland is looking to ramp up growth in its aquaculture and seafood sectors, and is in the midst of enacting an aggressive food expansion strategy, according to Michael Creed, the country’s minister for agriculture, food, and marine.
Creed, speaking at the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s GOAL 2017 conference in Dublin, Ireland, this week, revealed that while Ireland is currently enjoying a period of steady gains in aquaculture and seafood, there is still a ways to go for the country.
“From an Irish perspective, I came here to say that we have been enjoying a period of modest growth all across the aquaculture sector here in Ireland over the last few years or so, but we do realize that this rate of increase needs to accelerate sharply,” Creed said.
As a result of the policy, the government has convened with 35 stakeholders across agriculture, aquaculture and wild-catch fisheries to construct a 10-year expansion plan, which has been given the name Food Wise 2025.
Food Wise 2025 aims to increase Ireland’s food exports by 85 percent to EUR 19 billion, (USD 22.3 billion) and its value-added food products by 70 percent to EUR 13 billion (USD 15.2 billion). Additionally, the country hopes to use the strategy to increase food production by 60 percent to EUR 10 billion (USD 11.7 billion), and to create 23,000 jobs all along the supply chain, from the production level to the high-end, value-added development realm.
“Here in Ireland, the government and industry have come together and agreed on an ambitious plan for our food sector called Food Wise 2025. As the name suggest, it is a multi-annual strategy with many detailed actions built into it – seafood alone has 27 substantive actions attached to it, and they are all being pursued strongly,” Creed said.
Creed said building up Irish aquaculture and seafood isn’t without its difficulties.
"Like every other member state in the European Union, we have had to closely examine our aquaculture licensing and targeting systems,” he said. However, Ireland is “determined to streamline processes so as to facilitate sustainable development, whilst at the same time protecting our pristine environment.”
Such determination is further justified considering the potential that aquaculture and seafood pose for the country’s job economy, Creed said.
“Aquaculture and seafood play a particularly valuable part in the Irish economy, as they [aquaculture sites and fisheries] are generally located in more remote, coastal areas, where there are very few other opportunities to create sustainable, local employment,” added Creed. "We see aquaculture and seafood as a means of balancing the recovery in the Irish economy and making sure that the rising tide floats all boats and not just those in big, urban areas."
Ultimately, Ireland’s interest in seafood is reflective of the sentiments held by its European neighbors, said Creed.
“Growth in the production of seafood is of particular interest to us here in Europe,” Creed said.
In 2016, the GDP of the Irish seafood industry was estimated to be EUR 1.1 billion (USD 1.2 billion), a 7.4 percent jump in growth, according to statistics shared by Jim O'Toole, CEO of BIM, Ireland's Seafood Development Agency, during the GOAL 2017 conference.