Aran fish farm could create 500 jobs


A PUBLIC consultation has begun into Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s licence application process for a deep-sea fish farm in Galway Bay near the Aran Islands.

The project has been described by BIM’s chief executive Jason Whooley as “extremely significant” involving a potential 500 jobs and €100 million of exports.

The licence application is for the production of 15,000 tonnes of organic-certified salmon a year which would double Ireland’s current salmon production.

Mr Whooley said this output would be built up over six years. The 500 new jobs would involve 350 jobs in production and processing and 150 indirectly in areas such as transportation and materials.

Mr Whooley said this would provide a €14.5 million annual wages flow, mainly in the vicinity of the proposed farm. Rossaveal is the nearest landing point for the fish.

Irish organic-farmed salmon is a premium product in Europe, and commands on average a 50 per cent premium on farmed salmon produced elsewhere. “The single biggest issue facing Irish salmon producers today is that they cannot fulfil the demand for their product,” said Mr Whooley.

The licence application must be approved by Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Natural Resources Simon Coveney, and over the next eight weeks any member of the public may make submissions to his department.

Friends of the Irish Environment has expressed concern at the fact that the department which approves the licence is also overseeing the body that has made the application.

Its director, Tony Lowes, said this was “regulatory capture at its purest”.

He has also raised concerns about issues such as the scale of the project, the potential for pollution and the spreading of disease.

Mr Whooley said an unprecedented level of scientific research had gone into identifying the locations, with some of the State’s most eminent marine scientists involved.

“We are confident that the very carefully chosen locations, matched with the rigorous monitoring that must accompany any salmon farm in Ireland, will enable the proposed development to run successfully and produce premium organic salmon, something that Ireland is world renowned for.”

He said the agency was committed to full and transparent communications during this consultation process, and wanted to ensure that members of the public were fully informed about the proposed development.

All of the application information, including the environmental impact statement, drawings and artists impressions of the proposed development, are now available on the BIM website

Copies have also been left in places such as Garda stations and post offices in the immediate area, and information meetings will be held over the coming weeks.

If the project is approved BIM will seek a suitable commercial operator to run the salmon farm. However, it will retain the licence so that the natural resource remains in the ownership of the State.

“This approach will allow BIM to apply additional standards to the running of the farm, to maximise returns to the local coastal economy in accordance with our mission to develop the Irish seafood industry and sustain coastal communities,” Mr Whooley said.