Clare salmon farm plan draws interest from 17 firms

 

BORD IASCAIGH Mhara (BIM) says it has received 17 expressions of interest from firms to operate its planned €40 million organic salmon farm off the Co Clare coast.

Head of aquaculture development at BIM, Donal Maguire, said many of the expressions of interest in what will be Ireland’s largest organic salmon farm are from international firms, including some from Norway. “There is big interest in being the tenant for the project,” he said.

Located on two sites off the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Óirr, the project will have the capacity to produce 15,000 tonnes of organic salmon each year – representing a doubling of the country’s current production.

BIM’s Deep Sea Project will employ 350 directly and a further 150 indirectly, and provide €100 million in exports annually.

The wages from the jobs – to include posts for managers, biologist, skippers, deckhands, farm operatives, commercial divers, marine engineers and fish processing personnel – will generate €14.5 million per annum.

Mr Maguire said the project was the first of three deep-sea fish farms BIM was planning off Ireland’s coast. The other two are proposed for sites off counties Mayo and Donegal.

This is the first time BIM has applied for an aquaculture licence.

BIM says that by lodging the plan itself, it will ensure further accountability to the public.

The environmental impact statement states: “There is a variety of misinformation about fish farming in the public domain which has understandably led to some unfounded fears.”

Mr Maguire said if all went well with the application, there would be “fish going to sea” at the fish farm in late 2013 or early 2014.

He said a seafood shortage crisis was looming across the EU, “and we can translate that into a market opportunity”.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney recently confirmed in a written Dáil response that 528 aquaculture licence applications have been awaiting a decision for more than one year. The delay is linked to requirements that applications in “Natura 2000” areas be assessed for environmental compliance with the EU habitats/birds directives. Mr Maguire said the BIM plan would be unaffected by this. “We are fully compliant with the birds and habitats directive.”

A decision on the application is due from Mr Coveney early in the new year. The public may make submissions during the current eight-week consultation period.