IFA presses for more support for oyster sector 20 March, 2014 –
IRELANDS 130 oyster producers need practical support by way of a working licence system and vital capital aid made available to all growers, says IFAs Aquaculture Executive, Richie Flynn.
Speaking at the IFA/BIM national Oyster workshop in Dungarvan, Co Waterford today, Flynn said that over 900 jobs depended on oyster farming in Ireland and that demand for the quality of the unique product was growing rapidly.
Farmers who want to meet the worldwide demand for Irish oysters and play on a level pitch with other EU competitors must have a responsive speedy licensing system for access to good inter-tidal growing areas, he added.
They need full access to EU funding mechanisms, denied to them by national bureaucracy for the last five years, to buy the best equipment, improvehandling areas and invest in transport of this precious live product to markets at home in Europe, the US and Asia.
Oyster production is labour intensive and demanding business requiring pristine waters. When natural disasters occur such as this winters storms or algae blooms from far off the west coast coming ashore and killing stocks, oyster growers need to have alternatives available.
They also need to make most efficient use of sites where nurseries, depuration and finishing can be achieved at optimum conditions.
To do this there must be recognition of the need for flexible, transparent and responsive licensing by the Department of Agriculture, food and the Marine.
We must have a champion linking policy and licensing together with a business outlook directing the sector towards success, as proposed in the Associations report launched by IFA president, Eddie Downey, recently.
Oysters are filter feeders and the species used today (Crassostrea gigas) finds it almost impossible to reproduce in fast flowing, low-temperature waters around Ireland, meaning all of its seed stock must be imported.
Irelands position on the Atlantic periphery gives it access to the finest plankton 365 days of the year, and ongoing progress with the EPA and county councils mean that more local authorities are becoming aware of their responsibilities to ensure clean unpolluted inshore waters for both oyster growing and the environment in general.
The Dungarvan event brings together producers from right around the coast to discuss markets, Stock health issues, food safety, native oyster production, hatchery and nursery self-sufficiency in Ireland.
A panel discussion on the role and significance of farmed oysters growing wild outside of farm sites will be held between scientists, regulators and the industry.
The major production areas in Ireland are Waterford, Donegal, Cork, Mayo, Kerry, Louth, Galway, Wexford and Clare.
Production on average is about 7,500 tonnes worth almost 40 million at farm gate. 933 people were directly employed in the sector according to BIMs 2012 national Aquaculture survey (www.bim.ie).