West Donegal could be in for a jobs boost after it was confirmed that the area has been earmarked for a major new fish farming production site as part of a government plan to propel Ireland to the top of the global seafood industry.
Joe McHugh TD has confirmed that BIM site investigations and scoping are ongoing at a location off the Donegal and Mayo coastline for the new project.
The Department for Agriculture, Marine & Food has tasked BIM, working in conjunction with the Marine Institute to investigate three new organic farmed salmon production sites off the Donegal-Mayo-Galway coastline.
It is understood that Gola Island has been indentified as the location in west Donegal and that the project would use large and stronger fish cages that can be used off shore and that would alleviate concerns about the visual impact of the facilities.
Ireland is currently producing 12,000 tonnes of salmon per annum, and potentially 15,000 tons of salmon can be produced at just one of the deep sea farms envisaged by the Government, Deputy McHugh said.
He said aquaculture can be a key driver of economic recovery for Donegal and Ireland because of the sustainable global demand for seafood and pointed to the example of Marine Harvest in Rinmore, Fanad, which has been playing a leading role in the advancement of European seafood production. “Scoping of the sites is currently taking place and it is expected that BIM will submit a licence application for the first site in early 2012,” Deputy McHugh said. “That site is off the Galway coast. If granted, BIM will then source major commercial investment for what will be a deep sea certified organic production entity. The sites have been identified offshore in the deep sea, which will protect tourism and visual amenities, as well as conservation sites. The Marine Harvest organic salmon farm off Mayo is the closest existing example of the type of facility envisaged under the plan. “Minister Simon Coveney plans to establish initially three and eventually 5 to 10 such sites off the Irish coast, with the possibility of producing 450,000 tons yearly. He has said that BIM will be the licence holders, and companies will be able to submit tenders to the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food for a licence. The Minister’s view is that a project of this magnitude should be led by the State to ensure a proper licensing regime and rigorous controls on inspection, natural resources, environmental concerns and local communities. “Before the February 2011 general election I made commitments to promote aquaculture in Donegal. It was significant that Minister Simon Coveney’s first official Ministerial visit in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food was to Donegal North-East, when he visited Fanad, Downings and Greencastle for discussions with industry stakeholders last July. I have been liaising with Minister Coveney and BIM on this deep sea project since the formation of the new Government. It can serve to develop fin fish farming to a sustainable commercial level, pending a successful licensing application. “This project has the potential to change the whole pitch for fish farming in Ireland. At a time when young people in Donegal are facing emigration, this government plan is a positive initiative that offers hope of a sustainable future at home.”