Aquaculture sales rose by €34m in value and by 25% in volume during 2015, according to new statistics from Bord Iascaigh Mhara.
BIM told the Irish Shellfish Association Conference in Athlone, Co Westmeath, that sales of farmed fish, shellfish and seaweed came to €150m.
Total production volumes sold rose to 40,140 tonnes, with employment figures stabilising at 1,840.
BIM chief executive, Tara McCarthy, said: “While 2015 was a challenging year for some shellfish operators, the 27% increase in production volumes is a welcome step towards the targets set out in the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture, which sets a growth target of 45,000 tonnes across all aquaculture production by 2020.
“The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is providing almost €30m to further assist the sector to develop and achieve these ambitious targets.”
Salmon farming accounts for 64% of total aquaculture production, valued at €95m.
Shellfish farming is valued at €51m with oysters accounting for €38m of this and mussel farming valued at €13m. More than 1,600 of total aquaculture jobs are in shellfish production.
The market for Irish oysters in Hong Kong and China was actively targeted in a collective manner by Irish producers, with the assistance of BIM, in 2015.
Irish oysters have won a warm welcome, commanding a premium price in the Chinese and Hong Kong markets and are now the highest priced oysters in this region.
Oyster farming employed 775 people in 2015, providing valuable employment in coastal areas that often offer little alternatives.
Over 90% of Irish oysters are exported, the majority going to France, however 2015 saw 10% of Irish oyster exports going to Hong Kong and China.
Meanwhile, Irish Shellfish Association chairman, Jerry Gallagher, says the indigenous Irish shellfish sector needs a more responsive licensing system, and measures to support producers in meeting environmental challenges.
He has called upon Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to review procedures and reducered tape to encourage the sector’s development.
Mr Gallagher said: “Development in the last 10 years has largely taken place without state aid and in the face of tremendous challenges and unnecessary obstacles in dealing with licence applications for renewals and new sites to grow shellfish.”
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