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Minister McConalogue announces €20m Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD today announced approval for a scheme which will provide €20 million in funding for capital investments to accelerate the sustainable growth of the Aquaculture Sector.


The scheme is based on a recommendation of the Seafood Task Force which was established by the Minister to assess the impacts of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the fishing sector and coastal communities.


The Seafood Task Force recommended the aquaculture sector be provided with support for its development in order to mitigate against the collective negative impacts across sectors of the seafood industry. This scheme is proposed for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR).


This scheme aims to mitigate the adverse economic and social consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union on seafood processors adversely affected by loss of raw material supply arising from the TCA quota reductions, aquaculture enterprises directly impacted by the UK withdrawal, and coastal communities adversely affected by a broad range of impacts arising from the TCA quota reductions and wider Brexit impacts. 


The scheme aims to achieve these objectives by developing alternative sources of suitable employment in the coastal communities affected, by developing an alternative source of native raw material supply for seafood processors and by enhancing the viability of aquaculture enterprises. 


The three scheme objectives will be pursued by accelerating the sustainable growth of aquaculture enterprises, thus aiding enhanced local employment in coastal communities, producing more farmed fish to supply the processing sector and directly enhancing the viability of the aquaculture enterprises concerned.


This scheme will support aquaculture enterprises to undertake capital investment projects. 


These investments will enable aquaculture enterprises to sustainably grow production, value, and employment, will encourage the entry into the sector of new aquaculture enterprises and will support the evolution of SME enterprises through scaling up. 


While investment will generally be supported at a maximum of 40% of eligible costs, a higher incentive rate of 50% will apply to certain climate change investments, to investment in seaweed aquaculture and to investment in Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) and Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) aquaculture projects.  Funding will be prioritised for projects that contribute most to the objectives of the scheme, to climate change objectives, and to prioritisation of SMEs generally.


Announcing the approval of the scheme, the Minister said: “Our aquaculture sector employs 2,000 people directly and supports thousands more in the local economies. There is even greater potential for growth. The supports for these producers will help create jobs and increase Ireland’s supply of high-quality seafood to local markets and for export.”


Based on the recommendation by the Task Force, the scheme will support investments in modernisation and capacity building, increasing added-value in products, improving energy supply and efficiency, and reducing environmental impact. Importantly, the scheme will also support new entrants into the aquaculture industry. Grants of 30% to 50% of eligible costs will be available.


Minister McConalogue added: “This scheme will be a significant boost for the aquaculture sector and will allow for expansion which focuses on sustainability and which is sensitive to our natural environment. It will assist Ireland to maintain and grow its reputation as a producer of high-quality seafood, both at home and abroad, and help aquaculture producers achieve their ambitions for sustainable expansion.”  


An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will be administering the scheme, and the Minister has requested that BIM open its call for applications as soon as possible. Due to the time limitations placed on BAR funding, investment projects must be completed by October 2023 to qualify for funding.


Minister McConalogue concluded: “This is the latest in a series of schemes that I have announced to support the seafood sector and coastal communities which are most dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. The scheme will assist the aquaculture industry in sustainably growing production, value and employment. 


“These investments will ensure that Ireland maintains its reputation as a source of premium quality seafood, protect food supply chains in times of uncertainty, grow coastal economies and sustain the natural environment.


“I am acutely aware that the past few years have presented a challenging operating environment for these sectors and I am pleased that we have been able to be responsive in offering considerable amounts of support to help stakeholders overcome this challenges and engage in growth initiatives.”


Notes for Editors:

In 2021, the Irish Aquaculture sector employed almost 2,000 people directly, increased production by 11% to 42,000 tonnes and achieved revenues of €175 million. Salmon, mussels and oysters account for the majority of output of the sector. In light of quota reductions and in the context of managing fish stocks, aquaculture is viewed as a high potential area for growth in production and also for employment in the seafood sector and coastal communities. 


The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) is a special one-off emergency instrument which aims to provide support to counter the adverse economic, social, territorial and, where appropriate, environmental consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union, in Member States that are most adversely affected by the withdrawal, and to mitigate the related negative impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion.


In its report in October 2021, the Seafood Task Force made sixteen recommendations to leverage BAR funding to support the seafood sector and coastal communities respond to the challenges posed by Brexit. For the Aquaculture sector, the Task Force recommended that “funding sources should be utilised, as appropriate, to develop Irish aquaculture to mitigate against the negative impacts of Brexit that have been most pronounced in other sectors of the Irish seafood industry. It is recommended that graduated grant aid rates should apply so that categories of activity that will be most impactful would be incentivised with total grant aid support of €60 million being made available for investment. This would stimulate the modernisation of production sites in line with international best practice, increase resource efficiency and reduce environmental impact, advance understanding of market opportunities and innovation capability and develop technical, marketing and management capability.”


The scheme has been developed to support a programme of capital investment to accelerate the sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector and to boost employment in this sector that is overwhelmingly located in the same coastal areas as fishing and seafood processing. Up to 50% support will be offered for capital projects in climate change, seaweed production, Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.


Eligible projects must be focussed on the purchase and installation of new machinery and equipment and construction of new premises in relation to the following categories of investment:


  • Investments increasing the production of an aquaculture enterprise
  • Investments in enhancing the quality of, or in adding value to, aquaculture products
  • Diversification of aquaculture production and species cultured
  • Purchase and installation within an aquaculture site of equipment that generates energy from renewable energy sources. 
  • Equipment that enables producers to power operations within an aquaculture site directly from the electricity grid (thus reducing the use of generators)
  • Investments substantially increasing energy efficiency of the aquaculture enterprise
  • Promotion of closed aquaculture systems where aquaculture products are farmed in closed recirculation systems, thereby minimising water use
  • Investments substantially reducing the negative impact or substantially enhancing the positive effects on the environment and substantially increasing resource efficiency
  • Investments resulting in a substantial reduction in the impact of aquaculture enterprises on water usage and quality, in particular through reducing the amount of water or chemicals, antibiotics and other medicines used, or through improving the output water quality, including through the deployment of multi–trophic aquaculture systems
  • Setting up of sustainable aquaculture enterprises by ‘new aquaculture farmers’
  • Modernisation of aquaculture units, including the improvement in working and safety conditions of aquaculture workers
  • Improvements and modernisation related to animal health and welfare, including the purchase of equipment aiming at protecting the farms from wild predators
  • Commissioning costs for the above equipment up to maximum of 15% of the equipment costs by the equipment supplier or their approved agents.