€20m Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme

Funding will support capital investments to accelerate the sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector in Ireland.

A new €20m Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme has been launched this week by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, TD.

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.

“Our aquaculture sector employs 2,000 people directly and supports thousands more in the local economies”

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).

Scaling up Irish acquaculture

This scheme aims to mitigate the adverse economic and social consequences of the withdrawal of the UK from the European 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. 

It 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.

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.

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. 

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.

“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.

“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.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.