Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fish Farm Tour of Ireland- April 2011

After the Aquaculture Insurance Conference in Kinsale, Ireland, I spent several days touring fish farms in the south-west region of the country.  My father had flown out from Los Angeles to attend the Conference, so I joined him and several other delegates on these tours.  The entire trip was organized by Geoff Robinson, an Aquaculture Development Coordinator for the Irish Sea Fisheries Board (Board Ischa Maera).

We began at a sea urchin recirculation facility in Bantry Bay, where the farmers are growing urchins to sell their roe in French and Asian markets.  The roe, called 'uni' in sushi restaurants, is a highly-prized delicacy in certain countries, and the farmer was kind enough to allow us a small taste of urchins fresh from his tanks.  After that, we traveled by boat to a longline site, where a farmer was growing urchins and scallops: on this short visit we spoke about the life cycles and different production systems of these species.

Juvenile urchins
The orange masses are the roe, sold as 'uni' in sushi restaurants
A scallop farmer checks on his stock 

The next day we visited a recirculation system for abalone, a very valuable gastropod that resembles a large snail.  These animals can sell for up to 100 dollars per kilo, making their farming a potentially very profitable business.  The farmer had carefully planned the operation, from its design to its management, and overall the facility was very impressive.  After that, we drove to a salmon cage site (Murphy`s Irish Seafood), and while we did not have a chance to take the boat out to the cages, we spoke to the manager about the operation.  He informed us that the majority of salmon production in Ireland was organic and was marketed as such, allowing Irish salmon to be differentiated as a premium product in the marketplace.

The third day found us traveling from Bantry, where we had been staying for the past three nights, to Dublin, where we ended our tour.  Along the way, we stopped at a flow-through trout farm (Goatsbridge Premium Irish Trout), where rainbow trout were grown in earthen ponds.  This was a family-owned and -operated farm, with a hatchery, grow-out, and processing facilities on-site.  They had begun marketing hot-smoked trout fillets, which we tasted and found to be absolutely delicious.  They have experienced success with this product in the market, and plan to ramp up production to meet growing demand.
Goatsbridge Premium Irish Trout Farm- Thomastown, Ireland
All in all, the tour was a resounding success, as we had the opportunity to meet and speak with many different farmers operating many different production systems.  Additionally, these farmers will be the first ones that I contact with respect to my upcoming Master`s thesis project.    
Longlines used to grow urchins and scallops
The smoked trout was delicious!

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