A deep sea organic salmon farm for Galway Bay, which is said to have the potential to create 500 jobs and inject €14.5 million into the local economy, is attracting major attention from possible investors with up to 21 financiers, spanning three continents, having confirmed their interest in the €60 million investment.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM ), the Irish seafood development agency, has applied for a license for the development which is to be located at Inis Óirr, Galway Bay, and which is intended to have the capacity to farm up to 15,000 tonnes of organic salmon, an output which is then to be built up over a period of six years.
The licence for the project, which is currently in the last stages of the public consultation phase, has been marred by controversy over the past weeks with one side heralding the project as a jobs boost, and a economic blessing while the opposition, made up mostly of angling and environment groups, warns of possible risks including the effects that sea lice will have on wild salmon stocks as well as adversely affecting existing jobs.
As the public consultation draws to a close, allowing the examination of Environmental Impact Statement and other reports, the BIM has announced this week the considerable interest that has been shown by investors at a time when demand for farmed salmon is growing around the world.
Speaking about the proposed development, CEO at BIM, Jason Whooley, explains: “In a time of world recession, there are few products that can boast the market growth that farmed salmon is experiencing. The figures have shown a steady upward curve since 1997 and according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, this growth curve is likely to stay as world population increases. The latest figures  show that the market growth for farmed salmon in the EU grew by 120,000 tonnes, an increase of 15 per cent, the US market grew by 62,000 tonnes, and the Russian market alone demanded an additional 36,000 tonnes of farmed salmon. I can’t think of any other food product showing such consumer demand in these difficult economic times. This is a really exciting opportunity for Ireland, who already holds the position as ‘world leader’ in organic farmed salmon.
“Investors from around the world are enquiring as to how soon we can progress this project. On the other side, we are receiving calls on a regular basis from people seeking employment on the proposed farm, many of them emigrants wanting to return home. This is an invaluable opportunity to create much needed jobs and wealth around our coast.”
BIM has confirmed that the intention is to undergo a public tender process for the operation of the farm, leaving the licence itself in the hands of the State, “ensuring it remains a valuable State-asset”. BIM believes that its experience, combined with that drawn from the private sector, in this area gives rise to confidence that the Galway Bay project has the potential to become one of the most “exciting developments in the sector for many years”.
It is hoped that up to 350 jobs will be directly created by the time the development is at full capacity (most likely at year four ) and that these posts will involve rearing juvenile fish, working on the farm at sea, and the packing and processing of the salmon as they come ashore and are transported to market. A further 150 jobs will be created indirectly in the service sector, including the supply of fish feed netting, transportation, and a range of other services to the proposed unit.