The aquaculture industry in Northern Ireland
The aquaculture industry in Northern Ireland continues to develop. At present there are 78 licenced fish farms (covering 88 sites), of which 45 are licenced for the cultivation of shellfish (44 marine and 1 land-based) and 33 for the cultivation of finfish (31 inland and 2 marine).
The main shellfish species cultivated are mussels (Mytilus edulis) and Pacific Oysters (Magallana gigas) although a small quantity of Native oysters (Ostrea edulis) are also grown. The main finfish species cultivated are salmon (Salmo salar), rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta).
In 2018 the aquaculture sector produced 2,969 tonnes of shellfish valued at £4.8 million and 1,109 tonnes of finfish valued at £6.8 million. In total the aquaculture sector directly employs 88 full time and 26 part time employees.
Under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966, Marine & Fisheries Division is responsible for the licensing of fish farms in Northern Ireland. This includes the granting of fish culture licences, shellfish fishery licences and marine fish fishery licences.
Environment, Marine & Fisheries Division is also responsible for authorising all movements of finfish to and from fish farms in Northern Ireland in line with fish culture licence conditions.
We are currently working on a Carry Capacity model (Sustainable Mariculture in Northern Irish Lough Ecosystems (SMILE) which will provide shellfish aquaculture carry capacity predictions for each of the five Northern Ireland sea loughs (Lough Foyle, Larne Lough, Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough and Carlingford Lough). Further information on this project can be found on the SMILE project website (external link opens in a new window / tab).
Queries about aquaculture should be directed to
Mr John McGuigan (DAERA) Tel: 028 44 618044