July 31, 2008
Buoyant Future for Welsh Fish Farming
By ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor
FISH farming can become a major industry in Wales, according to the country's first Fisheries Strategy, launched this week by rural affairs minister Elin Jones.
In-shore commercial fishing can also recover its historic importance if the sector receives sufficient investment in new production and processing facilities, says the report.
The development of recreational angling over the past two decades has shown what can be achieved.
North West Wales is already emerging as the fish farm capital of Wales with traditional mussel harvesting supplemented by new aquaculture technologies to produce marine fin fish such as turbot and sea bass.
Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), in which fish are grown in large tanks, offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional open cage systems.
The Fisheries Strategy, launched in Aberystwyth, emphasises the need to safeguard the environment when developing Wales' various fishing sectors, now worth pounds 200m a year. But it also stresses that environmental protectionism should not jeopardise the industry's growth: more than 70% of the Welsh coastline is already designated under EU and UK law.
Crucial to the sector's success will be its ability to access money via the 16m-euro European Fisheries Fund, with the prospect of match-funding from Cardiff.
Elin Jones said the strategy offered a blueprint for modernising the industry whilst safeguarding marine environments. She said: "It also recognises the rapidly developing Welsh aquaculture sector.
"The sector is widely recognised as being at the cutting edge, which has resulted in inward investment, particularly to Anglesey, with a real prospect of further investment to follow."
There are currently two RAS facilities in North Wales. A commercial fish farm on Anglesey produces about 200 tonnes of turbot each year, with another 1,000-tonne multi-species farm under construction. A pilot plant to assess the production of new species also operates in Gwynedd.
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