AIT scientists working to boost Irish seafood

Ireland is aging behind when it comes to the collection of data regarding the country’s €1.25 billion seafood sector, according to researchers heading up a new seafood sustainability initiative.

Dr. Sinead Mellett and her colleagues at the Bioscience Research Institute at AIT are leading the Irish component of Neptunus, a €2.3 million Interreg Atlantic Area project aimed at improving sustainability and resource efficiency in the seafood sector.

The seafood sector is of vital importance to the Irish economy, particularly in rural, coastal communities, and accounts for 16,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly. Despite this, it faces serious challenges and threats, including climate change and rising fears of marine debris.

Previous research has shown that two of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from wild fish is fuel consumption, while feed is the biggest culprit for farmed fish due a significant quantity of it being imported.

Dr. Mellett and her team are looking to tackle this inefficiency – from ocean to plate: “We are looking at the different inputs, outputs and impacts associated with seafood production all along the value chain, and this helps with process efficiency, energy efficiency and decision support systems,” she said.

Smoked salmon is one of Ireland’s largest seafood exports and the team is carrying out a lifecycle assessment of smoked salmon production to see how it can be improved.

“We’re undertaking scenarios to show whether it is more sustainable to smoke the salmon in Ireland or whether it would be more economical or sustainable to do in the country where it’s actually going to be consumed”.

Neptunus draws on the expertise, knowledge and experience of eleven academic partners across five countries, all based along the Atlantic coast. Several Irish companies are also involved with the project.

The researchers hope that by modelling the environmental impact of recycling versus putting product into landfill, they can demonstrate to companies what their resource usage is from a water and energy perspective.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the project will run for three years and result in increased sustainability and economic benefit in seafood production in the Atlantic region.