The blue mussel sectors in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development NI, and the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine have been Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery. Subject to chain of custody traceability certification, mussels from the fishery are now eligible to bear the MSC’s blue ecolabel.
In Northern Ireland the assessment was part funded by the European Fisheries Fund, European Community funding, investing in sustainable fisheries.
Fishing involves collecting mussels in mid-summer to early autumn and moving them to inshore, protected areas to grow. The mussels are then harvested from licensed and leased beds at any time of the year. The seed mussel fishery is managed as a joint resource and licenses for re-laying have been granted in both countries.
The bottom grown blue mussel sector is a key contributor to the aquaculture sector in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland both in terms of export volume and value. In 2011, the fishery produced 7,613 tonnes of mussels in Northern Ireland and 12,524 tonnes in the Republic of Ireland. Together their production was worth over €17 million euro (£14.75 million) with key markets in the Netherlands creating a strong business case for certified sustainable seafood.
Donal Maguire Chairman of the all island Bottom Grown Mussel Consultative Forum said; “MSC certification of Irish bottom grown mussels will secure premium market access for Ireland’s top quality mussels. This is a sustainable sector with great scope for expansion and MSC certification will improve consumer and investor confidence.”
Claire Pescod, Fisheries Outreach Manager for the MSC said: “This is a significant achievement by the Irish and Northern Irish mussel fisheries. This cross border collaboration between their respective governments and industry is a great example of how governments can work together to ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries as well as the long term sustainability of their fishing industries and coastal communities. Congratulations to the mussel farmers who have made this possible.”