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Birgitta Hedin-Curtin is owner and manager of the Burren Smokehouse and of the new visitor experience. Photo: BIM.
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin is owner and manager of the Burren Smokehouse and of the new visitor experience. Photo: BIM.

A years-long wait for licences may leave Ireland’s salmon farming industry lagging behind Scotland in terms of expansion, but there’s one area where it’s ahead of its neighbour – it will be first to open a salmon visitor centre.

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The Taste the Atlantic Irish Salmon Experience in Lisdoonvarna in the Burren, County Clare, has been developed to tell the story of Irish salmon and will open its doors next Friday. 

The visitor centre has been financed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and forms part of Irish seafood development agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM) wider seafood trail comprising salmon, mussel and oyster producers along the Atlantic seaboard from Donegal to Cork.

The ‘Salmon of Knowledge’

Birgitta Hedin-Curtin, owner and manager of the Burren Smokehouse and of the new visitor experience, said: “This self-guided interactive experience is a fantastic world class educational facility for the whole family.

“International and Irish visitors to the Burren can get in-depth knowledge about the Irish wild and organic salmon as well as experience the ancient legend of the Salmon of Knowledge.”

Visitors can travel from ancient Ireland to present time using touch screens, light walls and sound to discover how salmon has featured in Irish mythology to its role in sustaining communities living in some of Ireland’s most remote coastal locations today.

Interesting and fun

BIM aquaculture business planning manager Richard Donnelly said: “Salmon has featured significantly in Irish history. For the first time in Ireland we have a dedicated visitor experience that uses some of the latest technologies for people to learn about this sustainably produced food in a way that is interesting and fun.”

Sales of Irish organic salmon were valued at €119m in 2018, making it Ireland’s leading seafood export, according to the BIM Business of Seafood report.

Donnelly pointed to an increase in domestic sales of Irish seafood since the seafood trail was launched some four years ago.

Growing domestic market

“Twenty-four seafood producers are now included in the Taste the Atlantic seafood journey,” said the BIM executive.

“When we first created the seafood trail, the majority of their sales were to overseas markets. Today many of these producers are selling 100% of their seafood to the growing domestic market.

“Restaurants and seafood retailers are increasingly sourcing seafood directly from these producers; knowing the producer, knowing the origins of the seafood means they know the provenance. They can share their story with their customers and reassure them it has been sustainably produced and it is helping the local economy. This transparency is key to building trust and, in turn, sales.”

Organic produce

Salmon production in Ireland is dominated by Norwegian-owned Mowi, which last year harvested 6,238 tonnes gutted weight equivalent and in 2017 harvested 9,745 tonnes. Most of the company’s Irish salmon is organic.

Mowi plans to open a Scottish salmon visitor centre at Kyleakin, Skye in the near future, but currently the Scottish industry has no venue allowing the public to see how it operates.

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