AquacuLture sEcuRiTy (ALERT)
: An evaluation of current and emerging threats

  • Michaela Fox

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The Aquaculture industry on the Island of Ireland is gaining importance as a prosperous producer and exporter of seafood, taking pressure off over-exploited and plateauing wild fisheries. Worryingly, this sector is highly dependent on its natural environment and is threatened by current and emerging concerns to production. Moreover, the heightened level of awareness of consumers to current concerns through recalls and media reports can affect their acceptability of aquaculture production systems and choice for seafood produce. To date the impact of these threats through the aqua-supply chain have not been addressed. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to address these threats and explain why aquaculture production in this region is in decline; and to determine how the productivity and profitability of the sector could be improved.

Qualitative approaches were adopted to liaise with key stakeholders to understand the different production, management and food supply chains in the Northern Ireland aquaculture sector. Literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, collaborative workshops and focus groups were conducted with key stakeholders in the seafood supply chain. Data was analysed using the qualitative analysis package Nvivo 12 (QSR International Pty Ltd, Victoria, Australia) to explain why the aquaculture sector in NI was not achieving its projected growth rates and to determine how the industry can move forward.

The data revealed the sector has underperformed due to a complex set of economic, environmental, technical, political, welfare and market factors. Financial support is insufficient and operational costs are high. Aquatic species are a sensitive and vulnerable animal. Disease is a constant threat. The availability and suitability of species and sites is challenging. Climate change and other water users pose an uncontrollable and uncertain risk. Seafood is highly perishable and requires efficient storage and transport networks. Welfare and consumer perception issues remain to be resolved. And the political environment is uncertain. In order to move forward, these factors and their interactions need understood by aquaculture producers and those seeking to support them. Financial support and training is required to achieve a highly skilled, resilient and innovative sector, whilst a focus on premium products for the ‘global elite’ will increase profitability. A collaborative and multidisciplinary approach supported by financial, structural, marketing and governmental provisions will be vital if the industry is to remain sustainable for the long term.
Date of AwardJul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsDepartment of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
SupervisorKatrina Campbell (Supervisor) & Moira Dean (Supervisor)


  • Aquaculture
  • Stakeholder Perspective
  • Environmental
  • Food security
  • Food supply chain

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