A little known industry in Ireland that we aim to highlight and tackle with a new campaign.

Factsheet: Fish Farming in Ireland

1. How many fish farms operate in Ireland?

The Irish fish farming industry is relatively small, comprising only 14 coastal counties. Within those counties, there are 71 marine Natura sites, where the majority of fish farming takes place. 

In 2018, there were 38 licensed fish farms for the rearing of salmon, by far the most popular farmed fish in Ireland, although not all of them were fully operational. Additionally, the Department of the Marine found that, in 2021, there were over 20 fish farms in Ireland operating without a licence, so the exact number of operating fish farms in the country is difficult to calculate. 

2. Are they inland or offshore?

There are both inland and offshore fish farms in Ireland, with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine finding that in 2019 there were 33 licenced offshore salmon farms, and 25 inland salmon hatcheries. 


3. What species are bred?

The primary farmed fish species in Ireland is salmon. In 2017, unfortunately Ireland was also within the top 3 EU producers of boarfish, mackerel, horse mackerel, albacore tuna, haddock, whiting, white pollock, megrim, whitefish, blue whiting, and herring. So it’s not just salmon who are suffering.

4. What are the licensing conditions for operating a fish farm in Ireland?

The Fisheries (Amendment) Act of 1997 states that it is illegal to engage in fish farming without an appropriate Aquaculture Licence. Fish farms can apply for a licence from the Aquaculture and Foreshore Management Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which grants licences for the farming of marine finfish, land-based finfish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. 

To be licensed, marine finfish farms need to meet the standard for structural design set out in the Protocol for Structural Design of Marine Finfish Farms, which includes the positioning and orientation of structural components and the dimensions of nets and pens. Land-based fish farms will also need to additionally comply with the requirements of the Local Authority, including for any required Planning Permission.


5. Rules and regulations

Currently, there are no species-specific regulations on the slaughter of farmed fish in Ireland, and they are only covered by general EU legislation on the killing of farmed animals. However, the European Commission is now conducting an assessment on the slaughter of farmed fish, and will soon be introducing more specific slaughter regulations.

All finfish farms must also monitor for sea lice on an ongoing basis according to Monitoring Protocol No. 3. This means that each year class of fish at all sites must be inspected and sampled fourteen times a year: twice per month during March, April, and May, and monthly for the remainder of the year except December and January. Additionally, fish farms need to keep detailed records to produce at inspections, including of fish movements, disinfectant usage, and logs of well-boat arrivals.

With regards to salmon fishing, fisheries are prohibited from harvesting more than 500 tonnes of salmon in any calendar year. Additionally, fish farms should not exceed a total number of 400,000 smolts (young salmon around two years old) stocked on site at any one time. 


6. How many fish are bred / killed on Irish fish farms every year (this is measured in tonnes rather than individual fish).

In 2018, Ireland produced 300,000 tonnes of fish (including molluscs and crustaceans), with a value of $498.1 million.

7. How much farmed fish is imported and exported in Ireland every year? And what are the relating financial statistics?

Ireland is a net exporter of fish. In 2020, the value of exports from Ireland for the category “fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates” totalled $526 million, and the total value of imports of the same category totalled $194 million. The following table shows a breakdown of that category into different types of fish for the year 2020.


Export Value

Import Value

Live fish

$1.35 million

$1.92 million

Fish, fresh or chilled

$152 million

$72 million

Fish, frozen

$174 million

$9 million

Fish fillets and other fish meat

$37 million

$53 million

Fish, dried, salted, in brine, smoked

$6.8 million

$18 million



8. Are government grants given to fish farmers?

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) runs from 2021 to 2027. The fund is jointly funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union, with the EU contributing €142 million to the total. 

So, what are we doing about it?


Our goal is to launch a nationwide campaign to ban fishing farming, which will include protests, leaflet drops and outreach events.


Often the forgotten victims in vegan campaigns, educating people on the fact that fish are sentient is a huge priority. If you would like to help spread awareness on this important issue, let us know and we will send you a leaflet pack.


If fish farming was illegal, it would save millions of lives every year. Contact your local TD and council, and ask them to put a ban on fish farming in Ireland! Not sure what to say? Email us for advice!

We have various campaigns running at any one time. Please click to learn about more issues!

NARA is a legal, grassroots level organisation that only operates within the law. Information on this website is for the purpose of legal protest and information only. It should not be used to commit any criminal acts or harassment. NARA is not affiliated to any other animal rights group. NARA has no links or involvement with the Animal Liberation Front or the Animal Rights Militia. Any articles published on this web site relating to illegal activities are posted for the sole reason of publishing news related to animal rights, and are not intended to incite or encourage similar acts.

Please feel free to contact us if you want to ask us any questions, report something or get involved.


Please feel free to contact us if you want to ask us any questions, report something or get involved.


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