WHAT WE DO

Marine Harvest Ireland is Ireland’s largest producer of farmed Atlantic Salmon.  The Company was founded in 1979 by a group of Irish shareholders. In 1981, a 50/50 joint venture was established with A/S MOWI based in Bergen, Norway, and this greatly strengthened the Irish operation as it provided access to stock, technology and financial resources. Today we are part of the Marine Harvest Group, the world leading seafood company and largest producer of farmed salmon.

The first harvest of Atlantic salmon took place in 1984 from young salmon put to sea in 1982. By 1986 the company became self-sufficient with its own broodstock. Since then the company has grown rapidly and today we export over 85% of our product to countries all around the world including USA, France, Belgium, Italy, UK, Germany and Switzerland, Canada and the middle east.

Marine Harvest Ireland is Ireland’s leading farmer and processor of Atlantic salmon and is a subsidiary of the Marine Harvest ASA headquartered in Norway.The Marine Harvest Group is a global-force in aquaculture with 12,500 employees operating across 24 countries worldwide and servicing 70 markets across the globe. The company has operated successfully in Ireland for 38 years to employing over 290 people between its salmon farms and hatcheries in Donegal, Mayo, Cork and Kerry. We are part of Marine Harvest ASA which is one of the largest seafood companies in the world, and the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon.

Breeding and production of juvenile salmon:

The production cycle starts in freshwater hatcheries where ova are stripped and fertilised from brood fish in early winter, typically November. The ova are then incubated very carefully until the eyes of the embryo of the fish become clearly visible through the transparent egg shell.

At this stage these fertile or eyed ova are quite robust and can be handled and shipped to other farms and hatcheries. Marine Harvest Ireland has a long tradition of delivery of eyed ova to other farmers around the world and the "Fanad" name has become a well-established brand name for this reputable and consistently good performing salmon stock. We are committed to building on its successful ova business by managing a proper family selected Broodstock programme.

As the production cycle continues, eyed ova are laid down in hatchery troughs where further incubation leads to hatching at which stage the "alevin" emerges from the sea. This alevin is not unlike a frog's tadpole. It is a very small fish with a distinct and relatively large yolk-sac which contains its nourishment for a further 4 to 6 weeks. Once this yolk sac is absorbed, the alevin has reached the stage to start feeding; this typically coincides with the rising temperatures in spring time. This so called "first feeding" stage still remains one of the most critical and delicate stages in the production cycle where excellence is husbandry skills and high standards of hygiene are of paramount importance.

Once feeding, the fish are referred to as "fry", and these grow rapidly in the various circular tanks of the smolt production units. Marine Harvest Ireland hatcheries draw water from nearby lakes, which were chosen not only for their pure waters, but also their low incidence of wild migratory fish which represent a potential source of disease to the farmed stocks. Marine Harvest Ireland has two large smolt units, one at Procklis, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal where the unit draws water from Lough Altan and a second at Tievetooey, Pettigo, Co. Donegal on the border with Co. Tyrone, where the unit receives its water from Donegal's largest lake, Lough Derg.

These smolt units grow the fry on to smolts at which stage the young salmon is ready to go to sea. As the fish smoltifies it turns silver, and once complete, this physiological change enables the fish to cope with the high level of salt in sea water. Smoltification takes place in spring time, some 14 months after the ova first hatched. Marine Harvest Ireland produces smolts for transfer to sea in the spring and autumn.

Growing salmon at sea:

Once at sea, the smolts are reared in nets suspended from either square or circular floating structure referred to as pens. These are moored in groups at locations where there are strong water flows in order to provide the stock with optimum environmental conditions.

The production cycle for a smolt size of approximately 50g to a 4.5 kg salmon, takes between 18 to 20 months.

Harvesting of salmon:

Once the fish reach the desired market weight of between 3 Kg and 5 kg they are harvested as rapidly and with as little stress as possible. This is important for the animal's welfare as well as its quality. Immediate chilling followed by rapid processing and transport to the customer are all important to present a fresh product with a reasonable shelf-life. In 1999 the opening of a high specification processing plant at Rinmore was an important milestone in the development of our business strategy (from ova to fork) with further plant expansion in 2008.

The Future:

With improved standards of living, people eat more food, especially protein. As a consequence, we need to produce more protein-rich food, such as meat, eggs, milk and seafood. To improve human health and nutrition, researchers and governments advise people to eat more seafood.

Producing more food is an enormous challenge. Globally, wild fish stocks are stretched to the limit, and sometimes beyond. There is limited supply of fresh water for use in agriculture. Add to this that food production is a significant contributor to global climate gas emissions.

Fish farming, including salmon farming, is in this perspective an excellent way of increasing the world's food production. It is an efficient way of producing food, climate friendly, and does not add to the challenge of utilising scarce fresh-water resources.

Salmon farming is an energy-efficient way of producing meat, particularly when compared to the farming of land-based animals. Salmon are the most efficient domestic stock in converting feed into growth. The next most efficient, chickens, are about half as efficient. This is because of the additional energy required to maintain warm blooded terrestrial animals and to support them against gravity. Fish, are cold-blooded and require little support, being in an aquatic environment. Because salmon require less food to grow, they produce less waste than terrestrial animals. Their flesh yield is also greater because they have a lower proportion of bone to flesh.

The world needs more seafood, and aquaculture must grow its production to meet demand. This growth must however be sustainable from all perspectives: environmental, social and economic.
The Company's new vision is " leading the blue revolution". The term 'Blue Revolution' derives from an article in the Economist in August 2003. The blue revolution is to water what the green revolution has been to the land - agriculture and its development.

Speaking at the launch of the new visions and values in May 2013 Jan Feenstra (MD) said "Our new company vision will help us deliver specific objectives; including increasing production here in Ireland. Our goal for MHI is to reach an annual production of 20,000 tonnes. Our single biggest challenge in this regard is to increase the number of licences or locations where we can grow our stocks and we hope to see progress on this soon. Our main production will remain organic salmon but we will also continue with our premium (Donegal Silver) salmon and we have ambitions to increase the volume of our Value Added Processing products. I know that our staff across our entire Irish operations will work hard to help us deliver these objectives and continue to demonstrate that they are the best in the business"