Erasmus+ Programme 2014 – 2016
Teachers Workshop 29th September – 1st October 2015
Lycee De La Mer, Gujan Mestras
As the oyster and mussel culture teacher on BIM’s Aquaculture Course I attended this Erasmus Teachers Workshop to exchange ideas and improve on the delivery of the training course in the classroom, on site visits and through practical work experience.
It was interesting to learn about the delivery of aquaculture training in Norway and France and encouraging to hear of the excellent recruitment rates following the training courses in each of the partner countries. Although the age profile of students and the length of the courses differ to Ireland there were many similarities and many useful tips to take away.
The importance of following up on work experience was discussed, both from the point of view of the student and of the employer. Employers can be encouraged to take on more of a mentoring role by providing training to him/her in his/her responsibilities towards the trainee. Evaluation forms for both the trainee and the employer/mentor will provide more focus to the work experience, particularly if they are compiled by the people themselves.
In Ireland, aquaculture students have already completed basic second level education so language and mathematics are not part of the course. Book keeping, computers and communication skills are taught, however, to facilitate those who wish to set up their own business afterwards. These modules should be made as relevant as possible to the business of aquaculture.
France provide an alternative course for mature students who either have a minimum of 3 years experience or no aquaculture experience and wish to set up their own oyster farm. For those with no experience the course is 5 months, involves work experience and a project which is assessed by a dedicated accountant, an oyster farm owner and a teacher. Without this qualification they cannot apply for a licence.
Visits to “new” species farms and a tour of Lycee de la Mer were organised on 29th – 30th September.
- Ferme Aquacole Eau-Medoc http://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com
Organic Gambas Farm (Pennaeus japonicus)
The farm consists of 17 Hectares of tidal marine ponds on a 30 Hectare site. Water exchange is controlled by sluice gates.
Produce approximately 700kg – 800kg annually.
Ponds are fertilised once in the Spring to encourage the growth phytoplankton and zooplankton, after which Gambas larvae are introduced in May. Harvesting occurs towards the end of summer up to the end of October .
During the larval stage the new water introduced to ponds must be filtered to keep crabs out. Once they reach a reasonable size filtration is removed and raw seawater is used.
For every 1g of gambas, 7g of plankton is consumed.
Gambas require a minimum salinity of 15ppt and a minimum temperature of 12oC
Nutrition is naturally occurring zooplankton – nereids, mosquito larvae and sea fleas are the main food sources.
Stocking densities are low – ponds are stocked at 2 per sq.m with an expected return of 1 per sq.m.
The ponds are also used to “finish” market size oysters, generally fattened up over a 6-8 week period.
All gambas are cooked and sold on site to consumers. They do not sell into restaurants.
- Des Etangs de la Barreyre http://www.etangsdelabarreyre.fr/
Catch & release fishery located close to the Gironde River. In existence 17 years.
A series of 3 lakes with no river input
Stocked with 2 species of sturgeon (Russian and Canadian) and carp
France did have a natural population of European sturgeon but it was fished to extinction. There have been some attempts to reintroduce it but success rate unclear. In addition a huge storm 15 years ago resulted in the Gironde flooding, the catch & release fishery was submerged and non-native species of sturgeon escaped. It is unknown whether or not these have managed to recruit although they are recruiting in the existing lake system.
Also have roach, goldfish and black bass in the river.
He estimates there are about 2 ton of fish per hectare. Fish are fed with corn and pellets.
Rod licence: €30/24 hrs, €20 for full day and €10 for ½ day
- L’Esturgeonniere http://lesturgeonniere.com
Sturgeon farm, recirc using geothermal heat and reed bed technology.
In existence since 1991. Started caviar production in 2001
Originally started production for flesh but started into caviar Siberian sturgeon
Mainly producing caviar but also selling males for meat. Sex fish at 3 years. Males are sold for flesh.
Harvest eggs between 7 and 12 years
Hatchery on site. Have just started a selection programme based on egg production
Annual caviar production is 4 tonnes
- Lycee de la Mer
On the final day we were given a tour of the schools aquaculture facilities. The Norwegian students had benefited greatly from these during their 2 week stay. The school has its own set of land based finfish tanks for sea bass and sea bream and also has an oyster farm. Produce from these are sold within the school. Val, the Norwegian school, also has its own salmon farm and is in the process of setting up a shellfish hatchery and developing its training on seaweed cultivation.
Overall, a very useful exchange for both teachers and students, despite the differences in scale of the different industries. The Irish students are due to travel to France in 2016 and no doubt will benefit hugely from the 2 weeks.
Trip to Lycee De La Mer, Bordeaux, France 28th to 2nd October 2015
I was surprised and delighted to be invited to participate in this part of Erasmus Plus. My own experience and knowledge of Erasmus programs and indeed the Irish aquaculture training system is very limited so this was an opportunity for me to learn of ours and of other national approaches to aquaculture training.. as well as visiting a beautiful region of France.
The trip was part of the Erasmus plus program where the aquaculture training representatives of three participating countries; Norway, France and Ireland visit each other’s facilities and a sample of production units in order to compare and discuss for mutual education and development. The heart of this French trip was:
Three aquaculture production units were visited in the region of The Arcachon Basin:
- A Shrimp and Prawn Organic farm; saltwater Ponds extensive, lo tech
- A catch and release (Leisure) FW pond Carp and Sturgeon fishery unit lo tech, intensive
- A Sturgeon production unit, intensive FW Combined recirculation unit.
Presentation of each countries approach to education for a career in, or to further a career in, aquaculture. This included detailed descriptions of training facilities, course structure, content and length, who were eligible, level of state assistance available, level of education available, career prospects and relevance of the course to such prospects.
Discussion of each countries education system and its relevance or effectiveness in delivering suitable entrants to the industry in detail referring to 7 identified reference points
Norwegian and France ED. systems concentrated on the dominant aquaculture sector of those countries, Salmon for Norway, Shellfish, primarily Oysters for France. Very structured, extensive period, educational systems, with a balance between applied academics and an apprenticeship approach.
Irish model attempts to cover all aquaculture techniques evenly, with an emphasis on direct industry skills in a shorter, more intensive time period. As with the other two, there are opportunities for training both for school leavers and for mature students and for those who wish to go to university level. The course, unlike in France, is not mandatory, either for industry employment or business start-up. Responsibility for course content and delivery has recently changed to a body whose immediate concern is making the course relevant to the industry. Recruitment of youth currently is challenging and training is frequently of veterans of the industry
There is state assistance for training in all three countries, the level of which, along with the overall infrastructure and other resources available to training may be a reflection of the scale of aquaculture and its importance to the national economy.
France appears to have the most complete system whereby anyone in aquaculture has obtained a qualification in aquaculture in order to apply for and operate an aquaculture licence. The infrastructure, i.e. number of and organisation of schools there reflect the scale, variety and extent of aquaculture, salt and freshwater, throughout the country. The application requirements of Ireland and Norway relate directly to the dynamics and dimensions of the proposed site rather than insisting on the applicant having a mandatory aquaculture qualification. The two year technical qualification offered by the VAL institute of Northern Norway however is highly regarded by the Salmon industry there. In Norway only sites within a currently viable designated area by local government will be considered for due process. The Spatial management of Bays is still in its infancy in Ireland
One major advantage enjoyed by France and Norway over Ireland is the apparent relatively elevated status of aquaculture at community level. Salmon farming in Norway is considered to be the future sustainable industry holding remote coastal communities together after the oil industry inevitably winds down. These areas in Norway apparently do not suffer from chronic NIMBY as similar areas in Ireland do. Investment in aquaculture training reflects industry status there and in France.
Norwegian aquaculture staff have comparatively well paid and secure jobs at entry level notwithstanding the more lucrative option of the oil industry and have opportunities of career progression. New businesses and sites are only possible through the efforts of large companies. In France a high proportion of young people eventually have a chance to start their own businesses although there is a net consolidation occurring in an industry largely made up of small companies. Full employment opportunities in Ireland are limited by comparison while wages for site operatives are relatively low and career progression limited by the small size and requirements of most companies. Aquaculture as a career is a tough sell in Ireland as is training to start a business in a country where the application process takes years rather than months as in France (three months) and Norway. In fairness, one must undergo an extensive period training beforehand in France, though one may begin the application process to obtain a licenced site there before graduating from the course.
In France the oyster is a deeply embedded cultural feature from production to specialised restaurants to aquaculture tourism (including a museum!). Young people therefore probably have a greater and more positive exposure to aquaculture there and recruitment to the industry is relatively easier than in Ireland, though according to hosts LDLM, this varies widely from year to year. Strenuous efforts are underway in recent years in Ireland to similarly elevate aquaculture and its products in the public eye and expand aquaculture based turnover into tourism and elsewhere beyond pure production.
Ireland Room to improve?
The inheritors of aquaculture training in Ireland have stated the need for a more flexible and more straightforward reference manual from which to develop training and increase its worth to the industry. They are faced with the challenge of promoting a relatively underpaid and tough industry both physically and socially to young people often with academic qualifications allowing more lucrative options.
They are similarly faced with the daunting prospect of selling an industry that is mired in inflexibility caused by the presence of existing businesses located within and adjacent to SACs. Businesses cannot expand as they must wait years to renew old or obtain new licences and deal with a bewildering number of state agencies along the way. Similarly the average lead time for the licencing process and conditions attached to the eventual granted licence, compared to Norway and France, must be prohibitive to most interested entrepreneurs.
The Good news
As there are very resilient aquaculture practitioners in Ireland, there are also very talented, patient training staff with seemingly unassailable optimism that common sense will prevail in the end. Their skill in networking and negotiating their way with other stakeholders and around seemingly closed doors across the labyrinthine maze of developing Irish aquaculture are bearing fruit in the shape of recent modest improvements. The future nature of these improvements will likely be an expansion in course promotion, content and flexibility of delivery, with follow up student support and feedback sought from the students and their employers to constantly review and update course content. Currently delivered to FETAC level 5, closer engagement with technical colleges and universities has already seen opportunities for farther education arise for those in the industry who left school early. Closer engagement with industry is occurring as more active sites become available for practical course content and work experience. Irish agencies are, more than ever, pooling resources for the common good of increasing employment. Collaboration between Aquaculture, tourism and other food agencies within such schemes as ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’ may be reflected in their training strategies also.