by Kate Dempsey (CEO Aqualicense and Irish Mussel Seed Company)

Aquaculture is said to be the fastest growing food industry in the world while also being one of the most sustainable and carbon-efficient methods of producing animal protein. It’s a growing industry and one I am proud to be part of.

Like every industry, it has some barriers along the road to increasing production. Aquaculture licensing is littered with red tape, societal concern, environmental regulation and the heavy reliance of regulators on the precautionary principle when issuing new licenses.

My aquaculture licensing journey began at 24 years of age when I applied for an aquaculture license to the Irish licensing authority. My vision was to be the first offshore aquaculture company in Ireland. I am from a fishing family and I wanted to carry on the tradition in a sustainable way. The licensing process took over ten years and was extremely complicated. Juggling scientific reports, marine consultants, questions from the regulators which sometimes required solutions not yet in existence, modelling and stakeholder engagement, to name a few. I always ask myself ‘if I had to do it again would I have done anything differently?’. The answer is yes!! I have learned so much over this ten-year period. I had studied law in college but quickly realised I must also study aquaculture and business if i was to be successful with my license application. ‘Would I apply for another license?’ Yes, because I believe in this industry.  I did promise myself that I would do all in my power to reduce the barriers I faced with my first license and so I created Aqualicense Limited. This company‚Äôs focus is to partner and support aquaculture businesses through the licensing process, ensuring they have a complete team behind them and giving them the best chance of success.

I believe the industry needs a consistent voice. We need to be able to communicate with the world about the positive aspects of aquaculture such as, a vehicle for job creation in rural communities, source of much needed animal protein, carbon efficiency, ecosystem support, substitute for capture fisheries, health benefits of seafood etc.

I am sharing my experience of aquaculture licensing so that other people and companies facing licensing issues can do the same. It is important that we learn from and support each other as we make a combined effort to improve the profile of aquaculture so that we can be a significant contributor to sustainable and carbon efficient global food production.