Seven EU regions come together to address Simplified Procedures in Aquaculture

The “Improving policies to boost SME competitiveness and extraversion in EU coastal and rural areas where aquaculture is a driver of the regional economy (EXTRA-SMEs)” project is an Interreg Europe project which brings together 9 participating partners from 7 EU countries. The five-year project aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments addressed by the project partners, concerning the expansion of rural and coastal SMEs in wider markets for the promotion of the products, by promoting simpler and improved administrative processes and procedures and innovative production solutions.

The Western Development Commission, as the Irish partner in the project organised an interregional workshop on the 20th and 21st of March at the Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo. The topic of the workshop was “adopting simplified administrative procedures for aquaculture SMEs”.

The purpose of the workshop was to promote interregional learning and capacity building. With 40 stakeholders from seven EU countries participants gained insights and understanding of the different political priories and initiatives in the field across member states, identified common challenges and needs, and suggested inputs to action plans.

The workshop hosted presentations and discussions from Jan Feenstra, Mowi Ireland; Liam Carr, NUI Galway and Dave Jackson from the Marine Institute. Each presentation gave valuable insights into the Irish approach to aquaculture procedures and its impact of SME’s.

Speaking at the Workshop Ian Brannigan, Head of Regional Development at WDC said “The West of Ireland has long recognised the potential of its significant natural resources. This international approach to realising the potential of the aquaculture sector in enhancing simplified procedures is a testament to all the parties attending. The WDC is delighted to host this workshop in Sligo today”

Approximately 14,000 aquaculture businesses operate in the EU, from which over 90% are SMEs. These contribute significantly in the economic growth and employment rates of coastal and rural areas, providing 85,000 direct jobs. However, aquaculture SMEs are characterised by systematic, as well as systemic, weaknesses regarding competitiveness and exports (especially in reaching international markets). On top of that, EU aquaculture SMEs face international competition from world’s regions where industry is subject to lower regulatory requirements. Worldwide, aquaculture is growing rapidly and it is expected to overtake capture fishing. This strong trend presents a significant economic opportunity for aquaculture SMEs in the EU, presenting at the same time a challenge for increasing competiveness in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. Although the European Commission has rolled out a comprehensive framework of policy and tools to support the development of aquaculture, challenges for aquaculture SMEs, such as licensing, spatial planning, and finding support for innovation and extraversion, persist. It is thus a matter of regional policies to improve the competitiveness of SMEs. To this end, EXTRA-SMEs will support the project partners exchange experiences and implement targeted aquaculture policy actions to address the issues facing aquaculture SME’s.


Karen Sweeney Regional Development Executive, WDC, 087-1477750 or 094 986 1441


 Photo attached:

EXTRA SME Workshop on simplified procedures

Caption:   WDC & EU partners at workshop on simplified procedures in aquaculture (left to right, Karen Sweeney WDC, Marco Rolandi Liguria Region, Maregertia Marre’ Brunenghi Liguria Region, Christos Bouras University of Patras, Petri Muje University of Applied Sciences Lapland, Violetta Koutsogiannopoulou Region of Peleponnese, Konstantinos Tsekouras, University of Patras, Alessia Baldini and Chiara Lazzoni DLTM, Alexandru Lixandru and Andreea Brinzoi ADR-BI, Ian Brannigan WDC.


EXTRA SME EU project:

The project aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments addressed by the project partners, concerning the expansion of rural and coastal SMEs in wider markets for the promotion of their products, by promoting simpler and improved administrative processes and procedures, and innovative production solutions.

The project centres on the sharing of experiences, good practices and initiatives of SME competitiveness and extraversion with the objective of promoting innovative solutions. The project aims to enable the participating regions to reach their targets in terms of internationalisation and expansion in new markets by adopting simplified administrative and licensing practices, up-skilling public services’ staff and managing stakeholders’ conflicts of interest, so as to achieve a competitive and extravert outlook for the wider aquaculture sector. More information on the project can be found at

The Western Development Commission (WDC) is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in the Western Region (counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare).  Its strategic goals are:

  • To inform policy-making on economic and social development in the Western Region through high quality analysis.
  • To promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  • To encourage the development of the rural economy based on the sustainable development of the Western Region’s strengths and resources.
  • To provide risk capital to micro, small and medium sized and social enterprises in their start-up and expansion phases through the WDC Investment Fund (WIF).