UK-based MacAlister Elliot and Partners Ltd. has been appointed to evaluate monitoring and licencing requirements for near-shore aquaculture in the Falklands.

Salmon farming was trialled in the 1980s at Fox Bay and although conditions were found to be favourable, the trials did not progress. A brown trout venture was piloted by local company Fortuna Ltd. in 2013 and continues with its operations today. However, in November 2019 Executive Council approved £193,000 to investigate the creation of a large-scale aquaculture industry, specifically Atlantic salmon. The Executive Council documents state that near-shore salmon farming could be a significant contributor for the Falkland Islands economy.

The decision to pursue investigations came after Danish company Pisco APS proposed salmon farming to FIG in 2017. After several scoping studies completed by Pisco, the Government signed a Letter of Intent with them in November 2018. Pisco then joined with Fortuna Ltd. to create Unity Marine, a locally-based company that proposes to own and operate the salmon-farming industry in the Islands.

Unity Marine believes that the Falklands could support 200,000 tonnes of salmon annually and submitted various studies to the Government in March 2019. The Falkland Islands Government said it didn’t have the in-house capacity to fully assess the proposal and agreed on a budget to hire an independent aquaculture advisor to manage the assessment. Recruitment for the role was unsuccessful last year. Director of Natural Resources Dr Andrea Clausen said: “It became apparent that the broad range of experience and depth of knowledge required was not likely to be delivered in a single recruitment. It was therefore agreed that a different approach would be taken, ensuring that all previously agreed objectives would be met within the approved budget.”

The new approach was the appointment of MacAlister Elliot and Partners (MEP). “The company has been appointed to ensure the Falkland Islands Government has robust information including an evaluation of regulatory, licencing, control, and monitoring requirements for an aquaculture sector,” said Dr Clausen. Recommendations to strengthen and future-proof the Fish Farming Ordinance 2006 could also be included.

MEP previously completed a review of the Falklands Islands finfish fishery in 2020. They describe themselves as 'consultants in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture' and ‘highly experienced in integrated aquaculture techniques deploying these in the Middle East and Australia.' They offer business planning and feasibility studies and recently conducted an audit of UK fish stocks.

The majority of the work will be conducted remotely over the next 12 months. Dr Clausen added: “At this time there is no firm date for when FIG will be in a position to make a decision on whether to pursue large-scale industrial aquaculture.”