Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Project

An aquarium supplied by local fishermen on the Wild Atlantic Way

A local company set up by Achill community two decades ago, has created an aquarium in a disused building they own, engaging volunteers, retired fishers and fisheries-related workers. The Achill Experience Aquarium and Visitors Centre became the first cultural space in Ireland based on local fisheries heritage and remains one of the biggest attractions of the county.


Achill Island, a big focus of recreational fishing tourism until the 80's, suffered a decline due to the reduction (or elimination) of certain species. Although it continued to be an important enclave of tourism, the lack of any indoor tourist activities made it less attractive to tourists. Local fishermen were therefore invited to provide the most unusual catches available in local waters, such as multi-coloured lobsters, to showcase the local fisheries wealth through the creation of the first local aquarium in Co. Mayo.

The aquarium was planned as an attraction to encourage visitors stay in the area when it is raining. Some 18 000 visitors came in the first months of opening in 2016, so the project was extended to also include a fisheries heritage museum. In 2019, visitor numbers were up to  almost 30 000 and, while previously during the low season months (November to May) the area and surrounding towns, such as Westport, were almost empty, today a significant number of families come to the aquarium throughout the year.

The project has created six full-time and three part-time jobs for local residents, mostly relatives of fishers. A marine biologist volunteer assists in the maintenance of the aquarium and has recently also developed a Marine Conservation Presentation for “transition year” students.

  • New indoor tourist facility in Achill
  • 98 000 tourists and 1500 students received since 2016
  • 6 full-time and 3 part-time jobs created in the local area
  • Local network with other tourist stakeholders created

As in this case, local areas should look for the necessary elements to capitalize on their potential, taking advantage of the existing goods to find solutions for local problems.

Lessons & contribution to CLLD objectives: 

Lessons: One of the biggest challenges was the access to and securing of funding due to the strict limits for public money, for which the Aquarium and Visitor Centre needed to be included in local development schemes to access to alternative funds.   

Contribution to CLLD objective: b) Supporting diversification inside or outside commercial fisheries and job creation on the areas


Total project cost €462 500
FLAG grant €120 000
  • EU contribution (EMFF): €60 000
  • Public contribution (national): €60 000
Beneficiary contribution €342 500
  • Fáilte Ireland
    40 000
    30 000
    Mayo County Council
    38 000
    Bank Loan
    115 000
    89 500
    30 000

Project information

Timeframe of implementation From Sep 2015 to Mar 2018
Sea Basins
Type of area


Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiúil Acla Teo (CFÁA) (The Achill Local Development Company)

Contact details

FLAG Contacts

Mr. Declan Nee
+353 95 44973
Publication date: 
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