Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Short Story

Reducing waste linked to processing shellfish

An Irish FLAG has supported a local, family aquaculture business that farms Gigas oysters to improve processing methods, reduce energy consumption and cut waste.
We understand the importance of preserving the environment in which we operate and, since our founding we have been committed to producing oysters in a sustainable way. The investments made possible through FLAG have allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint, our water consumption, and the volume of waste shell generated
Donal Ferguson, Cooley Oysters Ltd. Owner

Shellfish production is an important economic activity in coastal areas of North East Ireland, which, as well as supplying the shellfish for local gastronomy, is also widely exported to international markets, such as Spain, France and Italy. Promoting ‘greener’ food production companies is a priority for the Irish government, and reducing waste is one of the most challenging issues faced by businesses. The North East FLAG has been supporting local seafood businesses to change how they work. 

Cooley Oysters Ltd. - previously ‘Ferguson Shellfish’ - have been in the oyster farming business since 1982. They produce 200 tonnes of Gigas oysters per annum in the unique waters of Carlingford Lough on the border of Ireland/Northern Ireland. These highly prized oysters are processed and packaged in the company’s facilities for supply to both the domestic Irish retail market and for export.

As with all oyster producers, waste shells generated due to natural mortalities and during processing and packaging is a substantial problem. Cooley Oysters Ltd. applied to the FLAG for support to improve its handling, grading, and packaging processes with innovative equipment and by facilitating a redesign of their processing layout. This included a new automatic and more accurate grading machine, gentler on the oysters as it allows them to be kept in seawater up to the point of grading.

Through these changes, Cooley Oysters Ltd. have been able to reduce oyster mortalities, energy needs and the consumption of public water supply. This commitment to, and investment in, sustainable practices were instrumental in Cooley Oysters Ltd. achieving “Gold” membership status within “Origin Green, Ireland’s national sustainable food production programme.  The company has now become one of only 26 food producers in the whole of Ireland to achieve this honour.


Budget €184 000
EU contribution €46 000
  • EMFF: €46 000
Other public contribution €46 000
  • National: €46 000
Private contribution €92 000

Contact details

FLAG Contacts

Mr. Paul Downes
+353 1 214 4135
Publication date: 
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