Efforts are being made to establish Dorset a major leader in aquaculture in a move that would create jobs and attract further investment.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is today launching a campaign to showcase the sector as part of moves to show off local aquaculture to a wider audience and put it on the map.

Aquaculture involves the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of marine algae, seaweed, fish and molluscs in all types of water environments.

The industry currently generates more than £1.4 billion for the UK economy. By 2022, the global aquaculture market is projected to exceed £174 billion and by 2030 is forecast to be the prime source of seafood.

The LEP's #DorsetAquaBites campaign aims to increase the profile of the sector, highlighting innovative businesses such as Hooke Springs Trout Farm in west Dorset and Portland-based Dorset Seaweeds.

It comes ahead of a major conference to be held near Dorchester in March.

Last year, Dorset LEP worked with organisations to submit a commercial proposition to the Department for International Trade (DIT) so that aquaculture in the county could be identified within the first round of the High Potential Opportunity (HPO) Programme. The government programme aims to identify specific inward investment opportunities across the UK which can be promoted by DIT on a global stage.

Identification as a HPO would be hugely significant for the sector and would capitalise on Dorset’s established businesses. The county also benefits from local expertise from the likes of Weymouth-based CEFAS, Dorset and East Devon Fisheries Local Action Group and the Dorset Coast Forum.

The LEP says all of these factors means that Dorset is poised to make the most of the economic, social and environmental benefits that aquaculture can deliver to the region.

Dorset LEP Chairman Jim Stewart said: “This #DorsetAquaBites campaign is a chance to show off our fantastic local companies who are benefitting from a great location for business. Dorset is ready to step up its aquaculture sector as conditions are perfect.”

The campaign launches in the lead up to the ‘OH20: Aquaculture Expo’, the first event of its kind in the UK where aquaculture will be discussed in the context of the One Health concept. The expo will showcase sustainable commercial UK aquaculture businesses. Those attending include buyers, investors, government support agencies and universities. The event is designed to encourage businesses and investors to capitalise on Dorset’s position as a great place to run and grow an aquaculture business while addressing One Health problems such as food supply and environmental protection. The event takes place on Wednesday, March 4 at Kingston Maurward College.

The college is launching a new aquaculture programme this autumn to support the industry.

If you are interested in attending the event book via Eventbrite or the Dorset LEP website.

'There’s a great potential here, it could create a lot of jobs'

Businesses have told Dorset LEP why they love Dorset and how excited they are by future aquaculture opportunities.

Mark Firth, from Hooke Springs Trout Farm, which produces brown and rainbow trout at Hooke near Beaminster, said: “Our consistent water quality and quantity supply to this farm is second to none. If you offered me any other part of England to go to I would say no thank you.”

Sarah Pinder, from Dorset Seaweeds, a Portland-based business which turns wild seaweed into biostimulent, said: “I think aquaculture in Dorset is a really exciting opportunity. There’s a great potential here, it could create a lot of jobs. If we could potentially get our seaweed from seaweed farms in the future that would be fantastic.”

Throughout the #DorsetAquaBites campaign, attention will turn to the Dorset LEP social channels where there will be conversations on the main areas of aquaculture in Dorset, highlighting innovative local businesses.