Humble boarfish finds a market in China

Published on
May 9, 2012

A recent visit to China by an Irish seafood delegation has reported a “clear demand” for boarfish in the Chinese market. According to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish state-run seafood marketing board, Ireland currently holds the largest quota for this species at more than 56,000 metric tons, a 155 percent increase on last year’s quota.

Historically, this small fish was used for fishmeal, but the potential to sell the abundant species for human consumption to the Chinese market “will increase its value significantly and in return will provide an increase in revenue and employment to Ireland,” according to BIM CEO Jason Whooley.

“BIM has carried out a variety of new product development trials on this new species over the past 18 months. We believe that boarfish can be as successful as the development of the blue whiting fishery,” said Whooley.

In 2004, virtually no blue whiting was processed onshore in Ireland, however by the end of this season more than 80,000 mtric tons of blue whiting will have been processed by plants in Killybegs, a port on Ireland’s northwestern shore. Now BIM hopes the same feat can be achieved with boarfish, given Chinese demand.

“We are working to deliver this viable market opportunity in China and Africa. We have already sent over 12 tonnes of boarfish as a commercial trial to a seafood processor in Qingdao to ascertain what formats will suit the market best,” said Whooley.

BIM spokesperson Hazel Dobbyn said the April visit to China by Simon Coveney, Ireland’s agriculture and marine minister, was a “resounding success” for the seafood sector. Ireland plans to develop its aquaculture industry, and promoting organic salmon in particular was also a focal point for the trip, she said.

At a lunch of seafood industry representatives in the northeastern city of Dalian, a key seafood processing hub, Whooley outlined the BIM Deep Sea project, which will initially see the development of three deep sea salmon farms off Ireland’s coastline. The first farm will be located off the west coast of Ireland and it is expected that each farm will be capable of producing up to 15,000 metric tons of Irish organic farmed salmon annually worth EUR 102 million at today’s market prices.

Eight Irish seafood companies joining the delegation — Aquasea, Atlantic Dawn, Shellfish de la Mer, Carr Shellfish, Marine Harvest, Hannigan’s and McBride Fishing. Also joining the delegation was Murphy’s Seafood, which has a Shanghai-based representative, Stephen O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan told SeafoodSource that a number of intensive meetings were held with key seafood buyers. There’s a lot of interest in Ireland’s organic seafood capacity, said O’Sullivan, who sees China as the “ultimate premium market of the future.”

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