Irish seafood industry booming

Published on
July 6, 2017

Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), launched a Business of Seafood Report at its National Seafood Conference on 29 June, setting out the developments, issues, and challenges in the country’s EUR 1.1 billion (USD 1.26 billion) seafood sector. More than 200 delegates from the aquaculture, fishing and processing sectors attended the event, which was officially opened by Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

BIM's report shows that Ireland’s seafood industry experienced a strong year in 2016, sporting 7.4 percent overall growth. The sector employed more than 11,000 people.

Total seafood production in 2016 reached 325,000 metric tons (MT) worth EUR 543 million (USD 630 million) at first sale, with the wild-caught sector accounting for 281,000 MT worth EUR 376 million (USD 429 million) and farmed fish and shellfish for 43,900 MT worth EUR 167 million (USD 191 million). The farmed sector (salmon, trout, perch, oysters, and mussels) showed at increase of 13 percent on 2015. 

Ireland is experiencing a strong rise in domestic retail sales, which are now worth EUR 239 million (USD 273 million). Food service accounted for EUR 141 million (USD 161 million). The top four fish species were salmon, cod, hake, and mackerel, with salmon experiencing an 11.5 percent growth over the past year. Prawns also remained a firm favorite with consumers. 

Seafood exports topped EUR 559 million (USD 638 million) in 2016, which is a slight decrease of -1 percent on 2015. Salmon valued at EUR 71 million (USD 81 million) decreased by 5 percent year on year, although the unit price of fresh whole Irish salmon at EUR 7.8 (USD 8.9) per kilo remained well above the average E.U. market price during the year.

Pelagic exports valued at EUR 150 million (USD 171 million) were down by 27 percent on 2015, largely due to reduced quotas. 

Shellfish exports made up for the overall sector decreases, with an increase of 21 percent to EUR 237 million (USD 270 million) in 2016. Increases were seen in all the main shellfish categories, including Dublin Bay Prawn valued at EUR 63 million (USD 72 million), and oysters at EUR 34 million (USD 39 million).

The E.U., including the United Kingdom, was the main importer of Irish seafood, accounting for 67 percent worth EUR 186 million (USD 212 million). The complexities surrounding Brexit, with Ireland remaining in Europe, means that for now, future trade relations between the two countries remain uncertain.  However, BIM has pledged to support industry to minimize the effects of a changing relationship with the U.K.

Exports were also sent to Asia and West Africa, which each accounted for EUR 46 million (USD 52 million). In total, Ireland’s imports were worth EUR 276 million (USD 315 million).

According to the report, continued investment combined with buy-in from the entire seafood industry, means that the sector now has the resilience to withstand new challenges, and the drive and passion to reach its full potential. This puts the industry in a strong position to take advantage of an ever-increasing global appetite for seafood. The global average is around 20 kilos per person per year and this is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2030. Demand is projected to be particularly high in Asia, with its strong cultural preference for seafood. 

Significant investment, particularly assisted by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) in product development, innovation, increased processing capacity and an upgrading of the fleet, have all helped to give renewed confidence to the sector.

Building skills, scale, and competitiveness are seen as essential elements if market share and 

profitability are to grow, according to the report. Innovation is highlighted as possibly the greatest opportunity for increasing value in the seafood sector. Ireland currently exports 70 percent of its seafood as a bulk commodity, but new consumer products and innovative techniques to overcome the challenges of shelf-life and transportation could result in a much greater proportion of seafood sold with value added. 

“We have a valuable and sought-after raw material that is in great demand in our key markets. The task facing the sector now is to build on this growth, add value and diversify to withstand current challenges including Brexit,” BIM CEO Jim O’Toole said. “BIM will continue to provide supports to enable this valuable industry to achieve its full potential.”

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500