Wales' seafood industry growing global presence

Published on
May 18, 2022
The Wales booth at Seafood Expo Global 2022 in Barcelona, Spain.

The seafood industry in Wales is working to boost its exports and make the variety of seafood it offers better known to businesses outside the country.

A member of the United Kingdom, Wales earned just GBP 23.3 million (USD 28.6 million, EUR 27.2 million) from seafood exports in 2021, according to the Food and Drink Federation, compared to Scotland's haul of GBP 1 billion (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion) in seafood-export value in the same period.

The Welsh seafood industry has struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic. While overall the country was the only member of the U.K. to exceed pre-pandemic food export values in 2021 – exporting GBP 558 million (USD 686 million, EUR 651 million) worth of foodstuffs in the year, an increase of 13 percent compared to 2019 – its seafood exports decreased 29 percent in the same period.

Welsh seafood often gets overlooked in the global marketplace, North Wales Seafood Cluster Manager Nia Griffith told SeafoodSource. In response, the country sought to make a splash at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain, from 26 to 28 April, 2022. The seafood cluster helped secure a booth for Welsh seafood businesses, which promoting a number of different products.

“We’re very much here to raise awareness, and hopefully promote and raise awareness of the businesses that attend," Griffith said.

Wales's seafood sector is smaller and more artisanal than its neighbors, Griffith said.

“I think it’s easy to think of the U.K. as one country, but Wales is distinctly different because of the people and the small, more-sustainable way of fishing that we adopt,” Griffith said.

The Welsh seafood industry is largely made up of day-boats that are under 10 meters in length, fishing using sustainable practices that have been passed down for generations in small coastal communities, Griffith said. Shellfish, lobster, and brown crab top the country’s catches and exports.

The shellfish industry, Griffith said, has changed relatively little in over 100 years with small boats fishing along the coast for generations.

“They’re really small boats. Often, there might not be more than one or two on board, and often it’s something that goes from generation to generation as well,” she said. “When you ask them, ‘Well, why do you fish?' They say, ‘It’s what we’ve always done.’”

Sustainable fishing techniques and are embraced by the Welsh seafood industry and a big part of the country’s export appeal, Griffith said.

“Fishing sustainably is an essential part of what we do in Wales,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the seafood cluster is working directly with the Welsh government to establish a presence at trade shows as part of a wider promotional effort for Wales' food and beverage sector.

“We’ve got quite a few projects that we are in the process of developing to try and promote Welsh seafood and encourage people to engage with the businesses in Wales,” she said. “[Seafood Expo Global] is a fantastic opportunity for us to come here, because we are quite a small country, but to be here on a global stage is fantastic.”

Holyhead, Wales-based Ocean Bay Seafoods was one of the companies exhibiting as part of the Welsh seafood booth. The company exports seafood, mainly shellfish, around the globe.

Ocean Bay Seafoods Managing Director Richard Williams told SeafoodSource his export business has been growing steadily as the company has focused on the European market – mainly Denmark and Spain.

“We have a very good transportation system into Europe as well, which helps a lot,” Williams said.

The company also exports live lobsters to Dubai and China, but the market in China has been heavily impacted by ongoing lockdowns in Shanghai, Williams said.  

“We’ve got a container right now that’s on the water that’s been diverted, because there’s no shipments going into Shanghai, not even frozen,” Williams said. He added that the cost of diverting the container is the same amount that the company already paid for the container, which he said was also expensive.

Overall, Griffith said, the goal of the seafood cluster and the Welsh companies present at Seafood Expo Global was to highlight what the country has to offer that differs from its neighbors.

“We are here for people to realize that we are different from England, and different from Scotland,” she said. “It’s just waving the flag, really, of Wales.”  

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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