Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish State agency with responsibility for developing the Irish Sea Fishing and aquaculture industries, recently issued its 2008 end-of-year review of the Irish seafood industry which shows that the sector performed robustly despite very difficult trading conditions in all principal markets. Sales of salmon emerged as the seafood sector’s star performer where sales increased by 13% in 2008 to €58.7 million. Pre-packed sales of salmon were up a substantial 28.8% on 2007. The pelagic sector also performed well where sales of mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting and herring reached €130 million.
Total retail sales volume of all seafood increased by 12% in 2008 while the value of these sales increased by 3.2% to €185.8 million.
Total seafood sales on both domestic and export markets, excluding direct landings for Irish vessels into foreign ports, amounted to €731 million in 2008, a decline of 3.5% on the corresponding value in 2007 reflecting adverse currency movements and rising consumer demand for lower valued seafood products. Of this total, seafood sales on the domestic market amounted to €381 million while export sales totalled €350 million.
BIM believes that there is immediate scope for expansion of the organic certified farmed salmon sector with the potential to create significant new jobs. In 2007, Ireland produced 10,000 tonnes of farmed salmon of which some 70% was certified organic and these fish fetched a price premium 40% above the regular market price. It is estimated that the markets could comfortably absorb at least another 5,000 tonnes of Irish organic farmed salmon without impacting on the price. An uplift of 5,000 tonnes in output of organic salmon from Ireland could generate up to 300 full time equivalent jobs in this area alone.
“With increasingly challenging economic conditions globally, it is crucial that Ireland focuses on maximising the seafood industry and supporting new growth areas in the sector to ensure the maximum economic and social contribution to Ireland’s coastal communities, and Ireland as a whole,” stated BIM Chairman, Rose McHugh.
CEO Jason Whooley concluded: “We look forward to 2009 being another successful year for the Irish seafood sector. However, we must continue to be innovative in our approach if we are to successfully meet the challenges posed by the global economic downturn and the resulting market difficulties. Through the seafood sector, Ireland can leverage a key natural resource to sustain and grow both economic activity and jobs in key coastal communities. A continued strong focus on moving the industry further up the value chain should be a key priority as this is the only way that we can compete effectively in the global marketplace.”