First 'Our Ocean Wealth' Review Shows Ireland's Seafood Sector Performing Robustly Despite Challenges on Raw Material Supply and Industry Scale

Irish seafood exports and the targeting of new markets are among the most successful growth areas in Ireland's seafood sector. Both areas will be critical to Ireland achieving its projected targets of generating €1 billion in seafood sales and creating 3,000 jobs as its seafood sector moves towards increasing levels of globalisation, BIM revealed today (Wednesday 18 June 2014) at a Government conference reviewing the implementation of Ireland's “Our Ocean Wealth” marine plan.

18 June 2014

Irish seafood exports and the targeting of new markets are among the most successful growth areas in Ireland's seafood sector. Both areas will be critical to Ireland achieving its projected targets of generating €1 billion in seafood sales and creating 3,000 jobs as its seafood sector moves towards increasing levels of globalisation, BIM revealed today (Wednesday 18 June 2014) at a Government conference reviewing the implementation of Ireland's “Our Ocean Wealth” marine plan.

Worth €822 million to the economy, and employing in the region of 11,000 people, Ireland's seafood sector is showing phenomenal growth on the export market with sales up by 29% from €378 million in 2010 to €489 million in 2013.

The review records a decline in demand and prices in traditional mainland European markets due to the economic downturn, but also identifies an accelerated growth in emerging markets such as China and Hong Kong. In the first year of “Our Ocean Wealth” Ireland recorded a staggering 75% growth in Irish seafood exports to China. While China's growing middle class is a key driver in this record demand for Irish seafood, according to Michael Keatinge, Deputy Chief Executive, BIM who delivered the agency's conference address, “broader demographics are set to significantly challenge Ireland's ability to supply raw material to best capture our share of the global opportunity for seafood.”

Mr Keatinge said:

“With the world's population expected to reach eight billion by 2025, the resulting demand for an additional 42 million tonnes of seafood globally by 2030, will put unprecedented pressure on Ireland's seafood sector to compete effectively for its global market share. But Ireland could fully capitalise on the growing world demand for seafood by implementing the type of ambitious aquaculture initiatives proposed in the current marine plan which would see current aquaculture output increase by 78%.”

With quotas and natural constraints limiting the wild fish catch available to meet the global need for seafood, the bulk of the additional seafood supply will have to come from sustainable fish farming sites like those proposed by BIM along the Galway, Donegal and Mayo coastline. The review captures important work undertaken by agencies like BIM on these potentially “game changing” aquaculture proposals which could result in the production of over 45,000 tonnes of additional raw material by 2017, a development Mr Keatinge went on to describe as “critical to the agency assisting industry reach its projected Irish seafood exports figure of a massive €650 million.”

The report launched at today's conference acknowledged the importance of government continuing to work with industry to create scale within industry structures. Mr Keatinge told delegates “We currently have 180 registered Irish seafood companies with processing facilities in Ireland. A large number of these companies are small-scale, often family-run firms with a turnover ranging from €3 million to €10 million. By 2017, BIM aims to have helped four Irish companies generate a turnover of over €50 million. We will do so by further tackling the crunch issue of developing scale within the sector. Mr Keatinge went on to draw comparisons between Ireland's current seafood sector with that of the dairy industry of the 1980s. “Quota restriction, a fragmented processing infrastructure, a limited international foot print and no presence on the stock market are all placing significant limits on the sector's ability to reach its potential as a global seafood player. Scaling up the industry is simply vital”, he said. The review report noted BIM's role in brokering a series of international joint ventures including Jade Ireland which ensured a number of Irish seafood collectively gained access to the key Asia market in which they continue to operate very successfully as they develop scale.

Irish seafood is considered a premium protein commodity on our key markets. International companies are viewing Ireland as a realistic investment proposition and BIM will continue to facilitate strategic partnerships to enable this investment to take place. Ireland’s first Seafood Investment Fund is being drafted by BIM as part of the current marine plan. “This will be critical to help BIM attract private sector interests to increase the capital available for the Irish seafood industry,” stated Mr Keatinge.

Mr Keatinge concluded:

The review report from “Our Ocean Wealth” demonstrates that the opportunities being presented to Ireland's seafood industry can only be fully utilised if we can increase sustainability, competitiveness, grow industry scale and expand the raw material base, all of which BIM is actively addressing in its corporate strategy 2013-2017, “Capturing Ireland's Share of the Global Seafood Opportunity” and under the Government's Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

Learn more by visiting the Ocean Wealth website