West Cork shellfish company going from strength to strength with support of BIM

When West Cork native Carol Harrington embarked on a career in banking after graduating from college, she never imagined she would end up leading one of Ireland’s largest shellfish companies.

“This was not in my grand plan, but my experience working in AIB – first in Skibbereen and then in Castletownbere where I was branch manager – stood me in good stead. With so many customers involved in the fishing sector, I was dealing with many seafood businesses and had built up a lot of knowledge,” she said.

Carol is CEO of Shellfish Ireland, a business which was first established in Castletownbere in 1987 by two young fishermen, Richard Murphy and Peter O’Sullivan Greene.

From small beginnings Shellfish Ireland has grown to become one of the largest employers in the area, with more than 130 people working there today. The Murphy’s are still very much involved with 95-year-old Pat Murphy – Richard’s dad – chair of the board of Shellfish Ireland. Incredibly for his age he is active in the business and chairs meetings. Richard’s son, Ryan, also works for the company, making it three generations involved.

Carol took redundancy from AIB in 2013 and a year later she was approached by Shellfish Ireland and worked initially as financial controller. She was appointed CEO in 2016 and following Peter’s retirement in 2019, GW Biggs group came on board.

There are exciting times ahead for Shellfish Ireland which has just completed a significant development with support of a €793,281 grant from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, which is implemented by BIM. This brings to over €1 million in grants Shellfish Ireland has secured through BIM since 2021.

The latest grant has been used to purchase new equipment for processing shellfish, to upgrade cold storage facilities and this development has supported Shellfish Ireland in the recent launch of Ireland’s first crab pate which is listed in Dunnes and Musgraves stores.

“We are focusing very much on value added products,” said Carol. “The machines we were able to buy with the support of the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme will increase our yield from processing crab, making us more competitive on the domestic and export markets. Some of this machinery will allow us process all parts of the crab including the body, claws, legs and shell. This maximises the output of the crab and helps us mix different crab meats for various products.”

The new refrigeration system will speed up the freezing time during processing, enhancing the quality of the product as well as improving energy efficiency.

According to Carol, the investment adds value to the crab and shrimp landings in Ireland.

“All the raw material is landed into local ports around the Irish coast. The majority of the crab and shrimp purchased by Shellfish Ireland is from small to medium boats and family fishing enterprises, so we are supporting this industry in rural Ireland.”

The investment will significantly add to the efficiency of the business, as it will be able to convert what was previously waste – with a cost of disposal – into value added raw material for secondary processing into fish food.

Shellfish Ireland products are BRC Garde A certified and are available in all five major supermarket retailers. They also sell into restaurants and hotels. On the export market it sells in Europe and Asia.

Carol said she is delighted with the new crab pate which is being really-well received by customers. And they are now developing crab cakes.

“This is all part of our strategy to do more with the crab and our shell produce.

Said Carol; “BIM have been so supportive of our business. With their help we have been able to develop and plan ahead. This is a tough year and we are still feeling the effects of Covid but I am very optimistic for the future.”