Celebrating Irish seafood businesses on Europe Day


Brian Everard and Michelle O’Neill of Kingfisher Fresh

As we mark Europe Day and 50 years of Ireland’s membership of the European Union, BIM is celebrating seafood businesses that have used EU funding to innovate and thrive.

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) 2021-2027 (a successor to the European Maritime, Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020) is helping Ireland’s seafood industry make changes needed to ensure its future. It aims to strengthen the resilience of the seafood sector, supporting seafood businesses to take environmentally sustainable and climate-smart actions.

Conor Reid of Ocean Deep Oysters said EU funding helped his family-run company get off the ground in the mid-80s and establish itself as a leading provider of top-quality Irish oysters.

The business received EMFF funding, including a €290,000 investment for a purification and packaging facility. The investment also includes grading facilities so the company can export directly to overseas markets and enable them to supply to the value-added retail sector.

“The EU funding has been critical because it takes nearly four years to fully grow an oyster before harvesting and another few years before you see a return,” said Conor. “Traditional sources of investment like banks, or other investors, will rarely wait around for that length of time to see a return on investment. Without the capital grant supports from the Irish Government and the European Union, it would have been impossible to get this business going the way it has been.”

Michelle O’Neill said her company, Kingfisher Fresh, wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the support of EU funding received through BIM. Co-founded 17 years ago with Michelle’s business partner, Brian Everard, the Wexford town-based business sources wild seafood, caught fresh from Irish coastal waters by Irish fishers.

“With the EMFF funding, we renovated our whole factory to become a state-of-the-art facility,” said Michelle. “We installed new energy-efficient chillers and freezer rooms. We installed an on-site harvesting system for rainwater, which we use to wash out containers for example, as well as a completely new energy-efficient lighting system.

“The funding has really supported the growth within the business and has even opened up new markets. We always follow a ‘quality over quantity’ mindset, but we’ve been able to expand our quantity slightly to develop a frozen fish range. We even started exporting this to Italy last year. We couldn’t have expanded the way we did without the funding.”

Ireland is to receive €142 million of EU funds from the new EMFAF which will be combined with co-funding from the Government of Ireland. These funds will be allocated for the management of fisheries, aquaculture and fishing fleets, and also cover measures such as scientific advice, controls and checks, market intelligence, maritime surveillance and security. For more information, visit https://bim.ie/about/european-maritime-fisheries-and-aquaculture-fund/