Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency recently published their ‘Business of Seafood – a Snapshot of Ireland’s Seafood Sector’ report that highlights our diverse and valuable seafood industry around our coast. In addition to the statistics on the overall value of our seafood industry (€1 billion in GDP) and our most valuable mackerel and Dublin Bay Prawn fisheries; it also demonstrates the value of our smaller and less well known fisheries such as albacore tuna.
The albacore tuna fishery has been in existence since 1990. The fish were originally caught in the French Bay of Biscay but in recent years, Irish vessels have waited until the albacore migrate closer to the Irish coast –a more sustainable approach as it results is less fuel being used. Irish boats land albacore tuna into ports in Castletownbere, Baltimore and Dingle with Castletownbere accounting for 88% of the total landings.
Many Irish people may not be familiar with this species of tuna as it is predominantly exported to Spain and France. Our fishermen catch a quota of 2,367 tonnes worth over €5 million during the season (July – September). The value of Irish exports of albacore tuna were approximately €6.4 million in 2015, this represents a 29% increase on €5 million in 2014. Spain was the main market for Albacore Tuna accounting for 88% of the export in 2015 valued at €5.6 million. France valued at €0.5 million accounted for 9% of the export in the same year.
Albacore as the name suggests – ‘alba’ meaning white – has pale coloured flesh and an excellent firm meaty texture. While albacore are one of the smaller tuna species, they grow up to 140cm and can weigh up to 60kg. Like all tuna, Albacore is a rich source of complete protein, selenium and vitamin B-12. Their soft pink flesh, however, is more moist and delicate than that of many other species of tuna.
As Albacore Tuna is seasonal, supply can be an issue for seafood processors and retailers. To overcome this challenge, Irish seafood companies like Shine’s Seafood have developed ‘Shine’s Irish Caught Tuna’ available nationwide in SuperValu and in selected gourmet food stores and restaurants. John Shine, Managing Director of Shine’s Tuna explains; ‘I was a fisherman for 20 years and I have lived in Killybegs, Co. Donegal for the past 30 years. As a result, I am more familiar with the variety of fish caught in our waters and Irish albacore tuna is in my opinion Ireland’s best kept secret. The majority of this delicious fish is exported to Spain and France so many Irish people do not know what it looks or tastes like. We wanted to change this so we developed a simple but tasty preserved Irish tuna product using only the best albacore tuna from Castletownbere with olive oil and salt. This allows us to sell this amazing and highly nutritional product all year round. We have travelled nationwide offering Irish customers’ tastings of our product and the response has been extremely positive. However, customers don’t always believe me when I say it is Irish tuna! So now the secret is out – try Irish albacore tuna and taste the difference!’
For more information on Ireland’s Seafood Industry, please see BIM’s Business of Seafood Report (pdf 2,278Kb)