Wild Irish Tuna business to “Shine” a light in Donegal – with support from BIM
Ciara and her parents, John and Marianne
Pictured in there new venture in Killybegs, Co Donegal.
When the entrepreneurial family behind Donegal-based Shine Seafoods kept hearing that there wasn’t enough to attract tourists to the fishing town of Killybegs, they decided to do something about it.
With support from BIM and the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, they developed an interpretive centre adjacent their business on the pier in Killybegs, offering a unique fish tasting and educational experience for visitors.
The total project cost over €46,000 of which more than €13,000 was grant aided under the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. and implemented by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). The scheme is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.
The award-winning business is run by John and Marianne Shine, and their daughter Ciara. John had been a fisherman for 20 years before moving ashore when his family was growing. He initially got into fresh fish before opening an award-winning fish and chip shop, and then launching products including Wild Irish Tuna.
Said Ciara: “Failte Ireland were encouraging food producers to attract tourists, and we were always hearing more is needed for visitors to Killybegs, so we decided to rise to the challenge and look at how we could add something of interest and increase footfall to our shop and overall sales at the same time.”
“The interpretive centre offers a fish tasting experience using Irish tuna, Irish mackerel and Irish sardines, and audio visual aids to educate people about seafood. The experience also familiarises people with our brand.”
Killybegs is strategically placed on the Wild Atlantic Way, half way between Donegal town and Slieve League, and is a perfect place to stop off and experience what the town has to offer. There are also Cruise Ships that land in the port, with tourists disembarking having some time to spend in town.
“While Failte Ireland were there to advise us we would not have gone ahead if we had not gotten grant aid,” said Ciara.
“We now can offer tourists an enjoyable experience in our shop and in the town in general. We hope the development of this tourist attraction in Killybegs will have a positive effect on the local economy and increase visitor spend to the town.”
The Shines best known product is Wild Irish Tuna. They got into the tuna business by chance after John received a gift of preserved albacore tuna from Spain. The family were impressed by the taste and texture. Albacore tuna is white, compared to the tan or grey colour of other species.
“Dad looked into importing and selling the product in Ireland, and then found out that the tuna were actually caught off our coast, but exported to Spain,” said Ciara. “Imagine we have the best albacore on our doorstep, but were exporting it and bringing in cheap can tuna from the Far East, which means it has a massive carbon footprint. It didn’t make sense.”
John decided to take advantage of the thriving seasonal fishery for albacore off the west coast of Ireland.
When Wild Irish Tuna was launched ten years ago the Shines were told it might not take off as it was expensive, and the Irish were not big on fish.
“But once customers tasted our albacore tuna, they preferred it to aggressively fishy skipjack tuna, and appreciated why it is more expensive,” said Ciara.
The family gradually began making inroads into retail and Shines Wild Irish Tuna is now available nationwide.
“With the new interpretive centre people will be able to taste the tuna and learn about its benefits. It’s a win, win, as it benefits our business and the town of Killybegs.”