The Irish seafood sector grew by 7.4% last year and contributed €1.1bn to the country’s GDP.
That was disclosed in Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s annual ‘Business of Seafood’ report which was launched yesterday at the National Seafood Conference in Galway.
BIM said the growth was primarily driven by another strong year of domestic seafood sales, at €380m, and an increase in private investment by seafood enterprises. Chief executive Jim O’Toole said Ireland has a valuable and sought-after raw material that is in great demand in key markets.
He said the task facing the sector, which employs 11,000 people in coastal communities, is to build on this growth, and add value and diversify to withstand current challenges including Brexit.
Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed, meanwhile, warned that any attempts to restrict the existing rights and entitlements of Ireland’s fisheries sector in the Brexit negotiations will be strenuously resisted. He told a discussion on Brexit in Galway that the maintenance of existing quota shares and existing rights of access are two key objectives.
“That is why I will be insisting that fisheries must form part of the wider trade negotiations,” he said.
Minister Creed revealed he had discussions with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier who, he said “clearly understands the issues and significance of Brexit for Ireland’s fisheries sector.” Stressing the need to work together, Mr Creed said it will be essential that Ireland has a united fishing industry, both nationally and at European level.
He hosted the discussion at the start of four days of marine-themed events in Galway which includes the BIM Seafood Conference and Seafest — Ireland’s national maritime festival. He said the seafood conference and Seafest are about celebrating Ireland’s marine resources and all the opportunities that they provide. “As part of that awareness, we must now also consider what potential impacts Brexit will have on our sea fisheries industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Galway Harbour has been transformed into an ‘open air sea world’ for SeaFest, which attracted more than 60,000 visitors to the city last year. The Marine Institute said there is an ever-increasing interest in the sea and in seafaring activities all around the coast.
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