Serving up the perfect catch

An agreement that will see the processing of 20m fish next year highlights the vision and innovation of Irish seafood companies, reports Ray Ryan.
Serving up the perfect catch

THE vision and innovation of Irish seafood companies has again been highlighted by an agreement that will see the processing next year of €20m fish from Kilkieran Bay, Co Galway.

Marine Harvest Ireland has signed the deal with Cill Chiaráin Éisc, part of the Irish Seafood Producers Group, which is Ireland’s leading supplier of organic salmon and organic trout farmed at sea.

MHI was founded in 1979. It is the only producer of organic salmon in the group. It employs over 280 people in Ireland and utilises over 600 Irish suppliers across all its locations to a value of over €18m to the local economy.

The company employs 15 staff on the Kilkieran site, where it has been operating since October 2013. About 85% of the processed product will be exported to 15 countries.

Cill Chiaráin Éisc managing director Liam Roche said it was established in 1988 and employs 45 people. The contract with MHI is an important one. Marine Harvest is both a global name and Ireland’s leading salmon producer.

ISPG was set up by in 1986 by a small group of artisan farmers producing a relatively small quantity of Irish salmon. It has grown to become Ireland’s most reputable supplier of organic salmon and organic trout and supplies customers across Europe, North America and the Far East.

The group was one of 21 Irish exhibitors on the Bord Bia pavilion at Seafood Expo Globe, the world’s largest seafood trade fair, held in Brussels in May. Over 25,000 influential buyers and sellers from 145 countries around the world attended.

The increased exposure for Irish seafood products comes at a time when the industry is facing many challenges. But there is general acceptance it is an important economic activity in the country’s remote coastal regions and is resilient in its outlook with a number of recent investments.

Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, launched in July 2012 by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, aims to increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020.

It presents a roadmap for the Government’s vision to tap into the global market for seafood, tourism, oil and gas, renewable ocean energy and new applications for health, medicine and technology.

Plans are meanwhile going ahead to build the largest marine food ingredients plant in the world in Killybegs, Co Donegal. It is a joint venture project by Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) and Norwegian firm Biomarine Science Technology (BST).

Subject to planning permission, state aid, and the approval of Enterprise Ireland, it will create up to 50 jobs during construction. A further 70 jobs will be created when full production commences at the end of 2016.

It will extract high-end proteins, oils and calcium from fish for use as food ingredients and will initially have the capacity to process up to 50,000 tonnes of raw material annually.

In an industry overview on its website, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) says the sector contributes about €700m annually to national income and employs 11,000 people. The four main activities are covered by fishing, fish farming, processing, and marketing.

Marine Minister Simon Coveney announced in June that following months of lobbying and negotiation, he had secured €148m (2014 to 2020) in European money for the development of the Irish seafood industry and the coastal communities that depend upon it. The funding comprises €71m for investment in the seafood industry, €32m for data collection, €37m for control and enforcement, €5m for implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy, and €1.3m for storage aid.

Mr Coveney said this funding was more than double the amount that was available to Ireland during the last Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It will ensure a strong fishing industry in Ireland that can expand to meet its potential up to 2020.

Mr Coveney also recently announced a package of measures to develop the inshore fisheries sector. It involves the establishment of a National Forum and six Regional Forums.

The inshore sector is comprised of 1,773 boats of less than 12m overall length.

Mr Coveney has asked BIM to set aside €1m from existing resources to target the development of the inshore fishing fleet by promoting enhanced stock conservation and encouraging environmentally friendly fishing practices.

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