Passing some of Ireland’s most breathtaking seascapes and landmarks, it is a whole new way to experience the Wild Atlantic Way and to learn more about how Irish seafood is caught and farmed.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency, in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland launched the new dedicated seafood trail last July.
The aim is to give visitors and Irish consumers a real appreciation for the quality of seafood available in this region and a key understanding of how it is caught or farmed.
Irish seafood sales were worth an estimated €891m in 2015 (€554m exports and €337m domestic) with a Food Harvest target to reach €1bn revenue by 2020.
It is a vital indigenous industry comprising some 1,914 registered fishing vessels, 250 aquaculture operations, 170 processing operations and employing some 11,000 people, mostly in coastal counties.
Dotted among the natural wonders of the Taste the Atlantic journey alone are renowned seafood producers.
They include the Connemara Smokehouse, Croagh Patrick Seafoods, Killary Fjord Shellfish, Keem Bay Fish, Marty’s Mussels, Kelly’s Oysters and lobster fishermen Gerry Sweeney and Gerard Hassett.
According to the Wild Atlantic Way website, the area is a dedicated seafood trail, an adventure dotted with suggestions ranging from restaurants and cafés to farms, fishing ports and smokehouses.
“It’s a route you can dip into or do in its entirety, an opportunity to explore Ireland’s pristine oceans, to sample its food story, to enjoy an unforgettable taste of place on a plate.
“All along the Atlantic, you’ll find coastal communities whose boats have bobbed on the ocean for centuries, who catch and produce seafood with passion and dedication, and whose chefs know a thing or two about how to cook it,” it says.
The sea has given families a living for generations. Local sustainable fishing provides freshly caught and farmed quality Irish seafood from tide to tale.
That sustainability is now a core part of the overall seafood industry as consumers become more conscious of the origins of what they eat.
It was highlighted at the BIM 2016 Green Seafood Business of the Year’ award presentation in Dublin last week.
Sofrimar, one of Ireland’s most successful and innovative seafood processors at Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, won the top award.
It has always been conscious of its interaction with the local community and the need to operate in a sustainable manner. A verified member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green, it has worked directly with BIM’s Green Seafood Business Programme.
The company has implemented a number of significant projects to reduce its carbon footprint and in doing so has realised significant cost savings.
For water usage alone, Sofrimar achieved annual savings of €20,000, delivering a return on its initial investment of €34,000 in less than two years.
Sofrimar finance director Lorcan Barden said that as a seafood company wholly dependent on a natural resource, it understands the need to source sustainably and process responsibly.
“From a business perspective, it adds value and increases our competitiveness on our key export markets. In the last 12 months, we have reduced our electricity usage by 5% and our water usage by 6,000 cubic meters.
“We have reduced our usage of polystyrene cartons by 24% and the majority of our seafood is caught sustainably by small inshore fishing boats.
“This award is a real boost for our team and we will continue to implement and research green business solutions for our company,” he said.
Sofrimar’s turnover has experienced considerable growth in the last five years increasing its production facility and production capacity and recording a three fold growth in turnover.
Sustainability was an integral part of planning during this expansion and remains to the forefront of the company’s business planning.
Plans are now under way to generate electricity by using solar technology and further initiatives are in place to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill.
BIM chief executive Tara McCarthy said the business of sustainability is a priority for BIM which has assisted more than 25 seafood companies to achieve significant cost savings for their business through its Green Seafood Business Programme.
She said BIM will be focusing on positioning the seafood industry at the cutting edge of green business.
The other nominees for the award were Errigal Bay, Morgan’s Fine Fish, the Burren Smokehouse, Keohane’s of Bantry and Beara Seafood.
Meanwhile, BIM has launched the annual search for the country’s young fishmonger of the year with a competition designed to test their business, customer, and technical skills.
Entries have now closed for the competition open to persons employed full time in fish retail shops or on supermarket seafood counters.
A supermarket seafood counter award category was introduced this year.
Tara McCarthy, said the competition, now in its fourth year, aims to raise standards across the board.
“It is a celebration of excellence in seafood. Our young fishmongers have a specialist skill and knowledge that deserves to be recognised,” she said.
“As seafood consumers, our appetite for what is the healthiest protein on the market continues to grow with sales of €209 million last year.”
Three rounds of judging will be held including an anonymous visit to the retail shop to assess the overall premises, the seafood offering, the applicant’s product knowledge and customer service.
Eight fishmongers from Leinster, Dublin City and County, Munster and Connaught/Ulster will be shortlisted in August.
The final stages will include a skills test, with all finalists expected to prepare a range of fish and shellfish under time constraints.