Bord Iascaigh Mhara's maritime festival is a celebration of our ocean wealth

The country’s seafood industry will have much to celebrate and many challenges to ponder in Galway this coming weekend when Bord Iascaigh Mhara holds its second maritime festival.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara's maritime festival is a celebration of our ocean wealth

Following a successful inaugural event in Cork last year, SeaFest is now firmly established as an annual salute to all things marine.

It will do so through a programme of discussions, exhibitions, produce and cookery demonstrations, fish tastings, tours of ocean going vessels and entertainment from June 30 to July 3.

And it will all take place in and around the apt setting of Galway Harbour where marine-themed events will honour Ireland’s multi-faceted relationship with the sea.

Irish seafood, which is worth over €910m in sales with a target of €1.5bn by 2025, is moving from a traditional bulk led commodity industry to one with an innovative growth.

It is seen as a key driver in bringing about balanced economic recovery to areas of Ireland outside the major cities and towns.

The industry has an excellent reputation on key international markets.

Exports last year were worth an estimated €554m.

The growing Asian market accounted for €45m of that figure which includes €27m trade with China.

A breakdown of the 11,000 people employed in the industry, mainly in coastal communities, shows it is comprised of fishermen (4,984) and fish farmers (1,716), and those engaged in processing (2,860) and ancillary activities (1,140).

The sector has 1,914 registered fishing vessels, 170 processors, and 250 acquaculture operators.

In addition, there is a significant number of artisan operations supplying dispersed local markets such as shops and restaurants.

Killybegs, Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, and Kilmore Quay are the top fishing ports.

While there will be a great deal to celebrate at SeaFest Galway, the challenges facing the industry will also be addressed at Global Insights: Irish Opportunity, BIM’s national seafood conference on Thursday in the Radisson Blu Hotel. The third annual Our Ocean Wealth conference will also take place in the National University of Ireland, Galway on Friday.

The Thursday conference will bring together national and international experts, the Government and academia. It will offer delegates the opportunity to hear first-hand analysis on the thinking and the policies at the forefront of seafood development worldwide.

Market intelligence, consumer thinking, the challenges facing the global seafood supply and insights into potential synergies within the Irish seafood sector will be addressed.

A range of structured breakout sessions in the afternoon will examine fishing profitably with zero discards, repositioning companies and products to maximise value, sustainability and working in seafood as a career for life.

BIM chief executive Tara McCarthy said it was very excited to be hosting the conference. It wants people from all sectors of the industry to attend.

“The key objective that BIM have is to use this opportunity to map our future vision for the industry, but that future vision can not be ours in a singular effect. It has to be the industry’s vision,” she said.

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed, who will deliver the closing address, will focus his speech upon Ireland’s new €241m seafood development programme.

Introduced under the co-funded European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, it will double development funding for the industry until the programme ends in 2021.

Investment schemes are being rolled out to assist seafood enterprises to sustainably grow production, add value to their seafood products and create much needed employment in Ireland’s coastal communities.

Mr Creed is expected to outline the government and EU support available to the industry including €67m in support for the sea fishing sector — with €45m from that funding committed to the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy and, in particular, the landing obligation.

A new €16m sustainable fisheries scheme, a fisheries local development scheme involving €12m investment and three schemes to drive forward the development of the processing sector were launched earlier this year.

In total, €24m will be invested in the processing sector under the programme which later this year will see the introduction of new schemes for producer organisations to assist them with fulfilling their vital central role within the Common Fisheries Policy reform process.

This year, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund has deployed €36m to a range of agencies to begin implementing the new seafood development programme.

BIM was allocated €22m of that funding — which it says will prove vital in the delivery of a strategy centred on the four corporate pillars of sustainability, innovation, competitiveness and skills, which collectively guide its national seafood conference agenda and programme.

SeaFest, supported by the Port of Galway, NUIG, the Department of Defence, and the Irish Coastguard, will make Galway the country’s marine and seafood capital for the weekend.

There will be opportunities to board leisure craft and boats, to view marine life exhibits and films and to view a new exhibition from the Marine Institute. The Institute’s research Vessels, the Celtic Explorer and the Celtic Voyager, will be conducting open-house tours of the ships over the festival.

And the Commissioner of Irish Lights, responsible for lighthouses right around the country, will be bringing its own ship, The Granuaile, into the harbour.

Mr Creed said SeaFest is all about raising awareness of the value and opportunities provided by the sea — providing locals and visitors alike with fresh opportunities to engage in sea-themed public events and activities.

“We’re proud to be playing our part in the wider ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’ initiative, providing opportunities for people of every age and interest to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the ocean, building on how we can each act to protect our abundant maritime resources,” he said.

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