Seafood is big business for Ireland and last year was valued at €1.25 billion in GDP terms. While we have long had strong export links to the EU and the UK, Asia has fast moved up the ranks.
The recently published Business of Seafood report from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) revealed that exports of Irish seafood to Asia amounted to €96 million in 2018 - an increase of 23%. While the EU remains Ireland’s biggest market (totalling €373M), exports to the UK fell by 4% to €81 million, due to a decrease in the value of sterling.
Over 14,000 people are employed by the sector in fishing, aquaculture, seafood retail and more. The industry is particularly important in certain coastal areas; in Donegal, for example, it accounts for 12% of employment.
Introducing the new report, Jim O’Toole, BIM CEO said:
“Investment is happening at every level of the sector from investment in new fishing gear, improvements to vessels to make them more sustainable, to capital investment in processing industries. The sector has been responding to a challenging environment. Despite the continued uncertainty brought about by Brexit there’s still an underlying confidence in the sector as evidenced by the growth of investment.”
Interestingly, while Ireland exports such huge amounts of seafood, €330M worth of seafood was imported into the country in 2018. With a recent UN report releasing dire warnings about the state of biodiversity on the planet, and the need for sustainability, the way we obtain our food is under scrutiny. From what we eat to how we produce or transport it, it might well be the case that the next few years will bring change to the Irish seafood industry and beyond.