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Bord Iascaigh Mhara Announce Winners of Inaugural National Seafood Awards

19th November 2016
BIM National Seafood Awards 2016  – A group shot of the inaugural winners with Tara McCarthy, BIM CEO & Kieran Calnan, BIM Chairman and Howley family (BIM Lifetime Achievement Award) including Blackshell Mussels, Sofrimar, Oceanpath & Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Island Seafoods, Foyle Warrior Ltd, Barry Shaw (Student of the Year), Stephen Hurley, The Fish Shop, Union Hall (Independent Young Fishmonger of the Year),  Eimantas Zvirblis, Donnybrook Fair, Malahide (Supermarket Seafood Counter), Jim Connolly, Responsible Fisherman of the Year, Dungarvan Shellfish BIM National Seafood Awards 2016 – A group shot of the inaugural winners with Tara McCarthy, BIM CEO & Kieran Calnan, BIM Chairman and Howley family (BIM Lifetime Achievement Award) including Blackshell Mussels, Sofrimar, Oceanpath & Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Island Seafoods, Foyle Warrior Ltd, Barry Shaw (Student of the Year), Stephen Hurley, The Fish Shop, Union Hall (Independent Young Fishmonger of the Year), Eimantas Zvirblis, Donnybrook Fair, Malahide (Supermarket Seafood Counter), Jim Connolly, Responsible Fisherman of the Year, Dungarvan Shellfish Photo: Paul Sherwood

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, announced the winners of the first ever BIM National Seafood Awards held on Thursday 17th November 2016 at a Gala Awards event in the Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Out of 38 finalists shortlisted across the areas of Skills, Sustainability, Innovation and Competitiveness, twelve winners received awards for their outstanding contributions to the fishing, fish farming, seafood processing and retail sectors at a ceremony officially opened by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed, T.D.

BIM’s CEO Tara McCarthy outlined the rationale behind the awards; ‘The Irish Seafood Sector contributes €1 billion in GDP to our economy and employs over 11,000 people predominantly in our coastal regions. The BIM National Seafood Awards provide us with the opportunity to celebrate the positive contribution of this valuable indigenous industry and recognize excellence and leadership across this diverse sector. It is an exciting time to work in seafood and the high standard demonstrated by our winners and all of our finalists bodes well for the future as we collectively aim to achieve growth as set out in the Government’s Food Wise 2025 plan’

The winners represent a wide geographical spread including three from Donegal; two each are from Cork and Dublin while Kerry, Kilkenny, Louth, Mayo, Waterford and Wexford each had one winner on the night.

Included in the list of winners are two talented young fishmongers; Stephen Hurley from The Fish Shop, Union Hall, Co. Cork and Eimantas Zvirblis from Donnybrook Fair, Malahide, Co. Dublin who have won the coveted title of BIM Young Fishmonger of the Year (Independent Seafood Specialist) and (Supermarket Seafood Counter).

The full list of winners from the first ever BIM National Seafood Awards are:

Category: Skills
· Student of the Year: Barry Shaw (Killybegs, Co. Donegal)

· Young Fishmonger of the Year (Independent Seafood Specialist): Stephen Hurley, The Fish Shop, Glenmar Shellfish, Union Hall, West Cork

· Young Fishmonger of the Year (Supermarket Seafood Counter): Eimantas Zvirblis, Donnybrook Fair, Malahide, Co. Dublin

Category: Sustainability
· Responsible Fisherman of the Year: Jim Connolly, Supreme II, Clogherhead. Co. Louth

· Aquaculture Environmental & Social Responsibility Award: Blackshell Farm, Newport, Co. Mayo

· Green Processor of the Year: Island Seafoods Ltd, Killybegs, Co. Donegal

Category: Innovation
· Best New Fishing Practice: Foyle Warrior Ltd, Greencastle, Co. Donegal

· Innovation in Aquaculture: Dungarvan Shellfish Ltd, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

· Innovation in Seafood Processing: Oceanpath/Dunn’s of Dublin (Howth, Co. Dublin) & Goatsbridge Trout Farm (Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny)

Category: Competitiveness:
· Fishing Enterprise of the Year: DC Fish Ltd (Union Hall, Cork)

· Aquaculture Enterprise of the Year: Kush Seafarms Ltd, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

· Seafood Enterprise of the Year: Sofrimar, Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford

Establishing leaders in the sector is a key priority for BIM and the final award of the evening, the BIM Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented to the family of a true leader in his field, the late Mr. Martin Howley, as BIM Chairman Kieran Calnan explains; ‘Martin exemplified everything you need to be a great leader. He led by example starting as a fisherman in Killybegs in the 1970’s rising to become a pioneering mackerel Skipper then a successful businessman and a great leader in the fishing industry. His passion, energy and innovative spirit were a unifying and driving force. Martin is a most worthy recipient of the BIM Lifetime Achievement Award’

BIM also introduced an exciting new brand identity to Industry at the event. Grounded in BIM’s plans to enable progress in the seafood sector under its four key priorities – Skills, Sustainability, Innovation and Competitiveness, this fresh and vibrant new look for one of Ireland’s longest established state agencies, is consistent with its vision for ‘Ireland to become the International leader in high value differentiated seafood products that satisfy growing domestic and international demand for nutritious, safe and responsibly and sustainably produced food’.

Details on BIM National Seafood Award 2016 winners:

Student of the Year - Barry Shaw, Killybegs, Co. Donegal
Barry Shaw is from Corkermore, Killybegs, Co. Donegal. He has completed his ‘Class 3 Certificate in Competency in Engineering’ at the National Fisheries College, Greencastle and is now serving his sea time on board a fishing vessel. Prior to the course Barry was serving his apprenticeship as a refrigeration engineer. He was always interested in fishing vessels so decided to further his career and knowledge of engines by doing the course at Greencastle. He loves doing his sea time on board the vessel “Ocean Fresh” and is just back from a trip off the coast of Africa. He said the travelling is fascinating as he is seeing parts of the world he has never seen before.

BIM Young Fishmonger of the Year:
a. Independent Seafood Specialist - Stephen Hurley

Stephen has worked at Glenmar Shellfish/The Fish Shop in Union Hall, Co. Cork for the past 10 years and lives overlooking Union Hall pier in West Cork. Stephen’s interest in the sea began as a young boy and, as a teenager, he became a crew man on a shrimp boat hauling shrimp pots every morning with his neighbour. Stephen prides himself on stocking locally caught fish and shellfish in store. On any given day he has upwards of 25 different species of fish and shellfish. He is in a unique position as he is on first name terms with the skippers and crews and can tell a customer exactly where their fish was caught and by who.

b. Supermarket Seafood Specialist - Eimantas Zvirblis

Eimantas Zvirblis works in Donnybrook Fair’s flagship store in Malahide which opened last Christmas. His passion in life is fish and realised he had a skill in this area when working for the Dublin Smoked Fish company in 2010. He also previously worked in Nicky’s Plaice in Howth, where he developed his customer service skills.
Donnybrook Fair has a large range of seafood on its counter including whole fish, fillets, shellfish, smoked fish, marinade fish, and ready-to-cook fish. Eimanatas particularly enjoys sharing fish recipes with his customers. He believes in his product and eats fish seven days a week. ‘Many of my colleagues in Donnybrook Fair are now eating more fish and many customers are telling me that they are eating more fish too. I believe that spreading this passion is a very important part of being a fishmonger’, Eimantas says.

Responsible Fisherman of the Year - Jim Connolly, Supreme II
Jim Connolly owns and skippers the “MFV Supreme II” which is based at Clogherhead, Co. Louth. He is a board member of Clogherhead Fishermans Co-Op and has been pro-active in undertaking a number of sustainability initiatives to deliver on targets for the Bord Bia Origin Green programme. The “MFV Supreme II” was one of the first vessels to sign up for BIM’s Fishing for Litter trial and Jim participated in a radio documentary, “Fishing for Litter”. He also participates in BIM’s net recycling programme and works closely with Clogherhead Development Group on recycling.
“MFV Supreme II” has its crew welfare as a priority. Jim is committed to the safety and comfort of his crew and the crew s of his fellow vessels in the Clogherhead fleet. He has been instrumental in putting a Co-Op fork lift in other ports where the Co-Op fleet works to assist crews with heavy lifting tasks. He is monitoring the vessel’s fuel efficiency. Jim also organised and designed stretching posts in the hall on the pier to ensure the gear is “weighted” for fuel efficiency – this also reduces the need for excessive use of fork lifts.

Aquaculture, Environmental and Social Responsibility Award - Blackshell Farm
Blackshell Farm is based in Westport, Co. Mayo and has been producing certified organic rope-grown mussels since 1983. They run a marine cargo service servicing the west coast of Ireland and also produce knitted mussel cotton. Blackshell uses only biodegradable and reusable materials to grow their mussels. Director Michael Mulloy is the current Chair of the Irish Shellfish Association, is a director of Clew Bay Oyster Co-Op (since 1988) and is a member of the Clew Bay CLAMS (Co-ordinated Local Aquaculture Management Scheme) group. He also has been a member of a national committee established by BIM to create a mussel quality scheme. Blackshell is certified by Organic Trust Ltd as an organic mussel grower, conforms rigidly to national sampling and monitoring programmes operated by the Marine Institute and the SFPA. They also participated in the ECOpact initiative run by BIM. Blackshell commissioned and expanded a knitting plant in Westport for biodegradable mussel stocking. They continually seek to achieve maximum return from the mussel biomass on their growing sites by ensuring they have optimum density of mussels on the rope. Blackshell monitor fuel usage closely and calculated that only 1 litre of fuel is required to produce 95kg of market size mussels. All product is delivered by sea to the onshore processing plant, eliminating the need for heavy goods vehicle movements on narrow local roads.

Green Processor of the Year - Island Seafoods Ltd
Island Seafoods is a family-owned and run business based just outside Killybegs, Co. Donegal. A verified member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, their fish are fully traceable from “net to fork” and are caught in the North East Atlantic. Island Seafoods was the first company in Ireland to be RSS (Responsibly Sourced Standard) certified by BIM. Managing Director, Mick O’Donnell has been responsible for and integral in driving the green initiative within Island Seafoods. The company has a “squeaky clean carbon footprint” they say as they have their own Hydro-electric plant which saves over 350 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. They are also moving into wind energy.
Their state-of-the-art waste water treatment plant was commissioned in 1996 and is now seen as the standard for the industry. They also treat wastewater for other businesses in the area. In recent years, they have focused on improving efficiencies within the plant and their Green Team meet regularly to progress this. Energy is managed as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Island Seafoods is certified organic by Bio Suisse and Naturland.

Innovation in Aquaculture – Dungarvan Shellfish Ltd
Dungarvan Shellfish is owned by the Harty Family in Dungarvan. an oyster farm producing up to 500 tonnes of Gigas oysters each year. The company buys 20 million oyster seed per year which is usually purchased from hatcheries in France at 6mm. This seed however was suffering a high level of mortality (up to 50%) and it was difficult to get it at the right size and time needed.

To overcome these problems Dungarvan Shellfish set up their own nursery. They started importing seed at 1.5mm instead of 6mm and growing it up to 8mm within only six weeks. After two years of using this new method mortality rates are down 15% and the shape of the oyster has improved.
The cost of buying smaller seed is considerably cheaper. The nursery system that Dungarvan Shellfish has installed is very economical to run and profits have increased considerably. The company plans to make the nursery self-sufficient in seed input and to be in a position to supply other producers with excess seed stock.

Best New Fishing Practice Award - Foyle Warrior Ltd
Foyle Warrior, based in Greencastle, Co. Donegal, has introduced new mesh netting on its vessel the Foyle Fisher, in a mixed demersal fishery in the Celtic Sea. The introduction of the new T90 mesh has resulted in major reductions in catches of undersize whiting therefore complying with new regulations. Traditionally the Foyle Fisher was using 80mm diamond mesh netting when targeting whiting. The new T90 comprises diamond mesh rotated 90 degrees which results in increased mesh openings in the cod-end. This has reduced catches of below market size by 60%. The quality of the catch is also greatly improved and the crew has to spend less time picking and sorting the catch.
Less time spent handling the catch means more time fishing and greater profitability. Substantial improvements in fish quality also add value to the catch.

Foyle Warrior say the cost of introducing T90 was low and can therefore be adopted by the industry. The company is constantly looking for new ways to catch the right sort of fish and improve the quality of the catch.

Innovation in Seafood Processing: Oceanpath Dunn’s of Dublin and Goatsbridge Trout
The innovation was a coming together of Oceanpath Dunn’s of Dublin a seafood processor, with Goatsbridge Trout, a trout farmer, to develop the market for Irish Trout in Ireland. Both companies saw an opportunity to develop sales for trout in a seafood market that was dominated by salmon.

The initial innovation was developing a fixed weight boneless trout fillet for sale on fish counters. Following on from this both companies realised there was an opportunity to develop ready to eat trout products. The first product developed was a cold smoked trout which is now available in all major retailers and is generating retail sales of approximately €400k per annum.

Following on from the success of this product a bbq trout and smoked trout pate were launched. The trout pate has been a fantastic success adding €100k worth of retail sales. Goatsbridge is now a well known brand in seafood and has grown sales of Irish trout significantly. The products have also won Great Taste Awards and Blas na hEireann awards.

Seafood Enterprise/Entrepreneur of the Year -Lorcan Barden & Leslie Bates, Sofrimar Ltd
Lorcan Barden and fellow director, Leslie Bates acquired Sofrimar in 2,000 via a management buyout. Both directors are very strongly committed to ongoing education, upskilling and training for themselves and their staff. Sofrimar invests heavily in the best available technology for the seafood sector and this, combined with a strong focus on staff development, new product development, market expansion and operational excellence has seen a strong growth in turnover, profitability and employment for the company.

A member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, Sofrimar’s commitment to sustainability was recognised earlier this year when it won the “Green Seafood Business Award”. Sofrimar supports co-opetition and worked in partnership with other seafood companies to access international markets including China (where they opened an office in Shanghai), Hong Kong, Taiwan, Spain and Portugal. Sofrimar employs 134 people and has increased both turnover and employee numbers threefold since 2009.

Fishing Enterprise of the Year - DC Fish Ltd
DC Fish is owned and managed by the Deasy family who operate a successful seafood business model that offers a ‘frozen at sea’ product range to domestic retail and export driven wholesale seafood business. The company employs nine staff and has an annual turnover of over €1.8 million.
A significant but focused investment in facilities by DC Fish in recent years enabled under-utilised whitefish product to be frozen at sea and supplied to a developing and growing domestic market. In addition, frozen prawn products were tailored to the domestic retail and food service market. The company was one of the early adopters of the ‘frozen at sea’ method and have proven that there is significant scope to improve the profitability in both the catching and processing sectors via this process.

DC Fish has formed a partnership with a local businessman and opened a fish retail premises in nearby Rosscarbery – Fish Seafood Deli. The business employs 11 full-time staff and 10 part-time staff and has gone from being a retail operation to selling fresh directly to hotels and restaurants and from two mobile units. The company has also developed a range of seafood products which they launched into 20 Super Valu stores in recent months.

Aquaculture Enterprise of the Year Award - Kush Seafarms Ltd
Kush Seafarms was established in June 1987 and is a family-run business based in Kenmare, Co. Kerry. It is Ireland's first organise rope mussels producer and specialises in the export of shellfish globally with particular emphasis on Europe.
The lack of a functioning licensing system and dependence on the commodity outlets for its products meant that Kush struggled to find growth in the sector. In 2009 they devised a new strategy based on innovation, value-added and partnerships. In June of the same year, Kush was the first Irish company to secure organic certification. They then, uniquely for the sector, approached the rope mussel processing sector vis-à-vis outsourcing. In 2010, working with Carr Shellfish Ireland, they launched an organic vacuum pack mussel at Biofach (the world’s leading trade fair for organic food). Contracts with companies in Switzerland and France followed and they are currently working on the US market. Kush decided there was potential in the premium rope mussel IQF meat product and agreed an outsourcing arrangement in Holland in 2011. Despite the growth, employment figures have remained stable thanks to increased mechanisation and the company is profitable.
Martin Howley was born in Castleconnor on the Mayo/Sligo border in 1952. At 17, his school had a visit from BIM as part of a promotional campaign to recruit young men to the fishing industry. Martin immediately set off for Killybegs to begin his career. In the course of his apprenticeship Martin fished on several boats and in 1980 he joined Skipper John Bach as Mate on the MFV Western Viking, Killybegs Fishing Enterprise’s first RSW vessel. In 1981 Martin graduated to Skipper when the company purchased the MFV Jasper Sea and so began the phenomenally successful partnership of these two vessels and their skippers. In recent years Martin was joint owner of MFV Atlantic Challenge along with other vessels.
Martin was a board member of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation since it was founded in 1979 and became a well-known figure in Brussels where he fought unswervingly for all Irish fishermen. His final project as KFO member was his involvement in the setting up the Bio-Marine Ingredients Ireland plant in Killybegs. This work is ongoing and is a perfect example of the broad vision of a man who could see the benefits of combining the health supplement industry with a fisheries product

Published in Fishing Team

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