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BIM Publishes Inaugural Annual Fisheries Report

27th September 2022

BIM’s National Seafood Survey provides insights into the status of Ireland’s catching sector on an annual basis. It is an integral part of fisheries’ performance data reporting to the EU. Based on the most recent survey returns the Annual Fisheries Report 2022: A Snapshot of Ireland’s Fisheries Sector examines the economic performance of the national fleet and its multiple segments. It also details the social demographics of people employed in the sector and the current challenges impacting the industry.

The report provides insights and trends for the financial and operational performance of the Irish fishing fleet based on the economic data of 2020 operations. It also provides an overview of key forces impacting the economic performance of the Irish fleet from 2020- 2022 based on industry feedback. Some of the impacts referenced in the report include Covid-19, Brexit, inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Future projections for economic performance are included in the closing section.

Creating an accurate picture of the industry relies on a strong response rate and consistent support and goodwill from skippers and vessel owners to provide economic and operational data on an annual basis. The survey results help industry and policymakers understand the challenges and opportunities they face and the impact of fisheries management measures such as Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quota allocation.

Map illustrating the main fishing grounds of the Irish fleet (Source: Marine Institute)Map illustrating the main fishing grounds of the Irish fleet (Source: Marine Institute)

The survey returns also form the basis for the justification of national and EU grant aid programmes focused on supporting the industry and coastal communities. The next survey for 2021 will open in October 2022 and end on 31 January 2023.

The report is available here.

BIM will be hosting National Seafood Survey information meetings with vessel owners at various ports from October onwards to discuss the finding of the Annual Fisheries report 2022, the importance of returning the annual survey and how to register and complete the online National Seafood Survey for 2022.

If you would like to register to attend one of the meetings listed below, please email Dr. Sarah Perry, National Seafood Survey Coordinator, for further details: [email protected]

Additional meetings are scheduled with the NIFF and RIFFs and further meetings may be organised at more locations at a later date.

  • Killybegs
  • KFO Board Room, October 11th, 2022, at 2 pm
    Greencastle
  • BIM National Fisheries College, October 12th, 2022, at 6.30 pm
    Castletownbere
  • BIM National Fisheries College, October 18th, 2022, at 6.00 pm
    Dingle
  • Harbour Masters Office, October 19th, 2022, at 2.30 pm

The Annual Fisheries report has the following key findings for 2020:

Profitability of the Irish fleet has increased since 2019. Revenue increased by 2%, amounting to €312 million; gross value added (GVA) €161 million (+6%), gross profit €65 million (+24%) and net profit decreased to €32 million (-20%) due in part to Covid-19.

The Irish fishing fleet spent 77,460 days at sea, of which 84% were fishing days representing a decrease of 16% and 17%, respectively from 2019.

Energy consumption decreased by 35% over the same period reflecting this decrease in effort.

The fleet landed over 218,600 tonnes valued at €312 million, an increase of 5% from 2019 in live weight and an increase of 2% in landed value (€306.5 million). In 2021, the fleet landed 233,000 tonnes, an increase of 7% from 2020.

Overall, the cost structure of the fleet has remained stable, with a slight increase in all costs except non-variable costs (e.g., insurance, loan interest). Operating costs totalled €255 million, a slight increase of 1% from 2019 with energy costs increased by approximately 10%. When capital costs are included, the total cost of operating the national fleet rose by 4% since 2019 to €278.5 million.

Direct employment generated by the sector was estimated at 2,928 jobs corresponding to 2,684 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

Based on feedback from industry, the impact of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine on inflation and rising fuel costs was the main driving force influencing the economic performance of the Irish fleet in 2022. In 2020, average fuel costs per litre were €0.42 whereas average fuels costs per litre in mid-2022 stood at €0.90, representing a 114% increase in cost and the current reported costs of €1.20 per litre represents an 18% increase since 2020.

Future Projections

In terms of the outlook for economic performance for 2021-2022, preliminary data point to a decrease in revenue and profitability for the Irish fleet. For 2021, the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.
Preliminary data for 2022 compared to 2021 indicate a decrease in landings by weight (-17%), an increase in value of landings (+5%) and a decrease in gross profit (-12%) to €24.5 million. It is anticipated that the Brexit tie-up schemes will mitigate these projected outcomes and allow the industry to absorb the impacts of rising fuel costs for some segments of the fleet and the reduced access to fishing quota as a result of Brexit. In the long-term, decommissioning will help to bring fleet capacity back in balance with available quotas and improve the profitability for vessels remaining in the Irish fleet.

Published in Fishing, Aquaculture
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Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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