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Ireland’s seafood sector remains “resilient” in spite of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) says.

Its annual Business of Seafood report says that Ireland’s seafood economy declined in 2020, with a drop of 12% (-€142million) compared to 2019, giving a total value of €1.1 billion.

It says this was driven mainly by a reduction of 18% in domestic consumption due to the closure of the food-service sector with additional impacts of a 17% reduction (-€44 million) in private investment and an 8% decline (-€50 million) in exports.

Global markets faced severe disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, and when added to the continued uncertainty from the UK’s departure from the EU, this made for challenging trading conditions.

It says that despite these challenges the seafood sector remained resilient and adapted to the disruption the market faced. While there was a decrease of 18% in domestic consumption to €406 million, mainly due to a fall in sales in foodservice, this was somewhat offset by a 6% increase (€18m) in retail sales.

There was also a reduction in private investment to €213 million (-17%) reflecting the uncertainty in the markets leading to cautious activity from many seafood businesses. There was also a decline in our seafood balance of trade (exports – imports) which fell by €28 million (-10%) to €263 million.

Overall investment in the sector was €416 million, equivalent to 39% of seafood GDP, a slight increase compared to 2019, underlining the importance of strong public sector support through times of economic turbulence.

Ireland imported some €327 million euro worth of fish last year, with €188million coming from Britain.

While exports of Irish seafood to European and Asian markets were hit, Ireland’s mackerel landings drove an 87 per cent increase in the value of exports to Africa and a 43 per cent increase to the Middle East.

The assessment states that the total value of Ireland’s seafood economy in 2020 was just under €1.1 billion - a decrease of 12% (-€142million) on 2019.

BIM says this was “driven mainly by the severe disruption in global markets”, while “the continued uncertainty of the UK’s departure from the EU made for challenging trading conditions”.

“Despite the pandemic, and even with reduced demand in the foodservice sector, employment in the seafood sector remained stable in 2020,”it says, with over 16,000 employed directly and indirectly in the seafood industry.

Employment remained “high” in coastal regions, generating “significant socioeconomic value in these areas”, particularly Donegal, Cork, Galway-Clare and along the east coast.

“Undoubtedly 2020 was a challenging year for the seafood sector but yet again the sector displayed its ability to adjust and refocus to the available market opportunities,”Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue said.

“The Irish seafood sector sells a lot of its produce to foodservice markets in Europe and in Asia which experienced lengthy lockdowns significantly impacting sales,”BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

He said the industry showed “great agility” during the year, switching where possible from supplying hospitality to supplying the retail market and online sales.

Domestic consumption amounted to €406m, down 18%, exports-imports were valued at €263m, down 10% and private investment was valued at €213, down 17%, BIM says.

However, there was an increase of 9% on government investment – an increase to €203m.

Overall investment in the sector was €416 million, equivalent to 39% of seafood GDP, a slight increase compared to 2019, it says.

Some 346 million euro worth in landings was recorded in Irish ports last year, with Killybegs, Co Donegal recording 112 million euro and Castletownbere, Co Cork, recording 104 million euro worth of landings.

Some 406 million euro in domestic sales value involved 316 million euro in retail and 90 million euro in “food service”.

Top selling species were salmon at €120m and cod at€46m, and the main export markets were the EU, valued at €321m, Britain at €93m and Africa at €75m

The volume of seafood produced by the Irish seafood sector surpassed 220,000 tonnes with a value of €394m, it says.

While less than 20% of this volume was produced by the aquaculture sector, it contributed 46% of the total value.

Species by value:

  • Salmon €127m (+13%)
  • Irish Rock Oysters €37m (-19%)
  • Seabed Cultured Mussels €7m (-15%)
  • Rope mussels €6m (-11%)
  • Other finfish €2m (+12%)
  • Other shellfish €1m (-6%)

By volume:

  • Salmon 13,400 (+14%)
  • Irish Rock Oysters 9,000 (-14%)
  • Seabed Cultured Mussels 4,400 (-11%)
  • Rope mussels 10,300 (-1%)
  • Other finfish 600 (-1%)
  • Other shellfish 300 (-1%)
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BIM, Ireland's Seafood Development Agency, are hosting a Rainwater Harvesting Webinar for Irish Seafood Processing businesses to examine the benefits of adopting rainwater harvesting systems on site and provide opportunities for improving water management and reducing water costs.

The free webinar will take place on Thursday 25th March at 13.00 and all seafood processors are welcome to register their attendance.

The event is being hosted by BIM, in conjunction with our Water Stewardship Programme partners, Central Solutions and is just one of a series of sustainable resource management webinars which BIM’s Green Seafood Business Programme will be hosting over the coming year. Other areas addressed under the Programme are the efficient management of energy, waste, and emissions.

Speaking in advance of the event, Martina O’Brien, Green Programme Co-ordinator, BIM said, “Water is a shared natural resource and is essential to everything we do in the seafood sector. However, its supply is limited, and this will pose a major challenge in the coming decade. We must act now to ensure we understand the potential risks to seafood businesses and identify sustainable solutions to this significant issue. This Rainwater Harvesting webinar is an opportunity to gain awareness around sustainable water management, develop a better understanding of water use on your site, and identify potential cost savings opportunities in relation to water use.”

The live-streamed event will include speakers from BIM, Central Solutions, Ireland’s water management specialists, members of the seafood processing sector, and BIM.

To register for the webinar, click here

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, has extended the deadline of its National Seafood Survey by two weeks in an effort to increase response rates. The survey is designed to highlight the importance of fishing to families and their wider communities in Ireland.

More than one in ten (14%) of Ireland’s 1400 under 10m inshore fishing vessel owners have already completed the survey. All remaining under 10-metre vessel owners now have an opportunity to complete the survey until Monday, 8 February 2021.

Vera O’Donovan, Regional Development Officer, BIM spoke of the importance of inshore fisheries to coastal communities in Ireland and said:

“There are many competing interests for the marine resource. It's vital that inshore fisheries can co-exist in the marine space and have their economic and social contribution to rural society acknowledged fully.”

Inclusion of under 10-metre vessel data will help to provide a more accurate account of the economic contribution that the inshore sector brings to coastal communities and to inform both National and EU policymakers. 

A copy of the survey and a freepost envelope for its return was posted to every under ten-metre fisher in Ireland in December. The survey can also be completed online and emailed to [email protected]. For more details or to download a copy of the survey click here

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s role in certifying the Irish mussel industry as “sustainable” has earned it an “Ocean Hero” award from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The MSC, based in Britain, is an international non-profit organisation which sets “globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability”.

The MSC UK Ocean Hero award “recognises and rewards” fisheries and organisations that have “demonstrated exemplary leadership in the field of seafood sustainability and made a unique contribution to furthering the sustainability of fisheries”.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) holds three MSC mussel certificates in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish and Irish rope grown mussel fisheries were certified in 2019, and the Irish bottom grown mussel fishery achieved certification in 2013.

The blue MSC label on a seafood product certifies that comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.

The label can be found on more than 100 species of seafood in 100 countries

“BIM is an example of vision, commitment and dedication in its push for making the Irish mussel industry 100% MSC certified and sustainable,” MSC senior fisheries outreach manager for Britain and Ireland Katie Keay said.

“Environmental and social sustainability underpins the seafood industry on the island of Ireland,” BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

"This MSC award recognises the collaboration and cross-industry efforts of the bottom grown and rope mussel operators for a sustainable future,” he said.

The Irish mussel industry was valued at €11.7 million in 2018 according to the BIM Business of Seafood report.

The mussel industry in Ireland produces more than 15,000 tonnes of mussels a year. This method of mussel farming was introduced in the 1980s predominantly along the west coast of Ireland.

The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) was highly commended in the “Ocean Hero” category at the MSC awards for its management of the hake gill net fishery.

The CFPO podcast for fishermen, named “ Fathom”, kept its fishing industry informed of developments throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in Britain.

It also teamed up with Seafood Cornwall’s #FishToYourDoor initiative, which brought together fish merchants and customers to support Cornish fishermen through the Corona virus crisis.

Published in Aquaculture
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, is to host a webinar on Wednesday 9th September 2020 at 2 pm on how the role of cultural values can be integrated more in small-scale fisheries management.

The webinar, which will be chaired and facilitated by BIM and organised by the Cabfishman project, will address the role of cultural values in the management of small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic and how these values can be more adequately accounted for.

Commenting on the Cabfishman project and webinar, Richard Curtin, Senior Economist with BIM said, “The Cabfishman project is an important international project with partners from Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, addressing common issues facing the small-scale fleets along the Atlantic. A crucial element of the project is the assessment of cultural heritage associated with the sea, fishing and the small-scale fleets and how to value that contribution so it can be accounted for in decision-making and policies and that is something which we are going to explore in this webinar.”

“One of the tasks of the project is to collate examples of cultural heritage and to create an open-access library of these examples that can be added to overtime. From an Irish perspective, we have collated over 400 examples, ranging from artwork by Paul Henry and others, traditional craftsmanship such as currach making, to ancient fishing knowledge such as ‘marcanna na tallamh’.”

This webinar, organised by the Cabfishman project, financed through the INTREREG Atlantic Area Programme, aims to address several questions via the following presentations:

Speakers and topics:

  • Evaluating the cultural services of small-scale fisheries in the Atlantic Area – David Castilla (University of Huelva)
  • Do small-scale fisheries need yet another research project? From output to outcome through stakeholder involvement – Marta Ballesteros (CETMAR Foundation)
  • Do cultural values play a role in Small Scale Fisheries Management? – Norah Parke (Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation)

The webinar is open to the public to attend and fishers, managers, officials, and those with an interest in the future co-management of small-scale fisheries in Ireland are actively encouraged to attend. To register for the free event visit here

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The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) National Fisheries College of Ireland in Castletownbere, Co. Cork is piloting the Skipper Full Certificate of Competency as an online course, commenced this week (6th May 2020). The Skipper Full Programme will be conducted as a nine-week online course, followed by three weeks in situ in Castletownbere once the college can open for the new academic term in accordance with COVID restrictions.

This is a popular full-time course, designed for fishermen with a Second-Hand Full Certificate of Competency, and 12 months sea time in that capacity, who wish to gain further qualifications in skippering a vessel. The course delivers tuition in a range of core navigation and safety skills that will aid successful participants to obtain a Skipper Full Certificate of Competency.

BIM took the decision to pilot the training online as it will allow students the opportunity to complete their studies this year. Speaking after the online pilot was announced, Ian Mannix, Skills Development Services Manager, BIM said, “We felt it was important in the current difficult circumstances that students should have the option to continue their training, supported by BIM and embracing new technologies and teaching methods. We are actively looking at what other programmes we can introduce online to support our students’

BIM Skills Development unit is one of BIM’s five organisational units and is focussed on enhancing the attractiveness and viability of careers in the seafood sector. This is achieved by creating fully recognised and accredited pathways for lifelong learning and career progression, featuring recognition of prior learning and portable modular qualifications.

Capt. Shane Begley, College Principal, National Fisheries College of Ireland, Castletownbere spoke of the students’ reaction saying, “Currently we have four students enrolled on the pilot programme and I’m heartened to see how quickly they have adapted to online learning. It’s fantastic to be able to facilitate their ongoing training and we look forward to providing similar support with some of our other courses”.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency and the Irish Forum on Natural Capital co-hosted a breakfast seminar Exploring Natural Capital Solutions for the Marine Environment today in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. Natural Capital is the available stock of renewable and non-renewable resources that support human life. Natural Capital Accounting applies a measurable value to natural capital in economic and/or ecological terms.

The aim of the seminar, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was to raise awareness and understanding of Natural Capital Accounting and to explore how it might be used by the seafood and other marine sectors.

Speaking at the event, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said:

“ The Irish seafood sector depends on natural resources. BIM is constantly exploring new ways to help the industry improve its performance in a way that is sustainable. This focus on the protection of our marine environment will safeguard coastal communities reliant on the sector into the future.”

Jane Stout, Chair of the Irish Forum on Natural Capital and Professor in Ecology in Trinity College Dublin spoke of the similarities between ecology and economics. She said:

“We need to bring nature into decision making. We need to recognise that nature is the fundamental stock that underpins all of our activities. This language of natural capital brings the language of nature into the language of business. It’s not about putting a price on nature. We can put a price and monetary value on nature but that’s not the whole story. It doesn’t tell us about nature’s wider contribution to the ecosystem.”

Earlier this year, BIM commissioned The Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting (IDEEA Group) to undertake a feasibility study of the Irish seafood sector to explore whether natural capital accounting could be applied.

Carl Obst and Mark Eigenraam of the IDEEA were among the speakers at today’s event, that included economists and environmental scientists. Speaking at the seminar, Carl Obst said:

“Natural capital accounting recognises and accounts for our relationship with and dependence on the environment. By adopting the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) BM is providing national leadership in the seafood sector in Ireland.”

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, and the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) co-hosted a net management workshop in Castletownbere, West Cork this month. The aim of the day-long event, attended by a cross -section of the Irish seafood sector and auxiliary industries, was to track the ‘journey’ of fishing gear from its initial entry into the market to its end of life or ‘retirement’. The workshop also looked at ways to better analyse and understand the source of marine litter brought ashore by the Irish catching fleet today.

New plastics and circular economy polices underpin emerging trends in sustainability. They require member states to minimise the impact of plastics on the environment and to increase the opportunities for used plastics to be recycled and retained instead of ending up on a landfill.

As of October 2019, a total of 224 fishing vessels are registered to Fishing For Litter (FFL). The national programme, where fishing vessels voluntarily collect and take ashore all marine litter they collect during normal fishing activities at sea, forms part of the wider Clean Oceans Initiative. The application of circular economy principles is key to the new national initiative to reduce marine waste so that fishing vessels can develop new ways to record, log and make an inventory of gear and marine waste. To date, 49 vessels are registered to Fishing for Litter in the port of Castletownbere. This represents one fifth of the national fleet.

“The local determination to demonstrate their fishing gear management is outstanding. Other key stakeholders such as the harbour management, net makers are also behind the objective and are keen to help communicate and validate the responsible approach taken by the large majority in Castletownbere”, said Patrick Murphy, CEO, ISWFPO.

The EU Commission is currently developing new ways to monitor and report fishing gear, from being placed on the market to its retirement. The Commission is also exploring ways to better analyse marine litter. The final report will be available in July 2020.

BIM’s establishment of the Fishing for Litter programme in 2015, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, has given Ireland a head start. The state agency for the development of the seafood sector is also working on ways to improve the characterisation of waste and marine litter. Progress in this area will ultimately lead to stronger insights about marine waste. BIM has also been handling end of life gear aspects since 2006. However, the new EU directives and polices on plastics will give a new impetus to addressing end of life gear.

“Demonstrating the responsible management of our gear at its end of life is a priority. A full trawl gear could have up to a 10-year life span and is an expensive key piece of equipment. We are keen to work with BIM to identify how best to monitor and record our gear efficiently and to demonstrate this objectively”, explained ISWFPO chairman, Damien Turner.

In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BIM was recently appointed an SDG champion for four of the goals, two of which are particularly relevant where plastics and marine waste are concerned; SDG 14( Life Below Water; a target of which is to help prevent and reduce marine pollution) and SDG12( application of environmentally sound management of all waste through their life cycle).

“The aim of the Champions programme is to raise awareness of the SDGs and to show through the example of the Champions that everyone in society can make a contribution to achieving the 17 Goals. The catching sector is a key contributor to ensuring that we can improve the outcomes for Life Below Water and maximise the lifecycle and recoverable costs of plastics used by the catching sector, the Clean Oceans Initiative will be instrumental in delivering on these SDGs ”, explained Catherine Barrett, BIM.

Representatives from two EU funded projects, ‘Blue Circular Economy’ and ‘Circular Seas’, tasked with creating opportunities for end of life fishing gear, also attended the workshop in Castletownbere.

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Ireland’s first accredited fishmonger qualification has been launched today in the fishing port of Howth, Co Dublin. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has developed the Certificate in Fishmonger Skills accredited by nationally and internationally recognised Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Ian Mannix, BIM described how the aim of the training is to retain and attract talent into the industry. He said:

“ Today’s consumer has come to expect their fishmonger to have a broad knowledge of seafood. They want them to be able to advise them when they are at the counter. This new programme will provide solid, fully certified training to anyone working in seafood retailing; practical skills they can then apply in the industry Moreover, improved skills in the workplace will ultimately lead to better sales and better retention of staff.”

The new training combines practical and classroom learning and includes modules on seafood labelling, nutrition and food safety. The programme also includes hands-on demonstrations in fish fileting and culinary skills and is aimed at existing staff in seafood retailing or those interested in pursuing a career in the industry.

Master fishmonger, Hal Dawson is one of the trainers on the new programme. He has worked in the seafood industry since 1972. He said:

“ The new course will provide professionalism within the industry. Having this qualification on your cv, will give fishmongers a real advantage.”

The value of seafood retail sales in 2018 was €297 million according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. Sales of loose fish experienced the sharpest increase (+8%) in comparison to pre-packed (+1%). Salmon remains the number one fish species bought by consumers in Ireland. However, there has been a marked increase in demand for lesser-known species owing to higher awareness of sustainability and provenance.

Laura Desmond, National Sales Manager, Oceanpath, completed the pilot fishmonger skills programme in 2018. She spoke of how the training has given her more experience in grading fish quality and food safety and said:

“ I started out in sales and engineering and made a switch to the fish business when my mother passed away in 2010. I now manage Reid’s Fish Market and Oceanpath. I love the freedom of my job. I’m in my car, and get to share my passion and knowledge of seafood to fishmongers working in the different stores.”

I can go into any of our stores now and ensure we’re selling the best quality fish.

The Certificate in Fishmonger Skills is taking place in Dublin and Cork early 2020. To find out more or to request an application form, please email seafoodskills.ie or go towww.bim.ie

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A marine garden containing almost 30,000 cubic litres of Atlantic seawater and brimming with sea life from different types of seaweeds to fish species native to Irish waters has been named the overall winner in the concept garden category at Bloom 2019 today. As previously reported by Afloat, the Bord Iascaigh Mhara sponsored garden, Aquamarine, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was designed by wife and husband team Liat and Oliver Shurmann and highlights the need to protect Ireland’s marine environment against plastic waste.

BIM MARINE GARDEN WINS GOLD AT BLOOMGold Bloom winners - l-r, Tara McCarthy, CEO Bord Bia; Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM; Liat Shurmann; Oliver Shurmann and Gary Graham, Manager Bloom, Bord Bia Photo: Julien Behal

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said: “ Marine, human and all other life is contingent upon a marine environment that’s clean and free from pollution and plastics. Every item of plastic that surrounds the garden at Bloom is a real example of marine litter that has been collected by fishermen and members of the wider fishing and seafood industry in Ireland. Sustainability is central to BIM’s strategy and it’s the driving force for men and women working in the seafood industry in Ireland.”

The fish species and water will be returned to the sea when Bloom ends on Monday and all of the materials used in the garden have been either salvaged or recycled and will be reused.

Oliver Shurmann spoke about the design of the marine garden and said: “It’s designed to look like a scientific cross-section of a landscape with layers of plastics visible underneath it. That’s what we [Liat and I] wanted to achieve. We wanted to create an atmosphere and to combine something beautiful with something that was repulsive. This will shock people. Children will see this and wonder, ‘what are we doing?’”

The garden has been designed to highlight the problem of plastics in our oceans as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative that was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food the Marine, Michael Creed earlier this year.

Catherine Morrison, Sustainability and Certification Manager at BIM, spoke of how the marine garden aims to raise awareness of the impact plastic is having on the marine environment and how fishermen and fish farmers in Ireland are working together to address the problem. She said:

“ It’s hard to quantify how much plastic is in our oceans but the average adult in Ireland uses roughly 60kg of plastic every year, one of the highest rates of any country in the European Union. Not all of the plastic ends up in the oceans, but the plastic that does causes a problem.” 

Aquamarine is open to visitors each day of Bloom from Thursday 30th May until Monday 3rd June.

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