Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The recently published Bord Bia Report “2023 – 2024 future focused “confirms that the Irish Seafood sector is facing the greatest challenges of its time, right across the various sectors the Bord Bia report confirms decline in exports, decline in volume of fish, decline in value of fish ; with added pressures in relation to increased costs and rampant energy inflation all of which are seriously impacting the seafood sector within our country states Brendan Byrne CEO Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association.

Irish Seafood exports stood at €550 million in 2023, that is a full 14% decrease in value over the 2022 figures. Similar to a 2022 BIM report “the Business of Seafood “which also showed a decrease of 17% in production. We now have two reports by two separate Semi State organisations stating that the Irish fishing industry is experiencing a prolonged cycle of decline and downward pressures on our industry. Meanwhile, we are not getting the appropriate level of support from the Government, if any other sector of the economy were to experience this level of decline immediate and appropriate measures would be implemented to support that industry added Byrne.

The Bord Bia report states that the pelagic sector experienced a fall of in export values of 31% in 2023 alone and more worrying a drop of 45% in volume compared with 2022. The alarm bells need to be ringing within the Government Departments and at Cabinet level, as these are truly shocking statistics to be published in any one singular report confirmed Brendan Byrne

The shellfish sector lost 7% in value of exports, although the full extent of the final quarter of 2023 was not fully factored into that final figure. The present situation is extremely challenging for the shellfish sector.

It reported that the entire whitefish sector was worth €50 million; and it further stated that weaker unit prices were a key factor. The challenges are endemic across all sectors of the fishing industry stated Brendan Byrne.

Returns for the value-add seafood sector are also recording a decline in 2023 according to Bord Bia.

It is self-evident to all that particular attention and sectoral supports need to be prioritised and focused on the Irish seafood sector in 2024, the loss of quota and negative impacts of the disastrous Brexit TCA deal has the potential to shut factories and lead to massive job losses in the current calendar year. Our coastal communities are already suffering, many part-time jobs or seasonal employment is becoming unsustainable due to the limited number of weeks work involved in fishing especially in recent years.

The knock-on consequences are impacting the service and supply sectors within our coastal communities as well, this we are witnessing more and more. When a crisis hits a sector, it is time for leaders to come to the fore, to date we have seen poor leadership and very little commitment. We are now exiting the period of supports from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund (BAR), the opportunity to provide anything of a meaningful and long-term impact has been lost and that accounts for the crises we are now entering.

The period ahead in Q1 & Q2 of 2024 will be critical and all of industry must unite to bring this ongoing crisis to the highest level of Government and opposition alike; the policy of more of the same will only confirm failure and that is not an option concluded Brendan Byrne.