Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Factories ending processing weeks earlier than normal as trends worsen

The Irish pelagic fish processing sector has recorded historical low levels of fish landings in Q1 of 2024, and with the mackerel landings effectively concluded; indications are that 2024 is set to be the worst year in the history of pelagic processing that Ireland has ever experienced stated Brendan Byrne CEO of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association.

2023 was a disastrous year for Pelagic Fish Processors, a statistic confirmed in the recently published Bord Bia report “Future Focused “, which showed a 45% decline in the volume of pelagic fish processed within the state or a drop-in value of pelagic exports of 31% in a twelve-month period.

2024 is already recording a worsening trend in the amount of pelagic fish processing activity and early indications are the pelagic fish processing sector is in real trouble. Currently numerous fish processors are already finished for the opening season of 2024.

That is at least 6 weeks early, this has knock-on consequences for all the coastal communities that depend on these factories for seasonal employment. Less weeks worked in the factories means less employment, less activities in these coastal communities and less income generated for all the depend on fishing for their income – all of this decline has massive negative impacts on the communities that depend on fishing for their seasonal or part time employment stated Brendan Byrne.

There are no readily available alternative sources of employment if fish processing fails within these coastal communities.

When you contrast the plight of the pelagic sector in Ireland to that of Norway, Iceland or the Faroe Islands; all of these states are recording massive growths in their sectors. It is extremely difficult to justify why this is happening, especially in terms of Norway that are allowed catch 200,000 mt of Blue Whiting west of Ireland, yet the indigenous fishing industry of Ireland is suffering loss after loss in recent years added Byrne.

The interim and transitional measures of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve failed to have any positive impact on the pelagic processing sector, and the accumulative impact of the TCA/Brexit cuts are now hitting home hard. 2024 is year four of a six-year agreement which realises Irish Quota being transferred directly to the UK as part of the Brexit Deal.

To date since 2021 from a solely fish processing value perspective – €169 million worth of processed fish has been lost due to Brexit transfers, and a further €110 million will be lost between 2025 and 2026.

Ireland has the greatest fishing grounds in all of the European Union, we have an industry that presently employs 17,000 people, we have the most modernised factories, the greatest skills and expertise in all of Europe but unless things change we may not have a future concluded Brendan Byrne