A growing sector with huge potential
Ireland has clean, unpolluted waters around its 7,500km coastline, rich in aquatic life. In its Food Harvest 2020 report, the Government outlined plans to double the value of Ireland's ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4 billion by 2020.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is the Irish State agency responsible for developing the Irish seafood industry and supports the delivery of the Food Harvest 2020 targets for seafood. BIM’s Seafood Development Centre (SDC) helps seafood companies to develop new products and processes, by providing an opportunity to test and trial innovative product and process ideas in its state-of-the-art facility, before committing to full commercialisation and capital-investment costs.
The main activities in the Irish seafood industry are:
Fishing – The top fishing ports in Ireland are Killybegs, Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay.
Fish farming – Aquaculture activity includes growing finfish, such as salmon and trout and shellfish farming, including the cultivation of mussels, oysters and scallops. Ireland’s output of farmed salmon is predominantly organic, and attracts a price premium on international markets.
Processing – seafood companies produce high-value products from salmon, whitefish, shellfish and pelagic fish species (e.g., herring, mackerel and horse mackerel) all of which generate substantial export earnings to the sector.
Research and innovation
As well as Ireland’s traditional seafood exports, the marine industry in Ireland is also involved in research to harness the potential of marine resources, including seaweeds, aquaculture, microalgae and marine processing by-products, as sources of functional-food ingredients.
An example of this research agenda is NutraMara, the Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative. NutraMara is a programme established for the identification and development of novel bioactive ingredients for functional foods from marine-derived resources. Additionally, NutraMara is developing model foods incorporating marine-derived bioactive ingredients, as well as active packaging applications enhanced with bioactive components. NutraMara also has the capability to carry out pilot human intervention studies, as well as animal feeding studies and aquaculture trials.
Established in 2008, NutraMara, as a consortium, brings together Irish marine and food science experts and capabilities from six institutions (and seven centres) throughout the island of Ireland. Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre leads the consortium. The Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in Ireland fund the project.