In the Chairman's statement, Rose McHugh said: "With total seafood sales on both domestic and export markets of €714.76 million, the decline of 5.6 per cent on the corresponding value in 2007 reflects the difficult economic conditions both domestically and globally that the industry currently faces.
However, it is clear from the results, particularly in the salmon sector, that we continue to achieve strong sales from our excellent reputation for quality seafood worldwide. It is crucial that we focus on maximising our indigenous industries including the seafood sector, to ensure the potential for growth is realised to secure the maximum economic and social contribution to Ireland’s coastal communities and to the country as a whole."
In his report, Chief Executive, Jason Whooley, said: "2008 represented a challenging year for the industry with reduced prices for high value species, in particular, and increased fuel prices severely impacting the industry. The current climate has forced a new reality on the industry, their communities and customers; it is imperative that we collectively face this reality to ensure the sector can secure a future in a highly competitive global market.
"However, with great challenges come great opportunities; we have a strong fishing and aquaculture industry that is well respected worldwide and this was clearly demonstrated by the sector's robust performance in 2008 despite very difficult trading conditions.
"Sales of salmon emerged as the seafood sector's star performer where sales increased by 13 per cent in 2008 to €58.7 million. Pre-packed sales of salmon were up a substantial 28.8 per cent on 2007. The pelagic sector also performed well where sales of mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting and herring reached €130 million.
"Total retail sales volume of all seafood increased by 12 per cent in 2008 while the value of these sales increased by 3.2 per cent to €185.8 million
"With an estimated value of €131 million, the aquaculture industry continues to significantly contribute to the seafood sector, and is due to further increase its share of total fish supplies into the future. For example, BIM believes that there is immediate scope for expansion of the organic certified farmed salmon sector with the potential to create significant new jobs.
"In 2007, Ireland produced 10,000 tonnes of farmed salmon of which some 70 per cent was certified organic and these fish fetched a price premium 40 per cent above the regular market price. It is estimated that the markets could comfortably absorb at least another 5,000 tonnes of Irish organic farmed salmon without impacting on the price. An uplift of 5,000 tonnes in output of organic salmon from Ireland could generate up to 300 full-time equivalent jobs in this area alone.
"In 2007, Ireland produced 10,000 tonnes of farmed salmon of which some 70 per cent was certified organic"
Consideration of applications for grant assistance towards the cost of undertaking new investments in the aquaculture industry in Ireland were awaiting the adoption by Government of the National Seafood Plan 2007-2013. This Plan incorporates all Measures which are not co-funded from the European Fisheries Fund and at the request of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was drawn up by BIM and subjected to the strategic environmental assessment process.
Following completion of a process of public consultation, the Plan was submitted by BIM to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in December 2008. Arising from this, there was a hiatus in 2008 in the momentum for new investment in the aquaculture industry.
During 2008, two new aquaculture projects were approved under the Aquaculture Development Measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The scope for new approvals under this programme arose from funding which had been decommitted from projects previously approved under the NDP 2000-2006.
As Government approval for the National Seafood Plan 2007-2013 was awaited, there were no grant approvals under BIM's Pilot and Fish Handling Grant Schemes in 2008. The BIM funding allocation for aquaculture in 2008 was directed to reducing the grant liabilities in projects approved prior to 2008.
NDP aquaculture grant payments of €1,932,663 were made to 20 projects, supported under the NDP 2000-2006, comprising €1,476,435 in FIFG grants and €456,227 in Exchequer grants. These payments underpinned an overall investment of €4.071 million.
During 2008, BIM made grant payments of €1,382,991 to 73 projects under BIM's Aquaculture and Fish Handling Grant Schemes and these payments supported an overall investment of €3.457 million. Grant payments of €1,344,661 under BIM's Aquaculture Grant Scheme and €38,329 under BIM's Fish Handling Scheme are listed by project and county on page 47 and 49 respectively.
Technical development programme
The latter part of 2008 saw the first commercial production of farmed perch in Ireland with two on-growing companies, using state-of-the-art recirculation systems, selling some 250kg a week into the Swiss market. Whilst initially modest, these volumes will grow in 2009 as more production comes on-stream. Ireland's two farmed perch hatchery companies also reached their targets of juvenile production, marking a milestone in the reliability of juvenile production.
The bottom mussel sector had a good season in respect of seed collection in 2008. The industry estimated that over 30,000 tonnes were collected and relayed on an all island basis. If survival is good, this will result in an increased production late in 2009 and early in 2010.
In relative terms, rope mussel, bottom mussel and oyster production was broadly in line with 2007, which was positive given difficult trading conditions. There was a problem in respect of the occurrence of biotoxins in processed mussels, especially the Azaspiracid toxin. Product recalls were initiated in a number of countries, damaging the reputation of Irish Mussels abroad. The European Food Safety Authority is reviewing the permitted levels in light of the incidents and other research findings.
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