ALMOST 42,000 tonnes of Irish seafood, representing 26 different species, were exported to 46 countries outside the EU during 2016, according to new figures published by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the Clonakilty-based independent State agency responsible for the regulation of the sea-fisheries and the seafood production sectors.
Three countries – China, Nigeria and Egypt – accounted for over half (53.7%) of the total exports. Congo, Japan, Ukraine and Vietnam also featured among Ireland’s top ten non-EU export markets during the year, which saw an increase in exports to a number of countries.
The data was taken from almost 7,000 health certificates issued by the SFPA for export consignments of fish and fish products to non-EU countries during 2016. Health certificates are generally required by non-EU countries and contain information regarding the origin and traceability of the fish products.
Pelagic fish (mackerel, whiting, herring) continue to be Ireland’s main export to non-EU countries, accounting for some 88.5% of total exports. Molluscs and crustaceans, particularly whelk, crab and razor clams, account for 11% with exports of ground fish such as salmon, cod, sea trout accounting for the balance. Meanwhile mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting, whelk and crab were the top five species by volume.
An extra 40 million tonnes of seafood will be required globally by 2030, based on estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the increase in world consumption. Dr Susan Steele, chair of the SFPA says that while Ireland is well positioned to contribute to meeting that demand, the integrity of the supply chain is critical.
‘Consumer trust in the quality and safety of Ireland’s seafood produce is vital to the achievement of the collective ambitions for the sector. The SFPA has a comprehensive monitoring and classification programme in place covering Ireland’s shellfish production areas.
‘Robust regulation underpins our reputation as a premium producer of safe, quality seafood. However, everyone along the supply chain has a vital role to play,’ she said.
Many non-EU countries have specific requirements for fish imports and Dr Steele said that the SFPA continuously reviews its inspection processes and adapts them to meet the informational needs of importing countries, working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and with industry.
Earlier this year agreement was reached with the Chinese government on an export certificate that facilitated the resumption of Irish brown crab exports to China, which had been suspended. The agreement involved the SFPA implementing a national monitoring programme based on the origin of live crab intended for export to China, which is the world’s largest importer of seafood.
China is predicted to become a €15.5 billion seafood import market by 2020. Mackerel, horse mackerel, whelk and crab were their most popular Irish seafood imports during 2016.