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Nigeria top importer of Irish seafood

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Over 49,000 tonnes of fish were exported from Ireland in 2015 to Third (non-EU) Countries according to new figures released by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). Nigeria remains the highest importer, accounting for 46% of Third Country exports¹, followed by China and the African countries of Cameroon, Ghana and Benin. The data are taken from Health Certificates that were issued for the exports by the SFPA, the independent statutory body responsible for enforcing the State’s sea-fisheries and seafood safety laws.  All consignments of fish and fish products manufactured, processed or packaged in Ireland for export to Third countries generally must be accompanied by a health cert from the SFPA that contains details regarding their origin and traceability. This information is critical for providing confidence in the safety of the products and in the protection of consumer health. 

Exports to Third Countries decreased during the year compared with 2014 (56,068 tonnes), with the closure of the Russian market being the main factor. However, other markets remained buoyant with many, including leading importers Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Benin, increasing their volume of imports. 

Commenting on the figures, Susan Steele, Chair of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority said: “Export markets in the EU and Third Countries are vital to the realisation of the Government’s vision for Ireland’s seafood industry, as set out in Foodwise 2025. Robust confidence in the quality and safety of Irish seafood is of critical importance to the maintenance of existing markets and to the expansion of the growing collection of third country markets. The SFPA is committed to playing its role through verifying compliance with all seafood safety and packaging legislation while also helping to resolve any technical barriers to facilitate trade with new markets.” 

Mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting, herring, whelk and crab remain the preferred products with herring, whelk and crab all recording a year on year increase.  South Korea was the top non-EU market for Irish whelk while brown crab was the most popular export to China. Nigeria was the largest export market for mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting and herring. Oysters and lobsters were the most popular species imported by Hong Kong and Canada was the largest market for Irish salmon. 

Frozen products make up 95% of total exports to Third Countries.  The remaining five percent comprises a large number of low volume high value consignments of live fish. The SFPA provides an 'out-of hours' service to meet the ‘just-in-time’ logistics requirements of these products.

In addition to providing health certificates, the SPFA provides catch certifications which verify the legitimacy of the Irish vessel that caught the fish being exported.  The SFPA also carries out all approval inspections, audits and inspections of food businesses (including vessels) in the seafood sector under service contract to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. These inspections and audits are undertaken on a risk assessed basis in order to assess compliance with National and European food safety legislation.



 Further information:

Eleanor Buckley, Communications Manager, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority

Tel: 023 885 93 46/ 087 920 3658 or email eleanor.buckley@sfpa.ie.


Ger McCarthy or Vicky Jago, Weber Shandwick,

Tel: 01 679 8600 or email: GMcCarthy2@webershandwick.com or VJago@Webershandwick.com

Editors Notes:

¹ Third Country exports 2015 (tonnes):  Nigeria – 23,031; China – 8,480; Cameroon – 3,464;  Ghana – 2,905; Benin – 2,125; Egypt – 1,781; South Korea – 1,223; Ivory Coast – 1,209; Japan – 744; Hong Kong – 704.

 About the SFPA

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority is the independent statutory body, legally charged with the State’s sea-fisheries law enforcement functions. The Authority enforces the EU Common Fisheries Policy and sea-fisheries law generally and food safety law relating to fish and fishery products. It is committed to the fair and effective regulation of the sea fishing and seafood sectors that all within its mandate. This includes all fishing vessels operating within Ireland’s 200 mile limit; over 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels wherever they operate and all seafood produced in Ireland’s 170 seafood processing companies.