Ireland’s seafood exports dropped significantly in 2023, with the reopening of live brown crab exports to China a rare bright spot.
The country’s overall seafood exports fell 14 percent year over year to EUR 550 million (USD 599.5 million), according to Karen Devereux, head of the seafood desk at Bord Bia Ireland’s state agency tasked with promoting food exports.
The numbers represent the continuation of a trend from 2022, when Irish seafood exports fell 13 percent by volume to 293,000 metric tons, even though the GDP of the Irish seafood industry increased 4 percent to EUR 1.3 billion (USD 1.4 billion) 
Devereux attributed the bulk of the fall to a sharp drop in pelagic exports – down 45 percent compared to 2022 – due to cuts on Ireland’s mackerel and horse mackerel quotas.
The effects of Brexit also continued to take a toll, as British vessels which previously landed their catch in Ireland are now required to land in British ports. Additionally, poor economic conditions in Nigeria – the main market for Irish whiting – has seen Irish exporters lose out to competitors offering cheaper alternatives, according to Devereux.
Exports of Irish shellfish slid 7 percent to EUR 180 million (USD 196.20 million) due to weaker demand in key markets, as consumers replaced langoustine and oysters with cheaper products, Devereux said.
Ireland has relied on France, Spain, and, more recently, China as key markets for its shellfish exports. China recently reopened imports of live brown crab from Ireland after two years of blocking shipments due to what its food safety authorities said were excessive cadmium levels found in the crab products. Additionally, Devereux said Vietnam has emerged as a new market for the country’s brown crab exports.
Biological issues led to lower production of farmed salmon and a subsequent drop in exported volumes, Devereux said. Soaring raw material costs also set back the Irish salmon-farming sector, which exclusively produces organic-certified products.
Ireland’s aquaculture production has stagnated in recent years. To combat that, the Irish government recently published an updated National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development that outlined key objectives through 2030 to support growth in the sector, such as promoting multitrophic aquaculture.
Photo courtesy of Bartosz Luczak/Shutterstock
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