It is estimated that the number of plants operating in the pelagic processing industry in 1996 was 29. The number of companies who now operate exclusively in the pelagic processing sector is 16. There are number of reasons for the decline such as a decrease in the volume of raw material, rationalisation and diversification into processing other species. The Total Allowable Catch for herring and horse mackerel stocks of importance to Ireland have decreased substantially since the mid 1990's. In recent years, the mackerel TAC has also declined. The total pelagic quotas available to Ireland in 1998 was 200,000 tonnes while the current quotas for the same group of species amount to 116,774 tonnes.
Taking into account the importance of the pelagic industry to the Irish fishing industry, the decline in the pelagic processing sector is a matter of concern. In order to examine the issues and bring forward a development strategy, I appointed an independent Seafood Strategy Review Group in June 2006 to devise a strategy for a sustainable and profitable Irish Seafood industry over the period 2007-13, of which the processing sector is a key component.
Its task is to develop a comprehensive, integrated, market-led vision for the future of the Irish seafood sector, based on a strategy centred on innovation, product development and value maximization for our coastal communities, together with sustainable management of marine resources and ecosystems in the waters around Ireland.
The Strategy Review is to be completed at an early date. Its findings will also feed into the new National Development Plan for the period 2007-13.
I believe that this Strategy, along with the new National Development Plan, will chart a course for the sector, including the processing sector and the coastal communities dependent on marine industries, and will ensure comprehensive, integrated and ongoing development through the 2007-13 period.