The seafood industry in Wales is working to boost its exports and raise awareness of the variety of seafood it offers to businesses outside the country.
A member of the United Kingdom, Wales earned just £23.3m ($28.6m, €27.2m) from seafood exports in 2021, according to the Food and Drink Federation, against 1 billion pounds sterling for Scotland (1.2 billion dollars, 27.2 million euros). 1.1 billion) in value of seafood exports over the same period.
The Welsh seafood industry has battled the COVID-19 pandemic. While overall the country was the only UK member to surpass the value of pre-pandemic food exports in 2021 – exporting for £558m ($686m, €651m ) of food during the year, an increase of 13% compared to 2019 – its seafood exports fell by 29% during the same period.
Welsh seafood is often overlooked in the global market, Nia Griffith, head of the North Wales seafood cluster, told SeafoodSource. In response, the country sought to make a splash at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain, from April 26-28, 2022. The Seafood Cluster helped secure a stand for Welsh seafood companies, which are making the promoting a number of different products.
“We’re really here to raise awareness and hopefully promote and raise awareness among the companies that participate,” Griffith said.
Wales’ seafood sector is smaller and more artisanal than its neighbours, Griffith said.
“I think it’s easy to think of the UK as one country, but Wales is markedly different because of the people and the smaller, more sustainable way of fishing that we’re adopting,” Griffith said.
The Welsh seafood industry is largely made up of day boats under 10 meters in length, fishing using sustainable practices that have been passed down from generation to generation in small coastal communities, Griffith said. Crustaceans, lobster and brown crab lead the country’s catches and exports.
The shellfish industry, Griffith said, has changed relatively little in more than 100 years, with small boats fishing along the coast for generations.
“They are really small boats. Often there may not be more than one or two on board, and often it is also something that is passed down from generation to generation,” she said. “When you ask them, ‘Well, why are you fishing?’ They say, ‘That’s what we’ve always done.’
Sustainable fishing techniques are embraced by the Welsh seafood industry and a big part of the country’s export appeal, Griffith said.
“Sustainable fishing is an essential part of what we do in Wales,” said Griffith.
Griffith said the seafood cluster was working directly with the Welsh government to establish a presence at trade shows as part of a wider promotional effort for the Welsh food and drink sector.
“We have quite a few projects that we are developing to try to promote Welsh seafood and encourage people to engage with businesses in Wales,” she said. “[Seafood Expo Global] is a fantastic opportunity for us to come here, as we are quite a small country, but being here on the world stage is fantastic.
Ocean Bay Seafoods, based in Holyhead, Wales, was one of the companies exhibiting as part of the Welsh Seafood stand. The company exports seafood, mainly shellfish, worldwide.
Ocean Bay Seafoods managing director Richard Williams tells SeafoodSource that its export business is growing steadily as the company focused on European market – mainly Denmark and Spain.
“We also have a very good transport system to Europe which helps a lot,” Williams said.
The company also exports live lobsters to Dubai and China, but the Chinese market has been hit hard by the ongoing shutdowns in Shanghai, Williams said.
“We currently have a container that is on the water that has been diverted because there are no shipments to Shanghai, not even frozen,” Williams said. He added that the cost of diverting the container is the same amount the company has already paid for the container, which he said was also costly.
Overall, said Griffith, the aim of the Seafood Cluster and Welsh companies attending Seafood Expo Global was to highlight what the country has to offer that differs from its neighbours.
“We are here for people to realize that we are different from England and different from Scotland,” she said. “It’s just waving the flag, really, of Wales.”
Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource