The head of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation is to spearhead an initiative to create 250 jobs in Killybegs over the next three years.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney was in Killybegs on Friday to launch the project. A high level action group, chaired by KFO Chief Executive Sean O’Donoghue, will draw up an action plan on how 250 jobs can be created in the following sectors: added value seafood; ancillary services; offshore supports; tourism and marine leisure; and renewable energy.
The group - comprised of: Sean O’Donoghoe, KFO; Jason Whooley, CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM); Seamus Neely, Donegal County Manager; Paul Hannigan, President, Letterkenny Institute of Technology(LYIT); Conor Fahy, Enterprise Ireland; Nial O’Gorman, Donegal Fish Merchants Association; Jim Parkinson representing the offshore energy and ancillary industries; and Cecil Beamish from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine - will deliver their plan to the Minister in September.
The jobs initiative is the result of a joint approach made by the KFO, BIM and DCC to the Minister several weeks ago, on the back of an Economic Report into Killybegs and its environs that was also launched on Friday. The report compares Killybegs’ performance with that of 23 other ‘fisheries-dependent’ communities in the EU. The report identifies the five sectors that the action group will focus on as the ones having the greatest potential.
The group has been set up to create “greater integration and ‘joined up thinking’ from state agencies and stakeholders in the region, the Minister said.
A bullish Coveney told a packed hall at the Tara Hotel: “I think it’s a signal of intent that a Minister from the other end of the country chooses Greencastle and Killybegs to visit first.
“I’m hugely optimistic about the seafood sector in Ireland. I think we’re going to see growth. Not, as we’ve perceived it for decades, in terms of getting us more quotas for our vessels, although that will also be a priority. But the two sectors with the greatest potential are seafood processing and aquaculture.
“One million tonnes of fish are caught off the west coast of Ireland each year, with 240,000 tonnes landed here, most of it from Irish boats. Most of the fish gets shipped out of the country straightaway. We want to attract more foreign boats to land their catches here, and let us process their fish in Killybegs. We have the potential to get a lot more out of processing with the infrastructure here.
“It’s the same with aquaculture. We produce 12,000 tonnes of farmed seafood each year, compared to Scotland’s 150,000 tonnes, Norway’s 1 million tonnes and China’s 93 million tonnes.
“In terms of its food, and that includes seafood, Ireland is building a reputation for premium product.
“There’s a huge demand out there. We can’t sell enough of the stuff.
“This isn’t pie in the sky. This has been looked at in detail, and this report gives us the facts we need to make our case.
“It’s my view and the government’s view that the five sectors identified here have the capacity to grow, even in recession and that the 250 jobs identified is a conservative figure.
“It will be rural Ireland, communities like this, that will see the growth over the next five years.”