NI’s first ‘Seafood Trails’ launched

As part of a widespread campaign to support Northern Ireland’s fishing industry, nine ‘Seafood Trails’ have been launched across 14 coastal towns in Northern Ireland, from Kilkeel to Portstewart.

The trails showcase the best in independent seafood shacks, stalls, restaurants, and family-friendly activities that these fishing towns have to offer. The aim is to provide families with the opportunity to connect with local, sustainably caught and farmed seafood.

Rebekah McCarry, owner of Native Seafood, an award-winning seafood restaurant, takeaway pod and fishmongers that features on Portrush’s Trail, said:“It’s brilliant to be part of this creative, forward-thinking initiative. Northern Ireland has such a rich fishing heritage and is home to countless small seafood businesses that deserve to be put on the map. The trails are perfect for local families keen to explore their patch of coastline, try some delicious food, and meet the many friendly faces of the seafood industry. If you do the Strangford & Portaferry trail, pop in and say hello!”

Colourful maps, illustrated by Mourne artist Piera Cirefice, guide people on a ‘harbour-hopping seafood adventure’ through their chosen trail, from bustling quaysides to the quiet treasure troves of maritime museums. Each ‘stop’ along the trail is colour-coded to showcase nature, food, fishmongers, activities, and fishing industry landmarks. Highlights include Kilkeel’s famous fish shop owned by the fishermen’s cooperative Sea Source; the ‘gorgeous half-moon shaped shores of Cushendun’; and the interactive, educational Marine Coastal Zone in Portrush.

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The self-guided Seafood Trails have been delivered by Seafish - the public body supporting the UK seafood industry to thrive - using funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-2020. Those wanting to learn more about the fishing history and heritage on their doorstep can enjoy the leaflets, packed with facts, stories and local folklore. Word-searches and dot-to-dots provide kids with fun, fishing-related activities. Each map features a ‘showcase species’, such as herring in Ardglass, prawns in Portavogie, and scallops in Ballycastle. Trail-goers are provided with information about the species’ seasonality, the type of fishing gear that’s used to catch it, and a simple recipe to try cooking at home.

Seafish created the trails with creative agency Mindfully Wired Communications, to help families enjoy local seafood and connect with the harbours, boats, and communities behind it. The campaign is in recognition that over 20,000 tonnes of diverse, wild-caught fish and shellfish are landed in Northern Ireland’s ports every year, most of which is exported and enjoyed overseas – whilst local diets tend to feature imported seafood.

Sally Chamberlain, Northern Ireland Regional Manager at Seafish, said:“The Northern Irish seafood sector is made up of around 300 commercial fishing vessels, 30 aquaculture sites and 40 processors and wholesalers, which supply the retail and hospitality sector, support jobs and benefit the surrounding coastal communities. This campaign comes at a vital time for the sector, as it faces the supply chain challenges brought about by Brexit alongside increasing operating costs and labour shortages. By promoting these trails we hope to educate families about seafood and in doing so, drive consumption, enhance the local market, and help the industry to thrive.”

The campaign has also seen the delivery of talks and workshops in eight primary schools across Northern Ireland, to inspire the next generation of conscious-eaters and seafood-lovers. A series of interactive games and activities provided over 300 schoolchildren with a breadth of knowledge about their coastline and Northern Ireland’s thriving fishing industry.

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The Northern Ireland Seafood Trails maps will be available in visitor centres along the coast, as well as within the trail stops themselves. More information can be found on the trails website: www.niseafoodtrails.co.uk.