Kilkeel harbour needs to expand urgently to accommodate a new multimillion-pound fishing vessel and seize future investment opportunities, industry leaders warned.
Sea Source, a collectively owned fishing company, believes private investment is needed to extend the port.
Chief executive Alan McCulla said: “Unless we grow our port, we will miss out on the future investment which is about to take place here.
“Already we are seeing a strong and sustainable renaissance in fishing. In addition to this, there now exists a fleet of specialist vessels and crews who can undertake all sorts of work on behalf of offshore developers, particularly those in cable-laying and renewable energy.
“The risk is that other ports in the Irish Sea basin could benefit from our success if we don’t expand.”
Mr McCulla added: “Investment in the fishing industry has been very healthy in the last two years.
“One example is the multimillion-pound investment in a new fishing vessel which is too big to dock in Kilkeel harbour.”
Chaired by fisherman Trevor Annett, Sea Source is extending its reach beyond fishing to offshore marine developments.
Mr Annett said: “As one of the top three landing locations for langoustines in the UK and Ireland, the County Down port has developed international export markets and has diversified into other areas of the marine economy including commercial offshore developments.
“Kilkeel is seeing a resurgence in the fishing sector with the industry securing more than 800 jobs on shore as well as on the boats.”
The firm is already branding seafood and fish products available in supermarkets and aims to expand its market throughout the UK and Ireland.