The double shock of Brexit and the pandemic has heavily impacted the sector and has changed the way many seafood businesses operate.
The Rise-Up project, led by the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), is calling on businesses to support its research by generating key data through a questionnaire. The project findings will generate policy recommendations and advice for government.
The project team has already conducted interviews with representatives from the UK seafood sector, ranging from farmers and fishers, through to processing and logistics operations within the supply chain and supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants.
Project leader Dr Sofia Franco said: “Seafood businesses had to adapt quickly to the pandemic and, while doing so, had to prepare for Brexit when so much was unknown. This double-shock has affected businesses in different ways, so we want to hear from a variety of sub-sectors and operators.
“How did businesses cope this past year? How well do businesses anticipate changes? Are they preparing for a ‘third wave’ of Covid infections? What could help their business survive or do better? These are some of the questions we ask in our survey, which will give us the data we need to produce a comprehensive report on the sector.
“We also hope to learn from the businesses who coped well or less well, so we can better understand what makes resilient businesses and which external changes could be ‘game changers’ to improve business competitiveness.”
Dr Franco said the UK seafood industry was under unprecedented pressure to deliver on national food security during the pandemic, while trying to adapt to remain viable in a fast-changing sector.
“Many livelihoods depend on the industry, whether that is people working within fishing and aquaculture sectors, supply chain companies and high street businesses,” she said. “The location of many of these jobs – many in coastal and rural communities – is also significant in these local economies.”
The Rise-Up project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19, involves the University of Manchester and will create resilience models and identify adaptations that support future-proofing of the sector. The project is also benefitting from Seafish information and analytical input.
The project questionnaire can be accessed here: The seafood industry resilience to COVID-19 (onlinesurveys.ac.uk).