He reminded delegates of the very different place the brown crab industry was in when this transnational initiative began in September 2008 with an invitation from the Scottish Lobster and Crab Group to crabber colleagues in Britain and Ireland to discuss the dire economic condition of the industry at that time. In 2014 the situation may have improved but the need for ACRUNET has not diminished and it continues with an overall aim of improving the economic viability of the Brown Crab industry.
ACRUNET consists of a number of Activities designed to improve the industry on a number of fronts: better management, improved product quality and expansion of the market. Presentations were given and useful discussions held on these topics.
The need for good scientific data gathering to assist in stock management and developing management for Brown Crab fisheries was one area discussed while many of the delegates felt progress in fishery management would be difficult to achieve until the issue of latent capacity was addressed.
The development of a European brown crab standard which would carry global recognition and assure consumers of a consistent quality, sustainably sourced product from an environmentally-friendly fishery, has been a primary aim of this project. User-friendly quality guides are being prepared to assist both fishermen and retailers in the task of selecting and grading European brown crab to a very high specification. Delegates learned that achieving this objective is now within the project’s grasp; final drafts of the standard are being reviewed and the vessels which will participate in the trials are selected. It is expected that this goal will be reached by autumn 2014.
A major element of the project has been an ongoing analysis of the supply chain from catching to consumer, to help direct future work on marketing and promotion. In recent years the brown crab industry has evolved from very basic whole live, pasteurised or frozen crab to an astounding array of deli-style products with sophisticated presentation formats available in all the partner countries. The industry-based partners would like to see further market research in “new” countries where, to date, there has not been a tradition in eating crab.
Transportation of live crab is a very important topic for ACRUNET and the meeting was given an overview of trials being carried out to improve the economics and viability of innovative systems. Waste utilisation is also being explored with some promising results so far. Reducing the cost burden to the industry in these fields should improve the returns to Brown Crab fishermen.
The meeting was very well attended, particularly by the fishing sector with crab fishermen and vessel owners from all the producer countries – Ireland, France and the UK. The local flavour of the gathering was endorsed by Jay Mackay and John Alexander, creel fishers from the Scottish Whitefish Producers Association, who both welcomed the opportunity to get involved in discussions around safeguarding the future of Brown Crab fisheries, and found the discussions both interesting and constructive.