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Can Brixham strengthen Thai fishmeal sustainability?

21 May 2019, at 2:50pm

The sustainability of the Thai fishmeal fishery – the bulk of whose landings go towards feeds for the aquaculture sector – has been given a boost following a visit to the UK.

A 14-strong group of Thai fishermen, vessel owners, marine scientists, Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) personnel and government officials visited the UK port of Brixham last week, as part of the ongoing Seafood Task Force initiative.

Spearheaded by CPF, and involving retailers from the USA and UK, the Task Force was set up in July 2014 as the Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force. Its first undertaking was to bring together the commercial seafood sector and the Thai Fishery Associations, to map the entire by-catch supply chain and create a traceability protocol.

It is hoped that the visit will help to improve the sustainability of Thailand's reduction fisheries
It is hoped that the visit will help to improve the sustainability of Thailand's reduction fisheries

The Seafood Task Force was incorporated as an influential global membership organisation in 2016, with the overarching objective of supply chain oversight. It has since worked tirelessly with the Thai government, as they introduced initiatives such as Port In-Port Out (PIPO) reporting measures, a large electronic vessel tracking system and better traceability, to improve the IUU status of their mixed fisheries.

“These initiatives have helped enormously, but there is a still question mark about the sustainability of the fisheries, despite the main fishery producing raw material for fishmeal currently being engaged in a FIP [fisheries improvement project]. CP Foods are currently buying IFFO RS certified fishmeal from elsewhere in the world for our shrimp farms, but we hope that all the current work to improve the situation in Thailand will mean that we can source locally in the near future,” Linda Beresford, technical director of CP Foods, told The Fish Site.

The enthusiastic delegates to Brixham were provided with a packed itinerary, including a visit to Brixham Trawl Makers (BTM) to examine the type of trawl nets used in UK fisheries. Owner "Edd" Edwards demonstrated the balloon trawl, along with features to modify beam trawls to enable selectivity and juvenile (small) fish release.

Gus Caslake, from Seafish, spoke about a project he hopes to get off the ground to create a modified trawl for Thailand, which would be modelled initially in the flume tank in Hirtshals, Denmark. If successful, BTM would make a full-size version for testing aboard a trawler in Thailand, to assess its effectiveness in excluding juvenile fish.

“The tropical fisheries are multi-species and highly mixed, so it is difficult to develop selective fishing gear for them,” explained Caslake.

A sea trip enabled the guests to observe how the day boat trawler Rebecca, owned and operated by Richard Fowler, and the Waterdance-owned beam trawler Barentszee, deploy and fish with different gear. The Barentszee’s fish were followed to auction at the early morning market.

Two half-days were spent in the classroom, with lectures and demonstrations from the Marine Management Organisation and the South Western Fish Producers’ Organisation (SWFPO) on practicalities such as UK quota management and the discard landing obligation, followed by a demonstration from the Devon & Severn Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (DSIFCA) of iVMS, which is used for monitoring, control and enforcement of inshore fisheries around the English coastline.

“We have been involved with this project for some time, helping to share knowledge about improvements we have made in our own fisheries to eliminate discarding, and we were delighted to help sponsor the recent visitors from Thailand,” said Jim Portus, Executive Manager of SWFPO.

“I visited Thailand with Edd last December, where we were guests of CPF, and saw for ourselves the extent of the problems faced by Thai trawlermen and the steps they have already taken on their journey to sustainable fishing. If we can help them to accelerate improvements and reach sustainability quickly, that will be satisfying and rewarding outcome to the project. It is my hope that there will be further engagement and development of a trawl net technology project.”

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