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NE Lobster Pot Fishery for MSC Certification

Welfare Sustainability Politics +4 more

UK - Hard work and investment from the North East Sea Fisheries Committee combined with funding from the Co-operatives Sustainable Fishing Fund means that the North East lobster pot fishery has started a new MSC assessment.

The fishery undertook a full MSC assessment in 2007, but fell short of the required standard because it could not demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the ecology of local lobster stocks.

Now NESFC Chief Fishery Officer David McCandless believes that the work undertaken by the NESFC to address the deficiencies highlighted by the first assessment puts the fishery in a strong position to succeed, second time around. In addition, the MSC programme now includes the Risk-Based Framework – a methodology that allows certifiers to assess fisheries where data is limited or uneconomic for the fishery to collect, without diluting the rigour of the standard.

Mr McCandless says: “We’ve invested a lot of money and worked very hard over the past three years to address the recommendations of the first assessment. We also have the option of the new Risk-Based Framework for this assessment.”

“It has always been our long term ambition to get the fishery certified but without the funding support of the Co-operative, we couldn’t have pushed ahead with this certification. We have one of the most important lobster fisheries in the UK and it’s the lifeblood of the inshore fleet here. Lobster, crabs and shellfish are essential to the sustainable future of our industry. MSC certification would be the icing on the cake for our management of this fishery. If we’re successful, we’re hoping to take the lobster forward as a major sustainable product for the UK.”

Fishermen along the North East coast of England have caught lobsters (Homarus gammarus )for centuries and, in many ways, the method of capture has changed very little. While early vessels used creels made from natural materials, over the past 20 years these have been gradually replaced with more durable pots made of steel and plastic. There is no quota set for lobster; however, the lobster fleet of just under 300 small vessels has caught around 500 tonnes for the past two years.

Kirsty Pollard and Chris Shearlock from the Co-op added: "The NESFC lobster fishery is the seventh fishery that has been supported by the Co-operative's Sustainable Fishing Fund and is another great opportunity to help improve the sustainability of the UK fishing industry. The Co-operative is committed to the responsible sourcing of fish and to the maintenance of an own-brand range of fish products that give our customers a wide choice supported by information to help make responsible sourcing a factor in their purchasing decisions."

Toby Middleton, UK Commercial Manager for the MSC says: “I’m really pleased that the NESFC lobster fishery has started a new assessment. It is particularly exciting that the NESFC has chosen to persevere with its bid for MSC certification on its second fishery with funding from the Co-operative. MSC certified NESFC sea bass has proven popular in restaurants and I know that many of the newly certified restaurants and contract caterers will follow the lobster fishery’s assessment with great interest. I would also like to thank the Co-operative for their support by funding this seventh fishery through MSC assessment.”

The assessment will be carried out by independent certifier Moody Marine Ltd and anyone with an interest in the fishery can be involved. Moody Marine has already identified 14 stakeholder groups.

The North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee (NESFC) was established by statutory order on 9 July 1890 under provisions contained within the 1888 Sea Fisheries Act which was revised by the 1966 Sea Fisheries Regulation Act. This legislation provides a statutory authority for the conservation and management of marine resources within a defined area stretching from the River Tyne, in the north, to Donna Nook on the South bank of the Humber Estuary and seaward to the six mile limit.