The fishery is of huge economic significance to Orkney. It accounts for around a quarter of Scotland’s total brown crab catch and provides around 250 direct jobs in the local fishing community. Average annual landings of brown crab over the last 30 years have been more than 2,000 tonnes.
A Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) was established in 2012 with the aim of working towards MSC certification. The FIP has now been completed and the fishery has entered assessment stage, where if it meets the standard, it could achieve MSC certification within the next year or so.
The participants involved in the FIP include Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd, Orkney Fishermen’s Society, The Crown Estate, Orkney Islands Council, Marks & Spencer, Marine Scotland, WWF and Young’s Seafood.
The FIP participants have been supporting the fishery to become more sustainable through a range of activities, including scientific research to understand the biology of the brown crab, advocating improvements to the fisheries management system and financial contributions. MSC has supported through the provision of expertise on the application of the MSC standard and use of FIP tools.
This was the first FIP in the UK to use the MSC Benchmarking and Tracking Tool to provide quantifiable data for measuring improvements in its sustainability performance.
Stewart Crichton, Managing Director of Orkney Fishermen’s Society and Chairman of OSF, said: “Our scientists, supported by local fishermen, have worked very hard for a number of years to increase our understanding and knowledge of local shellfish stocks. I hope the MSC certification process will endorse this work”.
Claire Pescod, Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager for the MSC, said: “It’s great to see the OSF Orkney brown crab creel fishery entering MSC full assessment after years of hard work and dedication to make this happen. It’s been a long time coming and it has been great to see the MSC FIP tools being used to help identify and drive improvements, and prepare the fishery for MSC full assessment. I wish them well.”
Hannah Macintyre, Fisheries & Aquaculture Manager for Marks & Spencer, added: “M&S have worked with Orkney Fisherman’s Society for over a decade, sourcing outstanding quality crab and lobster, which our customers love. This announcement comes after years of hard work and is testament to the passion and determination of the fishermen and scientists to secure the longevity of their fishery for future generations to enjoy.”