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Shellfish Industry Development Strategy - One Year On

by 5m Editor
15 January 2009, at 12:00am

The UK Shellfish Industry Development Strategy(SIDS), the Seafish-funded, SAGB-facilitatedproject looking to sustainably develop wildcaughtand cultivated shellfisheries, has beenprogressing for over a year now. Tom Pickerell, in this CEFAS Shellfish News publication, provides an update on what has been achieved to date and highlights next steps.

Summary of progress

We successfully bid for FIFG funds for a scoping study to examine the feasibility of establishing a ‘science advisory panel’ for inshore shellfish managers, received a travel grant from the Sustainable Aquaculture Fund to finance travel to the WWF-US Mollusc Aquaculture Dialogue Group workshop in Rhode Island, and importantly received monies from the Seafish Industry Project Fund to finance the bulk of SIDS work.


Tom Pickerell and SAGB Assistant Director David Jarrad with the traffic lights poster

Importantly the goal of SIDS has been identified in Defra Marine Programme Plan 2008/09 as a priority project for achieving sustainable fisheries through the implementation of the Fisheries 2027 vision and this should provide the long-term patronage of the groundwork completed in the 3-year window of SIDS.

In addition to strategic work, we have seized opportunities to promote the benefits of eating shellfish through a poster detailing healthyeating ‘traffic lights’ and revamped the SAGB website to ensure the messages are clear. Tied in with the website upgrade has been the development of brochures explaining the role of the SAGB. By raising membership the SAGB can amplify its ability to represent the views of an industry facing increasing legislation and financial constraints.

Despite the undoubted successes we have experienced some setbacks throughout the year. The increasingly distant Scottish Government have effectively rebuffed attempts by SIDS to work with the Scottish industry – despite their wishes – and seem intent on reinventing the wheel at every opportunity. The decision to ban scallop dredgers from 10% of Lyme Bay has resulted in considerable damage to industry/Natural England relations and this has affected SIDS work on a scallop strategy.

Natural England’s unyielding position on the Pacific Oyster as an invasive non-native continues to threaten a whole sector and prevent long-term work on this economically important species. A major change of staff at Defra has resulted in slippage of timetables and a process of ‘re-engagement’ with policy leads.

However, the early signs lead us to believe that Defra are now treating shellfish as key fisheries, rather than easy to ignore small-scale endeavours. Finally, SIDS continues to be restrained by a lack of funds; the considerable amount of time needed to complete application forms, the risk that the funds are not guaranteed and the long delay between applying and receiving monies which necessitates long-term planning and prevents opportunistic ‘quick-wins’.

SIDS Projects

The following projects have been carried out under SIDS over the last year. Progress has varied and depended on funding, availability of consultants and complexity. Several were covered in the last Shellfish News and updates have been provided for these projects.

  1. National Shellfish Resource Group (NSRG)

    The NSRG would act as a ‘science advisory panel’ for inshore shellfisheries managers (i.e. Sea Fisheries Committees). A FIFG-funded scoping study examining the feasibility of the group has been completed and can be found on the SIDS webpages of the SAGB website

    (www.shellfish.org.uk). We are currently seeking funding to establish a two-year pilot NSRG in England.

  2. Development of biological parameters/management objectives for shellfish

    Most UK shellfisheries are currently managed mainly by technical measures and this type of management does not lend itself as readily to the development of flexible harvest control rules. To improve shellfisheries management there is an urgent need to look into metrics relating to the stock and fishery and comparing these to some reference level. SIDS engaged Mike Smith at Cefas Lowestoft to examine this issue and to review less formal approaches (e.g. traffic light systems) aimed at achieving the precautionary management of developing fisheries or fisheries with limited assessment data.

    The report can be found on the SAGB website and SIDS is currently seeking funds to build on the findings and develop a traffic light approach for different stock/fishery components in the brown crab and lobster fisheries to be utilised in recommending subsequent management actions for these fisheries.

  3. Shellfish Producers Boards’ scoping study

    Industry will benefit from closer integration of shellfish production with market opportunities and bodies such as regional Shellfish Producers’ Boards (SPBs) should be established to provide a link between routine stock management decisions and commercial interests. Dr Nick Lake has produced a report considering the potential for the establishment of Shellfish Producers’ Boards (available on the SAGB website) and SIDS is currently evaluating the findings.

  4. Development of a shellfish resource permit scheme

    It has been suggested that permit schemes should be introduced to ensure more accurate shellfish catch and effort statistics are available at regional and national levels to provide data for stock assessment and conservation measures. Accordingly, SIDS tasked Dr Nick Lake to scope out the concept of a permit scheme for inshore shellfisheries and summarise the benefits of such a scheme. SIDS is current evaluating the report (available on the SAGB website) and will present to Defra for consideration when they formally consult on SFC reform.

  5. ‘Best-practise guide’ for all decisionmakers in the UK inshore sector

    Sea Fisheries Committees have had a long history of managing the shellfisheries within their districts. Some SFC byelaws have proven to be extremely beneficial and the results have greatly improved the fishery. There is a need for these examples of ‘best practise’ to be collated for three specific reasons.

    Firstly, the knowledge is leaving the SFC structure with every staff departure. The rationale behind the byelaw, the issues raised by stakeholders, the interactions with Government and the outcomes all need to be recorded to demonstrate how to repeat the success elsewhere. Secondly, the boundaries of the SFC districts are under review by Defra.

    If boundaries are redrawn there will be a role for an evidence-based summary of SFC byelaws to ensure that the ‘best ’ ones are extended and the ‘worse’ ones are reduced. Finally, the Scottish Government are looking to create ‘Inshore Fisheries Groups’. Such a best practise guide could form a valuable tool to prevent unnecessary and restrictive regulations to the industry.

    SIDS has secured funds from Seafish to examine what is meant by a ‘successful’ byelaw, develop a list of successful SFC byelaws, describe the outcomes of the byelaw and demonstrate how they have worked to improve the fishery.

    Furthermore we will develop a list of byelaws that have not been successful and elucidate why that is so. This work will be collated to form a ‘best-practise guide’ for all decisionmakers in the UK inshore shellfisheries sector.

  6. Lobster Questionnaire

    Heavy catches of lobsters were reported from some UK waters in 2007, including higher numbers of small and/or very large lobsters. SIDS developed a questionnaire to capture the geography and scale of this event in more detail, and to find if it was linked to any other obvious factors in the fishery.

    SIDS received 36 completed questionnaires and analysed the responses to produce a summary report (available on the SAGB website). We found that heavy catches of lobsters were reported from some UK waters in 2007, including higher numbers of small and/or very large lobsters. The most striking result from the questionnaires was that the majority of fishermen found there were more undersized (54.2%) and small (45.8%) lobsters caught in 2007 than in 2006.

    Possible reasons for this include the increased minimum landing size of 90 mm in the South Wales, Devon, Cornwall and Scilly Isles SFCs, the introduction of escape hatches in pots, and the probable increase in juvenile lobsters on the ground due to increased spawning biomass of the stocks achieved through the maximum landing size in Scotland and the retention of berried and mature females through landing restrictions and v-notching schemes throughout the UK.

    We are encouraged by the results as they indicate that current management measures may be achieving their intended results. However, we should be cautious with such a small data set. The results add weight to calls for a more detailed national survey of lobster stocks and SIDS shall be pressing the Government to adequately fund such surveys.

  7. Investigate & Promote Health Benefits of Shellfish

    SIDS and Seafish have worked closely together to dispel the myth that shellfish raises cholesterol. A leaflet (available on the SAGB website) explaining the issue has been published and sent to doctor’s surgeries across the UK. Furthermore, SIDS has collated nutritional data for the main shellfish species in the UK and developed ‘traffic lights’ that demonstrate just how healthy shellfish are. These have been developed into a poster and sent to nearly 700 fishmongers across the UK.

  8. Marine Conservation Society (MSC) ‘Fishonline’ – update & expand UK shellfish membership

    The (MCS) list includes 15 UK shellfish species but contains little regional information or differentiation between gear type/cultivation. Many scores are given a precautionary 3 out of 5 through lack of data. SIDS has worked closely with the MCS in providing all available data to ensure that the scores are as robust as possible. The revised list was published this month and now contains 25 species found in the UK and 14 are on their ‘fish to eat list’, up from 7 last time.

  9. Analysis of need and strategy for effort cap in brown crabs

    The industry has found that catch rates of brown crab and profitability are under pressure, that fishers are setting more and more pots to compensate for this, especially in fisheries that use parlour pots, and that the opportunity to maintain viability by further expansion onto new grounds is probably limited. SIDS believe that it is not beneficial biologically or economically to allow effort to increase unchecked because this must increase the risk of future overfishing, and offset the short term benefits by increased competition, higher costs, and supply/price issues.

    Defra circulated a discussion document on possible measures to achieve effort capping in November 2006 but there was no consensus on the measures to adopt to achieve an effort cap. However, SIDS believe that a limit on pot numbers is the most appropriate way to proceed and have been working with Defra to resolve this issue. In September 2008 Defra, prompted by SIDS, held a stakeholder meeting to discuss this issue further and we were assured positive action would be taken shortly.

  10. Responsible Fishing Scheme Expansion

    The Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme, while catering for vessel harvested shellfish, does not cover shellfish harvested by other means (such as hand gathered, diver caught) or cultivated shellfish. This project aims to develop ‘Good Practise Guides’ (GPGs) for these operations to raise standards and promote good operational and environmental practice. SIDS is in receipt of completed GPGs and is currently reviewing them with Seafish.

  11. National Strategy for Scallop Dredgers

    The aim of this project is to agree an ‘acceptable footprint’ of dredging that minimises environmental impacts but accepts the need for landing the volumes of scallops required by the supply chain by dredgers. Such an agreement should provide reassurance to a supply chain that is being increasingly pressurised by campaigners wanting dredging banned. SIDS has worked with Seafish to establish a ‘National Scallop Group’. The inaugural meeting was held in May 08 and minutes are available on the SAGB website.

  12. Identification of market opportunities for volume and niche products

    Market sales of shellfish are increasing in the UK and beyond. Shellfish are well regarded for their freshness and health benefits but problems with seasonal availability and quality are an issue for processors. Market development is key to raising the value of the industry. The project will identify the best opportunities for new species development in the retail sector and identify the key factors that will influence the potential for penetration into the food service and high-end restaurant sectors, and the potential for species use as an ingredient or for possible added value development. We are seeking extra funds to carry out this project.

  13. Development of web-based films for shellfish selection, preparation and presentation

    It has been suggested that one of the reasons why UK shellfish products are not valued highly by the majority of UK consumers is fear of what to do when purchased unprepared. This may also be true of finfish. This may explain why prawns are so popular – they are regularly sold cooked and often unshelled. To show consumers just how easy selecting, preparing and eating shellfish can be SIDS has produced a series of short films. These have been put on the YouTube website
    (http://www.youtube.com/user/ShellfishGB) and received 1000 hits within the first 2 weeks.

  14. 6-12nm Issue

    The SAGB firmly believes that national regulations should apply to all vessels, including foreign vessels with historic access rights to the 6-12nm zone, from 0-12nm. SIDS concurs with the SAGB position and is working to promote the SAGB position with decision-makers on a number of fronts including stakeholder-Defra groups in the run up to the 2012 CFP reform.

  15. Interactions between offshore renewable energy installations and shellfisheries

    SIDS has identified the likely expansion of offshore renewable energy installations in UK waters to have an impact on areas that are important to shellfisheries. Accordingly, SIDS applied for, and received, SAGB membership of the Fisheries Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables Group (FLOWW) to ensure that the operations of the marine energy production sector are compatible with sustainable shellfish resource use. The presence of a dedicated ‘shellfish voice’ on FLOWW will enable the activities of the shellfish industry and the natural resources upon which it relies to be respected before decisions are finalised.

  16. Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Shellfisheries

    The aim of this project is to identify the potential ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ impacts of the EC Water Framework Directive WFD on the shellfish industry in the UK on shellfisheries (both wild-caught and farmed). SIDS has produced a discussion document (available on the SAGB website) summarising our concerns and hosted a meeting with policy makers, regulators and industry representatives in July 08 to explore our concerns. The minutes can be found on the SAGB website. A second meeting will be held later this year to continue our discussions.

  17. Water Quality Workshop

    Recent technological advances have made it possible to distinguish between sources of sewage pollution in water bodies; human, cattle, bird etc. and to accurately trace pollution sources. SIDS is working closely with Seafish to determine how to best utilise this technology to improve the quality of water. A symposium was held in September with representatives from farmers associations to discuss how the technology can be used to change behavioural practices through ‘evidence-based dialogue’.

  18. Financial impacts of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements on shellfish operations

    At present it is difficult challenging the water industry to improve their treatment of waste and to adhere to discharge agreements as they frequently play the ‘cost’ card. There is an urgent need for the sector to provide a ‘headline figure’ of the total fiscal impact of pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements on shellfish operations, the downstream human health consequences of polluted shellfish, and the cost to the wider ecosystem. Such a figure will greatly aid advocacy work by looking at the wider picture of pollution impacts – rather than just focusing on direct impacts to operations. We are expecting this report shortly.

  19. Impact of climate change on frequency of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements

    A scoping study is required to identify the most likely impact of climate change scenarios on frequency of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements in the UK. This project will provide a multiplier that will illustrate the likely future costs of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements. We have received this report and are reviewing it.

  20. Development of “Marine resource use base” for shellfisheries

    Greater development pressures are being placed on shellfish production waters from a range of interests. The industry must engage in the dialogue on marine spatial planning to ensure areas for shellfisheries can be identified and developed. This ambitious project is looking to produce detailed maps indicating both the geographical locations of areas of interest to the shellfish industry, but will also assign a value ‘multiplier’ which can be used to designate areas of particular importance to the industry. The project is timetabled to commence in October 08 and will take 6 months.

Next Steps

SIDS will continue with the projects as detailed above and initiate new work to address other restraints on the industry. The main thrust of work will be to establish the two-year pilot NSRG. A lack of accurate data is the main limiting factor of appropriate management of wild-caught shellfisheries. New projects will include the development of an Adaptive Management Protocol for shellfisheries in European Marine Sites (EMS); case-studies highlighting the problems caused by the current 6-12nm zone situation; development of a domestic replacement to the Shellfish Waters Directive and establishing a London Oyster & Seafood Festival to promote our industry. However, all are funding dependent.

January 2009

5m Editor

 

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