The Shellfish Industry Development Strategy (SIDS) has been running since August 2007. The purpose of this report is to provide an update of progress made since this time.
The Background to the Strategy is described in the previous (Number 24, Autumn/Winter 2007) issue of Shellfish News.
The original Strategy report contained 45 initiatives. Several initiatives have become redundant (such as powers for Sea Fisheries Committees, which is being addressed in the Marine Bill) and others have arisen since the report was published (i.e. national strategy for scallop dredging). To assist in managing the process each of the initiatives has been categorised into one of three ‘key workstreams’:
- Giving managers the ability to manage appropriately
- Raising the profile of UK shellfish
- Security of tenure in the face of other users of the sea.
The net result has been a clearer structure to SIDS which has improved the ability to integrate with other ongoing work both internal and outside SAGB.
Many projects are dependent on Seafish Industry Project funds and are pending initiation. Progress has been made on a number of projects that have been funded from other sources however. These are discussed below:
National Shellfish Resource Group (NSRG)
SIDS successfully bid for FIFG funding to carry out a scoping study looking at the feasibility, and the practicalities, of establishing a science advisory group for shellfish managers. Essentially the group would consist of shellfish biologists, fishery scientists and other experts (we imagine from Cefas and academia), which would meet periodically to offer advice to the Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs) on shellfisheries management. We believe that by integrating existing shellfisheries and environmental expertise in a single body it will be able to assist in coordinating existing technical and scientific expertise; developing appropriate national guidance on stock assessment and management; and establishing best fisheries and environmental practice for shellfish production. The scoping study is currently underway and we are in the process of engaging with the SFCs on their information needs. Drs Colin Bannister & Andy Woolmer are working with SIDS and aim to present findings to the SFC Shellfish Managers meeting in May.
Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Shellfisheries
The aim of this project was to identify the potential ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ impacts of the WFD on shellfisheries (both wild-caught and farmed). Dr Jim Andrews is working through the Directive and identifying areas that the industry needs to be aware of in advance of the WFD coming into force in 2011. Already we have determined that there is no mention of any ‘bacteriological standard’ in the Directive and this is also concerning Cefas Weymouth and the Environment Agency. We have asked the Scottish Executive, Defra, SEPA, the head of water in the EU and Fisheries Commissioner Borg asking for clarification on this situation. When Dr Andrew’s report is completed SIDS will develop a tailored WFD strategy to ensure benefits are maximised and impacts are minimised.
Management Proxies & Biological Reference Points
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 has 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. Essentially, what is the minimum amount of information we need to make a value judgement on a fishery?
Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) Expansion
The Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), 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 Practice Guides’ for these operations to raise standards and promote good operational and environmental practice, allow all shellfish harvesters and cultivators to provide assurance down the supply chain that they operate in a responsible manner and also to bring rewards for good practice through accreditation.
PR Campaign on Shellfish Health
SIDS and Seafish are working closely together to promote the health benefits of eating shellfish. Seafish have secured funding to carry out an orchestrated PR campaign on seafood and in an effort to address the value of shellfish to the UK (48% of value of all seafood landed) have offered to work with SAGB on raising the profile of UK shellfish. The aim is to promote the high omega-3 content of shellfish, and to assist dispelling the myth that shellfish raises cholesterol.
Update & expand UK shellfish membership of MCS ‘Fishonline’ list
Many conservation organisations advise their members to use the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) ‘Fishonline’ list when purchasing seafood in order to assist them in making sustainable choices. This 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 is meeting with the MCS to address these issues and expand UK shellfish membership.
Shellfish Cultivation & MSC Accreditation
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the eco-label of choice for many retailers around the world. Unfortunately at present arguably the most sustainable form of shellfish harvesting – cultivation – is excluded from the scheme as MSC only currently certifies wild-caught fisheries. SIDS is working with the MSC on a project that demonstrates that shellfish cultivation should be viewed as an ‘enhanced’ fishery rather than aquaculture and therefore should be suitable for certification. The report has been completed and has been presented to the MSC for internal discussion.
National Strategy for Scallop Dredgers
In many meetings with stakeholders one of the only concerns about our industry was the environmental damage that scallop dredgers could inflict. SIDS has been liaising with the UK Scallop Association, Seafish and Natural England in order to bring together all stakeholders to discuss scallop dredgers and the reality of the situation at a dedicated symposium. The aim will be 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 liaised closely with Seafish on the need for a dedicated shellfish week to promote the sector, particularly as Seafood Week has seemed primarily focused on finfish. In partnership we agreed that we could build on the success of Seafood Week and expand it to a fortnight with the first week concentrating on shellfish and the second week focused on finfish. The PR campaign on health benefits of shellfish is linked into this endeavour and the campaign will culminate in the launch of the festival. To further promote shellfish the festival is moving from October to early September to tie-in with the start of the native oyster season.
MSC Inshore Pilot
SIDS is collaborating with the Marine Stewardship Council on a large-scale project to fund the pre-assessment of all fisheries within an SFC district. The aim is to generate a ‘gapanalysis’ of all the fisheries identifying what needs to be done to get to a sustainable (as defined by MSC) status. This will be able to be utilised by the SFC as a ‘management plan’ for their fisheries with the option of certified sustainable fisheries within the district. Support for this concept has been wide-ranging and there is interest in Wales for their entire fisheries out to 12nm to be pre-assessed and the results being used to form the implementation plan of the Welsh Fisheries Strategy.
Defra 2027 Vision
We met with Defra to discuss how SIDS could form the basis for an implementation plan for shellfish under the Defra 2027 Vision. By integrating with this Strategy we could benefit through getting concrete commitments to developing the shellfish sector. We were pleased with Defra’s reaction and will maintain our collaboration as the 2027 consultation continues.
Seafish Industry Project Funds
As well as the above projects SIDS has applied for funding from Seafish to undertake the following projects, which work towards the aims and objectives of the Strategy:
- ‘Shellfish Producers Boards’ scoping study
To establish clear links between shellfish resource managers and the production industry allowing market conditions to be considered and national perspectives to be determined.
- Development of a shellfish resource permit scheme
To investigate the premise for a “permit scheme” of management, capable of sustainably managing all sectors and their respective impacts on the marine environment. The basis of the management permit scheme is that stock and environmental management data would be collected to advise the stock assessment and sustainability process, which collectively should be used for national considerations.
- ‘Best-practice guide’ for all decision-makers in the UK inshore sector
To collate examples of ‘best practice’ SFC bylaws and regulations. This is necessary for three reasons: Firstly, the knowledge is leaving the SFC structure with every staff departure. 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 practice guide could form a valuable tool to prevent unnecessary and restrictive regulations to the industry.
- UK Market Baseline study (with Yorkshire & Humber Seafood Group)
The purpose of this is to gain a clearer understanding of the trade and of the consumer diagnostics of shellfish in the UK.
- Identification of market opportunities for volume and niche products
This project will identify the species or market segments that are priorities for action and subsequently identify specific action points.
- 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. With the popularity of home internet access and advent of easily accessible multi-media opportunities on mobile phones there is the prospect of providing a ‘how to…’ guide to shellfish selection, preparation etc. that can be downloaded free of charge.
- 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.
- Impact of climate change on frequency of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements
Linked with the project above, this will provide a multiplier that will illustrate the likely future costs of sporadic pollution events and exceeded discharge agreements.
- Development of “Marine resource use base” for shellfisheries
Marine Spatial Planning is coming and there is a need for shellfisheries and cultivation operations to develop a marine resource use base so that the industry can effectively enter dialogue with other users of the marine environment.
- ‘Shellfish Producers Boards’ scoping study
In addition to waiting to hear if we have been successful with our Seafish funding bids, the project manager, Dr Tom Pickerell, has secured funds to attend the next WWF Mollusc Dialogue meeting in Rhode Island. This group has been established by WWF-US to provide a framework for developing the criteria, indicators and standards for responsible mollusc farming; essentially looking at developing an “aquaculture stewardship council” type body. We believe it is imperative that SIDS gets involved in this endeavour, particularly with the ongoing work looking at including shellfish cultivation under the MSC scheme.
Finally, SIDS is continuing making strides in wider UK shellfish profile-raising activities. Dr Pickerell represented the SAGB at the inaugural “Sustainability Day” at Billingsgate Market in February. He gave a presentation on the sustainability of UK pot-caught brown crab and explained why sustainability extends beyond just stock-size. Furthermore, SIDS is building up a ‘media presence’ with articles appearing in various publications. In addition, SIDS has been advising the Gordon Ramsey fronted ‘F Word’ on shellfish and Dr Pickerell is advising the editor of a soon-to-be published book on shellfish by Mitch Tonks (owner of the Fish Works chain of seafood restaurants).