Do not ignore social changes, Seafish researcher tells conference –

Do not ignore social changes, Seafish researcher tells conference Published:  12 September, 2011

THE seafood industry should not ignore social changes because they often had an impact on its future, Angus Garratt from Seafish told the Humber Seafood Conference.

Mr Garratt, who has 16 years’ experience as a researcher joined Seafish six years ago to undertake strategic studies into the fish industry.

He said social dimensions and changes in the country were often underplayed when applied to seafood.

For example, after the era of the super rich was the country going to get the super poor as a result of economic changes? And what would this mean for the seafood industry, he asked.

Mr Garrett turned to recent developments in two of the country’s most important fishing areas – North East Scotland and Grimsby and the Humber.

“In Scotland whitefish supplies are mainly locally sourced and processed. But a lot of the talk is about the fleet, the catching side and quotas. That is fine, but it also has implications for the onshore (processing) section which sometimes suffers because of the high and lows in supply.” He suggested that a long term investigation into this “feast or famine” situation was needed.

On the Humber the situation was that until recently the region received high levels of fish from Iceland, with the effect that prices were generally kept down.

“Now recent events such as a reduction in the Iceland haddock quota and the (Icelandic) government policy to process more fish at home has meant lower supplies. This will inevitably have an affect on businesses locally,” he added.

The question was what will happen to those businesses when, eventually, the Iceland haddock stocks recover .

Mr Garratt said the recent campaign to ban fish discards, which will be included in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, may again lead to a blunt response from the public and possibly even threaten the industry infrastructure. Something similar happened over skate and ray a few years ago.

“We should accept that many of the problems are social in origin – we risk focusing our attention on just one part of the garden.”

Mr Garratt said it was important that the seafood industry did not put up false regional boundaries.

“The industry needs to talk to each other. Sustainability is not just an economic issue, it is also about networking. At Seafish we are working on an industry wide basis – working with the seafood system, and our job is to ensure that everyone, including the small man, is heard.”