Important dialogue on sustainability in seafood industry facilitated by Seafish –

Important dialogue on sustainability in seafood industry facilitated by Seafish Published:  17 May, 2006

A GATHERING of industry representatives has been hosted by Seafish to discuss sustainability, and to explore areas of common concern and ways of working together.

Attended by representatives from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the catching, processing and retail sectors, the event took place at Seafish offices in Hull.

The agenda balanced the need for input of ideas and viewpoints from a diverse group through presentations and question and answer sessions, with opportunities to network and discuss the issues on a more informal basis.

Broad areas of common ground were found, based on the central theme of sustainability as well as profitability within the industry. Shared concerns were voiced strongly from all attendees about the increasing amount of negative images of the industry and the need to actively redress the balance.

The need for the catching sector and scientists to work side by side was recognised, as well as the requirement for better advice for the whole industry on best practice fishing methods and management.

There was also agreement from all attendees on the need to recognise the complexity of the subject, especially in multi-species, multi-gear and multi-jurisdiction fisheries.

John Rutherford, Chief Executive of Seafish, said: “In recent months in Seafish, we have been examining our strengths and skills as an organisation to help us define our future direction.

“We see the facilitation of this kind of dialogue as one of our essential contributions to an industry with diverse needs, yet often similar concerns.

“Hosting this event gave us a chance to discover areas where we really can work together to ensure that the seafood industry can become truly and demonstrably sustainable.

“The event also highlighted to us the need for reliable, scientifically robust data to support the industry. This is another role that Seafish can usefully play, by producing this data and making sure that the information is shared across the whole industry.”

Seafish will now be inviting a cross-industry group to examine more fully the common areas where the industry can move the issues of sustainability forward. One of the first outputs this group will produce is a series of statements which clearly identify a common language, viewpoints and concerns.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of MSC, who spoke at the event, said: “The UK can take pride in having the highest number of fisheries worldwide that meet the MSC environmental standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries.

“Certification against a comprehensive, independent and internationally recognised scheme benefits the seafood industry and the MSC is clearly seen as the best way to achieve this. I am really encouraged that there appear to be significant areas of commonality when discussing sustainability within our industry, which representatives across the whole industry can agree on and work towards realising together.”

The catching sector has been hit hard in recent years with large-scale decommissioning, cuts in quotas and rising fuel costs. But according to Barrie Deas, from National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), the catching sector is still keen to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability despite these pressures.

He said: “It is vitally important that the mainstream media and general public understand that strenuous efforts have been made and are continuing to be made to put fishing on a sustainable footing.”

Seafish will now look at ways this facilitation model can be extended to further issues that affect the industry, and would be very happy to hear from industry members of other subjects and areas of concern that would benefit from a similar event.