Shellfish sector's value could be enhanced, says trade association – Fishupdate.com

Shellfish sector’s value could be enhanced, says trade association Published:  06 December, 2007

THE value of shellfish could be enhanced if it was associated with sustainability and best-practice credentials, a trade body has said.

The influence of accredited food products on the market is becoming significant and opportunities to supply shellfish to major outlets may be constrained by lack of scientific knowledge of stocks, according to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB).

The Shellfish Industry Development Strategy (SIDS) aims to address a variety of issues that affect the industry as a whole, as well as issues that are specific to each sector. One recurring issue is how to meet the extensive demand for scientific knowledge and advice about the many shellfish fisheries and stocks around our coasts in order to achieve sustainability, and to prepare for their accreditation by certification bodies. The problem, says the association, is how to overcome the limitations on data collection and scientific resources, in order to make more knowledge and advice available for regional and local managers within realistic time scales.

According to the SAGB, the modernisation, development, management and accreditation of shellfisheries therefore requires that biological studies, stock monitoring and assessment programmes are extended to reflect the full economic value, species diversity and specialist technical requirements of the shellfish sector. To be fully effective, there is a strong case for providing national coordination of the district functions undertaken by inshore managers and fisheries agencies by integrating existing shellfisheries and environmental management expertise in a National Shellfish Resource Group (NSRG).

The aim is that this group, meeting as and when required, would coordinate existing technical and scientific expertise, develop appropriate national guidance on stock assessment and management, and establish best fisheries and environmental practice for shellfish production.

The SAGB has recently been awarded FIFG funding to carry out a scoping study of the feasibility of establishing such a group, to construct an operational framework acceptable by all existing bodies and – if deemed viable – to draft a funding request for European Fisheries Fund (EFF) monies to establish a pilot of the NSRG followed by a review of its workings.

Commenting, SIDS project manager, Dr Tom Pickerell said: “Several key shellfish stocks, with economic values exceeding leading TAC finfish species, have limited management data and many shellfish stocks have little or no provision for assessment and monitoring to gather such data.”

An example is the king scallop where the economic value of the resource exceeds virtually all individual finfish species landings, but scallop stocks have limited management and assessment data upon which to base fisheries controls.

Dr Colin Bannister and Dr Andrew Woolmer will carry out the scoping study shortly and anticipate that extending the provision of scientific advice will enable the establishment of standards required to create industry stability, optimise quantity and value of current production, and facilitate sustainable new development opportunities.

Dr Bannister added: “The economic value of shellfisheries is highly significant in terms of the UK fish industry as a whole, yet for many regional and local shellfisheries, managers are handicapped because the knowledge and data needed for management, development and accreditation are limited by lack of resources and/or expertise.”

Dr Woolmer concurred that the efforts and resources given to the management of finfish TAC stocks and species has become disproportionate in relation to their overall economic significance and hoped that “the formation of the NSRG will address this disparity”.

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