The Shellfish Industry Advisory Group has made progress despite the coronavirus pandemic
The Shellfish Industry Advisory Group which had been established in November last year has made substantial progress, despite the crisis in the shellfish markets caused by COVID-19.
Although shellfish markets collapsed domestically and globally as a reaction to COVID lockdown measures, the Group’s work has continued, in preparation for a return to something approximating normality. A recent meeting of the Group (held remotely) reinforced the view that the shellfish sector remains determined to break out of its poor cousin status by comparison with the attention given to TAC whitefish and pelagic fisheries.
Because of the virus, it has not been possible to invite Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis to witness the work that is underway within the Group, the foundations are nevertheless being laid for a strong and dynamic initiative that will shape the future management of the shellfish fisheries for generations ahead.
It seems likely that the shellfish group will be at the cutting edge of developing the first of the fisheries management plans envisaged in the Fisheries Bill currently passing through Parliament. That is certainly the ambition.
The recent work of the SIAG has been focused on building solid foundations on which to base future management plans. Barrie Deas from the NFFO, who was confirmed as chair of the Group, said:
“We are focused on answering three straightforward questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to get to?
- How do we get there?
Our efforts at the moment are directed towards building a solid understanding of our sector before moving to the next stage. It is important to have solid foundations. We are moving quite fast, but it will be essential that we retain the widespread support of the sector.”
The Group has:
⦁ Agreed a set of governance principles which stress the consensus basis of the group’s work
⦁ Set up two species working groups, one for whelks and one for crab and lobster (chaired by Aoife Martin and Tony Delahunty, respectively)
⦁ Worked with Cefas to understand the current strengths and weaknesses of stock assessments for crab, lobster and whelk – to build a realistic picture of the resource base along with identification of the dominant trends, including regional variations
⦁ With the help of Defra and the IFCAS, mapped the complex regional and national regulatory framework currently governing shellfish
⦁ With the support of Seafish, undertaken an economic analysis of the sector
⦁ Discussed a draft management plan which provides a skeleton of what a final plan might contain
⦁ Established a website where anyone can examine the Group’s work (work pending – this should be available later this month)
The appointment of Seafish as secretariat for the group has meant that there is momentum between meetings and steady progress is being made. The Group has been consciously formed in the spirit of co-management, with Central Government policy officials, (Defra, DEERA and Welsh Government), Cefas scientists, Industry representative bodies and individual fishing businesses all represented. The Group already has some representation from the IFCAs and discussion is under way on how to bring IFCAs and the MMO into the discussions, whilst maintaining a manageable group size.
The group remains open to more members who share its aims.
Future of Inshore Fishing
There is obviously a big read-across between shellfish management and policy, on the one hand, and the big initiative surrounding the future of inshore fisheries on the other. It will be important to dovetail these initiatives together, but to avoid duplication. Together these separate but interlinked initiatives will hopefully guide the industry to a profitable and sustainable future.
At its most recent meeting the Group also gave consideration to international factors that the shellfish sector will have to take into account. This would include:
⦁ Overseas markets: Understanding the implications of international trade on shellfish markets in Europe and beyond
⦁ The changes associated with the UK’s departure from the EU
⦁ Replacement arrangements for the EU western waters effort regime
⦁ Access arrangements and safeguards against an expansion of effort in non-TAC fisheries
⦁ Dialogue with those shellfish interests which remain in the EU
One of the Group’s priorities is to open up its work to anyone who is interested via a website. Further details will be available shortly