A host of projects will help sector achieve its full potential
THE Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) welcomed a maximum capacity crowd to its 50th annual conference and dinner, held last month in the splendid surroundings of Fishmonger’s Hall in London. Welcomed by director David Jarrad, delegates heard from speakers on all aspects of the shellfish industry.
Seafood guru Karen Galloway gave the popular Drummond Lecture, with a lively presentation on how to capture enthusiasm for eating seafood in children.
‘Research shows that those who eat it regularly have increased IQs and a better quality of sleep,’ she said.
Urging parents to introduce more shellfish to children, Galloway suggested that they ‘keep it comfortable, give it some crunch, focus on favourite flavours, put it between bread, take it outdoors…’
She expressed frustration that the Food Standards Agency shows an ongoing reluctance to include shellfish in the ‘two per week’ message, despite the fact that many studies have shown the nutritional benefits to outweigh perceived risks.
Galloway also called out the lack of shellfish recipes on popular online recipe sites, compared to chicken and vegetarian dishes. ‘We need to fix this fast!’ she said. Alison Austin, chair of Seafood 2040, used her keynote speech to also stress the need to move the narrative beyond two per week.
We need to look at the seafood offer in public procurement, and to find reasons to convince policy makers and health professionals to change menu specifications,’ she said.
Austin spoke of the successful establishment of a Seafood Industry Leadership group, which will help to deliver the vision and action plan that make up the Seafood 2040 strategic framework for England.
The framework has 25 detailed recommendations and includes the need to facilitate significant growth in the aquaculture sector; see business growth enabled by infrastructure improvements; increase opportunities for exports; and assure access to international markets for responsibly sourced raw materials.
‘Importantly, over the next 20 years we want to see a +75 per cent increase in seafood consumption, which will create an additional £4.6 billion of additional sales,’ said Austin.
She believes there are many reasons to be optimistic about aquaculture, with a host of projects either in the planning or underway to help the sector achieve its full potential, including an Assurance Scheme for Shellfish and Human Health project.
Fisheries minister Robert Goodwill MP opened proceedings on the second day.
‘I am confident that following Brexit, opportunities will arise when the country once again becomes an independent coastal state and trading nation,’ said Goodwill.
He stressed that Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) was working hard to ensure that disruptions to seafood supply routes would be minimised following Brexit, in order to help pave the way for new trade opportunities.
‘I am aware of the industry’s serious concerns around the impacts of a possible no deal Brexit, with the need for additional export and health certificates and the subsequent delays these would bring, but our priority is to ensure that trade can continue as smoothly as possible and with minimal disruption,’ he said.
He touched on future funding to support aquaculture and fisheries, and confirmed that a new long-term domestic arrangement would be put in place to support UK seafood businesses from 2021, that would be comparable to the current EMFF scheme.
Goodwill stated that 102 aquaculture projects had been assisted to the value of £14.3 million to the end of 2018 through EMFF.
The scheme will continue to be open for new projects until 2020, with an additional £37.2 million of funding announced by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in December 2018.
Martin Smith from the Marine Management Organisation confirmed the government’s commitment to ongoing support for aquaculture in his presentation. He also demonstrated how the estimated benefits of EMFF funding to 2023 had been exceeded in every category.
‘The target value for aquaculture production was an additional 3,100 tonnes with a value of EUR 7.9 million, but to the end of 2018 this had already reached 10,091 tonnes with a value of EUR 25.226 million,’ he said.
Alex Adrian, of Crown Estate Scotland (CES), spoke of his ambitions for the shellfish farming industry, as an essential part of a diverse aquaculture offering.
‘It’s not just about salmon,’ he said, stressing the shellfish sector’s inherently sustainable credentials and job security.
Adrian explained that the CES is seeking to identify development opportunities for the sector, following the publication of its Critical Mass Model Report in 2017, which concluded that only 27.5 per cent of Scottish mussel sites currently produce more than 200 tonnes, and that marginal gross earnings are achieved from mussel farms producing 150 tonnes.
‘The growth of mussel production throughout Scotland will require increased scales of production, which can be achieved through the restructuring of existing licensed sites, while economies of scale can be achieved if resources are collectively pooled in various ways,’ he said.
A Critical Mass Development Plan pilot is currently underway in the Clyde, looking at site selection and carrying capacity; production planning, impacts and benefits; and a template to facilitate the development planning process.
Hamish Torrie, from the Glenmorangie Distillery, gave an insight into DEEP, a £1 million oyster restoration project in the Dornoch Firth, which is supported by the distiller.
‘Oysters are the ultimate biofiltrators and reef
“Those who eat it regularly have increased sleep IQs and a better quality of sleep"
builders, and this project will deliver societal and economic benefits,’ he said.
‘We also see it as an exemplar for Scotland plc, which will be built out into a wider series of restoration projects over the next few years, with support and funding from researchers, oyster farmers, government and business communities. We hope there will be four million native oysters in the water by 2025,’ said Torrie.
Mark Dravers, from Guernsey Seafarms, looked at 50 years of trials and tribulations in shellfish hatchery production, with a focus on his own successful business.
He explained that France produces around 75,000 tonnes of oysters and uses three billion seed, Ireland produces 8,000 tonnes and uses 200 million seed, and the UK produces 1,000 tonnes and uses less than 20 million seed.
‘To put European oyster farming into perspective, we need to compare it with China, which produces 4,000,000 tonnes of oysters!’ he said.
Presentations were also enjoyed from Scott Johnston of Young’s Seafoods, who outlined 50 years of scampi processing; Dr Bekah Cioffi from the Welsh government, on opportunities and threats for shellfish in Wales; John and Jason Gilson on their lives in the cockle business; Jane MacPherson of Marine Scotland, on the future of shellfisheries management in Scotland; and Dr Colin Bannister on 50 years of assessing lobster and crab stocks.
Marcus Coleman, CEO of Seafish, discussed global seafood industry trends, and Mike Warner, SAGB promotions manager, talked about his work to encourage greater consumption of shellfish throughout the UK.
Clockwise from top: Guernsey Seafarms; Alison Austin; Karen Galloway at the conference; Robert Goodwill MP