SAGB 43rd Annual ConferenceRichard Benyon MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary for NaturalEnvironment & FisheriesThe UK’s shellfish and marine aquaculture industries are ideally placed to meet the growingdemand for seafood, but a much more innovative, industry-led approach will be crucial to theirlong-term success, said Richard Benyon MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary for NaturalEnvironment & Fisheries in the opening session of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain’s 43rdAnnual Conference.Benyon was sharing his vision of where he would like the shellfish and marine aquacultureindustries to be in 10 years time. “It’s my wish to see a healthy, sustainable shellfish andaquaculture industry that makes more of its wonderful products,” he said.The minister highlighted that UK vessels landed £266m of shellfish in 2010 and farmed shellfishsupplied a further £26m. He said it is very important that the UK government recognises this hugecontribution.“We have a solid, viable, economic base on which to build. I know that much of the shellfish isexported so as well as contributing to UK exports I would like to see us being able to sell moreproducts locally. Instead of the value-added profit going to restaurateurs in other countries, I wishwe could see a boost to our own, local economy. I can’t understand why local restaurants aren’tfighting over landings of shellfish. I want to work with you to find new ways in which we can unlockthe fruits of our sea to more of our indigenous people and less to line the pockets of value-addedmarkets elsewhere,” he said.“The shellfish and marine aquaculture industries tick all the right boxes in terms of governmentpolicy - from boosting exports to health. There’s a great future ahead, which doesn’t rely solely ongovernment think tanks and regulations. I want the innovators to show the way.“Let’s do some maths: the FSA recommends that we all eat two portions of fish or shellfish perweek; we also know that the population of the UK will be 71m by 2035. That means that about 20mmore portions of fish and shellfish will be required every week in this country by then if we are tomeet the FSA’s recommendation. That’s a huge challenge for this industry and the government.”Benyon said he would like to see the Aquaculture Consultation Group and the industry takeownership and create actions to promote the growth of aquaculture.“There’s certainly a great opportunity for growth over the next 10 years – developing new marketsand exploiting new opportunities, such as using wind farms as hubs for sustainable aquaculture.”The minister referred to a report he had received from John Bignell of the Centre for Environment,Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), who had recently returned from a Travelling Fellowshipto New Zealand where he investigated how the country had developed its own strategy for asuccessful aquaculture industry.
In his report, Bignell says that aquaculture would become the most aggressive source of fish andshellfish production in the coming decades and that one of the key ways New Zealand had increasedproduction was through greater aquaculture consultation.According to Benyon, Bignell’s report says the development of an industry-led consultation strategythat incorporates a marketing perspective and implementation of an industry representativeorganisation that unites the aquaculture industry creates an environment that allows aquacultureto thrive. The study adds that a comprehensive research strategy is essential to ensure futuresustainable growth and development.“This is insight from a country that is achieving great growth in the shellfish aquacultureproduction and across the whole industry,” said Benyon. “I would like our shellfish industry to takea similar, innovative, industry-led approach.“The SAGB plays a critical role in this – in shifting government policy and working with the industryto take ownership of solutions. I want to work closely with the SAGB to improve shellfishmanagement, including stock assessment.”The minister conceded that many issues take “too much time to resolve fully” and that Defra is “in ahurry” to see change, but he said there are a number of excellent examples of where thegovernment and the shellfish industry have worked closely together.“Over the last year, we have been looking at possible pre-emptive management measures that couldbe introduced to safeguard brown crab and wider shellfish stocks. I would like to thank the SAGBfor its contribution to this work, particularly the openness in considering new, radical ideas.”Benyon also revealed the responses received from the consultation on inshore fisheriesmanagement, which included shellfish management options, however others didn’t share theSAGB’s enthusiasm for exploring the management approach. The minister said it had always beenclear that a staged management approach would only work with the full support of the fishermenthat manage it.“We therefore need to continue the dialogue to find an approach for effort control which they canown,” he said. “I am looking to you to put forward policy ideas. I know the SAGB supportslegislation like the catching of berried lobsters and increasing the national landing size of lobstersand brown crab. We have the potential to implement measures for increasing the long-termviability of these important fisheries. “I really want to see if we can make this work without imposing yet another form of control andregulation on fishermen. Regulations alone are not the way forward. I encourage the SAGB and theindustry to work with us to identify voluntary measures to safeguard stocks.”Benyon also said “I’m delighted to be able to officially announce that a pilot project, to provide ‘live’water quality information at shellfish farms will be going ahead. Defra and the Cleaner Seas Forum,which I chair, are very supportive of this project”.
Looking ahead, Benyon said Cefas will be sharing stock assessments with fishermen and workingwith them to evaluate the effectiveness of possible management measures. Furthermore, Cefas hasalso been running a sampling programme since last year that looks at the population structure ofcommercial fisheries in order to help develop a long-term approach to managing them.“Stock assessments take time but provide thorough evidence which is vital to management. Whentalking to the shellfish industry this is key to moving forward. I see every vessel as a scientificplatform for the collection of the data that we need. I think the SAGB shares my enthusiasm fordeveloping a strong evidence approach.“To conclude, I encourage you to take a greater role in the future. The government will work withyou and encourage you because we want you to produce more shellfish and more aquacultureproducts for export and for our own domestic use. It’s a clear joint vision that takes scientificevidence and innovative marketing, and I am confident that in 10 years time, when we look back atthis decade we will reflect on the successes of a vibrant, sustainable shellfish and marineaquaculture sector,” said Benyon.[ENDS/JH/May 2012]