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Marine / Local scallop fishery an example for sustainability, MSC says

SSMO crab fishermen Francis and Calum Fraser. Photo: David Loftus for MSC

GOOD fishing practices in Shetland are being highlighted in a new report by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the body which issues the blue ecolabel for sustainably caught fish and shellfish.

The State of the Water report, out today (Wednesday), lists almost 150 changes to fishing practices since 2001, driven by consumer demand for better fisheries management.

The MSC sets a global standard for sustainability against which fisheries are certified.

Released as part of Sustainable Seafood September, the report highlights Shetland’s scallop fishermen who now avoid specified closed areas to protect endangered horse mussels and maerl, a type of coral and another important habitat, particularly for crabs, urchins and worms.

Inshore coordinator with Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) John Robertson said: “It’s good to see the hard work of Shetland fishermen commended in this report.

“It’s not easy to meet the standards needed for MSC approval but the effort pays off for our fishermen through stronger prices and a stable market.

“When stocks are managed to be sustainable it means plenty crab and scallops out there for our fleet to catch.”

Meanwhile, fishermen in the North Sea and off the west coast of Scotland fishing for coley now have digital cameras on deck to monitor whether they also catch any common skate.

If they do, this critically endangered species is returned live back to sea.

There are currently 19 MSC certified fisheries, comprising 579 vessels and representing 20 per cent of the UK and Ireland’s national seafood landings.

This figure could be significantly higher – 58 per cent – if it was not for Northeast Atlantic mackerel, which lost its MSC certificate in 2019 due to a lack of agreement on managing this stock sustainably between the UK, EU and other parties.

North Sea cod also lost its certificate in 2019 after the stock fell below the safe biological level.

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The MSC believes that following Brexit there is a once in a generation opportunity to ensure sustainability is embedded into all aspects of UK fisheries management.

The organisation’s George Clark said: “In order to continue to deliver positive environmental outcomes in our seas while keeping healthy and nutritious fish and seafood on our plates, it’s imperative that UK government and policy makers deliver on the aspiration for our fisheries to become truly world leading in terms of sustainable management.

“With climate change warming our seas and so disturbing the movement and distribution of our fish stocks, it is now more important than ever that UK fisheries become resilient to these ever-increasing pressures, through being managed sustainably.

“The MSC certified fisheries featured in this first ever UK and Ireland State of the Water Report show how meeting a high bar of sustainability is achievable and creates real, lasting, positive impacts for our marine environment as a result.”

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