Big accolade for isles shellfish industry

Three of Shetland’s main shellfish products – king scallop, velvet crab and brown crab – have become the first of their kind globally to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The industry, currently worth over £7 million a year to the isles economy, was immediately hailed by Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead for its “outstanding achievement” in gaining the prestigious accolade.

Mr Lochhead was presenting the cerficiate at seafood restaurant Ondine in Edinburgh where guests enjoyed a luxury Shetland shellfish lunch, specially prepared by chef and owner Roy Brett, who is renowned for his commitment to sourcing MSC seafood.

Mr Lochhead said: “The clear, pristine waters surrounding Shetland produce some of the highest quality and most delicious seafood anywhere in the world. Therefore I’m delighted that the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) has been able to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification for their king scallops and brown and velvet crab – a world first.

“MSC certification illustrates that Shetland king scallops and brown and velvet crab meet the ultimate sustainability standards and it is an outstanding achievement for Shetland. Scotland now has eight MSC certified fisheries and a further six in the full assessment process – covering more than 50 per cent of the value of our landings. This demonstrates our strong and ongoing commitment to supplying consumers with premium and sustainable seafood options.”

Mr Brett said the cerficate highlighted a very important moment in Scotland in terms of safeguarding the sea for future generations. “I’m just back from Abu Dhabi where I also saw change under way in terms of protecting fish and shellfish,” he said. “Here – and there, fishermen, their families and their communities are working together with government, environmentalists and scientists, to give our seas a real chance to recover. We all have a part to play.”

The independent assessment process took 15 months to complete and was co-ordinated by SSMO in partnership with the NAFC Marine Centre. Financial assistance for progressing the certification was provided by the £200,000 Sustainable Fishing Fund that is supporting fisheries across the UK through MSC assessments, as well as the Resource Legacy Fund.

Jennifer Mouat of SSMO said: “We are delighted to have achieved this certification which recognises that Shetland shellfish has something unique to offer consumers. We are proud to be the only fishery in the world to have the MSC label for brown and velvet crab and king scallops.

“It has taken over a year to get here and it has been a rigorous process – but the results are fantastic and well-deserved. The certification marks an independent measure of success and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the sustainability of the species and the stocks in Shetland’s inshore waters.

“In Shetland we have a regulating order allowing us to self-manage out to the six-mile limit and have amassed 12 years worth of data, which is very unusual for inshore fisheries. Working in partnership with the NAFC Marine Centre UHI has been integral to our success as we were able to collect a comprehensive data set on the main species within Shetlands waters. As a result this meant that we could push for three species to be assessed together.”

NAFC head of marine science and technology Martin Robinson said it was an excellent model for what could be achieved when science and industry worked closely together in practical and highly applied terms.

Dr Robinson said: The result has required consideration of stock, environment, interactions and the communities that exploit them, providing an example of a more realistic, holistic, ‘ecosystem’ type approach to management.”

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