Ahead of the new TV series of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight this evening (9.00pm, Channel 4). Seafish, the authority on seafood, has released two statements, which they say, present the facts behind a number of key issues which are expected to be explored in this evening's broadcast.
"Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated areas of our oceans, seas and coasts where species and habitats are protected through legal or other effective means from activities that are damaging. Fishing activities which do not have a significant impact on wildlife will be unaffected, some fishing might need to be restricted in certain areas, but if so, it may be possible to find wildlife-friendly ways to keep working.
"Seafish supports the concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which can play an important role in protecting the biodiversity and productivity of our seas.
"However, MPAs need to have clear and measurable objectives, as MPAs designed for fisheries management may be quite different to those designed to protect marine biodiversity. There could be some win-wins - for example where a habitat in need of protection also provides an important nursery area for a commercial fish species.
"The Government is in the process of putting in place an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas as part of a new Marine Planning process. Initial announcements were made at the end of 2012, with new designations coming into force in 2013.
With regards to Scallop dredging, the second statement said: "In 2010, the UK fleet landed 42,700 tonnes of scallops, worth an estimated £54.4m, into UK ports [Marine Management Organisation statistics]. Approximately 60% of UK landed scallops are exported to European countries, particularly France, where UK scallops are held in high regard."
Over 98% of UK landed scallops are caught by vessels using towed fishing gear. There is a misconception that scallop fishermen tow dredges or trawls over every bit of the sea bed. In fact, fishermen know where the species are found and make rational decisions about where to go scallop fishing.
"The severity and extent of the impact of these dredges depend on the nature of the seabed and the overlying water column.
"Dredging may not necessarily be destructive if used in areas with ‘high energy' seabeds (soft or sandy ones that naturally change all the time as a result of normal tide, current and wave action). The key consideration is the resilience of the habitat to scallop dredging.
"Improvements with dredging need to be balanced with an increase in responsibility and accountability of hand-divers, with both taking into account the impact on the environment."
Seafish supports improved management in both sectors, as both have their place in providing food and maintaining a valuable export market for the UK.
For full Seafish statements please e-mail seafishWS@webershandwick.com