The UK industry authority, Seafish and the Marine Stewardship Council, has announced its findings from a three-year project which, for the first time, has mapped all English inshore fisheries and developed sustainability "roadmaps" for them to help secure seafood supplies from traditional inshore fleets.
"Project Inshore", the first exercise of its kind on this scale in the world, has produced bespoke reports for each of the English Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), and will now enable these inshore fisheries managers to come together to co-ordinate efforts.
Project Inshore will also provide an evidence-base for IFCAs that do not have sufficient resources to approach funders.
Split into three stages; stage one mapped over 450 different fisheries within the English inshore sector (out to six nautical miles).
Stage two assessed all of the fisheries within each IFCA district using the MSC standard as a gap analysis tool to score how each fishery was performing.
In total, around 50 fisheries were found to be performing at a level that could be considered in the short to medium term to move on to full MSC assessment. The remaining inshore fisheries require a longer term programme of work to be undertaken to get them to perform at this level.
Dr Tom Pickerell, technical director for Seafish, and one of Project Inshore's instigators explained: "Before we started Project Inshore we knew that for many fisheries there was insufficient information available to determine stock status and ecosystem impacts. These ‘data deficient' fisheries are a result of limited funding being available to support research into all fisheries, often resulting in a necessary focus on those of most economic importance"
"This therefore led us fittingly to stage three of the project which aimed to provide a plan or roadmap for each IFCA. These plans provide information and guidance for the IFCAs on what to do, and how to do it, to move fisheries towards higher levels of performance, ultimately reaching a standard that could go forward for MSC certification. Once at that level, it would be up to the fishermen themselves whether they wish to attempt certification."
Claire Pescod, chair of the Project Inshore Advisory Group and Fisheries Outreach Manager from the MSC added: "Project Inshore started with a grand ambition: it was a ground-breaking project using the MSC Pre-Assessment process as a gap analysis of current management of the English inshore fisheries."
"The past two and half years' work, mapping and examining the inshore fleet, culminates in these reports and a publicly-available database incorporating a wealth of information. Together, they allow us to use the results to work toward an environmentally sustainable future for English inshore fisheries."
"I believe there will be a strong legacy from this project, both in the UK and further afield, feeding the results into management to help inform priorities and develop improvements as well as highlighting current best practice."
Pickerell concluded: "Working in partnership we see real long term benefits for the entire supply chain starting with the small coastal vessels that fish in these waters. By working to demonstrate sustainability and this level of credibility it can only help inshore fisheries in opening new routes to market for its seafood.