New fisheries management groups to provide sustainability leadership for UK shellfish
Andrew Crook - NFFF President
November 19, 2020

Fishing industry invited to engage with groups to support ongoing sustainable management of important commercial fisheries

Three management groups have been formed to focus on shellfish fisheries around the UK.

The three groups provide a forum for the shellfish industry, regulators and the research community to work together to improve the management of these important resources and to increase the value they provide. 

The Shellfish Industry Advisory Group (SIAG) is focused on the strategic issues that impact all shellfish fisheries and is covering trade issues, competition for marine space and the overarching management measures that need to be in place to ensure the sustainable management of individual species. 

The group was formed in November 2019 and has met four times to date to define priority work areas for the group to focus on. A key priority for the SIAG is the development of a National Shellfish Fisheries Plan

Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFP, Chair of the SIAG said:

“In 2019 over 137,000 tonnes of shellfish were landed in the UK, at a value of over £370 million. This made shellfish the UK’s most valuable fishery. While Covid-19 has significantly impacted the sector in 2020, much of the shellfish landed in the UK is exported and growing markets around the world have led to an increased demand for UK shellfish. This in turn has led to an increase in fishing pressure on some species and stocks.

“The Shellfish Industry Advisory Group will look to tackle the challenges of managing these commercially important fisheries in a sustainable way. Our next step will be the development a National Shellfish Plan to establish a set of strategic objectives that will drive the management of all shellfish fisheries going forward.”

As well as the SIAG, two sub-groups focus on specific species:

  • Whelk Management Group (WMG); and
  • Crab and Lobster Management Group (CMG).

The creation of these groups is an important step in bringing together members of the seafood industry, to work together to improve the sustainable management of commercially important shellfish fisheries.

Whelk Management Group
Following the creation of the SIAG, the WMG was formed in February 2020 to focus solely on issues around whelk fisheries. Its membership is made up of representatives from across the supply chain – including active whelk fishermen and processors, fishermen’s associations and producer’s organisations alongside government and research institutes.

The main objective of the WMG is to focus on the effective management of whelk stocks to ensure their long-term sustainability. Key to this will be implementing data collection and research programmes to improve understanding of whelk stocks and the identifying the management measures necessary for their long-term sustainability.

Aoife Martin, Director of Operations at Seafish, Chair of the WMG said:

“The UK whelk fishery has expanded significantly in recent years due to growing demand for whelks. Between 2015 and 2019 the value of whelks landed in the UK increased by 40% which has led to a greater number of vessels fishing for them. The seafood industry is concerned about the long-term sustainability of whelk fisheries and the creation of the WMG provides the opportunity for all parties to work collaboratively to provide solutions.  

“Our initial focus is on establishing a reliable baseline of information that covers everything from stock biology, the effectiveness of management measures, the interaction with other fisheries, and the economic value of the fishery. This baseline will help identify our knowledge gaps and highlight where we should focus next.” 

Crab & Lobster Management Group
As with whelks, displacement of fishing activity from other sectors and new markets for UK crab and lobster have increased interest in these fisheries in the last few years. The CMG is the newest of the shellfish groups, and was formed in July 2020. Like the WMG it is focused on improving the operational management of our crab and lobster fisheries to ensure their long-term sustainability.  The CMG has met twice so far and is now working on defining its objectives and its short-term work programme.  

Claire Pescod, Head of Sustainability and Science at Macduff Shellfish, Chair of the CMG said:

“Between 2015 and 2019 the value of UK crab and lobster landings increased by 78% and 43% respectively though there has been little change in the volume of landings. There are concerns from industry that market demand could increase fishing pressure to unsustainable levels.

“It’s important that we address these concerns, so we’re starting with a review of the measures currently in place to manage crab and lobster fisheries. This review will be used to inform discussions on additional management measures for implementation so that we can be confident these species are on a sustainable footing.”

The SIAG, WMG, and CMG meet on a quarterly basis with the next meetings to be held in early 2021.

Stakeholders in the seafood industry interested in joining or engaging with the shellfish groups should contact: Lewis Tattersall, Marine Sustainability Manager at Seafish on

For further information visit the Seafish website

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