With so many different aspects to the remit of the Fishing News Awards’ Sustainability Award (sponsored by The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust), it was possibly inevitable that such a diverse range of individuals and organisations would make the judges’ shortlist this year.

At one end of the scale is the North Atlantic Pelagic Advocacy Group (NAPA), a body that represents views on sustainability for the largest fish processors and retailers, representing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of pelagic fish landings.

NAPA has been outspoken about the need for countries involved in the ongoing impasse over pelagic quotas to reach a binding agreement that will prevent the risk of overfishing. The impasse, as regular readers of FN will know, has dragged on for many years, and a recent new deadline of 31 March passed without agreement.

Speaking to FN, the group’s Tom Pickerell said: “NAPA was born out of supply chain frustration with the North East Atlantic coastal states and their inability to reach an agreement on the sustainable management of pelagic stocks, culminating in the loss of MSC certification.

“NAPA has a very focused aim: to use market pressure to drive the coastal states to put aside their politics and instead collaborate to ensure that catches do not exceed sustainable levels.

“We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for The Sustainability Award. The field is strong, and regardless of the outcome, it is gratifying to see the efforts being made to improve the sustainability of this critical industry.”

Unlike NAPA, which works through advocacy, another finalist in the category is notable by virtue of having its own decision-making powers. The Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) is unique in the British Isles in having a legal order in place that devolves responsibility for management of shellfish stocks inside six miles to the organisation.

The SSMO has developed a growing range of research and monitoring work through its members to enable this responsibility to be discharged using the best possible statistics and scientific advice.

SSMO chair Alastair Cooper said: “It’s always gratifying to get recognition beyond our own islands, especially for the efforts of a small team running on a shoestring budget. Last year we enjoyed some great national publicity from the MSC after its team was up here filming and interviewing fishermen about our sustainable scallops and brown crab.

“But it was also a turbulent year in the SSMO, with big changes to adapt to in key personnel on the board and in the office, plus difficulties securing our funding and with obtaining the scientific advice we use for managing fishing effort.

“Nevertheless, we find ourselves striding on in 2023 with shellfish stocks in reasonable health, and a small influx of new fishermen joining our throng of 106 licence holders.”

One of the most recent initiatives FN reported on from Shetland was the ban on landing berried lobster – something that many members had in fact been avoiding on a voluntary basis for many years.

Sustainability Award nominee Joe Redfern of the Whitby Lobster Hatchery and North East Fishermen’s Collective.

Alistair Cooper continued: “We are pleased with the support from our fishermen during the first six months of the ban. There’s been no enforcement action required, which is what you hope for with a rule that was the fishermen’s proposal in the first place. We are a community-led organisation with a board made up mainly of fishermen, so we try not to be heavy-handed anyway.”

By contrast, nominee Joe Redfern – though supported by a team of volunteers – has, his nomination says, ‘driven’ much of the work around sustainability of shellfish in the Whitby area single-handed.

His work with both the Whitby Lobster Hatchery and the North East Fishermen’s Collective have featured regularly in the pages of FN over the past year – and, in fact, he appears again on page 11 of this week’s edition, co-ordinating the collection of sediment samples in the North East for further analysis, as investigations into the causes of the shellfish die-off there continue.

The 2023 Fishing News Awards will be taking place on 11 May 2023 in Aberdeen. Book your tickets here.


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