NFFO president Paul Gilson, who has worked on a variety of fisheries from his home port of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, got a surprise name-check during Prime Minister’s Question Time in parliament last week. It came when his local MP Anna Firth raised the potential for directed fisheries for both razorfish and Manila clams with Rishi Sunak, inviting him to the constituency to discuss the issue with local fishermen.

“We’ve been having some really constructive discussion with both Defra and the MMO,” Paul Gilson said afterwards, “with a view to designing fisheries that from the very outset will meet all the criteria for sustainable certification, and maximising benefits to local fishing communities around the Thames estuary.

“Offshore, we’ve huge beds of razorfish, the same non-native species that is now MSC- MSC-accredited in the Netherlands, and provides a model of successful fisheries management in an area that contains a number of MPAs, feeding areas for migratory birds and a variety of sensitive habitats.

“Closer to shore, we are also seeing a huge number of Manila clams, to the extent that they are now encroaching on the cockle beds here. Both species have the potential to be a real game-changer for local fishermen on both sides of the Thames, and it is great to see this endorsed at the highest political levels.

“The key now will be to work with all the authorities and regulators involved to design fisheries that from the outset will operate within existing best practice.”

The prime minister told parliament that the news about the shellfish beds was a ‘fantastic discovery’, and that he’d encourage fisheries minister Mark Spencer to look at this in detail, while he hoped to learn more about it in person if an opportunity to visit the constituency arose.

“The next step that we’re hoping to organise,” Paul Gilson told FN, “is a site visit to the existing fishery in the Netherlands, to build on inputs we’ve already had from Scottish razorfish fishermen, who’ve developed their own successful fishery in recent years.

“A second step we’re hoping to undertake soon is working with the Kent and Essex IFCA to look at the potential for a small-scale fishery for Manilla clams similar to the MSC award- winning Poole Harbour clam fishery. That fishery has gone a long way to supporting a fleet of viable inshore vessels there, with Waitrose having a very successful UK campaign to sell their catches. This is something that I am confident we can emulate in the Thames, if we work together to make it happen.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

Sign up to Fishing News’ FREE e-newsletter here


Subscribe to Fishing News magazine today; never miss an issue and save 55%!