The Orkney Sustainable Fisheries (OSF) Orkney brown crab creel fishery has reached another milestone on its journey towards certification as a sustainable source of seafood. The fishery will formally enter full assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard by independent experts over the coming months.

Above: Orkney brown crab being landed at Stromness.

The fishery is of huge economic significance to Orkney. It accounts for around a quarter of Scotland’s total brown crab catch, and provides around 250 direct jobs in the local fishing community. Average annual landings of brown crab over the past 30 years have been more than 2,000 tonnes.

Beginning to process freshly cooked brown crab.

A Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) was established in the fishery in 2012, with the aim of working towards MSC certification. The FIP has now been completed and the fishery has entered assessment stage, where, if it meets the standard, it could achieve MSC certification within the next year or so.

The participants involved in the FIP include Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd, Orkney Fishermen’s Society, Crown Estate, Orkney Islands Council, Marks & Spencer, Marine Scotland, WWF, and Young’s Seafood.

The FIP participants have been supporting the fishery to become more sustainable through a range of activities, including scientific research to understand the biology of the brown crab, advocating improvements to the fisheries management system and financial contributions.
MSC has supported through the provision of expertise on the application of the MSC standard and use of FIP tools.

This was the first FIP in the UK to use the MSC Benchmarking and Tracking Tool to provide quantifiable data for measuring improvements in its sustainability performance.

Stewart Crichton, managing director of Orkney Fishermen’s Society and chairman of Orkney Sustainable Fisheries said: “Our scientists, supported by local fishermen, have worked very hard for a number of years to increase our understanding and knowledge of local shellfish stocks. I hope the MSC certification process will endorse this work.”

Stewart Crichton, chairman of Orkney Sustainable Fisheries.

Claire Pescod, senior fisheries outreach manager for the Marine Stewardship Council said: “It’s great to see the OSF Orkney brown crab creel fishery entering MSC full assessment after years of hard work and dedication to making this happen. It’s been a long time coming, and it has been great to see the MSC FIP tools being used to help identify and drive improvements, and prepare the fishery for MSC full assessment. I wish them well.”

Hannah Macintyre, fisheries and aquaculture manager for Marks & Spencer commented: “M&S have worked with Orkney Fisherman’s Society for over a decade, sourcing outstanding quality crab and lobster, which our customers love. This announcement comes after years of hard work and is testament to the passion and determination of the fishermen and scientists to secure the longevity of their fishery for future generations to enjoy.”

Clarus Chu, fisheries specialist for WWF said: “Thanks to the leadership and determination shown by all the stakeholders in this fishery, Orkney crab has taken another big step towards being certified as sustainable. It’s great news for Orkney’s seafood economy and great news for nature.”

David Parker, head of corporate social responsibility for Young’s said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the hard work of the Orkney fishery has finally been recognised and rewarded. Young’s is incredibly grateful that the fishery’s commitment to sustainability will ensure that Orkney crab will be available both now, and for generations to come.”

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