Newly appointed Matthew Hurst – the ‘Nephrops tsar’, with a remit to help the industry implement the recommendations of the Scottish Nephrops Working Group – told FN during a recent interview that he has needed to hit the ground running, reports Andy Read.

The initial £800,000 made available to support implementation of the group’s recommendations needs to be fully committed by the end of March 2022. As importantly, the Scottish Nephrops sector itself needs to see tangible benefits to support its recovery from the disastrous impact of Covid in 2020.

“We are focusing on the recommendations from the working group where we feel we can make a difference, in such a tight timeframe – where we can make quick progress. So I’m working initially with the Nephrops sector on four of the seven recommendations made by the pan-industry working group – identifying new markets, recovering lost ground in existing markets, working on product quality, and improving our industry data management.

“Covid hit the Nephrops sector particularly hard, and the new upsurge in cases is likewise affecting our own plans. We had hoped to attend shows in China and Japan, with representatives from the catching sector, where there are some real opportunities for growth, but these have been put on hold.

“We are now waiting to see if our planned presence at the US seafood exhibition in Boston in March, and the European one in Barcelona in April, will still go ahead.

“The industry-led programme board that I report to meets every month, but much of the detailed work is being undertaken by smaller teams, bringing in other experts from within the industry, on individual workstreams. “For example, we have working fishermen and buyers involved in looking at quality issues, and how we can maximise reliability and price for Scottish Nephrops in international markets. This is vital before we apply for further funds to continue the work, particularly on other recommendations from the working group such as improving infrastructure, which is a longer-term issue.

“Giving the catching and processing sectors the opportunity to attend shows in Boston and Barcelona with Seafood Scotland will help to raise awareness within both sectors of the ever changing demands of the consumer. We aim to provide a learning journey and showcasing events around Nephrops, and are actively recruiting for these shows as of now.

“We’d very much like to bring in as much expertise as we can from across the Scottish Nephrops fleet, and I’d welcome suggestions and contact from anyone in the industry, either through working group representatives, such as Kevin McDonell from WSPO and Duncan MacInnes (Western Isles), or directly to myself.

“I can be contacted on: and I am keen to hear fishers’ suggestions.

“We will also be updating industry as we proceed with the different workstreams, and I look forward to presenting a full report on the planned trips to the US and Barcelona, with the lessons we have learned about increasing demand and prices for top-quality Scottish Nephrops.”

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


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