Scallop dredging is set to be a focal point of the upcoming Fish Fight program, with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall advocating for dive-caught scallops.
Mark Greet, chairman of the UK scallop association, said this is the wrong focus.
“A number of high-profile chefs continue to urge consumers to seek out diver-caught rather than dredge-caught scallops because of the alleged destruction inflicted on the seabed by the latter,” Greet told Undercurrent News, in relation to an article published in the Daily Mail by the chef.
“This is a grave mistake on their part because unlike traditional scallop fishing, scallop diving is unregulated with participants often taking shellfish from areas rich in marine life where no scalloping boat would be allowed to fish,” he said.
The lack of management also means there is very little bio-toxin testing conducted on dive-caught scallops, which brings an element of risk to the sector, said Greet, who is also managing director of processor Falfish.
“It’s also a fact that divers can only fulfill 2% of the country’s current demand for scallops,” he told Undercurrent. “The last thing we want to see is unnecessary, potentially damaging pressure exerted on the dive-caught scallop sector to land more shellfish, particularly when there is so much good work being done by traditional scallop fishermen.”
The Scallop Association would “be only too glad” to discuss all scallop fishing practices with any chef, retailer or consumer that has concerns about the industry, said Greet.
“The last thing we want to see is British consumers turning their back on these shellfish as a result of sensational or inaccurate claims.”
The UK’s scallop fleet “adheres to unparalleled sustainability measures to ensure consumers can eat British scallops with a clear conscience”, he said.
UK fishermen use modern fishing gear and VMS technology to minimize impact on the marine environment and, “for many decades”, the fishermen have focused their catching effort on the same small traditional fishing grounds, which comprise sands and gravels that are fished cyclically, said Greet,
These scallop beds are actually more affected by the tides and the motion of the sea than the boats fishing them.
In order to mitigate any fears about scallops, Greet said the Scallop Association wishes to make the following assurances:
- All commercial fishing boats need a scallop entitlement in order to catch scallops
- All over 12-metre vessels have VMS in place
- All over 15-meter vessels can only fish for a maximum of 180 days per year in the English Channel
- Inshore vessels fishing in Wales have implemented a new VMS
- The Scallop Association launched a Good Practice Guide (GPG) in 2010, which members are working towards and encompasses ‘best practice’ in all areas of scallop harvesting and production
- Members of the Scallop Association are funding a three year scientific survey to improve knowledge about environmental factors and scallop stocks
- The sector is actively pursuing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification and has already achieved this sustainability standard for some important fisheries
- There are dredge and engine limitations, minimum landing sizes, as well as seasonal closures and curfews
- The sector actively supports the protection of marine habitats and uses advanced technology to avoid environmentally sensitive areas
“The Scallop Association believes it speaks volumes that a lot of the changes that have been made in the scallop sector and the on-going equipment trials are voluntary, fishermen-led initiatives.
“Despite the tough economic climate, fishermen are putting their hands in their pockets because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Under no circumstances should they be vilified for their bold actions,” he said.