An investigation lasting months into objections raised by NGO, Open Seas, to Shetland’s scallop dredging fishery has finally concluded . The objections have been rejected and the Shetland dredged scallops will continue to be MSC certified.
There are strict conservation measures in place in Scotland for the dredging of scallops.
An independent assessment of every aspect of the fishery’s operations was conducted by the fishery’s assessment body, Acoura Marine.
The fishery in Shetland remains the only dredge fishery in the UK to be MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified.
Open Seas in their objection expressed concern that sensitive habitats continue to be adversely impacted by this dredge fishery, despite large areas being closed to fishing. Open Seas argued that the responses to the concerns they raised in an early draft report were inadequate.
Professor Greenberg, the independent adjudicator,considered Open Seas’ view that vulnerable ocean floor habitats were being disrupted by the fishery’s operations. He noted that the assessor found evidence that there was no change to the unintentional level of catch of other species and therefore there is no evidence that habitats are being disrupted.
He also considered Open Seas’ concern that vulnerable habitats exist in areas that are currently open to fishing. Professor Greenberg concluded in section 23 of his report that there has been no thorough survey to determine whether there are Maerl beds in Mousa Sound.
This means that Open Seas contention that there are maerlbeds in this area is not proven. Shetland fishery managers code of practice commits them to review the extent of their closures policy based on an assessment of new scientific evidence.
Professor Greenberg concluded that because the fishery’s impact on the sea bed is so limited, it is ‘highly unlikely’ to cause severe and irreversible harm.
Carole Laignel from the Shetland fishery said:
“Throughout our fishing we are always conscious of any possible impact on the environment. We are the only dredge fishery in the UK to be MSC certified and that is the result of good management, robust regulations and a very small footprint to our fishery. Our scallop boats don’t fish in 95% of the regulated area around Shetland.
“We are, of course, open to closing further areas to protect vulnerable species where there is strong scientific evidence to show they are there. MSC certification was the beginning of the journey for our fishery, not the end, and we remain committed to supplying the UK with tasty sustainably dredge-caught scallops and encouraging other dredge fisheries to follow our lead to improve to the point where they might meet the MSC Standard
Claire Pescod, the Senior Fisheries Manager at the MSC in the UK said:
‘Open Seas’ concerns have been rigorously and impartially evaluated, including through the consideration of new evidence. The MSC gives stakeholders the ability to question and challenge decisions to certify fisheries.
“We welcome the engagement of Open Seas in the assessment of this fishery. As the IA has acknowledged, Open Seas’ contribution has strengthened the quality of the final certification report.
“The independent adjudicator has confirmed that the fishery’s certificate for scallops should be retained.
“Shetland’s code commits it to reassess its operations in light of new scientific evidence. Shoppers can continue to buy Shetland caught scallops with confidence“
Open Seas state that they are ‘gutted’ by the decision. Their full reaction can be read here: Scallop dredging: eco-label the problems away
“We think the decision, and the way the MSC have gone about making it, highlights a systemic failure in the MSC’s certification processes, and not only undermines the recovering health of our marine environment, but also shows that what MSC consider to be ‘sustainable’ is out of step with what the Scottish environmental community and consumers expect.”
The full final report from the Marine Stewardship Council can be read here: Decision of the Independent Adjudicator.