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What does a sustainable ocean economy mean for UK Seafood?

  • 8th December 2020

In a month in which Brexit talks are headline news and the battle to ‘take back control’ of UK waters is seen as a major stumbling block to any UK/ EU deal it is comforting to sea the announcement of a major Global strategy for sustainable fishing.

The High Level Panel of countries (which does not include the UK) which is responsible for 40% of the world’s coastlines has set out targets and a strategy in order to reduce plastic pollution, end overfishing and reduce emissions by improving the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon.

The Group includes fishing neighbours Norway and global seafood giants such as Australia, Japan and Canada with Prime Ministers and Presidents of all nations signing up to ‘Give it 100%’ towards a sustainable ocean economy as the campaign slogan suggests.

The benefits of eating more seafood are fairly obvious in a ‘green’ sense with a lower carbon footprint than meat and a generally cheaper and more nutritious product but the industry has to tackle problems with sustainability to be seen as a solution to long term world hunger and environmental issues.

Of course your average UK seafood business may well be wondering what impact this will have on their trade. The UK imported Seafood to the value of £3.3 billion in 2019 therefore any impact on a Global scale will filter through to the UK but there are several other ‘takeaways’ which may see knock on effects for the Humber region:

  • The panel are urging other countries to join with the UK Government pledging to ‘carefully consider’ the recommendations of the panel. If this is done we could see the introduction of measures to curb the discarding of fishing gear or tighter rules to prevent overfishing of UK waters
  • More rules and regulations are likely to see more costs for businesses in order to comply. This may be more of an issue for fishermen and Companies on the frontline, but will we see these costs passed on? Long term economists estimate investment in sustainable oceans could see a five-fold return on every £1 spent in economic, social and environmental benefits but try telling that to those with the initial set up or implementation costs.
  • The report doesn’t just look at sustainable fishing but the whole ‘Ocean Economy’ and identifies wind power as a key form of ocean-based renewable energy. Investing in research and technological development in the sector is a ‘priority action’ of the report, the Humber region is already a world leader in wind energy, will this be a further boost or see other nations ‘catch up’?

It looks like there is more than Brexit fallout for the Seafood sector to consider as we head into the predictably choppy waters of 2021…

Written by: Neal Watford

Any news or resources within this section should not be relied upon with regards to figures or data referred to as legislative and policy changes may have occurred.