Eco-labelling concerns for dredged scallops

Scallop scallops dredging

Open Seas’ mission is to promote more sustainable fishing in Scotland. This blog post explains why, with some regret, they are now challenging the proposed re-certification of the scallop dredge fishery in Shetland.

Below, Open Seas tell us why the possible re-certification of scallop dredging here, under its current management regime, risks green-washing an important certification standard that should represent a benchmark for sustainability.

Scallop Dredging

Scallop dredging is one of the UK’s most damaging forms of fishing. Dredge boats tow heavy rakes with metal teeth several inches long that dig into the seabed, dredging out the scallops. In April of 2017 the severity of damage caused by scallop dredging was revealed when a vessel towed through a well-known flame shell reef in Loch Carron.

The killing of species other than scallops and the flattening of seabed habitats, means dredging has and continues to have a profoundly negative impact on the health of our seas. However, it does not have to be this way.

Dredging in some places might be sustainable, particularly in areas of seabed that are frequently disturbed by natural wave action and currents and which do not – or could not, either now or in the future – support sensitive seabed species and habitats. Any scallop dredge fishery hoping to be viewed as sustainable must be able to evidence that it operates in this way.

Blue label certification

Five years ago, Shetland’s scallop dredge fishery (managed by the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation; SSMO) was awarded the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue label certification. Whilst the assessors granting this certification noted at the time the fishery still had some way to go to meet its full sustainability credentials, the Shetland scallop dredge fishery has since been praised as an example of a locally and environmentally-sensitive management system.

The fishery has since been able to sell their scallops at a premium, and is currently worth about £2.4 million pounds annually.

Now, five years on, the fishery’s certificate is being reassessed. Since the original certification some things have changed: new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) have been designated in Shetland’s seas; and some moves – albeit still inadequate – have been made to improve scallop dredge fisheries around Scotland.

We argue the issues outstanding in 2012 still remain and have not been fully addressed. In particular, we have concerns about the fishery’s impact on the seabed, the amount of other species caught and killed, and the fact that the fishery operates within the new and now well-established MPAs.

We estimate that hundreds of tonnes of fish and habitat-forming molluscs (such as horse mussels) are raked up by this particular fishery each year.

We’re obviously concerned by these things, and so, soon after we were founded as an organisation, we started looking at the re-certification process, trying to understand the reassessment criteria, the evidence and the management regime.

Read more on this from Open Seas.

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