SAGB conference delivers positive messages

Posted by Karen Green, Industry Environmental Communications on 25 May 2012

The spectacular Fishmongers' Hall was once again the venue for the Shellfish Association of Great Britain's very well attended annual conference. The SAGB twitter feed is full of congratulations about the content of the presentations, the passion of some of the speakers and the truly delicious seafood dinner served on the Tuesday night. And this praise is very well deserved.

As a first-time attendee it was very obvious from the start that the conference, now in its 43rd year, has good support from across the seafood industry. The opening presentation, the Drummond Lecture, was given by Richard Benyon, Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, who shared his vision for the development of the shellfish industry based on four basic interlinked principles including: a clear market-led strategy; integral industry representation; the integration of legislative reforms; and a comprehensive research policy.

Universal population growth, the need to use more of what we produce and FSA advice to eat two portions of fish (or shellfish) a week all have the potential to create more demand and there is the need to bridge the gap between diminishing supply and that increased demand for seafood. SAGB was acknowledged as playing a pivotal role in delivering sustainable shellfisheries. He cited particular examples of issues affecting the industry and new initiatives being put in place to address them. This includes work with the water companies on a new text alerts system that will enable shellfish harvesters to manage their operations when water quality may be compromised; as well as collaborative work on brown crab and scallop sampling.

He also emphasised that industry needs to steer its own future and cited the work of the England Aquaculture Consultation Group, and its recent consultation on how to plan for the sustainable development of the English aquaculture industry, as a prime example.

A whole range of topics were touched upon during the conference including: the role of the Sea Fish Industry Authority; the promotion of cultivated molluscs; the role of the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) and the Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs); as well as collaborative projects looking at the Celtic Sea ecosystem and fisheries management. It also highlighted some interesting marketing initiatives including 'Seafood for Schools' in Scotland and the very successful Crabstock inland festival - the first of its kind.

The talk by Monty Halls, the TV presenter of 'The Fishermans Apprentice' fame really encapsulated what the industry is all about. His presentation 'Between a rock and a hard plaice - the making of The Fishermans Apprentice' showed his appreciation of what it means to be a fisherman - the early hours, the physical strength needed and the inherent dangers. But more than anything he highlighted the camaraderie - he did not think he could have a found a more welcoming group of people to work with. All the presentations will be available on the SAGB website and are well worth a peruse.

Karen Green, Industry Environmental Communications.