A fishy farewell to 2014

Posted by Dr Paul Williams, Chief Executive on 08 December 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, and we come close to wrapping up the present Corporate Plan, it seems a good opportunity to look back at the year. With our Technical Director in place (Tom Pickerell) and with a Corporate Relations Director joining us during the year (Mel Groundsell) I was looking for our operational divisions to really start delivering over the last year and I think they have certainly done so. A number of key Seafish initiatives have come to fruition this year and others have moved off the starting line.

Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood, or RASS, was launched in September and is already embedded as a key reference source. The system puts a risk rating on different aspects of a fishery, at present including stock status, management, habitat, and bycatch, along with detailed guidance as to how the scores were derived. The key objective is to allow buyers to set their own standards as to the level of risk they are willing to accept. There are already over 90 profiles in the database and, with experts like Cefas helping to make the assessments, the information is definitely authoritative.

Our Communications team has been gathering in the Awards this year, with different ones from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the Public Relations Consultants Association and the Chartered Institute of Internal Communications. This is partly recognition of the quality of their work, but also recognition of the fact that their campaigns on fishermen's safety (Sea You Home Safe) and on Fish Fight had real traction in the national media. More and more, Seafish is the first name on the list when media need information or opinion on any story connected with seafood.

Promotional work has continued with more than fifty thousand unique visitors to the 'Fish is the Dish' website each month, but also with some entertaining research on how the UK likes to eat its fish and chips. This light-hearted survey achieved good press take-up, and gave fish and chip shops some diverting posters for their customers to read. The correct way, of course, is with mushy peas, salt and vinegar,  any other accompaniments are foolish mistakes.

We have kept our traditional support for fishermen's training moving steadily forwards, with the team sourcing more than £1 million of funding. This has allowed us to deliver over 6,000 training places, an annual figure, which far exceeded our target. Our support for distributing personal floatation devices (PFDs) to fishermen has also been a huge success and has, we know, saved at least two lives.

Our work supporting exporters has been well received by industry with downloads of our Seafood Export Profiles from the Seafish website increasing month by month. There are twenty five countries now covered by Export Profiles, which include details about importing regulations, consumer trends and other trade factors relevant to each specific country. Seafish also supported exporters at the Tokyo Seafood Expo and World Food Moscow, the latter helping industry to keep contact with customers despite the Russian ban on seafood imports.

New labelling requirements for seafood have kept our Regulation team busy. There is a lot of useful,  up to date information available on the Seafish website, but we have also been running industry seminars and giving many responses to individual requests from companies striving to ensure compliance.

This by no means covers everything that Seafish have been involved with over the last year, from another successful Humber Seafood Summit, progress on the redesign of the Responsible Fishing Scheme, economic surveys of the industry, market information data and interpretation, vessel survey and responses to hundreds of queries, but it gives a flavour of some of the major pieces of work. Recently, a lot of effort has gone into working with our industry Panels to formulate and agree our next Corporate Plan, so next month I'll take a look at our future plans for Seafish.

It only remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2015 on behalf of all of us here at Seafish.