Seafish Roundup October 2016

Posted by Mel Groundsell on 12 October 2016

The theme of this year's Humber Seafood Summit was 'Supply and Demand' and there were good helpings of both on offer. In terms of quality speakers, inspiring subjects and genuine insight, there was certainly plentiful supply, and from the feedback received over the course of the day, demand was pretty buoyant too.

The real focus, of course, was on that very simple equation that sometimes seems to be left behind when the industry gets together with itself; the job of producing seafood, and selling it. For someone who has 'increase consumption' written into her performance contract, I can tell you it was of great interest to me and well timed for our current Seafood Week campaign.

One of my tasks over the course of the summit was to record memorable soundbites to help our communications team in compiling a 'highlights' film of the day. Looking back over my notes, those key phrases mark out a really excellent set of presentations and discussions.

"It's not a question of thinking bigger; we need to think better." Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, was a truly inspirational opening key note speaker. Sharing the wisdom of her experiences of the Irish seafood industry, Tara showed the steps we need to take to shift perception of our product by moving to a new culture of value creation. BIM's work is still in its formative phase but we would do well to keep in step.

"Working together we can do a lot as an industry that we simply can't do alone." Equally rousing was Alex Olsen and the work of 'Net Positive Fishing', a collective of great minds brought together to apply the principle of 'disruptive technology' to the thorny issue of selective harvesting. This was cross-sector collaboration at its best, with new thinking imported from outside the industry to progress gear innovation.

The morning session focussed on 'UK seafood: consumers and trade', and included some eye opening conclusions around the work we'll need to deliver if we are going to truly shift those consumption figures and get more people eating more fish more often.

"Why can't we make what consumers want to buy?" Why indeed! Chris Kirkwood of IGD asked probably the most important question of day, amidst a sea of worrying economic facts and figures. And what followed were a series of clear and compelling answers from Kate Shade at Kantar, Seafish Market Analyst Julia Brooks and Seafish Panel Chair Chris Lamb. There are simply too many memorable messages to mention here, but my favourite was: "We are eating twice as much meat than is deemed healthy - not just a bit more, but a heck of a lot more!" ….and we all know the solution to that one!

The day was broken up with an insightful panel session on Brexit, with thought-provoking contributions from across the supply chain on the various 'bottle necks, show stoppers and train wrecks' we may face ahead. Not surprisingly, the views were mixed with glasses either half empty or half full, depending on where in the supply chain you stood. This mixed view is perhaps best summed up with the following two statistics shared by different members of the panel: 88% of fish caught in UK waters is caught by EU fishermen; and 80% of EU workers would not meet current residency requirements.

The afternoon was all about supply, and again, we were kept wide awake with some fascinating talks. Perhaps the most compelling quote of the session was this, from Scott Nichols, Founder and Principal of Foods Future LLC: "2 billion people are coming round for dinner in 2050, and we have nothing to feed them." That certainly put things into perspective.

Dr Jonathon Shepherd, Seafish Board Member and Non-Exec Director of Omega Protein Inc, Grant Stentiford, CEFAS Director, and Dr Martin Jaffa of Callander McDowell all offered interesting perspectives on how aquaculture could plug that protein gap. The afternoon was best summed up by another quote from Scott Nicholls: "Aquaculture isn't a silver bullet - but it is a glimmer of hopefulness that can take us from a dismal future to a bright one." Amen to that!

For those of you not lucky enough to have attended the Humber Seafood Summit, you'll find the key presentations on the Seafish website - feel free to click though and expand your mind!