The clam and cockle fishermen in Poole Harbour are currently seeking certification from both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS). If successful, this will be the first fishery in the world to gain certification against these two different standards at the same time.
Poole Harbour is an important commercial fishing port on the south coast of the UK, ideally situated for exporting shellfish. The fisheries within the harbour are an important contributor to the local economy, supporting jobs on the shore as well as on the water. In the 2015 fishing season the value at first sale of the fishery was estimated at over £1million. The Southern IFCA has been working with the fishing industry to implement a management scheme which promotes sustainable fishing for clams and cockles alongside sustainable management of the environment within a protected site.
The relatively new clam fishery started in Poole Harbour about 20 years ago, when farmed clams spread throughout and became naturalised. There are currently 45 permit entitlements issued annually for the fishery with permit conditions including spatial and temporal restrictions on fishing, gear specifications and the requirement to provide monthly catch returns, all of which is working toward achieving a sustainable fishery alongside the protection of the Poole Harbour Special Protection Area (SPA).
MSC and RFS certifications are mutually complementary. By working towards both certifications, the fishermen can demonstrate that they comply with both environmental sustainability credentials and high standards of crew welfare and responsible catching practices.
Tom Russell, Chairman, Poole & District Fisherman’s Association (PDFA), said: “I’m very pleased to see the fishery enter MSC assessment and progress along its sustainability journey. The fishery is very important to the local community, with families being involved right from the creation of the fishery 20 years ago. I am one of those fishermen. It provides Poole fishing families with a living. The PDFA are proud of the way the fishery has developed of the last few years. MSC and RFS certification will showcase our commitment to sustainability and responsible fishing practices.”
Chloe North, the MSC's UK Fisheries Officer, said: “It is extremely exciting that the fishery has now entered the MSC assessment process. This assessment allows fisheries to prove their sustainability against a global gold standard. Passing is a huge achievement. We wish the fishery the best of luck and invite all stakeholders to participate in the process.”