Scallop Association funds collaborative project to help define English Channel Scallop fishery

A new industry-funded PhD research project is now underway at Bangor University to help improve understanding of the scallop fishery in the English Channel. Shell fish (Aequipecten opercularis) on the SeabedShell fish (Aequipecten opercularis) on the Seabed

This first-time collaboration between processors and fishermen, and scientists at Bangor University and CEFAS, has been spearheaded by members of the Scallop Association, which has identified crucial data gaps which need to be addressed if the fishery is to move towards a certified status.

Mark Greet, Chair of the Scallop Association and Director of Falfish Ltd., said “We know our scallop fisheries provide high quality products for UK and overseas markets, but only a sustainable fishery can ensure long-term profitability for those engaged in the industry. It is crucial that this collaborative project brings together data sets to help us define an English Channel Scallop fishery.”

Shellfish (Pecten maximus) on the SeabedShellfish (Pecten maximus) on the SeabedProfessor Mike Kaiser of Bangor University, who is co-supervising the PhD with Dr Ewen Bell of CEFAS said, “Sustainable fisheries around the world are underpinned by high quality scientific information about their biology and status. The fact that the seafood industry is funding this research marks an important recognition of the critical role that science plays in safe-guarding the future of a valuable food resource and profitable fishery.”    

The research funding provided by the processors and fishermen, together with a PhD bursary award from the Fishmonger’s Company, was used to recruit Claire Szostek to undertake the research based at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences. Ms Szostek worked for The Co-operative Group prior to taking the Marine Environmental Protection MSc at Bangor.

Professor Kaiser added, “This is a ground-breaking project which will depend on active participation by the scallop industry in the English Channel. We are going to have to rely on the industry to do many of the tasks undertaken by scientists.”

The first phase of the project is already underway, and builds on research undertaken in the Isle of Man studying the population structure of scallops in UK waters. Additional sample sites from the English Channel and Western Waters area will be added to the existing data to help define the extent of what can be called the ‘English Channel scallop fishery’.

Some of the catch caught for the studySome of the catch caught for the studyIn the coming months, Claire Szostek will be undertaking a scallop fishery questionnaire to establish the current and past extent of scallop beds, and to interrogate fishermen’s knowledge about changes in scallop spawning patterns, distribution and recruitment over time.

Professor Kaiser concluded, “The insights we have gained from listening to fishermen have proved invaluable to helping us understand the fishery better, and how to interpret our own observations. Our research is focussed on filling the data needs of the Marine Stewardship Council accreditation process for this fishery which provides a challenging, but well directed, path for the science”

Publication date: 12 December 2011