Opinion and comment from Food and Drink leaders.
Marcus Coleman is the CEO of Seafish, the public body supporting the UK’s seafood sector to thrive. Marcus joined Seafish in 2016 and is leading the organisation to support the seafood industry through some of its biggest challenges. This includes:
- helping it through the changes and opportunities coming from leaving the EU,
- increasing demand for seafood from consumers,
- improving skills and ensuring there is a talented workforce in the future,
- supporting the industry to be responsible and sustainable.
He also led the organisation to a Best Companies accreditation with Seafish listed as one of the Best Companies to Work For in the UK in 2022.
Find out more about Seafish at www.seafish.org
One Seafish success
- The UK seafood industry has gone through some phenomenal change and huge challenges over the past few years with Brexit and the pandemic. The industry has had to change and adapt and so has Seafish. I think we’ve done a great job to support our industry through it all. On leaving the UK, our regulation experts have been on hand to answer questions and trying to make the complex easier to understand when it comes to new regulations. We’ve been helping the industry to flag concerns to the Government and supporting the Government to solve these problems. The pandemic closed markets for the industry overnight and we were on hand to offer advice, signpost to funding and sometimes just a listening ear to people who were struggling.
Two challenges for the seafood sector
- Keeping seafood on the shopping lists and menus of consumers has always been a challenge. I think that challenge is about to get harder. The increased cost of living means people will start to spend more cautiously. Our insight tells us that seafood consumption goes down during a recession, but seafood is an important part of a healthy diet. The processors and retailers need to work together to ensure affordable options are available. We also need to need seafood to be part of the UK Government’s National Food Strategy to ensure the industry can build on that opportunity. We can’t lose sight of the growing movement in plant-based eating too. The UK seafood industry and its traditional communities have a great story to tell when it comes to responsible fishing. We all need to be telling that story a little better.
- Leaving the EU means we no longer have easy access to sufficient skilled and reliable labour. Seafood processors have been very reliant on workers from outside of the UK and they are struggling to recruit. Add in the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions and people having to isolate and it’s having a significant impact on the factory floor. We have been running a pilot careers campaign in North East Scotland with local seafood processors to recruit locally and we know the Humber region are trying to do the same. It’s early days in this pilot but there is a big job to do to make seafood processing an attractive career prospect. These businesses are an important part of communities and economies so it’s important for schools, colleges and local authorities to play a part in encouraging local people into these jobs.
Three forecasts for the seafood sector
- Climate change is something none of us can ignore or avoid and it’s important for businesses to make themselves aware of what they can do to reduce their impact on the world. We used COP26 to help raise awareness amongst seafood businesses on what they can do to adapt and mitigate against climate change. There’s already some great work underway including electric fishing vessels and new ways to freeze product so it can be shipped rather than flown around the world. Seafood is a low carbon protein too so there is a great story to tell there to ensure consumers keep eating it. Businesses that get their priorities and sourcing credentials in this space sorted now will do well.
- With the UK out of the Common Fisheries Policy, there is a collective aspiration for a world class fisheries management system in the UK. The four UK governments are going through a consultation on a Joint Fisheries Statement that ensures the fish we catch is sustainable and allows for a thriving fishing industry. It’s not easy to come up with a framework that will keep everyone happy but it’s important for everyone with a stake in the UK’s fisheries to be involved and work together. Seafish facilitates fisheries management groups, bringing the right parties together to make progress on this and we look forward to supporting big changes in this arena.
- Digital traceability in supply chains is the way forward for seafood. Seafood is one of the most globally traded commodities. Here in the UK we export most of what we catch and import most of what we eat! Around the world it is a similar story. However, these long-distance supply chains can be particularly vulnerable to fraud and exploitation. Reputable seafood businesses are working hard to develop fully transparent seafood supply chains built on a foundation of globally recognised industry standards. The leading initiative is the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability setting a business-to-business platform with agreed key data elements, technical specifications and internationally agreed benchmarks. It is one more way in which the seafood sector is working hard to present itself and its products as a responsible and sustainable option for consumers.