Thursday, April 14, 2011

Marine Stewardship Council rejects certification for the Isle of Man scallop dredge

Today the Marine Stewardship Council passed a determination and final report on the Isle of Man scallop (queenie) fishery. It stated that following a 30-day period of comment on the Draft Report for the Isle of Man queen scallop trawl and dredge fishery, the Certification Body, Moody Marine, has determined that the trawl unit should be certified and the dredge unit should not be certified in accordance with the MSC Standard. 

While this is not the end of the line as a 15 day period now commences for further objections, it is a clear blow to the Scottish dredging fleet that were the second unit of certification. 

The assessment stated:

"The main weaknesses in this fishery lay in a lack of practical understanding of the extent and consequences of the effect of trawls and dredges on marine habitats. Here it was felt that new
management measures and better information would be required. For the trawl fishery it was felt
that these could be a condition of certification. For the dredge fishery, the concerns about these issues, along with a lack of information about the capture and fate of non-target species, were sufficient to prevent a “pass” score being awarded for this unit of certification."

It appears that the assessors and the MSC are making a case that the smaller inshore Manx trawl fleet can operate in a sustainable way as opposed to the larger dredging fleet that causes a greater impact. Another highly likely factor is the development of formal protection in Manx waters. From the report:

"Historically there has been very little formal protection from bottom fishing in Manx waters, but
recently there have been important changes. Since 1989 all mobile gear has been banned around
3.5 km² of seabed off Port Erin ..... In the last five years  similar small protected areas have been set up in Douglas, Laxey, and Ramsey Bay, although these are all expected to be temporary, with the expectation of being re-opened for fishing –principally for scallops – periodically. More importantly, there are recently imposed permanent bans on queen scallop dredging; these permanently ban all queenie dredging with toothed gear, while nontoothed dredges are permanently banned from large areas of seabed and from all areas within the 12 milelimit in June, July and August. However, trawling for scallops is still allowed in all except closed areas mentioned above."

Clearly the move by the Manx government to favour smaller 'local' trawls over the larger more efficient and damaging dredgers has been a factor in the certification of the trawl fleet and the rejection of the dredge fleet. While the trawlers still have an impact on the sea floor, this was found in the MSC study to be manageable, and several conditions are attached to certification to further reduce trawl impacts upon habitat. One condition (2.4.2) indicates that for continued certification, the authorities should action the creation and implementation of a more comprehensive strategy for ensuring that marine habitats are adequately protected  akin to the mechanisms established through the EC Habitats Directive and / or trials new fisheries management measures such as closed areas, “fallowing”
and rotating closed areas) that may help to improve understanding of habitat impacts, and mitigate or reduce them.

The MSC strategy of splitting the fishing industry between unsustainable and so called 'sustainable' components appears to be working, where the sustainable elements of the industry attract more market support for investing in reducing their environmental impact. The conditions attached to the trawl certification can potentially increase marine protection and a sustainable industry in the Isle of Man - a win win situation for the marine environment and for sustainable fisheries.


  1. Hi,

    I wanted to ask you a question about your site. Would you mind emailing me:


  2. feel free to post your question here Carly...

  3. This was such a close call for the dredging fishery its almost did pass. The shetland fishery is still under assessment. Its only a matter of time before one of the dredging fisheries is accepted.

  4. This goes to a key point regarding MSC certification which is not widely understood. MSC only classes fishing with explosives and poisons as destructive practices and would not consider a fishery using these methods. "A fishery shall not be eligible for certification if it utilises fishing with poisons or explosives. The only fishing practices that the MSC considers to be “destructive fishing practices” in the context of an MSC assessment, at this time, are fishing with poisons or fishing with explosives." quoted from the Fisheries Assessment Methodology V2. In assessment a dredge fishery is treated the same as any other fishery. It may be that when some fisheries using what is widely regarded as a destructive fishing method do pass certification this will affect the credibility of the the MSC. However to change this position would mean yet another change to the MSC Assessment Methodology. Alternatively it can be argued that even dredging can be sustainable if it is well controlled and managed e.g. by rotating closed and open areas to allow seabed recovery. From a conservation view, applying a blanket ban on this method of fishing for certification may backfire since MSC certification does act as a positive incentive to improve fishing practice and management and certainly acts as a strong incentive to the industry to comply with the conditions of certification (once achieved).

    C Fox (Lecturer in Fisheries Ecology, SAMS)