Skip to main content

Seafood ambition spelled out by chair of visionary leadership group

AN ambitious vision for the future growth of the seafood industry, backed up by a strategic framework, has been unveiled. Here, in her introductory article, Alison Austin OBE, chair of Seafood 2040, and an independent Seafish board member, gives her take on the way forward for an industry critical to Grimsby and the wider Humber.  She held senior management roles with Sainsbury’s for more than 25 years, leading on the environment for much of that time, for which she was recognised by the Queen. She now works as a consultant.

Seafood ambition spelled out by chair of visionary leadership group

Seafood 2040 has brought together stakeholders from across the seafood supply chain in pursuit of a single, compelling goal. 

This document is the result of that shared enterprise and sets out a vision for an industry that is sustainable and truly thriving in every sense of the word; a success story built on collaboration, innovation and best practice. 

All of us involved in the 2040 project have recognised that the seafood value chain stands on the brink of enormous opportunity, but quantifying the size of the prize has not been easy. Would it be possible to achieve Public Health England’s advice for all of us to eat at least two portions of seafood a week and to do so sustainably? What would be the positive impact on health? How might the supply chain evolve to meet that growing demand? In essence, we set ourselves the task of describing what a thriving industry might look like, and deciding how we might measure it.

This is our vision for the seafood value chain in 2040: 

Seafood consumption has almost doubled to reach recommended levels of at least two portions (one of which is oil-rich fish), per person, per week, fuelling economic growth within the sector and returning substantial health gains and associated cost savings for the UK.
Our wild catch fisheries are verifiably sustainable and flourishing: a new data framework has ensured all stocks are well managed, fuelling an increase in demand for a wider range of species, which is fully exploited by the enhanced role of Producer Organisations.
The aquaculture sector has seen significant growth, with a new Aquaculture Leadership Group formed to provide guidance and support to allow the sector to thrive within a safe regulatory framework.
Business growth has been enabled by infrastructure improvements, ensuring potential is maximised right across the value chain from ports, transport and logistics, to skills and recruitment, innovation, production efficiency and waste reduction.
With production volumes increased, opportunities for exports have also grown; sustainable seafood is firmly positioned at the heart of the 2020 Export Drive, growing the volume and value of sales as well as extending market reach.
Access to international markets for responsibly sourced raw seafood materials has been assured, with favourable trade and tariff agreements in place with all seafood producing nations.

While the opportunities are clear, we also recognise the inevitable limitations, not least the rapidly changing external context with its ‘unknown unknowns’ that may come to light as delivery starts to unfold. Firstly, we are, by constitution, focussed solely on the industry in England, despite the supply chain’s oblivion to national boundaries.

In mitigation, we have made every effort to ensure we have been well acquainted with the excellent work going on in our Devolved Nations and I believe that the agenda we set out here is well aligned to their approaches. Secondly, while we recognise the opportunities that Brexit as the ‘great disruptor’ can bring, we have not tried to focus on the detailed requirements of EU exit, leaving other bodies to present their own sector views on quota allocations and other issues. And thirdly, we recognise the limitations of time, both in terms of producing this plan and in delivering it.

We are bold in our ambition, but we are patient in our approach, recognising those actions that we can achieve in the next few years, as well as those that are still very much viewed through the window of horizon scanning.

Over the course of that work, we have spoken to stakeholders from all areas of the value chain, piecing together an enormous range of insight with the aim of better understanding how the cogs and wheels of our industry fit together. As our work progressed, it became clear that while there are pockets of deep knowledge, there are also gaps and areas lacking a common agreement of what good looks like. The varied interpretations of the word ‘sustainable’, for example, make the practical task of establishing sustainable business practices more difficult. Filling knowledge gaps and tying down definitions will be part of our forward work.

‘It’s all been tried before’ has been a common refrain and it is true that there has been good work already delivered, much of which has informed our thinking. However, it is important to note that previous collective effort has focussed on one or other end of the value chain; Seafood 2040 is the first time all stakeholders from sea to plate have come together as one voice at a table shared with Government and there is enormous strength in that act alone. This all-sector approach would not have been possible without the support of Defra, and the contribution of the individual Seafood 2040 members, their sector groups and Seafish, their unifying industry body. We have all brought our own unique sector perspectives and finding our common ground has taken energy and commitment.

The Seafood 2040 Strategic Framework is merely the first step in a longer journey, but we have set out a shared destination that we believe will inspire great work and deliver real value for the industry we serve. Our vision of a thriving seafood industry with verifiably sustainable sourcing and recommended levels of consumption can only be achieved by a wide range of organisations working together. Whilst different sectors along the seafood supply chain can make a difference, others such as Government policy makers and regulators, NGOs and campaigning groups also have a key role to play.

Our next step is to turn this vision into reality and with that in mind, our lead recommendation is the establishment of an all-sector Seafood Industry Leadership Group (SILG) to drive forward this work, which we will seek to establish as quickly as possible to build on the momentum of this strategic framework.

News Courtesy:

Key Facts

Latest News