Q&A: Andrew Kuyk, Food & Drink Federation

A former career civil servant who participated in the original Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) talks in the early 1980s, today Andrew Kuyk is the director of sustainability at UK food industry trade association, the Food & Drink Federation (FDF). Kuyk oversees the FDF’s seafood group, the collective voice for the United Kingdom seafood processing industry that represents over GBP 1.5 billion in turnover and about 80 percent of the UK’s fish processing market. Members include major seafood players Findus, Birds Eye and Icelandic and cover whitefish, shellfish, nephrops, salmon, tuna, pelagic and canning.

In the wake of the Channel 4 Fish Fight series that turned the media spotlight on seafood and thrust sustainability issues into the living rooms of the UK consumer, Seafood Source caught up with Andrew Kuyk and discussed the drive to anchor sustainability in tomorrow’s CFP, slated for reform in 2012.

Where does the UK seafood group sit in terms of sustainability? 

Channel 4’s 'The Big Fish Fight' did much to get the message across about sustainability, although it didn't wake us at the FDF up to it. As an example, we were instrumental in the IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing discussions with the European Commission prior to the new rules introduced last year to combat illegal fishing [Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008]. The rules were born from traceability systems used by our processors and pioneered by them. From a purely business perspective it's in our interest to have a good story to tell in terms of protocols. The last thing we want is that people stop eating fish because they think it's not sustainable.

And reform of the CFP is an extension. One of the failings of the CFP is that it didn’t deliver the assurance of sustainability and existing CFP mechanisms do not give sustainability. We believe the CFP needs radical reform.

Another issue that has brought the CFP into discredit is the problem of discards. This is why we supported the Channel 4 fish program series that aimed to raise public awareness and bring momentum to public opinion.

How is the FDF seafood group feeding into the CFP reform dialogue? 

We’ve been running a campaign and have joined forces with the WWF, in an alliance with other stakeholders, to back a four-point common platform for reform. The key elements of this are: mandatory long term management plans; effective regionalization; maximizing value from catch to consumer; and CFP principles to apply to all fisheries in the EU waters and beyond. 

This is a whole chain approach that embraces the end-to-end process. Our key message is “catch less, earn more.” Fisheries need to be managed better in order to get the maximum from the resource. In the past the politics have been disproportionately towards the catching sector but the processing and retail sectors have more jobs and value than the catching end. The failing of quotas [Europe’s much maligned current framework for fisheries management] is that they tend to foster an “olympic fishing” race: use it, or lose it. There’s a fear of lower quotas or the reallocation of resources. Fishermen are motivated by volumes, not by the market, or what the market wants. We also feel there should be more responsibility to the fishermen and they should be involved in the management process. The hope is that this creates a sense of responsibility and ownership, a stake in the collective resource. Stock assessment must include feedback from fishermen. One of the four points in the alliance’s platform is to move towards fishery management based on sound scientific advice. To get the credibility of the fishermen they must believe what the scientists say, in order to reach a joint view. On of the four points in the alliance's platform is to move towards fishery management based on sound scientific advice.

We've been lobbying the Commission directly and have had two meetings with Maria Damanaki (EU fish Commissioner). At a meeting with the European Parliament recently much of what Damanaki said corresponded with the alliance’s four-point plan and we were heartened by that. We’ve also found the UK and Scottish fish ministers receptive, both UK minister Richard Benyon and Scotland’s Richard Lochhead.

The next stage for us is to try and engage with Spain and France [key fishing countries in the EU-27 bloc] through their retailers because this is where the economic power lies.

There are indications that the commission’s proposal, expected shortly, for a new CFP may be delayed?

We’re heartened because Damanaki is taking on board the messages and trying to build alliances that she will need for this radical approach. It’s better for it to be longer, if this means the proposals are better and that they have a better chance of success.

How would you define a robust seafood procurement strategy? 

This would have excellent traceability. In addition a proper chain of custody that gives stakeholders and consumers the assurance that the fish is sustainable.


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