Seafish backs industry as UK-caught scampi continues to come under fire

Scampi fishermen in the U.K.

After scampi recently became the subject of an attack campaign launched by Scottish charity Open Seas, U.K. public body Seafish has backed the seafood industry in declaring that the product should stay on restaurant menus and retailers’ shelves.

Open Seas launched its “Say No to Scampi” campaign in October, urging supermarkets to discontinue stocking the product and encouraging customers to avoid purchasing scampi until the fishery comes under sustainable management.

Open Seas claims the fishery improvement project (FIP) currently active within the fishery that is the source of the breaded or battered langoustine tails that is more commonly known as scampi, which the country’s retailers often cite to justify their continued sourcing of scampi, is “badly failing and will not meet its targets when the project ends in April 2024.”

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) oversees the FIP and has approved plans regarding management of the stock; bycatch; negative effects on endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species; and impacts on the ocean seabed. But Open Seas warned the fishery, regardless of the FIP, still poses a threat to ETP species. It claimed unmonitored scampi fishing boats continuously fish in areas where there are sensitive and protected seabed habitats, and the fishery continues to generate large volumes of bycatch.

“U.K. supermarkets are facing a dilemma, as scampi fails to meet their sustainability procurement policies: Either abandon their green principles and continue buying, or stop selling scampi,” Nick Underdown, the head of campaigns for Open Seas, said. “This is a major test of corporate environmental responsibility.”

saying the fishery is being monitored by the government, scientists, NGOs, and the seafood industry in a collaborative way and is collectively committed to implementing sustainable management practices.

“Everyone involved in getting scampi to our plates is committed to a positive, long-term future for the [langoustine] fishery,” Seafish Seafood Operations Director Aoife Martin said. “It sustains businesses and livelihoods, supports coastal communities, and nourishes people with healthy protein.”

Within the fishery, some vessels catch the species using creels, but the majority use trawl nets, which catch large volumes of marine species and can lead to increased levels of bycatch.

“It’s the trawl fishery that is currently attracting some negative media coverage,” Martin said. “It would be wrong to say everything in the fishery is perfect, but it is also wrong to say that U.K.-caught nephrops [langoustine] are unsustainable.” 

In late November, Seafish issued a response to Open Seas’ criticism detailing the complexity of ensuring a sustainably managed nephrops fishery.

“The task requires scientists, fisheries managers, and the seafood industry to understand the impact that fishing can have on nephrops stock, and also the impact that factors such as climate change, environmental conditions, other marine users, and predators such as cod, dogfish, skates, and rays, can have,” the report said.

Seafish noted the largely positive reviews the fishery has received from third-party scientific guidance, pointing to 2023 ICES scientific advice showing that nine of the 12 U.K. nephrops sub-fisheries are at healthy levels and are being fished sustainably, while acknowledging further work is needed to improve the status of the remaining three.

In its own response, Open Seas said regardless of ....

Photo courtesy of Open Seas

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