The State of Seafood with SAGB
Big Prawn talks with seafood consultant Mike Warner who is currently working with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) in order to improve awareness of shellfish benefits, issues, and to encourage the UK to love seafood.
MW: Not nearly enough. The domestic market in the UK is not supported by a seafood-eating culture unfortunately. We do eat seafood as a nation, however, it’s very low on the scale compared to consumption in Europe. Britain has lost the art of eating seafood and it’s a generational problem. As a result, the majority of our seafood is exported – in fact, nearly 80% is exported.
How do you think this issue can be addressed?
MW: Addressing this issue is what we are trying to achieve with our project at SAGB. We are putting an emphasis on shellfish with promotional incentives that are connecting consumers and producers. This is achieved through enlisting celebrity chefs, food writers, and the media to truly highlight the value of our seafood. There are two main aspects to this project: the incredible health and wellbeing benefits and issues concerning food security.
What are the biggest issues currently facing the seafood industry?
MW: The biggest danger to our domestic market is the amount of seafood export to other countries from Great Britain. For example, 75% of our brown crab is being exported to China. This puts pressure on the UK supply hence why we often look for other alternatives.
For our producers, there may be potential problems with Brexit. In consideration of border controls and tariffs, it is uncertain at this current time what the outcome may be. With the amount of seafood export in the UK, many livelihoods are relying on other countries and their support, which is why a more of a domestic market needs to be generated.
Is sustainability still important for the UK market?
MW: The term sustainability is used in a variety of different contexts and is often taken out of context. Sustainability for the domestic market should mean sustainability within the fish stocks, but also sustainability of the communities involved in their harvest and capture. I believe that there is a lot more awareness of sustainability and welfare with the agricultural community; however, this needs to be translated to seafood. By revitalising our seafood culture, we will support our fishing industry. SAGB has been working with chefs to help them understand the supply chain, traceability, and seasonality of seafood which can then be aligned to the consumer. The UK seafood sector is disparate and complex, yet, by creating an overarching body for British seafood, we will be able to unite all of these factors together and raise awareness for the domestic market.
What would you like to see for the future of seafood?
MW: I would like to see more public awareness, generally. Consumers should be aware that seafood is not the mysterious commodity that it is often considered. If more people are aware of how to identify, prepare, and cook seafood they’ll understand that it can easily become part of their daily life and see how much of a superfood seafood truly is.