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Irish Mussels Honoured at the Marine Stewardship Council’s Annual Awards

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has been named this year’s MSC Ocean Hero at the Marine Stewardship Council’s UK annual awards, for its ‘outstanding achievement’ among MSC fishery certificate holders.

The MSC UK Ocean Hero award recognises and rewards fisheries and organisations that have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the field of seafood sustainability and made a unique contribution to furthering the sustainability of fisheries.

BIM, the holder of three MSC mussel certificates in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, received the award on behalf of the industry, after paving the way for all mussels on the island of Ireland to become certified. The Northern Irish and Irish rope grown mussel fisheries were certified in 2019, which now means that 100% of mussels in Northern Ireland and Ireland are MSC certified. The state agency also holds the certificate for the Irish bottom grown mussel fishery, which achieved certification in 2013.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM; Jo Pollett, MSC UK and Ireland and mussel farmer, Michael Mulloy, Blackshell Farm Ltd who is also Chair of IFA Aquaculture.

Due to social distancing restrictions, this year’s MSC UK awards were held virtually on September 30 with a streamed ceremony from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. Guest speakers included Peter Buckland, fisherman from the MSC Cornish Sardine Fishery, and Tommy Russell, from the Poole Harbour Clam & Cockle Fishery as well as Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Katie Keay, Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager UK and Ireland, said: “BIM is an example of vision, commitment and dedication in its push for making the Irish mussel industry 100% MSC certified and sustainable. The Irish mussel fisheries truly serve as an inspiration for other Irish fisheries to become part of the MSC programme, thereby playing their part to safeguard seafood supplies for this and future generations.”

On accepting the award, Jim O’Toole, CEO Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), spoke of the seafood industry’s increasing focus on sustainability. He said: “Environmental and social sustainability underpins the seafood industry on the island of Ireland. This MSC award recognises the collaboration and cross-industry efforts of the bottom grown and rope mussel operators for a sustainable future.”

The Irish mussel industry was valued at €11.7 million in 2018 according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. The mussel industry in Ireland produces more than 15,000 tonnes of mussels a year. This method of mussel farming was introduced in the 1980s predominantly along the west coast of Ireland.

Highly commended in the Ocean Hero category were the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO). The MSC Cornish Hake gill net fishery was first certified in 2015 and is currently undergoing the reassessment process in 2020. During that first certificate, and under the management of the CFPO, the fishery closed five conditions to show it now meets best practice levels for harvest control rules, discards, endangered, threatened and protected species, and ecosystem impacts.

In addition, the CFPO produces a podcast for fishermen Fathom, which has been successful in keeping the fishing industry informed of developments throughout lockdown and it also teamed up with Seafood Cornwall’s #FishToYourDoor initiative, which brought together fish merchants and customers across the country to support Cornish fishermen through the Coronavirus crisis.

The winners’ striking award, depicting a sea full of schooling fish, was designed and manufactured using 3D printing by Cornish-based J Supplied 3D. It was made in collaboration with Fishy Filaments, who recycle fishing nets used by fishermen at the MSC certified hake fishery in Cornwall into engineering grade nylon filament. Fishy Filaments' innovative harbour-side recycling technology was invented in Cornwall saves about 98% of the carbon emissions when compared to using equivalent virgin material.

The MSC has launched its latest annual report, showing substantial progress in sustainable fisheries around the world and demonstrating the global seafood supply chain is committed, now more than ever, to supporting the sustainable seafood movement to help meet the urgent challenges that are face our global oceans.