There is, as yet, no conclusive explanation for the reduction in the availability of prawns in the North Sea. Scottish Government scientists advise that the reduction may either be part of a longer-term trend or is being affected by short-term factors, including the recent cold winters.
Given the £82 million value of the nephrops catch to the Scottish fishing fleet and the importance of the species within Scotland’s marine environment, the recent reduction is clearly a concerning development. The Scottish Government continues to work closely with the fishing industry to assess the impact of declining landings and the wider significance of the apparent decline in prawn numbers for the marine environment.
It is clear that the North Sea nephrops fishery is well managed and sustainable. However, with prices for whole trawler-caught prawns at around £4,000 per tonne, which is 17 per cent below 2012 prices, what can the Scottish Government do to encourage new marketing initiatives aimed at consumers in the United Kingdom, given the reduced demand from the southern European market?
Angus MacDonald is right, and the people of Scotland should have the opportunity to buy fresh high-quality Scottish seafood right on their doorsteps. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment met industry representatives only two weeks ago to discuss the issue, and agreed to build on the work that is already under way.
Since April 2012, the Scottish Government has invested more than £0.5 million in ways to promote our seafood. That support has included £90,000 for the UK food services project to develop our seafood service sector—which is a completely untapped market—and to map the opportunities in the sector, to develop networks with buyers and to provide support and educational programmes. We have also provided £360,000 to support the new and emerging markets project in order to maximise opportunities for seafood in emerging markets, and £25,000 to support a market intelligence project. Since April 2012, we have supported with £100,000 the seafood in schools project, which teaches children about the benefits of eating seafood.
We should not forget the work of the Scottish seafood partnership, which the cabinet secretary established last year. It seeks ways to add value to the seafood supply chain, and is due to report later this summer.