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Seafood industry survey will assess impact of Covid

Rise-Up project researcher George Charalambides, from SAMS, at the Railway Pier in Oban, one of many towns that benefits from a thriving seafood sector. Photo: SAMS.
Rise-Up project researcher George Charalambides, from SAMS, at the Railway Pier in Oban, one of many towns that benefits from a thriving seafood sector. Photo: SAMS.

Seafood businesses, including fish farmers, are being asked to share their experiences on coping with the Covid-19 pandemic as part of a project that will help inform government policy.

The Rise-Up project, led by the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), wants businesses to support its research by generating key data through a questionnaire that can be found here. The project findings will generate policy recommendations and advice for government.

The project team has already conducted interviews with representatives from the UK seafood sector, ranging from fish farmers and fishers through to processing and logistics operations within the supply chain and supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants.

Sofia Franco: Seafood businesses had to adapt to the pandemic and prepare for Brexit. Photo: SAMS.
Sofia Franco: Seafood businesses had to adapt to the pandemic and prepare for Brexit. Photo: SAMS.

‘Double shock’

Project leader Dr Sofia Franco said: “Seafood businesses had to adapt quickly to the pandemic and, while doing so, had to prepare for Brexit when so much was unknown. This double shock has affected businesses in different ways, so we want to hear from a variety of sub-sectors and operators.

“How did businesses cope this past year? How well do businesses anticipate changes? Are they preparing for a ‘third wave’ of Covid infections? What could help their business survive or do better? These are some of the questions we ask in our survey, which will give us the data we need to produce a comprehensive report on the sector.

“We also hope to learn from the businesses who coped well or less well, so we can better understand what makes resilient businesses and which external changes could be ‘game changers’ to improve business competitiveness.”

Pressure to deliver

Franco said the UK seafood industry was under unprecedented pressure to deliver on national food security during the pandemic, while trying to adapt to remain viable in a fast-changing sector.

“Many livelihoods depend on the industry, whether that is people working within fishing and aquaculture sectors, supply chain companies and high street businesses,” she said. “The location of many of these jobs – many in coastal and rural communities – is also significant in these local economies.”

The £317,000 Rise-Up project also involves the University of Manchester and marketing organisation Seafish, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.