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Accountability

Sustainability & Animal Welfare Policies

Sustainable Oceans

In April 2022 the UK Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act was passed which legally recognised decapod crustaceans as sentient animals capable of feeling pain, distress and discomfort. 

Management Commitment & Policy

The Blue Sea Food Company is committed to ensuring the welfare of the crustacea we handle. We endeavour to employ practices designed to reduce stress to the animal and to maximise the survival of crabs and lobsters as they move through the supply chain. Keeping crustacea alive and in good condition is important for economic and food quality reasons and, as the London School of Economics (LSE) 2022 sentience report shows, also for the welfare of these animals. Therefore, this policy applies to all decapod crustaceans from all geographies, products and brands handled by the company.

We recognise that decapod crustacea have species-specific needs that must be met during capture, transport, holding and processing that take account of each species’ physical, physiological and behavioural needs. We have worked to ensure that the crustacea we handle are handled, transported, held and dispatched appropriately and in conditions appropriate to their species to ensure their welfare and minimise mortality.

We are engaged with SEAFISH, The Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) and Crustacean Compassion in developing and implementing codes of best practice to help protect the welfare of decapod crustaceans throughout the supply chain. More information can be found on the Seafish website.

The company is committed to reducing the negative effects of capture methods. We will actively promote best practice through our choice of supplier, agreed standards and specifications and by implementation of our welfare procedures.

As an organisation, we are committed to ensuring that we comply with all obligations (legal, ethical and otherwise); including codes of practice and guidance produced by regulatory bodies and specific standards, relating to animal welfare.

Capture

Our crab and lobsters are caught using pots or creels design to enable escape of juvenile animals and allow eventual escape of all over time. Pots are checked regularly and retrieved if lost to avoid ‘ghost’ fishing.

Pots and creels are a selective and passive form of fishing causing little to no damage to the marine environment. Importantly, crab and lobster are alive when brought to the surface so that any animal which is undersize, damaged, showing eggs or has recently shed its shell will be returned to the sea alive allowing them to grow and breed, contributing to a healthy stock. Any bycatch must also be handled with care and returned to the sea as quickly as possible.

Both the Marine Conservation Society and the Marine Stewardship Council recognise crab caught within our local Inshore Potting Agreement, off the South Devon Coast, as an example of sustainable fishing.

Transport & Storage

The Blue Sea Food Company recognises that environmental conditions during transport and the maximum transport length are species-specific, and must take into account factors that vary by season (environmental conditions, temperature, the crustacean’s life cycle etc.). We have two types of transport based on duration of transportation and holding prior to processing. These dictate suitable environmental conditions to ensure maintenance of health and quality and to minimise physiological stress.

Short term transport is best accomplished in air, where the crustaceans are kept in a high humidity, dark, chilled environment to avoid stress. Longer term transport is best accomplished with immersion systems in which the water quality is managed by temperature control, aeration and water exchange to maintain optimum conditions. In general, we ensure that in air and water the environmental temperature is at or below the animals’ acclimation levels but above freezing. If in air, maintaining high humidity with protection from wind and sun. If in water, ensuring aeration systems are functional and water quality maintained.

For information on how the ecology and physiology of brown crab and lobster influence their response to capture and live transport, you can view the SAGB Advisory Note on Crustacea Storage and Transport here.

Dispatch

The Blue Sea Food Company ensures that all crustaceans well handle are electrically stunned to ensure instantaneous insensibility before cooking and processing. We do not sell live crustaceans direct to the consumer or the public.

Governance & Management

Our Managing Director is ultimately accountable for the decapod crustacean policy and oversight is provided by our Technical, H&S and Environment Manager. The day-to-day management of this policy and its implementation is the responsibility of our operations and transport teams.

A welfare action plan has been developed by our senior management team with specific welfare targets and responsibilities assigned within our welfare procedures. The team will meet several times a year to monitor progress and to hear updates from the different teams responsible for the day-to-day implementation and to identify and implement appropriate actions where necessary. The team will monitor progress of the company’s welfare targets and ensure that it publicly reports against these targets.

Electrical Stunning Targets

The Blue Sea Food Company is committed to reporting the percentage of crustaceans electrically stunned. We commit to electrically stunning 100% of crustaceans prior to cooking or processing. We will report through our website on the percentage of brown crab electrically stunned over a 12-month period. We will monitor this from the beginning of each financial year, with regular updates to the senior team and report publicly on an annual basis.

Decapod Crustacean Welfare Training

The Blue Sea Food Company are committed to ensuring all relevant employees have appropriate awareness and training regards to animal welfare. Training material related to the handling, storage and dispatch of crustaceans has been updated to include the importance of humane treatment of decapod crustacea.

Innovation

The Blue Sea Food Company continuously looks to improve its operations, including crustacean welfare, through internal and external research and development. In collaboration with Simon Buckhaven and the University of Bristol, we were instrumental in the development of the first commercially viable electrical stunner. The company stunning whole crab from its conception in 2004.  

We continue to encourage further innovation to address current gaps in decapod crustacean welfare technology. For example, the company has trialled equipment to band claws, however, an effective method that can be employed at sea, in a safe manner, is not currently available.

Reporting

We have set the targets below which we will regularly measure throughout the year and report on publicly annually.

  • 100% of our crustaceans are caught using static gear.
  • 100% of our crustaceans are electrically stunned before cooking and processing.
  • 90% of our transportation and holding times achieved.

This policy has been established and agreed by the company’s senior management who fully support its implementation and are responsible for ensuring that it is communicated, understood and implemented at all levels within the organisation.

DOWNLOAD POLICY DOCUMENT

Fishing:

All suppliers must be approved based on risk assessment (see 3.5 Supplier Approval Procedure and 3.5.1 Supplier Risk Assessment for details). Fishermen, agents and merchants will be chosen based on their ability to comply with the following procedures.

The capture method and handling practices during and immediately following capture must be such as to minimise trauma to the animal. Therefore:

  • All crab and lobster (animals) must be creel or pot caught and ideally creels and pots should be design to enable escape of juvenile animals and allow eventual escape of all over time.
  • Pots should be checked regularly and not left dormant for long periods.
  • Any lost pots must be retrieved where possible to avoid ‘ghost’ fishing. Fishermen’s associations are also encouraged to partner with organisations such as ‘Ghost Fishing UK’ to retrieve lost gear.
  • When landing and sorting, animals must be handled with care so as to avoid unnecessary stress or damage.
  • Any bycatch must also be handled with care and returned to the sea as quickly as possible.
  • Storage on board vessels will vary dependant on size and duration at sea. Day boats predominately store animal dry in fish trays or bongos. These should be covered with sacking and kept wet with sea water. Alternatively, the animals may be held in small sea water tanks, in this case the water must be continually replenished. Larger vivier boats will only be landing crab. These will be held in large sea water tanks with circulating sea water for the duration of the trip (5 to 7 days).
  • If held or transported in sea water tanks it is currently necessary to nick the claws of the crab so that the pincers are rendered powerless. This is to prevent crab from damaging each other during communal storage and transport. Although this undoubtably causes some trauma, failure to do so will result ultimately in further stress and the death of all of the animals.
  • Wherever possible nicking is to be avoided unless you know that crab will be stored in vivier tanks for prolonged periods.
  • Under no circumstances shall nicked crab be returned to the sea.

 

Transport:

It is recognised that during landing and transport for processing, stress to the animal cannot be totally avoided. Therefore, the company is committed to reducing transport and storage times wherever possible. The change in environment, temperature, water quality, exposure to air, light, noise, food deprivation, overcrowding, inability to hide and careless handling can all result in significant stress. Therefore, steps must be taken to minimise the impact of these for the welfare of the animal.

  • Crab pickups should be co-ordinated in order to minimise the time at the quayside and in transit. Trips vary from a few hours for local pick-ups to overnight journeys, maximum 24 hours. Journeys longer than this should be avoided.
  • During transfer from boat to transport, animals must be handled with care so as to avoid unnecessary stress or damage.
  • Crab transported ‘dry’ should be kept moist with the use of sacking and dependant on the length of the journey this may need to be refreshed. The temperature of the vehicle should also be controlled. The temperature should be such to avoid large temperature changes. Cool, moist, dark, quiet conditions being the ideal.
  • If transported in sea water tanks, again the water temperature should be such to avoid large temperature changes and must be aerated.

NOTE: It is important to understand the physiology of the animal to best manage the conditions they require. For crab and lobster see the ‘Shellfish Association of Great Britain’s Advisory Note on Crustacean Storage and Transport’ for guidance.

Holding:

Storage must be monitored in order to maintain the correct conditions. Crab held dry should be held under chilled conditions (again avoiding large changes in temperature) and keep damp by wetting sacking placed on top of each container. For crab held in sea water, ensure the aeration system is operating and the original water temperature is maintained. Crab is held overnight or through the weekend must be monitored closely. The storage must be reviewed and refreshed if required. Crab can be held for up to 60 hours if in good condition and stored correctly. However, ideally crab should be cooked within 24 hours of delivery.

Crab Processing:

Inspection:

All deliveries are inspected to assess the condition and quality of the crab from each boat and merchant. Where crab arrives in poor condition and investigation will be carried out to determine which point in the supply chain failed.

Suppliers which continue to supply poor condition or out of specification crab will be delisted (also see SOP81 Crab Inspection).

Dispatch:

All operatives handling animals should be appropriately trained. Crab and lobster can be brought to the production area in small fish trays or bongos to large dolav style tanks. If stored in water the water is drained before being brought into the area.

From the smaller containers the animals will be manually placed onto the processing line. Larger tanks will be tipped so that the animals can be pulled onto the line. All are handled as each crab or lobster is inspected. Dead animals are rejected. Large amounts of dead animals will be as a result of poor welfare in the supply chain and as such is taken very seriously. Fishermen are not paid for dead animals to encourage good handling and storage.

All crustaceans processed by the company are electrically stunned resulting in instantaneous insensibility to pain prior to immediate cooking.

Sale:

In the interests of animal welfare, live crustaceans (crab and lobster in this case) will not be sold to members of the public or untrained handlers.

Reporting:

The welfare of the animals we handle will be reported monthly. This will be measured by the following KPIs. It is the company’s intention to make year on year improvements throughout the supply chain:

  1. 100% of crustaceans caught using static gear.
  2. % of crustaceans humanely stunned (target 100%)
  3. % of nicked crab (Nicking of crab to be reduced through the development of better transportation methods and more immediate processing capabilities)
  4. % of dead crustaceans rejected (target <3%)
  5. 90% transportation and holding times achieved (target max 24 hour transport / max 24 hour holding).

 

DOWNLOAD POLICY DOCUMENT

The Blue Sea Food Company is an environmentally conscious organisation that acknowledges the potential impact our operations may have on the sustainability of the UK and EU crab fishery, fishing communities and the marine environment.

We are actively engaged with fishermen, customers, government and organisations such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our fisheries and fishing communities.

We are also committed to ensuring the welfare of all the shellfish we handle. We endeavour to employ practices designed to reduce stress and maximise quality from landing all the way through to humane dispatch. We are engaged with SEAFISH, The Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) and Crustacean Compassion in developing and implementing codes of best practice to help protect the welfare of decapod crustaceans throughout the supply chain. More information can be found on the Seafish website.

All of our crab and lobsters are caught using pots or creels design to enable escape of juvenile animals and allow eventual escape of all over time. Pots are checked regularly and retrieved if lost to avoid ‘ghost’ fishing.

Pots and creels are a selective and passive form of fishing causing no damage to the marine environment. Importantly, crab and lobster are alive when brought to the surface so that any animal which is undersize, damaged, showing eggs or has recently shed its shell will be returned to the sea alive allowing them to grow and breed, contributing to a healthy stock. Any bycatch must also be handled with care and returned to the sea as quickly as possible.

Both the Marine Conservation Society and the Marine Stewardship Council recognise crab caught within our local Inshore Potting Agreement, off the South Devon Coast, as an example of sustainable fishing.

The Blue Sea Food Company, alongside Sea Farms and Macduff, have commissioned a pre-assessment and action plan for the whole of Area IVb Central North Sea. The Aim is to support Project UK in collecting data and using this to manage all of our fisheries around the UK in a sustainable way. Once complete this pre-assessment will lead to a new Fisheries Improvement Plan or ITM managed between the MSC and Blue Sea. Blue Sea also sits on the steering group for the MSC South West Sustainability Hub.

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