Fisheries Areas Network

Good Practice Project

Orkney Shellfish Research Project

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Official Title: 
Orkney Shellfish Research Project
The Orkney Fisheries Research project is supporting the bottom-up delivery of a management plan and providing the evidence base for MSC accreditation for the brown crab fishery and other species in local waters.


In 2007 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) carried out a pre-assessment on the Orkney fishery.  This highlighted a lack of meaningful data on the health of local stocks.

A management plan was finally drawn up by Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd (OSF), a not for profit organisation, in early 2016 to establish the priorities for the entire local inshore fisheries management and to commit to gaining MSC accreditation for the brown crab fishery.  

This project aims to formalise management principles for the local crab and lobster fisheries over a 15-month period and establish Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) for local scallop and whelk fisheries, while building knowledge and a management framework for local inshore fishery stock generally.

The day to day delivery of the project is carried out by 2 full-time shellfish researchers and one seasonal (24 weeks) research assistant supported by a fisheries scientist at Heriot-Watt University’s Orkney Campus who provides independent scientific advice and guidance on the research work.

Activities will include:

  • Development and implementation of a harvest strategy and harvest control rules for the crab and lobster fisheries;
  • Research strategy and action plan in relation of MSC requirements for creel fisheries;
  • MSC pre-assessment for scallop and whelk fisheries;  
  • Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for scallop and whelk fisheries (Memorandum of Understanding with relevant parties);
  • Stock assessment for creel fisheries;
  • Annual review of Orkney inshore fishery sustainability.  

This 15-month project, which started in January 2017, has already facilitated a greater exchange between fishery biologists and fishermen which it is hoped will lead to the local fishery resource being harvested in a more sustainable manner, with management decisions taken by fishermen based on robust local science.

The results of the data will help to sustain the 297 jobs of fishermen engaged on a full or part-time basis within the inshore fishery and the 130 staff employed at the processing factories.

The intention is that if certification of brown crab is successful, Orkney Fishermen’s Society (a local cooperative processing factory) will apply a 1% “sustainability levy” to all sales of branded Orkney crabmeat.  This will provide a revenue stream to support OSF ongoing research and data collection work, potentially making OSF core work self-funded in the future.


The main limiting factor identified by the FLAG was finding a suitable organisation (in this case Orkney Sustainable Fisheries Ltd) to take the project forward, as the lead body needs to have good links with a number of different sectors.  Its association with Heriot-Watt University also helped, as it added scientific rigour and ensured that the appropriate scientific approaches were used.

Lessons & contribution to CLLD objectives: 

Fundamental to the success of this project has been its bottom-up approach and the importance of getting local fishermen involved and taking ownership of it.  It is important that fishermen see the need for Management Plans and why they are good for the fisheries and for the environment. The project has reached out to and engaged young enthusiastic fisheries scientists, giving them ownership and buy in, which has been another element of its success.  The project has created links and connections between local fishermen, scientists and processors showing them how all their different roles fit together.  



Total project cost €125 210
FLAG grant €125 210
  • EU contribution (EMFF): €93 908
  • Public contribution (national): €31 302

Project information

Timeframe of implementation From Jan 2017 to Apr 2018
Sea Basins
Type of area

Contact details

FLAG Contacts

Ms. Alison Barclay
+44 1856 873535
United Kingdom
Publication date: 
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