Our Sustainability Approach

Sustainability is key to the health of our oceans and Waterdance as a business. It is by sustainably harvesting seafood, that we ensure we play our part in the future vitality of the seas and fishing communities of the South west of England. The concept of sustainability is widely recognised as having 3 components; environmental, social and economic. Our company approach to sustainability incorporates these sustainability component and described below:

  1. Quota management and regulatory compliance – economic and environmental focus

  2. Investment and employment – economic and social focus

  3. Developing and sharing industry best practice – environmental focus

  4. Sustainability accreditation and traceability – environmental focus


Waterdance adheres to quotas that are set in line with the best scientific advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Quotas set a maximum amount of fish that can be landed by species and geographic area. This key management tool has proved effective in achieving a general trend of increasing fish populations in UK waters in recent years. The nets we use are larger than the minimum required, as we recognise the need to allow juvenile fish to escape the nets at sea. We also use innovative methods to further reduce unwanted catch, such a panels of netting within the trawl of a larger mesh size. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of compliance with fishing regulations, including those to protect habitats and ensure crew welfare. All our vessels hold a Maritime & Coastguard Agency Certificate of Registry and Marine Management Organisation fishing licence, as well as any local Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority permits. We provide intelligence to enforcement agencies of suspected illegal activity within the fishing industry.


By employing over 120 seagoing staff, in addition to shore based engineers, logistics and administration teams we provide employment in areas where alternatives opportunities are often limited due to geographic remoteness. This helps to support community cohesion, with associated social benefits. Our fishing activity also generates additional regional income such as through companies providing raw materials like nets or services including vessel maintenance. The port dues, market fees and processing of fish products derives further economic value and provides more employment.

 Waterdance invests in building new fishing vessels, to constantly improve the conditions for crew and as a demonstration of the confidence we hold in a sustainable future for our business, where the balance between profitability and excellent ocean stewardship maintain strong demand for our products. Our vessels are part of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Safety Folder scheme, which helps ensure safety training and guidance are of the highest standards on board. We have invested heavily in modernising our older vessels and all our fleet has International Maritime Organization compliant engines, minimising carbon emissions. See our news section for the latest developments of our fleet. Our fish is sold locally, principally through fish markets in the South west of England so keeping food miles low.


Waterdance vessels, such as the Barentzsee and Govenek of Ladram are involved in research collaboration with the UK government fisheries science agency, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). We see each of our vessels as a platform for scientific discovery, believing that improved understanding of fish and the marine environment is crucial to good management and consumer confidence in the sustainability of seafood. Important projects that we have hosted are the Spurdog by-catch avoidance programme and Project 50%. The former uses at sea occurrences of spurdog (a type of shark) by-catch to trigger a vessel moving fishing area and informing other vessels to minimise by-catch and so protect Spurdog stocks. The latter resulted in long term changes to larger nets for trawling that reduced the catching of juvenile fish dramatically.

 In May 2019, Waterdance took a delegation of Thai fishermen, government scientists and officials to sea on a beam trawler from Brixham to see the highly selective fishing nets used by our fleet. Waterdance also informed discussions at this event to promote a change to more selective and sustainable fishing in Thailand. Click here to read more. Waterdance has nominated it’s vessels to take part in a trial to separate two species of monkfish caught in commercial fisheries, to better understand the population dynamics of each species. Fishing activity data for our scallop vessel, the Emily J has been shared with Bangor University to investigate the rates of catches of scallops across the fishing fleet, with an aim of assessing the health of UK scallop stocks.  The majority of Waterdance vessels are in membership of a fish producer organisation, who have the collective pursuit of sustainability of members’ fishing as a core objective.


The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent sustainability accreditation organisation. It has developed the widely recognised blue tick sustainability label for seafood that is assessed as sustainable. The assessment process involves examining three criteria of a fishery; 1. The status of the fish population 2. The environmental impact of the fishing activity 3. The governance in place to manage the fishery. Waterdance vessels have achieved MSC accreditation for hake caught in static nets by our fleet in Newlyn, Cornwall. MSC accreditation is being pursued for 3 further important fisheries: 1. Crabs and Lobsters 2. Monkfish caught in static nets and trawls 3. Sole in the Western English Channel caught by beam trawling. The accreditation process demonstrates the desire of Waterdance to go beyond the regulatory minimum standards of sustainability and embrace voluntary measures to improve long-term marine environmental improvements.

 The ability to trace fish from the vessel catching it to the consumer of the product is important to avoid illegal fishing that undermines good management. Waterdance vessels use electronic logbooks to inform the regulator, the Marine Management Organisation, of the vessels’ catches every 24 hours. When landing fish at the end of a trip, we also submit a landing declaration documenting the full catch. The company purchasing the fish or the market selling it then submit a sales note document to the Marine Management Organisation, were checks for consistency of the 3 documents are made. This ensures that the fish can be fully traced and this information can be made available to retailers and consumers.