There are deep concerns within the fishing industry that an impasse between the European member states and EU Parliament over technical conservation rules, will leave fishermen in the wheelhouse, or on the deck, in an impossible position of having to obey two conflicting rules. This is potentially important for our fleets in the UK, because constraints on Parliamentary time in Westminster could mean that EU technical conservation rules retained from the CFP could be with us for some time after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
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Whilst the Exit talks in Brussels judder forward, on both sides there is a great deal of activity taking place just below the surface. As might be expected, the NFFO is fully engaged in building the conditions for a positive outcome for the UK fishing industry. Our activities were reported to our AGM, on 11th October, where the UK Fisheries Minister also confirmed Defra’s commitment to a clear but smooth departure from the EU and therefore, legally and logically, the Common Fisheries Policy.
The MMO has initiated a series of roadshows to increase the industry’s awareness of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and to encourage grant applications from working fishermen. The date, time and venue of the next round of roadshows is below.
Salmon fishermen on the Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire coast again face a period of great uncertainty as regard to their future. The issue now is a perceived problem with global salmon stocks which is being politically manipulated into an attempted closure of all these fisheries for motives that have absolutely nothing to do with conservation. It is all about “Who gets the fish”.
The NFFO has welcomed new funding for projects to support Irish Sea fishing communities. The funding is a mark of the good co-operation that currently exists between the fishing communities that operate in and around the Walney Extension offshore wind farm and the owners of the wind farm, Ørsted (formerly known as DONG Energy).
It is fair to say that impact on safety of fishing vessels at sea has not generally been to the forefront when Government has contemplated new fisheries legislation. In retrospect, however, it has been possible to discern that management measures can carry with them direct and significant adverse safety implications, as an unintended consequence of those decisions. In particular, we have seen the size and shape of fishing vessels change, and vessels used for purposes that they were not designed for, in the wake of, and to adapt to new legislation. This note is a plea for safety considerations to be an integral part of the process of designing fisheries management measures, not an afterthought.
A group of international scientists is currently looking into whether the fisheries in our waters are now seriously under-fished, forgoing landings amounting to something in the region of 5% of the global catch of wild fish. Dr Henrik Sparholt, who for many years held a senior position within ICES, recently presented an outline of a research project to understand this development with more precision, to a meeting of the Executive Committee of the North Sea Advisory Council.
Intense behind-the-scenes work is continuing both in preparation for the exit negotiations and for the post-Brexit fisheries regime in the UK.
An NFFO delegation of 11 has recently returned from a study tour to Oslo and Bergen to learn in detail how Norway operates as an independent coastal state; experience that is likely to be very relevant when the UK leaves the European Union. Discussions with the Norwegian Ministry for Fisheries in Oslo, senior officials of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association and key personnel in the Fisheries Directorate as well as the Marine Institute, also touched on the kind of bilateral arrangements that the UK and Norway might aspire to post-Brexit.
Sleeves were rolled up in London recently, as large teams from NFFO and DEFRA/Cefas got to grips with the issues that are likely to feature in this year’s December Council.