First Engagement with new MMO

25th March 2010 in Domestic Fisheries Policy

The Marine Management Organisation will be launched on 1st April.

The new organisation will absorb the Marine and Fisheries Agency and will be the administrative instrument through which marine spatial planning will be given effect. It will therefore have a much broader focus and responsibilities than the MFA, although at port level the same, or similar, presence will be maintained.

In preparation for these changes the NFFO recently met the new MMO Chief Executive, Steven Gant, at its new Newcastle headquarters, to establish lines of communication, hear about the new organisations priorities, and to outline the fishing industry’s principle areas of concern.

Given that fishing will now be only one of many marine “sectors”, dealt with through an integrated approach there are obvious concerns that fishing’s influence will be further relegated.

The MMO was keen to confirm that it would be open and transparent, with a genuine commitment to stakeholder involvement in its decisions. Its job, in terms of marine spatial planning would be to balance the competing claims for space between the various offshore activities including oil and gas exploitation, wind-farm, wave and tidal energy, aggregate dredging, military and fishing.

The Federation was able to express its concern that marine conservation zones and massive wind-farm developments were underway before a rational process of marine spatial planning is in place. Fishing being an inherently dispersed, hunting activity is at an automatic disadvantage if a narrow £per metre of marine space is employed.

The opportunity was taken to emphasise the repeated cyclical failures of the over-centralised, over- prescriptive, CFP and how the role of the MMO could be transformed from a policeman of often perverse rules, to a broad auditing role by transferring management responsibilities to fishing industry organisations

This was a useful and constructive first meeting that paved the way for a closer working relationship. As an industry we are suffering from the problems of transition, relocation and break in continuity as the move from MFA to MMO proceeds. The sooner that the MMO is fully up and running, the sooner we will be in a position to judge whether the new organisation’s commitment to genuine industry involvement in its decisions is genuine or mere rhetoric.

There is little mileage to be gained from moaning about the deficiencies of the present arrangements. Our energies are most usefully employed to work closely with the MMO to ensure that the delivery arm of fisheries policy is made fully aware of the threats but also the opportunities that lie ahead as we chart the choppy waters of CFP reform, devolution, financial restraint, marine conservation zones, gigantic wind-farms and all the unpredictable fluctuations that habitually confront fishing.

A good start has been made; and Steven Gant will shortly meet the NFFO Executive Committee to hear of the critical issues directly, fleet segment by fleet segment, and region by region.