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Fishing Industry Access to IFCAs Called into Question
IFCAs, the bodies responsible for managing inshore fisheries in England, are at risk of becoming hamstrung by a lack of fishing industry representatives on their committees. That was the conclusion reached at the recent meeting of the NFFO West Coast Committee meeting held in Carnforth on 28th April. According to the committee, the appointments process needs an overhaul in order to be more conducive to fostering positive industry engagement in the management of local fisheries.
The formation of the IFCAs in 2010 under the Marine and Coast Access Act saw the replacement of Sea Fisheries Committees with these new bodies with greater responsibilities over marine conservation, as well as fisheries. This change also saw the relative dilution of representation from the commercial fishing industry on Committees as they accommodated greater numbers of representatives from other sectors, as well as conservation interests.
As well as this inherent shift in emphasis, the committee observed that the appointments process to the committees of IFCAs is constraining the successful recruitment of industry representatives for a variety of reasons including:
- An application process that is centralised with decisions on appointments taken well away from the regions in which the IFCAs operate.
- The process is an electronic one which discriminates against those without access to a computer or who have limited IT skills.
- Some application questions are tailored more to those who can provide articulate answers to abstract questions rather than those who have the greatest knowledge and experience of fisheries in their districts.
- There appears to be little constructive feedback for applicants who have not succeeded, which discourages future applications.
- The process overall gives the impression that the local knowledge and experience of the fishing community is not welcome and therefore seats intended for commercial fishing interests are being left vacant.
- In the absence of industry representation, as well as the absence of critical practical knowledge to underpin the decisions of IFCAs, decisions are at risk of lacking balance and having insufficient quorum.
Ron Graham, NFFO West Coast Committee chairman said: "The whole raison d'être of IFCAs is based on drawing on local knowledge and experience in order to manage local fisheries, and fishermen's knowledge is crucial to effective fisheries management decision-making. It's also necessary if there is to be a positive relationship between those who are subject to the rules and those making those rules. If we don't have appropriate industry representation on the Committees the relationship between industry and authorities is at risk of becoming seriously frayed, if not broken."
"In the case of the NWIFCA, up to 4 seats for commercial fishermen have at times been vacant despite the fact that local fishermen had applied to be on the Committee," Ron added.
The committee also covered a range of other issues affecting the industry in the eastern Irish Sea including:
- Discussing practices for operating static gears in the region's offshore wind farms in order to promote safe working practices for both the fishing industry and offshore wind farm operations. These matters would be taken up further by the Barrow and Furness Fishermen's Association.
- Reviewing progress and reaffirming commitments on work to assess the feasibility of establishing a community quota arrangement in the region.
- Reviewing developments in the implementation of the landing obligation, bass measures and the Federation's efforts to work towards appropriate management arrangements for skates and rays.
- Discussing the recently introduced NWIFCA fisheries measures and efforts to rationalise bye-laws across the district and efforts among a range of bodies including the Federation to address the illegal trade in fish from unlicensed operators.