French, Belgian and Irish Fishing Organisations join the MPA Coalition

15th November 2010 in MPAs

The body set up by the UK fishing industry to ensure that the fishing industry’s voice is heard as a network of marine protected areas is established in UK waters, has seen a surge of membership from other EU member states

In the last week French, Belgian and two Irish fishermen’s organisations have announced their intention to join the MPA Fishing Coalition. The Dutch Fishermen’s Federation, VisNed, joined earlier in the year.

Coalition Chairman Dr Stephen Lockwood, said: “There is a mounting recognition that the rushed introduction of marine conservation zones and special areas of conservation in UK waters carry potentially huge implications for all classes of fishing vessel that operate in UK waters – including those operated by fishermen from other member states. Quite naturally, the fishermen involved want to ensure that their interests are not ignored.

“So far only lip service has been paid to the question of international fleets. There has been only the most notional of attempts to engage them in the four marine conservation zone regional projects and it is quite clear that the hope is that once MCZs are established, Brussels will legislate to apply them to all EU vessels”.

“The concerns of the Irish, French, Belgians and Dutch are exactly the same as UK fishermen. They fear that MPAs will be applied in a rushed, incoherent way, and that management measures eventually applied within them will lead to their displacement from their customary fishing grounds”.

The organisations that have announced their intention to join the Coalition are:

Rederscentrale – the Belgian Producers’ Organisation and vessel owners association

Pecheurs de Manche et Atlantique

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation

The Coalition has engaged with the Government’s statutory advisors on nature conservation on the quality of their advice and the process that they are overseeing, as well as Defra and the devolved administrations on high level strategic issues such as the evidence base, impartiality of the Science Review Panel and the question of displacement. A meeting with UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon has been arranged for next month where the whole range of the Coalition’s concerns will be brought to his attention.

“The groups that have just joined the Coalition have taken the view that they can’t afford just to hope that all will be alright, and that someone else will take the strain. They have taken the decision to work with UK fishermen to defend their fishing grounds and the livelihoods that are derived from them”.