Inshore Conference Points the Way

14th October 2019 in Inshore

An industry-led initiative to focus attention on the future management of our inshore fisheries has been judged a major success. Fishermen from various parts of the coast, industry representatives, senior government officials and the IFCAs, used the two-day conference in London to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced in managing the inshore sector. Experts were brought in from Canada, US, Norway and New Zealand to offer insights from the experience from inshore fisheries there. Work will now begin on converting the conference conclusions into a blueprint for the sector, although it is highly unlikely that there will be a one-size -fits-all approach.

Inshore Conference Points the Way
FV Mayhem II South Devon and Channel Fishermen

The event was managed by Seafish under the guidance of a steering group and was sponsored by the Fishmongers Company, Seafish, Defra and industry organisations including the NFFO. A number of retailers generously provided bursaries to encourage the participation of working fishermen. It is both a matter of pride and regret that the event was hugely oversubscribed. The event was designed to be a must attend event and succeeded in generating a huge amount of interest at the price of disappointing many who wanted to attend but for whom there was no space. All fishermen who applied were, however, accommodated.

Fourth generation, Canadian fishermen, Wes Eriksen, provided the conference keynote speech, which described how the basket-case groundfish fishery, off the Canadian west coast, was turned around into an exemplar of sustainability, accountability and profitability. Offered the option of leaving management of their fishery to government, the west coast fishermen elected to take on the responsibility themselves and the result is widely regarded to be a major success. The ingredients of that success: secure fishing rights, capacity in balance with fishing opportunities, full accountability of total catch, hard work and compromise did not come easily, and Wes was open in identifying the industry’s fears and shortcomings in making progress.

Although there are inevitable differences between our diverse inshore fisheries and those off the Canadian west coast, the main themes of Wes’s presentation have relevance to the UK’s inshore fisheries:

  • Building trust, between fishermen, and between regulators and the regulated.
  • Ways of providing full accountability for catches
  • Finding ways to provide security of fishing rights and ending the race to fish, as the basis for sustainable fishing
  • Taking responsibility and taking the lead on sustainable fishing initiatives
  • Setting objectives and working steadily towards them

Timing

Holding the conference now was partly related to Brexit and the opportunities and challenges when operating outside the CFP. But the timing was also related to a shift in government attitude. The complexity of the inshore fisheries had, in the past, led it being put in the too difficult box by successive administrations. The growing recognition that many of the problems currently facing the inshore fisheries, particularly displacement from other fisheries, are unintended consequences of previous government policy has led to an appetite to move beyond myths and hearsay to solid evidence-based policy. Government’s present interest in close cooperation between fisheries managers and the fishing industry, through different forms of co-management, also means that the time is ripe for a more creative approach. The challenge is how to put co-management into practice in the very diverse inshore fisheries around the coast.

Report

There is a determination that the evident enthusiasm surrounding the conference will not be wasted. A report will be produced to capture the idea and insights generated during the conference, but a number of work-strands will now emerge to translate those ideas into reality. These will be discussed within the steering group but may include:

  • The artificial divide at 10 metres is seen as redundant. What alternatives are available? Defining fisheries management solutions and management structures in new ways that make sense, particularly in relation to transboundary fisheries, is an important challenge
  • Recognising that the inshore sector is far from immune from technological change. Increased efficiency has implications for overall fishing pressure and the number of participants who can be safely allowed in a fishery
  • How to bring the co-management ideal into reality in the context of different fisheries is a major but necessary challenge
  • Many people will hold opinions about how fisheries should be managed but the core relationship involves three groups: the fishermen in the fishery whose activities are being regulated, the fisheries regulators and the fisheries science, whose information is generally the basis for management decisions: how best to bring these groups together
  • The management of activities which affect fishing mortality is the key to fisheries management. What management structures make sense when the fishery concerned has inshore and offshore components?
  • Better exploitation patterns and post-landing activities are important factors which impact on the profitability of inshore fisheries
  • Facing up to the reality that limiting access to involves difficult choices but is an essential foundation for sustainable fisheries management
  • Situating the future management of inshore fisheries within an understanding of its context within
  • Generating reliable data on catch and vessel activities, as the basis for sound management decisions
  • Looking out for unintended (but not necessarily unforeseeable) consequences of management decisions, which can impact on inshore fishing
  • How to generate high levels of compliance with rules that make sense and deliver sustainable fisheries?
  • How to deal with the increasingly constricted space in which to fish
  • How inshore fisheries could best be managed in the context of altered access arrangements and national quota shares, following the UK’s departure from the EU and therefore the CFP?
  • What role could community quotas play in those inshore fisheries where quota species are the target?

These are a fraction of the issues raised during the course of the conference and it will be for the steering group to decide what to focus on first.

We welcome suggestions.