MFA Meeting on Current Issues

19th October 2009 in Executive

Members of the NFFO Executive met with the Marine and Fisheries Agency in York recently, to discuss the main areas of concern on the MFA’s operational side.

Concerns were raised on:

  • Omega Mesh Gauge: The appalling implementation arrangements and communication failures associated with the introduction of the new omega mesh gauge were raised. Nets that were deemed by the authorities to be legal one day are judged to be illegal the next, irrespective of the cost implications. Nets worth hundreds of thousands of nets in net stores and aboard vessels could potentially be condemned. The MFA described the “risk based and proportionate” approach that enforcement agencies across Europe had agreed to apply. The Federation described the steps been taken at the political level to secure a more reasonable approach.
  • Net Tagging: The meeting discussed the possibility of extending the net tagging scheme that has been trialled in North Shields. Nets that are measured on shore by the MFT are tagged with a robust plastic tag and receive a certificate confirming that the net was measures and found to be in conformity with the regulations on mesh size, twine thicknesses etc. This arrangement should substantially reduce the time required to undertake boardings.
  • Boardings Policy: Incidents where boarding officers had departed from the Code of Practice were raised. It was agreed to reinstate the port meetings that had in the recent past successfully improved the level of mutual understanding and respect between skippers and the Royal Navy, but had been discontinued, mainly because of time pressure. Port visits by the Fisheries Protection Squadron to Barrow, Hartlepool, Shoreham and Belfast were planned.
  • Margin of Tolerance: The implications of the new Control Regulation with an unachievable margin of tolerance between logbook estimate and landing declaration was raised. Again the NFFO offered to put independent experts aboard its vessels to demonstrate if they can achieve more accurate levels of catch estimates than our crews.
  • Marine Management Organisation: The industry’s concerns over the transition from the MFA to the MMO were discussed, with particular anxiety being expressed over the areas of quota management and vessel licensing.
  • Satellite Monitoring: The Federation reiterated its concerns over the relative ease which commercial organisations could obtain access to VMS data, albeit in an aggregated form. The assurances given at the outset of VMS about protecting commercial confidentialities seemed to have been sidestepped. Additionally, the iniquitous situation where the Government have granted a monopoly to one supplier, who can impose maintenance contracts on punitive terms, was condemned.

It was agreed that the meeting had been a very useful platform for discussing the industry’s areas of concern. On some areas there had been agreement on joint projects, on others a better understanding of our respective positions had been achieved. It was agreed to hold three such meetings each year.