MPA Coalition Builds Wide Support

22nd April 2010 in MPAs

The MPA Coalition has attracted support from every part of the UK and beyond.

21/04/10

In the four weeks since its launch in Westminster, fishermen and fishing businesses from Shetland to Cornwall have registered their support and made substantial contributions to the Coalition’s fighting fund.

The latest body to join is the newly formed Dutch Demersal Fishermen’s Association (VisNed) whose members are concerned about the impact of marine protected areas on the operation of their vessels in UK waters.

The MPA Coalition was established to ensure that the fishing industry has a strong voice before decisions are made on the designation of marine protected areas and the management measures required within them.

The Coalition has met with senior Defra officials and Natural England to challenge aspects of the process of establishing MPAs that are unacceptable or opaque and to discuss the fishing industry’s principal areas of concern.

These are:

  • Timetable: The wholly artificial, unacceptable and unachievable timetable for establishing marine conservation zones in England. It is a timeframe imposed by Ministers that conflicts with the need to introduce MCZs/MPAs in the least damaging way and with the close involvement of stakeholders not least of which is the fishing industry
  • Displacement: The issue of displacement has yet to be adequately addressed. The impact of displaced fishing vessels will be an inevitable consequence of applying highly restrictive zones within MCZs/MPAs and so far there is very little sign of what this will mean for the fishermen concerned, for fishermen who will suffer from effort displaced in this way and for fish stocks and habitat outside the MCZs/MPAs
  • Uncertainties: Uncertainties in the data: There are huge deficiencies in the data being used to establish MCZs/MPAs and some of the core concepts such as the connectivity of the MCZs/MPAs are still not understood. The Coalition is concerned to ensure that these uncertainties are dealt with in a rational and proportionate way
  • Fishermen’s Information: Fishermen’s data is necessary to ensure that MCZs are not applied to critically important fishing areas. But at a local scale much of this data is highly confidential and commercially sensitive. Understanding this, the Coalition is working hard to ensure that nature conservation agencies should expect to receive no more data than that which is relevant and at the appropriate scale. This would still involve a substantial amount of work to ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent the information being misused. The Coalition has stressed that trust is the key to obtaining fishermen’s chart information.

The next meeting between the Coalition and Natural England will focus on the key question of fishermen’s chart information. In the meantime, the Coalition has been in contact with the Welsh Assembly government and hopes to meet its officials shortly. Also, now that the Scottish legislation has been enacted the Coalition will also seek a meeting with Scottish government officials at the earliest opportunity.

The Coalition independent chairman, Dr Stephen Lockwood, told Fishing News, “Government departments and agencies have shown that they recognise the MPA Fishing Coalition as the body to speak of behalf of the fishing industry at a high strategic level. It is extremely important that every fisherman and fishing organisation supports it no matter how big or small.”

“Marine protected areas are a reality and it will be too late to complain after they are in place. Fishermen who want their voice to be heard at national level should not leave it to others but should support the Coalition – now!”

Any contribution to the fighting fund should be addressed to the MPA Fishing Coalition, c/o NFFO, 30 Monkgate, York, YO31 7PF.