New High Level All-Industry Body Formed to Fight MPA Issue

27th November 2009

Launch of MPA Fishing Coalition Early Next Year

Talks are under way to establish a high-level body to engage with Government on the introduction of marine protected areas in UK waters.

The new body, provisionally named the MPA Fishing Coalition, already has the backing of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and is expected to draw wide support from organisations and associations across the fishing industry. It is anticipated that the new body will be formally launched early next year.

A spokesman for the Coalition said: “We recognise that marine protected areas are a political reality, whether as European special areas of conservation or domestic marine conservation zones. If badly implemented, the designation of these areas and the management measures applied within them has the potential to adversely affect the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, either directly or indirectly.”

“The purpose of the new body is to engage with Government at the highest level, on a united industry basis, to ensure that MPAs are introduced in the least disruptive way. We already have Lyme Bay as an example of a brutal, coercive, approach by Government dictat. But we also have the example of Stanton Bank where the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation negotiated with the nature conservancy agencies to deliver protection for the vulnerable sea bed feature, whilst ensuring that fishing could continue in the vicinity. The Coalition’s purpose, first and foremost, will be to provide a strong negotiating platform to ensure that the introduction of future MPAs will follow the Stanton Bank model rather than the Lyme Bay approach.

“Our concern is MPA’s potential for displacement of fishermen from their customary fishing grounds. Loss of access has potentially disastrous consequences for individual fishing businesses and the displacement effect could mean that the repercussions could be felt well outside the designated area.”

“We must talk with Government, at a strategic level, about the transparency of the process of establishing MPAs; on the quality of the information used to designate new sites, especially in the impact assessments; on mitigating direct and indirect effects; on the timeframe for their introduction; and on the legitimacy of the consultation process. It is not our intention to cut across or undermine any regional projects aimed at establishing marine conservation zones but we recognise that there will be hard cases where it will not be able to identify new areas by consensus. The Coalition will be there to provide mutual support to fishermen in these circumstances.”

“This will not be about megaphone diplomacy but will be about ensuring that MPAs are introduced in a fair, considered and proportionate way.

“Our hope and aspiration is that every fishermen’s association, big or small, rich or poor, mobile gear or static gear, will become affiliated to the Coalition.

“The Coalition has already met with senior Defra officials to outline the Group’s aims and ambitions and has been broadly welcomed as potentially providing a coherent, strong industry voice on the MPA issue”

“The activities of the Coalition will be funded through a fighting fund that will be established at the time of the launch. Contributions will be on a voluntary basis but we expect to build up a reasonable reserve quite quickly because this is recognised by the industry as a critically important initiative.”

The initial contact address for the MPA Fishing Coalition will be:

MPA Fishing Coalition

30 Monkgate

York

YO31 7PF