Developing a participatory approach to the management of fishing activity in UK offshore Marine Protected Areas
Successfully involving the fishing sector and stakeholders in decision-making over the…
A new industry body has been formed, supported by two national federations, NFFO and SFF and involving a wide range of other fishermen’s’ organisations.
New Industry Body formed to Fight MPA Issue
MPA Fishing Coalition
A new industry body has been formed, supported by two national federations, NFFO and SFF and involving a wide range of other fishermen’s’ organisations. Its purpose is to ensure that the marine protected areas foreseen in the Marine & Coastal Access Act are introduced in a way that minimises adverse consequences for fishermen.
A spokesman for the new Group, the MPA Fishing Coalition, said:
“The displacement of fishermen from established fishing grounds is a direct threat from the Government decision to establish a network of marine conservation zones in both inshore and offshore waters around the UK.
“Our intention in establishing the MPA Fishing Coalition is to provide the fishing industry with a powerful negotiating platform. In many instances the only way fishermen are going to avoid being swept off fishing grounds is by presenting a strong, coherent case backed by factual evidence. The MPA Fishing Coalition has been formed as an instrument of mutual support to ensure individual fishermen or groups of fishermen will have strong backing in putting forward the strongest case possible for maintaining open access to fishing grounds.
“It is intended that this group represent all sectors of the industry – every fisherman in the UK should consider joining, whatever other affiliations they hold. Unity is strength and the industry has never faced a threat like this before.”
“Whether derived from the European Habitats and Birds Directives or the new Marine Act, MPAs have the capacity to displace fishermen from their grounds. The scale of displacement will depend on the management measures applied within the designated areas. These could range from light monitoring to complete closure. Displacement could mean loss of livelihoods and diverted effort can have severe implications for fishing effort and stock management in adjacent areas.
“It is clear that just lodging a protest – even a very loud protest – is simply not going to be enough. The MPA Fishing coalition will use the evidence – some provided directly by the fishing industry itself – to defend our established fishing areas.
“We are launching a fighting fund with immediate effect to ensure that we have the resources to meet the challenge we are facing. All donations will be accepted, recorded and fully accounted for. Every penny will be used to defend fishermen’s access to their grounds.
“The core of the issue is that MPAs can be established against the industry’s will or they can be negotiated. Our initiative is designed to ensure that the fishing industry is in the strongest possible position to negotiate. The Group will not deal in loud diplomacy. It will be serious and evidenced based. To that end we are fortunate to have secured as Chairman of the Group, the services of Dr Stephen Lockwood, former Director of the Fisheries Laboratory at Conway. His appointment and the experience he brings, experience that includes negotiations over earlier marine conservation areas, signifies that this will be a serious and heavyweight negotiating body.
“By strengthening the fishing industry’s negotiating arm, our aim is to arrive at an accommodation that provides protection for vulnerable marine habitats and features but in a way that allows fishermen to keep fishing. This is about finding the right balance between the nation’s food security and protecting biodiversity.
“Our aim is to transcend all divisions and sectional interests within the fishing industry to provide maximum negotiating leverage at the highest levels.
“The secretariat for the new group will be provided by the national federations but it is stressed that from the outset this group is for every fishermen in the UK, irrespective of gear type, location on the coast or current memberships and affiliations. There will be no membership fee but the industry is urged to contribute to the fighting fund that has been established.
“MPAs will apply locally and will affect local fisheries as well as those further afield as a result of displaced effort. The purpose of this group is to give weight, support and backing to the fishing interests potentially disadvantaged by specific MPAs.
“We recognise the value of regional stakeholder projects aimed at identifying and agreeing MPAs locally. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that this route will deliver all that is required from a fishing industry perspective. Where the regional projects stop is where the role of the MPA Fishing Coalition begins.”
Davy Hill, NFFO Chairman
“We are determined that this will not be some kind of marine highland clearance, with fishermen callously evicted from their traditional fishing grounds”
Ian Gatt, President, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation
“There is an easy or a difficult way to introduce marine conservation zones. Stanton Bank shows us that it is possible to negotiate an arrangement that delivers protection for habitat features whilst at the same time safeguarding the fishing industry’s access to critically important fishing grounds.”
Jim Portus, South West FPO
“Lyme Bay shows how to introduce a new MPA with maximum pain, maximum disruption and maximum conflict. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Paul Trebilcock, Chief Executive Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation
“It is absolutely essential that every fisherman in the country gives their active support to this group. It is only by showing absolute unity and by presenting the industry arguments coherently and forcefully that we will be able to defend our most important grounds.”
Gary Hodgson, Chairman NFFO Shellfish Committee
“Static gear fishermen shouldn’t be complacent about marine conservation zones. They may not be in the front line but MPAs have the capacity to affect static pot and net fisheries directly or indirectly through displaced effort.”
Bertie Armstrong, President Scottish Fishermen’s Federation
“If the fishing industry cannot speak with a single, clear voice on this issue, it will be condemned to suffer the consequences. In an indeterminate number of cases this will be to be expelled from the grounds on which we earn our living.”
Dave Pessel, Plymouth
“Every fisherman in the country should support and work with this Group. It is patently in their own interest.”