NFFO in Key Meeting on Marine Conservation Zones

3rd October 2008 in MPAs

“We are determined that this will not be some kind of marine Highland Clearance”

NFFO in Key Meeting on Marine Conservation Zones

The bodies charged with making recommendations to Government on the location and size of a network of marine conservation zones were told at a recent meeting with the NFFO that the process had the potential to be a nightmare for the fishing industry, and for them.

Natural England (responsible for recommending sites within the 6mile limit) and JNCC (responsible for making recommendations outside the 6 mile limit) were told that the recent decision to close an area within Lyme Bay had all the hallmarks of how not to approach the issue.

“Given the Government decision to establish a network of conservation zones it was clear that these could be introduced with maximum damage and disruption to fishing interests, with maximum scope for conflict – or they could be the subject of negotiation to protect key fishing areas whilst meeting conservation objectives”, said Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO, after the meeting:

“It was critically important that these formal advisers to the Government on nature conservancy came away from our meeting understanding six things:

  1. If these MCZs are to be established in a way that meets both our objectives there must be complete trust, confidence and transparency in the whole process of identifying and designating the sites. There must be no repeat of Lyme Bay where the strong perception is that one thing was said, and another thing was done.
  2. The information on which the sites are identified and designated is vitally important. Everyone involved, including the fishing industry, must have confidence that it is the best available data, collected objectively and fairly. Arrangements must be put in place to ensure that the fishing industry can review the data collection process. Ideally, as with the successful Fisheries Science Partnership, there should be a role for the fishing industry in collating the data. The FSP demonstrated that by working collaboratively together as partners it is possible to replace mistrust and suspicion with mutual respect.
  3. We must all go into this with our eyes open. That means that the issue of displacement must be tackled head on. This includes a realistic assessment of the environmental, social and economic impact of displaced effort and facing up to the consequences for vessels that have limited range. Again, if the process is to have credibility, the fishing industry must be centrally involved in the assessment.
  4. The experience in applying the EC Natura 2000 sites is likely to be critical in the industry’s attitude to domestic MCZs.
  5. There are regional, national and international dimensions to the issue of site designation and the management regimes that will subsequently apply within MCZs. It is essential that proper attention is devoted to each level.
  6. A process of negotiation can ensure that the feature to be protected receives that protection without overkill in terms of the size of the designated area or the terms of the management regime.”

“We came away from the meeting reasonably optimistic that the lessons of Lyme Bay had been learnt. The plans to devolve much responsibility to regional steering groups, on which respected fishing industry representatives will sit, is a sound approach. The proof of the pudding will however be in the eating.

We need clear safeguards that will ensure the centrality of the fishing industry to the process of identifying and designating the zones and the management regime that applies. We are determined that this will not be a kind of marine Highland Clearance.”