NFFO in Norfolk

14th August 2014 in East Anglia, North Sea

The NFFO has members right around the Norfolk coast with the biggest concentrations in Cromer, Wells-next-the Sea and Kings Lynn. The focus is very much on shellfish within the inshore zone and the boats being predominantly under-10 metres. At recent meetings in Cromer, Wells and Lynn it was evident that a few issues were dominant.

NFFO in Norfolk

Legal Injunction

Dong Energy’s legal injunction to exclude local fishermen from their customary fishing grounds, to make way for a seismic survey in preparation for a wind-farm on the Race Bank, had sent shockwaves through the local industry. It has always been possible in the past, where necessary, to negotiate reasonable access and compensation arrangements with offshore developers and there is now great concern that this resort to legal action sets an unwelcome precedent for the future.

Whilst the NFFO studies the legal implications of this departure, it is making sure that the general public are aware of Dong Energy’s bullying tactics, which including serving fishermen with legal notice at 5pm on Friday night to appear in Court in London on Monday morning. The Daily Telegraph and BBC have carried the story in a sympathetic manner and further pieces are in preparation. Members of the public too have expressed disgust at the way the local fishermen have been treated.

The NFFO has over 30 years’ experience of working collaboratively with various offshore developers to ensure that their projects are completed with minimal disruption to fishermen’s ability to pursue their living. The Race Bank development has clearly been mishandled and the company has resorted to legal action to force inshore fishermen from the grounds on which they rely for a significant part of their income. Part of the problem has been that compensation offers have been made to some fishermen, different offers made to other fishermen, then withdrawn – the whole approach has been chaotic. The absence of a coordinated approach by the fishing industry has allowed the company to dictate terms.

Marine Protected Areas

Also high on the Norfolk agenda were concerns about potential loss of access through the implementation of a network of marine conservation zones and other marine protected areas. Although potting is regarded an one of the more environmentally benign methods of fishing, concern that during periods of moral panic a fundamentalist anti-fishing agenda will emerge, affecting even pot fisheries within designated zones. The Federation’s work within MPAC to hold the government to account through a proportionate and evidence based process has therefore been important and will continue to be so.

Shellfish Policy

Naturally enough, shellfish policy was also to the forefront in the concerns expressed at in Cromer, Wells and Lynn. The Federation will be holding a Shellfish Summit, in London, on 14th October to which shell-fishermen from all parts of the coast will be invited, along with Defra policy officials, stock assessment scientists, IFCAs etc. The aim is to hear all points of view before drawing up further developments in NFFO shellfish policy. This model has been very successful when used in the past and has informed our current approach to regionalised technical measures and a cap on licences for the high volume part of the crab industry. Support for the existing minimum landing size of crab in North Norfolk,( reflecting local biological and habitat conditions and linked to a ban on the landing of berried crab and lobster), is a good example of the kind of tailored conservation approach that emerged from those earlier discussions.

Regional Committee

All the signs are that the fishing industry in Norfolk needs a means of coordinating its activities. The way this is done in other parts of the country is through an NFFO regional committee. Once established, with respected representatives, the committee can play a central role in coordinating and expressing the views of the industry and providing a strong voice for the industry in Norfolk. The Federation will be organising an initial meeting as soon as is practicable.