NFFO South West Committee wins Backing from the Shark Trust for Sustainably Managing Rays

1st December 2008 in South West

At the latest NFFO South West Committee meeting, the Shark Trust gave strong backing to the efforts of NFFO member the North Devon Fishermen’s Association (NDFA) to sustainably manage rays in the Bristol Channel.

The association operate a seasonal fishery closure and a voluntary minimum landing size of 38cm in a fishery that it vital to the North Devon industry. NFFO’s Dale Rodmell said “too often conservation groups prefer to grandstand without trying to understand the complexities of fishery management. It is encouraging that the Shark Trust has chosen to have a dialogue with the industry where a shared understanding can be developed and genuine sustainable management approaches can be promoted.”

The future of the fishery has been called into question under proposals by the European Commission to introduce a skate and ray TAC, and plans to site an offshore wind farm at the heart of the fishery. The level at which the TAC is set and the share that the UK receives is of critical importance. If too low it would undermine the efforts of the industry, threaten the fleet and lead to discarding.

Rays are also among the most vulnerable group of species (Elasmobranches) to electromagnetic disturbance. The wind farm developer Farm Energy is seeking to construct over 300 turbines in the Bristol Channel. John Butterwith, Chief Executive of the NDFA said “Farm Energy claims that fishing vessels could still operate within the windfarm. That is of little comfort to us if the fishery disappears as a result of their plans. There is insufficient knowledge on the effects of electromagnetic interference from electricity cables upon rays to know whether our fishery would continue. What’s more, the turbine pillars can only restrict fishing activity. Vessels do not necessarily make straight line tows when considering seabed obstructions and localised areas for targeting certain species.”