New NFFO Committee for East Anglia: Out of the Blocks Running

13th April 2015 in East Anglia, North Sea

A new regional committee, established to reflect the views of fishermen in East Anglia, came out of the blocks running at its inaugural meeting, held recently in Norwich. Statements of intent were agreed on shellfish management, marine protected areas, working with the local IFCA, and dealing with offshore wind farms.

New NFFO Committee for East Anglia: Out of the Blocks Running

The Committee will cover the coast from Donna Nook to Harwich and will reflect the views of the predominantly inshore fleet in that area. The NFFO already has regional committees for the North West, North East, South East and South West; they cover the interests of those fishermen in the under-10s, shellfish, and over-10 non-sector fleets.

A chairman, vice-chair and representatives to the NFFO Executive Committee will be agreed at the next meeting but in the meantime, the Committee was keen to get down to business.

“The Committee, were clear that if fishermen are to have any influence whatsoever they must work together to put their view forward in a clear and coherent way,” said Barrie Deas NFFO Chief Executive, after the meeting.

“There were a number of clear strands running through the meeting. Many of the stocks we are dealing with here are considered data-poor by scientists and fisheries managers. This doesn't mean that they have a poor conservation status - in many cases quite the opposite - but it does carry implications: data-poor stocks are generally treated in a more precautionary way than stocks on which more information is available.”

“The Committee, drawing on the conclusions of the NFFO Shellfish Summit last October, concluded that a concerted effort should be made to obtain better information on which management measures are based in the future. Too many management measures, including the EU drift net ban and the Eastern IFCA’s emergency measures for whelks, are based on inadequate information. We need to put into place mechanisms that generate and a use robust information from the industry; this will complement the more formal assessment techniques with fishermen’s knowledge. This is as true of the crab and lobster fisheries, as it is of the local shrimp and bass fisheries.”

“Another area of concern was the lack of a coherent management approach. Often, poorly thought-through management measures just shift the problem, along with fishing effort, to an adjacent fishery. This knock-on effect is because vessels have to earn a living somehow and fisheries managers, at the moment don't take this into account adequately.

“As well as management measures based on inadequate knowledge, the Committee is also concern that the Eastern IFCA pays lip service to the views of the industry. Establishing an East Anglia Committee, will hopefully hold regulators – from the IFCA, through the MMO and DEFRA, to the European Commission, to greater account. Fishermen should not be at the bottom of the pecking order, after NGOs and anglers.”

“The Committee recognises the scale of the challenges facing the industry in East Anglia and the need for the industry to develop a coordinated response. This determination to work in unison to overcome differences and address the multiple issues facing the East Anglian industry was impressive to witness.”

The agenda for the Norfolk meeting covered:

  • Purpose of an East Anglian Committee
  • Election of officers (deferred)
  • Crab and lobster fisheries
  • Shrimp fisheries
  • Whelk emergency measures
  • Latent capacity
  • Offshore renewables
  • MPAs
  • Drift net ban
  • Bass Conservation
  • Landings obligation
  • MMO and Eastern IFCA governance issues
  • Safety at sea