The next steps for an ambitious and collaborative project which aims to improve how inshore fisheries are managed in the UK have been published.
The industry-led steering group of the Future of Our Inshore Fisheries project has released both a report, detailing discussions from a conference held last year and an action plan, which sets out the first stage of practical actions to reform the management of UK inshore fisheries.
At the heart of the project is the desire to establish an effective inshore fisheries management system that can deliver a viable and profitable inshore fishing industry that supports flourishing coastal communities.
The two-day Future of Our Inshore Fisheries conference, which took place in October 2019, brought almost 180 representatives together to discuss the challenges faced by UK inshore fishermen. Participants included sixty active fishermen together with industry leaders, policy makers, regulators, researchers and representatives from environmental groups.
Conference attendees heard examples of fisheries management solutions and best practice from around the world and considered their relevance to the UK’s inshore fisheries. Seen as the first milestone in the delivery of the project, the conference set out to ensure that the vital expertise and experience of active inshore fishermen set the priorities for the project’s next phase and inform its upcoming work.
The Future of Our Inshore Fisheries conference report details the conference presentations, the findings from group discussion sessions and the results of live polling. While the report does not make specific recommendations, it does outline the key themes which emerged and captures the priority areas identified by participants. The report concludes by recognising that the scale of change which is wanted and needed is significant, and that developing and implementing solutions will take time.
Based on the report’s findings, the steering group has identified five themes that will shape future work: co-management; collaborative science; credible fisheries management; rights and access; and effective compliance. The action plan is the first attempt to set out clear, deliverable actions across these themes that will be progressed over the next 12-18 months. Key actions include:
- Mapping inshore fisheries by species, stock and management status, and creating a database where this information is stored and updated annually.
- Establishing a formal process that enables scientists, industry and policy makers to collectively ‘peer review’ the science that is used to inform management decisions.
- Developing a ‘harvest strategy standard’ that will guide how inshore fisheries will be managed, with each fishery having a management target that helps set fishing effort and a series of triggers to guide if new management measures are needed. (New provisions for Fisheries Management Plans set out in the UK Government’s Fisheries Bill will allow for such new approaches to management.)
- Reviewing access across priority inshore fisheries to determine the optimal arrangements to prioritise sustainability, deal with excess capacity, address technological development and test new ways of allocating fishing opportunities.
A series of pilot studies will be used to test and refine the various initiatives. This will ensure that the experience and expertise of fishermen will directly inform the project, every step of the way. This project will also act as a focal point for a range of wider initiatives taking place across government and industry that will ultimately contribute to improved fisheries management.
Commenting on the publication of the report and action plan, steering group chair Michel Kaiser, Professor of Fisheries Conservation at Heriot Watt University, said: “At the conference last year we heard about approaches to inshore fisheries management from around the world. Crucially, we also considered how well they might apply at home. With this next phase of work, we will start developing and testing some of the solutions to see what will work best for UK fisheries.”
“The action plan is wide ranging and reflects the complex nature of the task ahead of us. Transforming how our inshore fisheries are managed will not be easy, will take time and there may well be mistakes along the way. Too often reasons have been found not to start this work, but with the industry and government collaborating we have an opportunity to get this right now.”
“I firmly believe that the conference was a success because we had active fishermen in the room contributing their vital expertise and experience. This is the ethos we will maintain as we undertake this critical project and I am very pleased that we have inshore fishermen represented on the steering group.”
Steering group member Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation said: “The conference report is rich in energy, information and insight, informed by the participation of active fishermen. But it is of course not an end in itself; I doubt that we would have seen the engagement from fishermen across the country if our ambition was limited to producing a report.
“I particularly welcome the publication of the action plan. Importantly, it builds on the conference outcomes and takes into account the priorities that conference attendees set. The individual projects in the plan represent the building blocks of a world class fisheries management system, and over time these have the potential to add up to a fundamental transformation.
“We should be ambitious in wanting a fisheries management system that is truly sustainable, and which not only meets our environmental objectives but is also capable of meeting our social and economic needs at a national, regional and local level.
“Clearly reforming our inshore fisheries is a long-term project, but this is a good start.”
Steering group member and inshore fishermen Joel Dunn said: “I am involved in the Future of Our Inshore Fisheries project because I want to have a say in the future of inshore fisheries management.
“Obviously with COVID-19 we have extra difficulties and pressures facing us as fishermen at the moment, so along with others on the steering group I had to think about whether this was the right time to launch the next phase of the initiative. In the end I decided that it was important to keep going so we can keep pushing for the changes inshore fishermen want and need.
“I know and understand that some fishermen may not be able to get involved as much as they might like at the moment, but this is a long term project and there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved. If this project is to have any impact or benefit it is no good to let it drift, so I believe it is the right thing to do to get this next phase started.”
The Future of Our Inshore Fisheries project was set up in January 2019. Six inshore fishermen who attended the conference joined the project steering group earlier this year to ensure that the insights of active fishermen continue to inform the process at a strategic level.
The steering group also includes representatives from several fishermen’s representative bodies including National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO) and the Coastal Producers Organisation (CPO). Others represented on the steering group include DEFRA, DAERA, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), CEFAS and the Association of IFCAs.
The project is facilitated by Seafish, the public body that supports the £10bn UK seafood industry.
The full report, action plan and further information can be accessed on Seafish’s website at www.seafish.org/article/