Squid derogation to go ‘as soon as practicable’ – all other proposals deferred to NQS FMP
The long-awaited Defra response to the consultation on managing fly-shooting within the southern North Sea and English Channel was included within its raft of announcements last week. The consultation was the result of a long campaign by English and French fishermen concerned that the seine fleet, mainly Dutch-owned but fishing on several flags, was catching unsustainable quantities of non- quota species and juvenile fish.
Proponents of the fishery argue that it is a relatively low- impact method, using less fuel than conventional trawl or beam trawl vessels, catching high-value species such as squid or red mullet, and taking fishing pressure off TAC fisheries.
Despite the clamour around this effort from environmental NGOs, only four of the 33 respondents to the consultation were not representing fishing groups. Fishing industry respondents included those representing French and Dutch interests in the fishery.
A majority of respondents confirmed concerns about the sustainability of the fishery, with many groups citing reduced catch rates in recent years as a result of the increased effort in the fishery. There was also a general consensus that the fishery itself was data-poor, making management decision harder.
Views on future management measures were split, with a majority of respondents requesting tighter controls on the fishery, with reductions in vessel numbers, vessel power and the permitted weight and size of gear. However, within this, there was clear recognition that many changes to management rules may provoke the ‘law of unintended consequences’ through changed fishing or fleet patterns that may make the situation in the Channel worse.
Of the five proposals mooted by Defra in the consultation, only one, the removal of the 40mm codend derogation when targeting squid, will be actioned. Defra confirmed that the Statutory Instrument required to do this would be laid before parliament for approval ‘as soon as possible’ – likely autumn at the very earliest, and possibly not until 2024.
All other options for management of the fishery – licence caps, gear restrictions and a maximum engine size – will now be included in the consultation on the non-quota species FMP, which is open until 31 October. FN will look at this in detail in a future issue.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.
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