New consultations, responses to previous consultations – though few decisions – and UK Seafood Fund grant announcements on same day from Defra

In a wide-ranging announcement last week, Defra launched a series of consultations on proposed reforms of fisheries management that could have far-reaching impacts across all sectors of the industry, and will keep fishermen’s groups and representatives busy developing responses for the rest of the summer and beyond.

Defra secretary of state Thérèse Coffey said: “Today’s reforms mark a clear departure from the outdated Common Fisheries Policy now we are an independent coastal state, and will deliver the UK’s ambition to build a modern, resilient and profitable fishing industry underpinned by sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment for the future.”

The Defra announcement also confirmed the next rounds of awards from the £100m UK Seafood Fund, including a wide range of packages to support the North East Scotland processing sector – a move widely welcomed there.

Six Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) were published, two of these jointly developed with the Welsh government. These are the first of what are promised to be 43 FMPs in total, covering every stock and fishery across UK waters.

Four further consultations were announced: on changes to discards policy, on the wider roll-out of remote electronic monitoring across the fleet, on a recreational catch and release bluefin tuna fishery, and on the removal of the licence cap for under-10m vessels, which currently restricts large portions of the inshore fleet to maximum quota stock landings of 350kg a year.

Also covered in the announcement were the outcomes of the consultations relating to the management of the southern North Sea/English Channel seine-net fishery and the closure of the UK sandeel fishery to all fishing activities.

Fisheries minister Mark Spencer, who travelled to Shoreham to mark the announcements said: “Today
we’re announcing new reforms to make sure we seize the opportunities of being an independent coastal state – all designed to make sure we have a thriving and sustainable fishing sector for generations to come.”

NFFO chief executive Mike Cohen said: “Fisheries Management Plans represent a genuinely ambitious attempt to break away from the unsuccessful top-down impositions of the CFP and unite fishers, scientists and regulators in building something new and better.

“Fishermen’s livelihoods depend on healthy seas and sensible regulations. We welcome this opportunity to collaborate in shaping them.”

While the deluge of announcements might seem overwhelming for many fishermen already suffering ‘consultation fatigue’, the deadlines for most responses are later this autumn, with plenty of time to read, digest and comment on the many proposals.

Fishing News will, over the coming weeks, look at each consultation and FMP, summarising the main proposals in each, and providing as much background information, and informed industry comment, as we can.

Defra has also stressed that it will make efforts to reach out across the industry, in a variety of ways, to make comment and genuine input from the industry as painless as possible, with a series of in-person and online events planned.

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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