The Manx government has confirmed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) involving the Isle of Man, UK, Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish governments that puts the island on a par with other UK fisheries administrations.

The new MoU, which replaces the Fisheries Management Agreement (FMA) that was signed by the same parties in 2012, provides for further autonomy for the island, which, a generation ago, was only able to manage fisheries out to its three-mile limit.

The legal recognition of the Isle of Man Territorial Sea in 1991 saw the island provided with limited management powers out to 12 miles, with the signing of the first FMA. However, this provided for ‘concurrence’ from the UK for any fisheries management measures in the three to 12-mile zone, as would be applied to UK-registered fishing vessels.

Concurrence became significantly more complicated after devolution of fisheries matters to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with matters coming to a head in the mid-2000s, when the English, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations supported a move by the Isle of Man to introduce new scallop management regulations, but were, in effect, vetoed by the Scottish government, which was opposed to the impact of the new rules on larger Scottish scallopers.

Eventually, the then UK secretary of state for justice Kenneth Clarke, in his constitutional role as the ultimate representative of the Crown Dependencies within the UK government, ruled in the island’s favour, removing the Scottish veto and paving the way for a revised FMA in 2012.

The new MoU takes this devolvement of powers to the Isle of Man government a step further, whilst underpinning shared common principles between all five administrations relating to co-operation, fairness, respect and reciprocity.

In essence, it provides largely the same devolved responsibilities to the island as are enjoyed by the other UK administrators.

Clare Barber MHK, minister for environment, food and agriculture, said: “It’s a significant step forward for the Isle of Man that will empower the Isle of Man government to shape local fisheries policies, while fostering collaborative relationships with neighbouring administrations and ensuring the island upholds its international obligations.”

She added: “The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture has been at the forefront of advancing fisheries management for many years, introducing measures recognised as the most advanced and sustainable in the British Isles.”

The MoU confirms the existing Isle of Man Territorial Sea, rather than seeking to extend fisheries responsibilities for the Isle of Man out to the median line. It reconfirms that Manx-registered vessels are in effect UK vessels and will be subject to the same regulations, and that their fishing opportunities will be allocated and managed in accordance with the UK quota management rules.

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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