Fishermen urged to attend

The NFFO is urging inshore fishermen to sign up to attend a major two-day conference in October that it says will provide a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ for all parts of the fishing industry to bring clarity to the issues facing the inshore sector, and have a say on what that future should look like, reports Tim Oliver

The federation says that the high political and public profile of the fishing industry provides an opportunity to put inshore fisheries on the pathway to a sustainable and profitable future. The conference aims to establish a blueprint for their future management.

“Too often, the issues confronting our inshore fisheries have been mired in disinformation and placed in the ‘too difficult’ box,” said NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas.

As well as the NFFO, key partners in the project include DEFRA, the MMO, the Coastal PO, Seafish, the Fishmongers’ Company and Seafarers UK, but ‘the principal aim is to give working fishermen a voice in what kind of future they want for their fisheries’.

“This will not be a conference that only generates hot air and a report which gathers dust. Too much is being invested in it for that to happen. Change in our industry is constant and inevitable, but not always in the right direction.”

The NFFO says that ‘massive preparations’ are underway to ensure that this event is the point at which the industry takes its own future in its hands.

“The idea is a simple one – get all those with a stake in the future of inshore fishing into the room, hear what they have to say, and harvest the best ideas to inform future management and policy in this area,” said Barrie Deas.

“Hard choices as well as opportunities are ahead, and it is better if these are made on the basis of sound knowledge.”

The federation says it is ‘vital’ that anyone involved in inshore fishing makes the effort to attend the conference.

Preparations

A workshop was held recently in London to shape the form and content of the conference. Representatives from inshore fisheries from all parts of the coast, along with DEFRA, the MMO and the devolved administrations, gathered to plan the event.

“Even how ‘inshore fishing’ is defined carries policy implications,” said Barrie Deas.

“Alternatives discussed, such as small-scale, or artisanal, or day-boats, all carry strengths and weaknesses. Some definitions work better in some areas and circumstances than others.”

Fishermen from all areas attended the workshop, and the federation’s contribution set out a few reference points to be kept in mind for the October conference and what happens afterwards:

  1. Policy should be evidence-based
  2. Policy should seek to establish appropriate forms of co-management
  3. There should be full recognition of regional and fleet diversity
  4. There should be clear and agreed objectives
  5. There should be coherence with other parts of the fisheries management system, avoiding displacement effects
  6. Life beyond the conference: momentum should be built into the arrangements
  7. Humility: inshore fisheries management is inherently difficult and complex, and we need to understand all facets
  8. There should be awareness of the economic incentives created by different management options.

Although the conference is jointly owned by the fishing industry and government, Seafish is acting as the facilitator, and has gone about the task ‘with energy and skill, guided by a steering committee which reflects a cross-section of the industry’, says the NFFO.

Barrie Deas said, “What is said at the conference in October will shape our future. The aim is to draw lessons directly from what is said over the two days, along with the preparatory work being done, and that will directly feed into what follows. A lot hangs on this conference. If you work in the inshore sector, you need to be there.”

Issues for discussion

Inshore issues discussed at the preparatory workshop included:

  • What are inshore fisheries? Should they be defined by area, size of boats, catching power?
  • What are the stocks that are currently exploited by inshore fisheries? Are they all inshore, or do some of them straddle inshore and offshore? What is the best way to manage each stock, or mixes of stocks?
  • Are there additional stocks that could be exploited by inshore fisheries? What are the barriers obstructing this?
  • The importance of non-quota species to the inshore fisheries, and how best to manage these valuable resources
  • Where are technological developments taking us? What is the right response?
  • How do we balance fleet capacity and technological development with fishing opportunities?
  • How can we make co-management work in the context of fleet diversity?
  • How do we balance maximum flexibility to target species when they are available, with the constraints necessary to prevent overexploitation of stocks?
  • Who should have access to fish inshore fisheries? Restricting access is the foundation for sustainable management, but inevitably involves hard choices
  • Is it possible to lift genuinely low-impact vessels right out of the quota system?
  • How do we encourage new blood into the industry without destabilising what is already there? What are the implications of increased effort?
  • How do we factor in and manage the huge regional differences and fleet diversities evident in the inshore fleets?
  • The devolution settlement is a political reality. How do we work around it?

“All this boils down to one question – what framework will allow the fishing industry to take more responsibility for managing its own fisheries, sector by sector, area by area? Government knows from bitter past experience of unintended consequences that ‘if we do it alone, we will get it wrong’,” says the

NFFO.

Financial help to attend

Financial help is available to help to cover the costs of attending the conference.

A variety of organisations and companies have responded to a call from the project’s steering group to help reduce the financial burden on active fishermen who choose to attend by covering out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel and accommodation.

Aoife Martin, director of operations at Seafish, said: “The experience and ideas of active fishermen will be vital as we bring the industry together with policy-makers, regulators and the science and environmental community to discuss potential solutions to improve the management of our inshore fisheries.

“We’ve had a great response from industry and beyond in our call for providing financial assistance to help ensure that fishermen will not be left out of pocket for taking an active interest in the future of their industry and attending the conference.

“From retailers and regulatory bodies to fishermen’s organisations and NGOs, we have had a great response to our call for financial support. We are pleased that we will be able to help around 50 fishermen to attend, ensuring an excellent representation of fishermen from across the UK and across a variety of types of commercial fishing.

“With these bursaries being allocated on a first come, first served basis, we would encourage fishermen interested in attending to get in touch as soon as possible.”

The two-day conference is free to attend, and the bursaries will be allocated on a first come, first served basis to eligible fishermen.

Fishermen interested in registering for the conference – which will be held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel at Tower Bridge, 45 Prescot Street, London E1 8GP on 8-9 October, 2019 – and accessing bursary funding should contact Holly Kaiser at Seafish on: 0131 558 333 or at: holly.kaiser@seafish.co.uk for further information.

Bookings can also be made through either the Seafish website at: bit.ly/2TGxXr3 or Eventbrite at: bit.ly/31GIJAm

 

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