24 March 2005
Future of UK fishing depends on urgent reform
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee today published a report about the future for UK fishing policy. The report takes a critical look at many of the recommendations made in last year's Strategy Unit report - Net Benefits - which was intended to create a stable future for the industry and fishing communities.
The Committee concludes that the fishing industry requires significant reform if its long-term future is to be sustainable and profitable, and urges the Government to implement some of the Strategy Unit's recommendations in order to achieve this.
Its main conclusions are:
The Committee rejects the Strategy Unit recommendation that 13% of the whitefish fleet should be decommissioned and an additional 30% voluntarily tied-up. The Committee is concerned by claims that the data on which the Strategy Unit based these recommendations was inaccurate. It believes that the expectation that fishermen would tie-up their vessels without compensation is completely unreasonable.
The Government should work towards implementing an experimental system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as soon as possible. The Committee stresses that each MPA should have a clearly defined purpose and scientific backing, and that industry representatives should be closely involved in the decision-making process.
The Government should undertake a case-by-case evaluation of each mixed fishery of importance to the UK to establish which fisheries are suited to an effort-based management system. The Committee acknowledges that further analysis is needed of the potential difficulties of effort-based systems-such as the targeting of higher-value species-but believes that these difficulties pale in comparison to the appalling and wasteful practices resulting from quota-managed mixed fisheries, such as the mass discard of marketable fish.
The Committee strongly supports the continued strengthening and development of the Regional Advisory Councils, in the hope that they will eventually be granted real and effective management powers by Brussels. The Committee believes that the current CFP management system is over-centralised and requires reform.
The industry should be involved to a greater extent in developing and setting priorities for fisheries science. The Committee considers that a more inclusive and co-operative approach to fisheries science would improve relations between the various stakeholders and significantly improve the quality and accuracy of the data gathered.
The Government should look to develop the inshore sector, in particular the recreational angling sector. The Committee believes both sectors have considerable economic potential and have been under-represented at management level for too long.
The Chairman of the Sub-Committee which conducted the inquiry, Mr Austin Mitchell MP, said: "Fishing's been hard hit but we hope that if Government and the industry follow our recommendations and the fishermen are involved in shaping their own destiny it will inherit a better future.".
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The report follows an inquiry conducted between November 2004 and January 2005. The inquiry was announced in our press notice of 9 July 2004 (available on our website). The Committee appointed a Sub-Committee to conduct the inquiry, under the chairmanship of Mr Austin Mitchell MP.
The Committee received written evidence from a number of interested parties. It took oral evidence from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations; the Scottish Fishermen's Federation; WWF UK; the South West Fish Producers Organisation; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation; the National Federation of Sea Anglers, the Sea Anglers' Conservation Network and the Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society; the South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen; Dr Andrew Palfreman, an independent consultant; the Royal Society of Edinburgh; the Sea Fish Industry Authority; the Scottish White Fish Producers Association; the Scottish Seafood Processors' Federation; Fishermen's Association Ltd; the Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Ross Finnie MSP, together with SEERAD officials; and the Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries, Ben Bradshaw MP, together with Defra and Strategy Unit officials.
The full report will be available on our website from around 3.30 pm on 24 March. Members of the media who wish to interview the Chairman of the Sub-committee, Austin Mitchell MP, or who require further information are asked to call 07719 764 939.