Controversy Brews: Delving into Round Two of English Fisheries Management Plans

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Controversy Brews: Delving into Round Two of English Fisheries Management Plans

A recent online gathering hosted by Defra became the stage for unfolding discussions surrounding the imminent arrival of the next five English-led Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs).

Set to be unveiled in the approaching year, these plans are mandated by the 2020 Fisheries Act, marking the UK’s departure from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The collaborative effort outlined in the Joint Fisheries Statement by the UK administrations aims to craft and implement a total of 43 distinctive FMPs by the culmination of 2025.

At present, England leads the charge, actively evaluating six ‘fast-track’ FMPs across diverse sectors such as scallop, non-quota Channel demersal species, crab and lobster, whelk, Channel flatfish, and, in collaboration with the Welsh government, bass.

Meanwhile, regions like Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to confirm their schedules for the development of these crucial FMPs under their jurisdiction.

The virtual congregation attracted approximately 60 stakeholders from varied arenas, including NGOs, angling groups, and the commercial fishing sector.

However, dissatisfaction permeated the gathering as certain participants voiced frustration with the format. NFFO chair Paul Gilson articulated limitations in engagement and technical glitches that marred the event’s effectiveness.

The crux of the meeting which centred on exploring the upcoming five English FMPs: cockles, North Sea/Channel sprats, southern North Sea skate and rays, southern North Sea non-quota demersal species, and English queen scallops.

Delving into Round Two of English Fisheries Management Plans
Delving into Round Two of English Fisheries Management Plans

Yet, the presentations, albeit concise, lacked substantive detail, leaving attendees with minimal insight beyond an invitation to contribute suggestions for incorporation into the FMP drafts.

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Voicing concerns about the anticipated impact of these FMPs, Gilson highlighted declining ray and skate populations due to mounting seal predation, citing the burgeoning problem witnessed in the southern North Sea.

The amalgamation of distinct cockle fisheries into a singular ‘plan’ also raised eyebrows, with industry representatives questioning its potential efficacy in resolving contentious issues.

Mike Cohen, NFFO’s chief executive, echoed cautious optimism about the FMPs’ concept but cautioned against rushed timelines overshadowing the intended objectives outlined in the Fisheries Act and the Joint Fisheries Statement.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Marine Directorate has initiated its FMP development process, yet details regarding the discussions with industry representatives remain scarce.

As discussions unfold and the fisheries management saga continues, uncertainties linger regarding the tangible impact and feasibility of these planned FMPs, prompting questions about their efficacy in effecting substantial improvements within the fishing sector.



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