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An input from WWF on Project Inshore

By guest blogger, Tracy Cambridge from WWF UK

Every now and then a project comes along which gets even me excited about the positive direction fisheries management is taking in different parts of the world.  Project Inshore is an exciting opportunity for England’s inshore sector fishers, authorities, markets and NGOs, such as WWF, to collaborate and innovate to ensure that the future of inshore fishing is sustainable.

This project’s aim is to develop bespoke sustainability reviews for each of the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, these will no doubt be a fantastic resource to the fisheries.  These reviews will cover a whole range of issues relating to the findings from the MSC pre-assessment part of the project. The detailed research will be able to identify pockets of work to improve the sustainability of inshore fisheries from data gathering and monitoring of the species caught, to the impacts of different gear types and much more.

This project joins a small raft of similar projects being undertaken on inshore fleets globally to assess them against MSC standards. I personally have been quizzed about this project by colleagues from around the world, so am looking forward to sharing the process and the findings. TC

Natural England and Project Inshore

By Rob Whiteley, Natural England

Part of Natural England’s role, as the Government’s advisor on the natural environment, is to ensure that our seas are managed sustainably and that biodiversity is protected and enhanced for future generations. We have a dedicated team of fishery specialists working closely with regulatory bodies and the industry. Our goal is to promote sustainable fishing whilst still meeting our duties to protect the habitats and species of England’s inshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

We carry out our work at the quayside, with Fisheries Local Action Groups, and at a national level helping Government integrate its revised approach to fisheries management in European Marine Sites. We also work closely with the fishing industry, NGOs, and academic institutions to understand the impacts of fisheries and help find sustainable ways to manage it. Changes to how our inshore seas are protected and increasing fishing pressures mean it’s particularly important to take a holistic view when managing its protection.

Natural England supports the principles and standards around an ecosystem approach and sustainability promoted by Marine Stewardship Council certification together with proactive management and review of its associated fisheries. We were actively involved in the MSC certification process of the Menai Strait Mussel fishery, which, although based in Wales, takes some of its seed mussel from a MPA in northwest England. To demonstrate sustainability of the mussel harvesting we used a set of prior conditions developed with the operator to ensure no damage to the MPA’s protected features. The Welsh mussel fishery is a good example of a certified, healthy, sustainable fishery coexisting with a marine site protected for its nationally important birds and habitats.

Project Inshore itself is a unique and significant piece of work that will review the sustainability of all of England’s inshore fisheries, and rightly involves a wide range of stakeholders that work in and regulate the industry. Natural England is very pleased to be part of the project. We look forward to helping it progress, especially in identifying and developing the opportunities it presents for enhancing sustainable fisheries in our seas. RW

The importance of Project Inshore to the future of the inshore fleet, by NUTFA

By Jerry Percy, New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA)

When I talk to small scale fisheries about the Marine Stewardship Council, the most common responses I get are that ‘it’s only for big boats’, ‘accreditation and re-accreditation are too expensive’ and ‘we don’t sell to supermarkets’.

Now, irrespective of the perception of and the need or otherwise to have fisheries officially accredited, the underlying three principles on which the whole MSC ethos is based are entirely valid and speak for themselves:

  • Sustainable fish stocks
  • Minimising environmental impact
  • Effective management

These surely hold good as the baseline aspirations for all concerned with fisheries and not least the catchers themselves? They certainly have the support of NUTFA as the foundation for the long-term sustainability and profitability of inshore fisheries.

So when Project Inshore was developed, NUTFA was particularly keen to be an integral part of the programme and to help in guiding and advising at every stage.

Inshore fisheries and sustainability

The inshore fisheries concerned take place in the richest and most biologically diverse areas in English waters. At the same time, the vast majority of European Marine Sites and the proposed Marine Conservation Zones are sited inshore, so as inshore fishermen we need to be able to illustrate that we meet the standards that are acceptable to a range of interested parties, as well of course to the marine environment itself.

NUTFA quote

Fisheries around the English coast were traditionally managed by local Sea Fisheries Committees (SFC’s) dedicated to the sustainable use of waters from 0 – 6 miles from the coast. These SFC’s have been superseded by the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA’s) who maintain the same focus on fisheries but with, as the title shows, an additional responsibility to actively consider marine conservation. In much the same way as SFC’s previously, IFCA’s are staffed by dedicated and committed men and women, working with limited, sometimes very limited, resources in pursuit of their aims.

Project Inshore will provide what both they and fishermen need – a road map to long term sustainability.

This is no easy journey, especially in view of the diversity within the inshore fleet. The vast majority of under tens [boats 10 meters and under in length] fish within the inshore zone with vessels ranging from small open skiffs [a shallow, flat-bottomed open boat with sharp bow and square stern] fishing in much the same way as we have for hundreds of years, through to state of the art 9.9 metre vessels with the fishing power of vessels twice their size only a few years ago. These larger vessels account for 50% of the sectoral catch by value yet are only 20% of the under ten fleet by number. The vast majority of the under ten fleet are sub-8 metres in length and the under ten catch altogether comprises of 70% non-quota species, 83% of which is shellfish, with lobster and crab the main components. All in all, three quarters of this sector use passive gears; nets, pots and lines.

The importance of Project Inshore to the survival our inshore fleet

Managing this amazing array of individual elements and impacts is difficult enough solely from a regulatory perspective. Throw in the ever increasing marine conservation aspects and the public interest in all things fishy, together with the need for fishermen to have access to sufficient resources to maintain their businesses and there is a real danger that small independent fishers, irrespective of their environmental, social and economic credentials get lost in the wash.

By mapping all the English inshore fisheries and creating ‘sustainability’ plans, management plans by another name, crucially with the direct input from the fishermen themselves, this project gives us the best possible chance to ensure the long-term survival and prosperity of this vital part of the English fleet. JP

Project Inshore – A view from Defra

By Andy Carroll, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

UK Ministers always seek to ensure that the needs of the inshore fishing fleet are taken into account when making policy decisions concerning the UK fleet as a whole. We know how important the fleet is to coastal communities where they exist and in upholding a centuries old tradition of small scale coastal fishing in The British Isles. We want to ensure that we have healthy seas and fish stocks and an industry that fishes sustainably in order to guarantee that this important national resource will be available for future generations.

We consider Project Inshore to be an important initiative as it will give a comprehensive picture of the status of inshore fisheries including better information about the relevant stocks to support more informed management and business decisions.

In recent years the UK has worked hard with the European Commission and other Member States in order to improve the sustainability of fish stocks. This has included taking extremely tough decisions such as reducing Total Allowable Catches for some of our most important fishing stocks in order to enable them to recover. Through the latest negotiations to reform the Common Fisheries Policy we have secured a commitment to ending the practice of discards and we will need to work out how we apply this new rule to the inshore fleet. Work is currently under way to determine the levels of discarding and we will be working with the industry to ensure they are able to implement any new scheme properly.

Project Inshore providing a valuable steer for the inshore industry

Our approach to sustainability has not been an easy road for fishermen, though it is clear that it is now working as more of our stocks are being fished at sustainable levels and are on target to meet commitments to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015. There is still much to do and it is clear that many fisheries will not reach that target. Project Inshore will provide the industry with a valuable steer showing what needs to be done to reach the requirements for Marine Stewardship Council accreditation. Although applying for this status is purely a commercial decision for those involved in the fisheries, an indication of the status of the stock will help us to determine, in the case of stocks that do not have regular assessments from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), how close they are to being fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield.

DEFRA is currently exploring ways in which scientists can work more closely with the inshore fleet to ensure that data collected by the fleet can be fed into any fishery assessments. The work of Project Inshore should help in informing us what sort of issues arise in different fisheries and we can tailor industry and science partnerships to meet specific needs.

We are pleased to be associated with this project and look forward to working with all the partners involved in order to deliver the final phase of the work. Achieving sustainable inshore fisheries is a Government priority and we welcome initiatives such as Project inshore that support that objective. AC