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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

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