The UK Government has announced a consultation on removing harmful fishing activity from 13 more MPAs NFFO Fisheries Management Plans

The NFFO has told its members embrace fisheries management plans provide the industry with great potential to influence the future of fishing. Photo: Tony Fitzsimmons

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has called on its members embrace fisheries management plans (FMPs) as it offers the fishing industry a real opportunity to influence the direction of fishing in the future.

In a blog post entitled ‘Fisheries Management Plans – Time to have our say’, the NFFO write:

“FMPs have great potential. They represent a genuinely new way of developing fisheries management measures. Instead of the top-down impositions of the CFP, we have at least the opportunity of something more flexible, more responsive and more democratic. By bringing together fishers, scientists and regulators, FMPs should be capable of producing far better outcomes than the politically motivated compromises that we became used to under the old regime.

Of course, the implementation of a system may be very different from its design. Already we have seen a lot of variability in how the first FMPs have been developed. The scallop FMP, for example, was developed largely by industry, while we have heard complaints that at least one other Plan failed to engage adequately with fishermen.

So much for the system. The management measures themselves are still very much open for debate. We have now seen the first proposals and it will take time to read all of the detail and understand them properly. The NFFO will be canvassing its members, to ensure that our responses to all of these consultations incorporate as broad a spectrum of their views as possible. We encourage everyone to submit their individual views as well.

Of course, we won’t know the real value of the new system until we see the results that come out of these consultations. It is a very good thing to be asked for our suggestions, but the exercise is only meaningful if we are listened to.

It is easy to be cynical, because we have all seen too many initiatives that have failed to secure the economic, social and environmental sustainability of our industry. Clearly, too, the FMP process so far has had its flaws. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity here to engage and, as long as we keep advocating forcefully for management measures that will keep our industry healthy and prosperous into the future, I think there is real cause for optimism.

We must remember also that FMPs are intended to be iterative. These first proposals are the start of a process, not its end point. What comes out of this first round won’t be perfect, but if voices from our industry are listened to as we have been promised, it will be the beginning of something far better than we had before.”

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