The MMO is increasing at-sea inspections as COVID infection levels ease and the weather improves. Photo: MMO
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has said they are increasing the number of inspections at-sea and are in fact, operating at the organisation’s highest ever level.
Since 09 March, the MMO has carried out 61 at-sea inspections on board both UK and EU fishing vessels. 41 of these inspections were conducted on board EU-registered boats.
On-shore inspections saw 84 fishing vessels checked, with one being reported as an EU-registered fishing vessel.
The at-sea and on-shore inspections resulted in 29 sanctions being applied.
An MMO spokesperson said:
“Our surveillance and fisheries monitoring and control capacity is at the highest level it has ever been, enabling us to ensure we can deter illegal fishing in our waters, even more important now the UK is an independent coastal state. We resumed boarding and inspecting vessels at sea as soon as Covid-19 infection levels and weather allowed and last month we conducted a significantly higher than average number of inspections at sea. We’ve boarded and inspected 61 vessels at sea since 9 March, 41 of which were EU flagged vessels, and inspected 84 vessels on shore, one of which was an EU flagged vessel. These actions resulted in 29 sanctions being applied.”
In March, the MMO had come under heavy criticism for reportedly not carrying out at-sea inspections in the months of January and February, post Brexit.
On-shore inspections for British fishing vessels was recorded as 24 in January was and four in February. On-shore inspections for EU fishing vessels was recorded at 0 for January and three for February.
At the time Under Secretary Victoria Prentis said that at-sea inspections were reduced due to concerns surrounding transmission of COVID-19 during the boarding of foreign vessels.
In a question from Shadow Fisheries Secretary, Luke Pollard Ms Prentis replied that, “COVID-19 safety measures introduced in response to high rates of infection impacted the ability to conduct physical inspections of vessels both at sea and on shore during January and February 2021. However, inspections were carried out on quaysides with social distancing measures in place and an increased at-sea enforcement presence remained in place for January and February 2021 to deter illegal activity.”
The MMO claimed that vastly increased offshore patrol aerial surveillance and monitoring have ensured illegal fishing has been kept at bay in England’s seas since the UK became an independent coastal state on 01 January this year.
The latest news from the MMO will be welcomed by many in the UK fishing industry who believe that at-sea inspections are vital during the transitional period of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
by Oliver McBride