UK government Minister George Eustice has been urged to conduct "a root and branch review" of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)

Minister George Eustice has been urged to conduct “a root and branch review” of the MMO

Fisheries consultant, Terri Portmann has to written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice calling for “a root and branch review” of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

In an open letter to the Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall, Ms Portmann lays bare her views on the serious incompetence and management inadequacies of the MMO which is wasting taxpayers’ valuable money.

In her letter, Plymouth based Ms Portmann writes:

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Dear Secretary of State

The Marine Management Organisation.

Please find at the bottom of this letter, a tender launched by the MMO, which states, “’This procurement is for an independent testing of I-VMS devices to confirm whether they meet the technical requirements of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)”.

Just when you think that the MMO have reached the pinnacle of utter incompetence, you realise they can find new ways to climb that hill, further. They roll out I-VMS, missing their planned implementation by eight years, fail to carry due diligence, savagely pressure fishermen to install equipment to a ridiculous timetable and apply for grant funding, that they then have to adjust with just weeks to go. They are forced to revoke a certification and then re-issue it within weeks of the launch to one of the four suppliers, and then halfway through the implementation programme commission a review to check that the taxpayer funded equipment they have insisted be installed meets their specification, that they claim to have tested, robustly!

The sad truth, of course, is that despite their assurances, many have suspected this additional oversight and additional cost to taxpayers was needed. The MMO project learned no lessons from the early work with I-VMS on small boats of Lyme Bay who have been trialling in one form or another since the days of the MFA. Nor has the project learned lessons from the Devon and Severn IFCA pilot that has seen consistent breakdowns of kit within a few years or in some cases months of installations let alone the five years they were supposed to last. The accuracy of data they collect, is also under numerous challenges.

For years I have been calling for an urgent review of this organisation, but for the sake of our marine environment, and the wellbeing of fisherman can I please urge you to not delay in appointing an experienced practitioner to lead an independent root and branch review of your NDPB. If not, I shall do all that I can to ensure that the EFRA and or the Environmental Audit Select Committee, or some other Government mechanism for scrutinising and holding Government organisation’s’ poor performance to account, do so.

I strongly believe that credit should be given when due. Only twice in 13 years have I had cause to do that, I have lost count at the times that I have personally or witnessed others trying to explain to this organisation they have got something wrong, only to be ignored and to later see predictable and preventable failures develop.

One of the benefits of leaving the EU has been that they are no longer able to investigate and bring infraction proceedings and force penalties upon the UK because of the MMO’s failure to provide accurate statistics, or to adequately monitor and manage resources. But who marks their homework now?

As an independent coastal state, we have new and great opportunities but also new and serious responsibilities and many of those via the Fisheries Act will now fall to this organisation that has clearly, and consistently demonstrated that it cannot deliver the most basic of projects, competently, on time, and budget.

Its annual review has become so watered down over the years (I suspect because of having to publish missed targets and poor performance) that it now doesn’t even bother to include them.

For a few years after its inception, we all accepted excuses of ‘newness’ for its poor performance and failings. Since then, it has become clear that despite numerous Chairs and CEOs coming and going it continues to be a failing organisation, not fit for purpose and that this is, systemic.

I have watched with utter dismay as they have failed to deliver adequately their statutory functions. I assisted in two Judicial Reviews of Marine Licenses issued by them that they were forced to quash. Having not learned lessons from the having to quash the first license, they then issued another, only to be forced to quash it, when we launched the next JR. They are an organisation that cannot learn from its own costly mistakes that are picked up by the taxpayer. This, is perhaps one of the most worrying aspects of its failings, I wonder if their high staff churn contributes to this?

I have witnessed the utter degradation of morale in the fishing industry to an all-time low There is not a week that goes by that I do not receive a call from a family member, concerned crew or industry representative about the mental health and well-being of a fishermen. Small-scale fishermen have in particularly been pressured and bullied into compliance with ill-thought-out projects and unworkable regulations. Frustrations are further compounded when the MMO simply refuses to engage with fishermen and to listen and act in a meaningful way. The MMO have successfully beaten down the spirits of our brave fishermen to the point the belief is that there is no point in raising issues or complaining, is now widespread. After 13 years they still hold meetings in the middle of the day and in the middle of the week and expect to have active fishermen show up! When you have not learned in all that time the most basic function of good governance and how to engage with your stakeholders, what hope is there?

I appreciate that you and your predecessors have been forced to continually defend this organisation, while the fishing industry, stakeholders and conservations NGO’s have watched on to scenes that play out like a bad re-write of the emperor’s new clothes, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to change this.

As always, happy to chat.

Kind regards

Terri Portmann

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Minister urged to conduct root and branch review of MMO

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