NFFO Chairman, Paul Gilson believes that IFCA reform is vital and in a letter to his members solutions to the current problems restrictions invented drama

The NFFO has criticised the UK government for what it perceives as more restrictions and spatial squeeze which are a result of invented drama

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has hit out at UK Government policies that are constantly eroding traditional fishing grounds and causing a spatial squeeze, which is having a detrimental effect on British fishermen.

The NFFO says that an example of this is the government’s recent ban on sandeel fishing and restrictions on mobile gear, which they claim, “seem to be more about grabbing headlines than genuinely contributing to marine resource management.”

The sandeel ban will not directly affect UK fishing businesses, as they do not target this species, but the NFFO claim it is a symptom of something more serious:

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“Given the government’s failure to take control of access to our waters, however, we have to be concerned about the effect of displacing the EU boats that do target it. Until the government makes good on its promises and starts acting as though Britain really is an independent coastal state, we will continue to get window-dressing measures like this, rather than properly integrated marine resource management.”

The exclusion of mobile gear from rocky reef areas is “another piece of invented drama” that the NFFO says it could do without. Although there is relatively little fishing activity in the areas in question and so the immediate impact on livelihoods will not be substantial, it is part of the ongoing trend for fishing to be displaced from traditional grounds in favour of other interests, states the NFFO.

The NFFO warns the government to be wary of what is does with the seas around the UK, because there will be consequences. It says:

“Whether it is extracting aggregates from it, building wind farms on it, or asking for donations for campaigns to ‘protect’ it, many industries are now making good money from the seabed. There may be a place for what they do, but none of it puts food on tables or provides jobs in coastal communities and it all squeezes out fishing businesses, which do. If we continue to allow the piecemeal degradation of the nation’s fishing capacity, we will lose something of fundamental importance that cannot easily be recovered.”

Criticising the UK government’s decision to increase marine protection in a further 13 offshore MPAs, which will come into force on 22 March this year, on the announcement, the NFFO described some of the justification as surprising. They stated:

“When consulting last year on the measures that have been introduced today, the MMO described the evidence that fishing was causing damage to these seabed features as ‘limited’. Hardly surprising, since the impact of most mobile fishing gear on the seabed is vastly less than the exaggerations peddled by those with little expertise and a vested interest in attacking fishermen. The MMO also stated that social and economic factors would not form any part of its decision-making on this matter. And so, we end up with today’s announcement: prioritising the protection of underwater rocks from the mere potential for damage by activities that they have survived for centuries.”

The NFFO believes that government marine policy is being used as a popularity contest in order to pacify environmental non-governmental organisations, when they it really should have their eye on the long-term. It concludes by saying:

“There is a serious job to be done in managing our marine resources in a changing world, but political theatre likes today’s announcement does not contribute to it. Let us hope that it is not a sign of more such posturing to come.”


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