Fishing activity, especially the level of scallop dredging, is being monitored to help protect a marine conservation zone.
NIFCA (Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) has been considering a range of options for fisheries management in the Coquet to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), as well as the River Aln Estuary, which is the smallest MCZ in England.
In considering the management options for the two MCZs, NIFCA says that it has been very conscious of the protection of the marine environment, as well as considering the reasonable levels of fishing activity that take place.
In coming up with a plan, the Authority drew on the expertise of its officers and their knowledge of the local fishery and marine environment. NIFCA also spoke to commercial fishermen, and held engagement events.
Outlining the strategy, a NIFCA spokesman said: “In the Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ, the overall level of fishing activity by trawlers is very low over sub-tidal rocky reef and at a low-to-moderate level over sub-tidal mud.
“NIFCA therefore does not feel it is necessary at this stage to prohibit gear activity, but that the impact of trawling activity should continue to be assessed. In particular, note should be taken of the level of scallop dredging in the northern area of the MCZ.
“The authority has therefore adopted a monitoring and control plan approach, whereby it plans to monitor fishing activity and interactions with the designated features of the MCZ through a dedicated programme.
“The approach will assess whether features are being impacted by activities over time, following an evidence-based approach, and management will be put in place in the future if and when that is necessary.
“Fishing in the Aln Estuary MCZ is very low, and is mainly recreational. Thus, at this time, no fisheries management has been identified.”
NIFCA carries out a range of activities to assess whether management is needed in Marine Protected Areas, such as monitoring surveys, commissioning research reports with partner organisations, and analysing fishing information.
NIFCA carries out biannual surveys of fish at the Aln Estuary, to ensure the MCZ objectives relating to the health of the site are being met.