No decision on changes to protect conservation zone on Northumberland coast

No decision has yet been made as to whether additional measures are needed to manage a protected section of sea on the Northumberland coast.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 01 February, 2019, 13:23
Fishermen at Amble. Picture by Jane Coltman

But Amble fisherman Michael Bould urged the decision-makers to consider the livelihoods of those in his industry as an important factor in any potential restrictions.

An update on the Coquet to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) was provided at the latest quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA).

This MCZ, one of a series of marine protected areas which form the UK’s contribution to an international network of sites, covers 192 km² of intertidal and offshore waters from Whitley Bay up to Alnmouth, including areas around St Mary’s Island and Coquet Island.

At the meeting on Monday (January 28), NIFCA chief executive Mike Hardy explained that the authority had brought in a monitoring and control plan just over a year ago and the issues have been looked at in some detail.

However, members had agreed that further consideration is needed as to whether NIFCA should bring in any management over and above its byelaws which already apply to the whole district from the Tyne to the Scottish Border.

Mr Hardy said they needed to look again at the statutory guidance – with a meeting with Natural England to come – and the evidence on activity so far, meaning they would not be proceeding with any byelaws or regulations at this time. Any proposal would result in consultation with stakeholders and the fishing industry.

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“Members want to make sure 100 per cent, or as much as possible, that the correct decision is being made,” he added. “But it should be pursued with the minimum possible delay.”

NIFCA chairman Les Weller said: “It’s an important one and we need to get it right.”

Mr Bould highlighted to the meeting that the socio-economic element is ‘so important’.

“Were trawling to be banned in the MCZ, it would only affect three boats in the northern area, but it makes up 80 per cent of their income,” he said.

In response to another fisherman’s concerns, it was underlined that the authority is only talking about the MCZ at this stage, which at its widest goes three miles out, and it is not considering areas further offshore.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service