‘Our work is vital for conserving marine life and sustaining fishing’

NIFCA representatives carrying out a survey at Beadnell Bay.
NIFCA representatives carrying out a survey at Beadnell Bay.

This article is the first in a series of features about the vital work that NIFCA (Northumberland Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority) does throughout the region.

“The work of NIFCA is vital to the conservation of both our marine environment and a sustainable fishery for commercial and recreational fishers in the district,” says the organisation’s chief executive officer Mike Hardy.

The patrol vessel, St Aidan. Picture by Alan Goodchild Photography

The patrol vessel, St Aidan. Picture by Alan Goodchild Photography

Indeed, this important group has multiple objectives throughout the area that it covers – extending from the River Tyne to the Scottish border out to six nautical miles and up to the normal tidal limit of estuaries.

These aims include ensuring that the exploitation of sea fisheries resources is carried out in a sustainable way and to balance the social and economic benefits of exploiting these resources with the need to protect the marine environment from, or promote its recovery from, the effects of such exploitation

It is also tasked with balancing the different needs of people involved in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in the district, as well as ensuring that all objectives of any Marine Conservation Zone in the district are furthered.

The organisation achieves these aims through various means including making byelaws, when appropriate in the interests of fisheries and the environment, and enforcing byelaws and other legislation – both European and national.

It’s a big job for the group which celebrated its seventh birthday earlier this year.

But where did it all start?

NIFCA was established by the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009 and became operational on April 1, 2011, in succession to the old Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee.

Northumberland’s is one of 10 IFCAs around the coast of England and is a committee-based organisation, with 21 members consisting of councillors from Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council, and representatives from partner agencies – the Marine Management Organisation, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

There are also 11 people from the local community who are familiar with the needs and opinions of their local marine and fishing community and/or have knowledge or expertise in the marine environmental matters.

Through its members, NIFCA is answerable to the people of Northumberland and North Tyneside.

NIFCA holds member meetings once a quarter and those meetings are open to the public.

These meetings are held at different venues throughout the district. The next one takes place on Monday, July 24, at Newbiggin Maritime Centre, from 2pm.

IFCAs are funded by the local authorities in their district; in the case of NIFCA, it is North Tyneside Council and Northumberland County Council.

That funding includes a contribution from Defra in respect of new work burdens taken on by IFCAs in addition to the old Sea Fisheries Committee duties.

NIFCA has a total of 10 inshore fisheries and conservation officers who comprise an environmental team and an operations and enforcement team.

NIFCA carries out work both on land and at sea off the coast of Northumberland.

On land, officers can be seen undertaking a variety of work including inspecting landings, visiting fish wholesalers and meeting fishers and members of the public to answer any queries and explain the work of NIFCA.

At sea, the authority officers work from the patrol vessel St Aidan, a 16-metre GRP (glass reinforced plastic) catamaran built in 2015 with the capability to carry out enforcement and environmental work.

A rigid inflatable boat (RIB) is carried aboard St Aidan and can be deployed where necessary.

NIFCA also has a shore-based RIB, Bravo 1, which can be launched from various shoreline locations in the district.

Both RIBs can be used to board fishing vessels and for working close inshore.

It is all vital work and Mr Hardy says that those involved are all more than happy to do it.

He told the Gazette: “The NIFCA officers and members are extremely proud of the work we do for the people of Northumberland and North Tyneside and the local marine environment.

“We are always pleased to hear from anybody with an interest in our work or who wishes to find out more.”

For more information, visit www.nifca.gov.uk or send an email to nifca@nifca.gov.uk
Alternatively, visit the organisation’s base at 8 Ennerdale Road, Blyth, Northumberland, NE24 4RT, or call 01670 797676.

NIFCA also has a Facebook page entitled Northumberland IFCA, or follow the organisation on Twitter via @N_IFCA