Fisheries chiefs keen to let Northumberland know how they help county's stunning coastline and rich fishing heritage
The chiefs of Northumberland’s fisheries authority are keen to communicate what they do to as many as possible across the county.
Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) chief executive Mike Hardy and chairman Les Weller made this very clear when they spoke at a meeting of the county council’s communities and place committee.
The pair were called to address the committee given that the organisation receives the lion’s share of its funding from the local authority and therefore an opportunity was given for councillors to scrutinise its operations.
Mr Hardy explained that they welcomed the chance to talk to the councillors, saying: “What we want to do is communicate with stakeholders, with people who have an interest in what we do.
“I like to think that everyone should be interested in what NIFCA does because it relates to the marine environment and it relates to local businesses.”
He also reflected that Northumberland has ‘one of, if not, the best coastlines in the country’ as well as a ‘rich fishing heritage’.
Mr Weller highlighted the vision for the authority, which is to ‘lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry’.
NIFCA’s budget for 2019-20 is around £1million, with £837,000 coming from Northumberland and North Tyneside Councils, as the authority’s district covers from the River Tyne to the Scottish Border and six nautical miles out to sea.
Northumberland is responsible for about 83% of this, with the remainder coming from North Tyneside, with the requirement for the precepts and the split laid down in the law governing the 10 English IFCAs.
Asked by the chairman, Coun Jeff Reid, if there was a better way of being funded, Mr Weller replied: “No, because we welcome this scrutiny, because all scrutiny makes you better.
“Also, because what we do is for the people of Northumberland and North Tyneside, the fishermen, the marine environment and the coastal heritage.”
Given the significant contribution from the council, Coun Wendy Pattison, who is also a member of NIFCA, serving as its vice-chairman, asked about why the authority’s reserves are so high.
Mr Weller explained that the bulk of the £500,000 reserves relate to the vessel replacement fund, given that the authority needs to ensure it has patrol boats to carry out its enforcement and environmental responsibilities.
Its main patrol vessel, St Aidan, was bought in 2015 for almost £680,000, fully funded by NIFCA’s own reserves, and is likely to need replacing after 10 or 12 years.
Both Mr Hardy and Mr Weller paid tribute to the foresight and good financial management of the bosses of the authority’s predecessor, the Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee, particularly bearing in mind that three IFCAs elsewhere are now unable to set a budget next year and another three are close to that point.