Northumberland fishing leaders fearful over environmental proposals

The chairman of Northumberland’s fisheries authority has expressed alarm at manifesto proposals by a Conservative group which could have a major impact on the county’s industry.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 4th November 2019, 2:44 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay

At a meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), chairman Les Weller drew attention to correspondence which had been received from the national Association of IFCAS that he described as ‘quite concerning’.

It referred to the manifesto launch over the summer by the Conservative Environment Network, which describes itself as an independent forum, MP caucus and membership organisation for conservatives who support conservation and de-carbonisation.

On fishing, the manifesto says: ‘European fisheries are a shadow of former plenty. 64% of stocks in European seas are classed as ‘over-fished’, meaning fish are caught more quickly than they can naturally reproduce.

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‘Shamefully, the UK is currently 94 out of 152 world countries and 10 out of 31 European countries for rates of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This needs to be improved, urgently.

‘It is entirely possible to halt this decline and restore our waters to their historic opulence.

‘When we leave the EU we will take back control of our waters by leaving the Common Fisheries Policy.

‘The new Fisheries Act can set out new scientifically-set maximum sustainable yields, a ban on all bottom trawling, and a ban on fishing in British MCZs and MPAs.

‘This new legislation should be combined with additional capacity and capabilities to protect the UK’s fishing rights.’

Of particular note for Northumberland is the proposed ban on fishing in MCZs and MPAs – marine conservation zones and marine protected areas, as the county’s coastline is currently covered by a total of 10 of these designations.

If this became policy, it would mean that there would be no fishing allowed in a significant proportion of the inshore waters off Northumberland; around 70% of the NIFCA district, which runs from the Tyne to the Scottish Border and six nautical miles out to sea, is a protected area.

The NIFCA papers note that this is ‘not official Conservative Government policy, but a useful indication of the views of members of this network’.

The declaration – a set of five principles – which accompanies the manifesto was signed by more than 40 Tory MPs, including the Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon.

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary at the time of the manifesto launch in July, is not a signatory but spoke at the launch event.

However, the CEN points out that the signatories support the declaration, ‘but do not necessarily endorse each of the policies included in the manifesto, which is intended as a platform for debate’.