AFTER one year’s travel and study, in January 2005 I published a Conservative Party Green Paper entitled Consultation on a National Policy on Fisheries Management in UK Waters. This is available on the Conservative Party Website www.conservatives.com
Our belief is that the CFP is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster. We intend to return management of our marine environment to National and Local Control. We believe that all those who use the marine environment for commercial gain or private pleasure should be involved in managing our seas. Under the CFP, there is no mechanism for the interests of those involved in recreational angling or tourism to be represented in management decisions. We clearly declare in our Statement of Objectives:
“Our policy is to manage the sea fisheries in UK waters in such a manner as to safeguard the natural environment; to rebuild and preserve our fish stocks and marine wildlife; to maximise the economic value of exploitable stocks, both in the short and the long term, commensurate with the natural resource available and the environmental impact of so doing; to create a stable, equitable framework within which the fishing and allied industries can operate, including the recreational fishing sector and tourism; generally to protect the interests of the United Kingdom.”
The potential of recreational angling in the
The section devoted to recreational angling in the Green Paper reads as follows:
“We fully recognise the economic and social values of this activity. There are one million recreational fishermen who generate £1 billion-worth of economic activity. We will require that full provision must be made to accommodate this sector where it can be demonstrated that it has significant economic value in any specific fishery. To that effect, we will require that FMAs take full account in their plans of the needs of recreational fishing, limiting commercial fishing activity if necessary, to ensure that those needs are met.
We have taken considerable soundings from recreational fishing interests and on the basis of what we have been told, would introduce provisions for introducing local licensing schemes, with charges imposed for rod licences. Charges would be used to cover administration costs for increased enforcement activity to ensure that their interests were properly safeguarded.
Where necessary for the proper management of fish stocks, we would introduce mandatory registration, in order that fishermen may be identified and contacted where necessary, in order to establish related fishing mortality. Where pressure stocks are involved, we would authorise FMAs to impose “catch and release” schemes, to reduce fishing mortality. In some countries where recreational fishermen are highly regulated, they are not permitted to sell their catches. We would welcome views on whether this should apply to the
Fisheries Management Authorities
A Conservative government would pass a “framework law” setting out the broad objectives of marine policy and in particular the requirement to protect and increase the biomass of designated species. The task of implementing these broad national targets would be devolved to new Fisheries Management Authorities who would have the responsibility for drawing up multi-annual marine plans in their areas to put the policy into effect. The law will set out their structures, their duties, and the manner in which they should operate.
While these are based on similar areas to the current Sea Fisheries Committees, we recognise the failings of existing arrangements and have actually developed entirely new structures, to ensure they overcome the problems currently experienced.
The Authorities will be run by a Board, made up of a small group of professional managers, headed by a Chief Executive Officer.
To assist the Board, each Authority will have a Council, made up from representative groups, covering all the issues relevant to marine management. That will include representatives of commercial fishermen, sea anglers, recreational users, tourist groups, environmental groups and all others who declare a valid interest.
The Board will be under a statutory obligation to ensure that the membership of the Councils properly represent the wide range of interests and will also be under a statutory obligation to consult the Council and to take note of its views.
We would require each Board to prepare a draft proposal and submit this to the Council for consideration. We would also require it to be published widely, not only by conventional means but also on the internet, where provision should be made for inviting comments from “out of area” interest groups.
We would also require the Council to hold public meetings, where interest groups will have a right to express their views. Again, we will require the Board to take full account of those views.
The plan may then be amended but in any event, it is then submitted to the Fisheries Minister for approval. At that point, any person or interest group may make representations to the minister about the plan, which shall also be published, and the Minister shall be required to take them into account.
The next stage is that the Minister will either approve the plan, with or without amendments, or reject it, referring it back to the Authority for revision. There will also be provision for a public inquiry, where an Authority has been unable to resolve contentious issues, with opportunities for all interest groups to give evidence.
I am absolutely determined that the huge potential of the recreational sector should be realised and that it should be deeply involved in the management of fisheries where recreational anglers is significant. I would stress that this is a consultation paper and I look forward to hearing further constructive criticism.
Owen Paterson MP
Shadow Fisheries Minister
11th March 2005