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The times they are a changin’ – next steps for UK fisheries


The last couple of weeks have been busy ones as is always the case in the world of fisheries during September.  Holidays are over, fisheries negotiations are underway and the countdown to the year end has begun.  Looming large in people’s minds is the question of how we are going to implement the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Atlantic mackerel on processing line at the Shetland Catch fish factoryAtlantic mackerel on processing line 
© naturepl.com / Chris Gomersall / WWF-Canon

This was the theme of a Westminster Forum event that I presented a few thoughts to recently. What are the next steps for the UK industry and how will it meet the challenges of achieving and promoting growth in sustainability?

There were lots of interests represented at the meeting.  Representatives from the catching and processing sector, through to researchers, restaurant owners, NGOs (like WWF), and government and parliamentarians were all in attendance. The keynote speech – provided by a representative of the European Commission – set out what some of the key changes were and what they might mean for fisheries management in the next ten years.

What is clear is that there are many challenges ahead. For example, how do we meet the commitment to land all fish caught instead of discarding them? We have always been clear that what is needed is a way of being as selective as possible in our fishing methods. This would result in fewer fish being caught in the first place and less being discarded.

How does management achieve the best price for every fish or bit of shellfish taken out of the sea and in doing so avoid flooding the market and lowering prices?

How do we finance the transition from unsustainable and unprofitable to sustainable and profitable?  And how do we meet the needs of fisheries while also delivering the broader environmental commitments European Member States have made to achieve Good Environmental Status across our seas?

It was clear from the meeting that over the next few years there will need to be a change in how people approach their businesses.  Innovative ideas to improve selectivity, new funding sources, more inclusive management, a reliable means of catching for the market are all required. Wider sectoral discussions – resulting in effective Marine Protected Areas – and improved statuses for the marine environment and the operations that a making a living there – are also needed.

Change is not something that humans tend to embrace so that in itself represents a challenge.

I felt my presentation went well, though you’d have to ask someone else who was there what they really thought!  I certainly raised the need for change and offered ways of meeting the challenges ahead.  We are looking at possible solutions to some of these and hope that our work will be able to constructively contribute to the thinking and help deliver a practical way forward.

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