13 January 2022
Future of the Fishing Industry

Peter Aldous meets with Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food to discuss the future of the fishing industry in East Anglia.

Briefing Note

FAO Victoria Prentis, Minister of State (Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food)

In advance of our meeting, I thought it would be helpful to share REAF’s thoughts and findings on some of the local issues identified during our ongoing engagement work with fishers. You will see that the issues also present a significant opportunity for REAF in delivering the REAF Recommendations 2021  and shaping a positive future.

1. Improving fishing opportunities.

Fishers cautiously welcome the additional allocation granted to the non-sector u10m vessels and report a gradual improvement of Sole and Skate stocks in the ICES IVc area.

Unfortunately, the increase in allocation is insufficient for their needs and often provides only half the turnover required to operate for the full year. They would like to retain existing allocations and identify other commercially viable species to offset the income deficit.

Fishers are keen to develop the opportunities with Sea Bass, a commercially important species that would improve fisher income and is abundant off the East Anglian coast.

You may be aware that REAF have submitted an expression of interest to Defra for two Effort Management Pilots off the East Anglian coast. We would like to work closely with Defra in developing the Pilot specification and explore the opportunities to develop a sustainable approach to landing Sea Bass that is beneficial to our inshore fleet, integrating the new IVMS and data collection methodologies into fisheries management, ultimately demonstrating the wider benefits of a systems approach to sustainability.

2. Bureaucracy

REAF is concerned at the significant increase in the administrative burden on fishers and the wider supply chain. While REAF recognises the importance and necessity of appropriate monitoring and regulatory interventions, it is felt that policy makers, regulators, and enforcement bodies could work more collaboratively, recognising that most of the inshore fleet are effectively micro businesses with limited resources and capacity to comply efficiently and effectively with directives that are often complex and highly technical in nature.

Examples include the complexity of guidance regarding vessel stability testing (MCA), the introduction of I-VMS to the inshore fleet (Defra) and the u10 Catch App (MMO). The recent round of the UK Seafood Fund, whilst welcome, requires significant expertise and available capital to deliver a £500k plus project. Something which is beyond the reach of many inshore fishers.

3. Opportunity

REAF welcomes the opportunity to address issues affecting the fisheries and seafood sector in East Anglia. We are close to launching a sector led Community Interest Company and have identified some five potential infrastructure projects across the region. We will look to work with Government departments, agencies, and UK fisher groups to build support services that mitigate disruption caused when new regulatory and operational standards are introduced.