Fishing industry urges caution

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The National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations (NFFO) has declared its support for the planned introduction of new marine conservation zones (MCZs) in UK waters, but cautions against a rush to designate over a hundred of them at a stroke.

Environmentalists will gather in London on February 25, to press Government to rush ahead with the immediate introduction of 127 MCZ sites. But the NFFO and other fisheries organisations have warned that unless care is taken, the new areas could do more harm than good by displacing fishermen from their customary grounds.

According to Paul Trebilcock, Chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, all responsible fishing industry stakeholders back MCZs but from experience, their introduction needs to be scrupulously planned, managed scientifically and phased in to avoid negative results.

He said: “MCZs aren’t a new phenomenon – in fact the industry has been working actively within them for over a 100 years – but they do require selective introduction.

“In 2001, a large area of the North Sea was closed as an emergency measure to protect cod stocks. The scientific evaluation afterwards showed that this did next to nothing for the fish but displaced fishing fleets into immature haddock areas and onto pristine areas of the seabed that had never been fished before. This is what can happen with a rushed process driven by political pressure.

“On the other hand, there are examples, such as the Trevose seasonal closure off North Cornwall, that are making a genuine contribution to conservation. The difference is that it was designed, planned and introduced with good evidence and the broad support of fishermen.”