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Disappointment at the outcome of fisheries consultation 20 January 2006

    The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon Phil Gawne MHK, has expressed his disappointment at the news that proposals for fisheries management in the Island’s territorial sea have not been accepted by the UK Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw MP.

    “These proposals were part of my Department’s plans for a responsible approach to fisheries management and conservation of stocks in our territorial sea,” said Mr Gawne. “It is extremely disappointing that my Department’s wish to operate a more sustainable management of fisheries within the territorial sea should not be accepted by the UK authorities.”

    A consultation document was released to the fishing industry in the Island and throughout the UK in July, setting out the Department’s proposals. The consultation dealt with the issue of removal of the requirement for UK concurrence to DAFF legislation in the 3 – 12 nautical mile band of the territorial sea. Powers were also proposed to enable the Department to cap fishing effort in the territorial sea. A further matter was the introduction of an annual charge for a licence. It was proposed to use money raised in this way to enhance fisheries opportunities in Manx waters.

    The Department has sole fisheries jurisdiction in the 0 – 3 nautical mile band of the territorial sea. In the 3 – 12 nautical mile band, the concurrence of the UK Secretary of State is required to fisheries measures. UK fishing interests said that the UK Government’s role in approving the Island’s management measures in the 3 – 12 nautical mile band was crucial to ensure that such measures were not discriminatory against UK vessels that fish in those waters.

    There was also concern that the proposal to cap fishing effort in Manx waters could affect the economic viability of vessels currently fishing those waters. The Island proposed a reference period, 2001 – 2004, for vessels to demonstrate that they had a genuine economic stake in those waters. However, UK fisheries interests, particularly those with a vested interest in vessels that would be excluded, expressed concern about the reference period.

    There was little comment about the proposal to introduce a licensing charge. The general concern expressed was about the additional tier of management the Island’s proposals would introduce, which would be in addition to an already complex UK licence and quota management system.

    In summary, UK officials said that the proposals had received unanimous opposition from the UK industry. Isle of Man officials pointed out the Department had received expressions of general support for the principles behind the proposals from UK vessel owners who had a stake in fishing in the territorial sea. Much of the opposition had been voiced by, or on behalf of, those who had no track record of fishing in Manx waters.

    A meeting to discuss the consultation process and its results was held in DEFRA’s Whitehall offices in December. Officers of the Crown and External Relations Division of the Chief Secretary’s Office and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry met representatives of the Department of Constitutional Affairs and UK Fisheries Department officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Division and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland.

    The UK authorities understood that the Island was disappointed at the outcome. However, they expressed their willingness to discuss ways in which some of these initiatives could be taken forward through dialogue between the Island and UK fishing authorities. They also said that they would be interested to see how the proposals could be put into practice in the 0 – 3 nautical mile band for which the Island has sole fisheries jurisdiction.

    “The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s commitment to the long term success of the fisheries within the territorial sea, and to the wider marine environment, remains firm,” said the Minister. “Consequently, I will be working closely with the fishing industry in the next few months about taking this forward. The Island’s main concern is the scallop fishery. We can demonstrate the validity of our proposals by showing how they can conserve and enhance the scallop fishery, to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

    The Department will license vessels from 1st January to 31st October 2006. For the opening of the scallop season on 1st November, the Department intends to give effect to its proposals through a new scallop licensing and management regime in the three-mile area.

    “The benefits from this initiative will not be as great as I had hoped,” said Mr Gawne. “However, it will demonstrate once again that the Isle of Man leads the way in sensible fisheries management and enhancement issues, to the benefit of fishermen, consumers and the wider marine environment”.

    20th January 2006

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