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SACN Response to the Marine Bill White Paper

Jun 06,2007 SACN


Once (and not so long ago) considered boundless and infinitely forgiving of abuse, in recent years our understanding of the marine environment has changed considerably, and we have now begun to realise just how vulnerable that environment, and the resources that it contains, is.

And just how valuable the marine environment, and the resources it contains, is to a growing number of sometimes competing interests.

That understanding comes at a time of change that challenges those vulnerabilities like no other time in history, and at a time when the pace of change itself is accelerating.

Laws, regulations and institutions created in other times to deal with other seeming realities are now increasingly unsuitable for the effective management of both the challenges and opportunities presented by our new understanding, both in terms of their scope and their timely responsiveness. 

As with generations before us, we hold the future viability of our marine resources in trust for future generations.

And yet previous generations have not had to shoulder the burdens of the kind we must now deal with, as population and economic pressure drives competition to extract maximum value from available resources today, at a time when our increasing knowledge and technical expertise increases our capacity to cause long term damage in the pursuit of short term gains.

To meet both the opportunities and challenges of the future, it is becoming increasingly vital that our laws, regulations and management institutions be made fit for the purpose ahead, able to operate effectively in dealing with new realities, responsive to change and new threats.

We believe that such radical reform can only be accomplished through the introduction of a Marine Bill.

The danger is that we allow an instrument that seeks to be effective in managing the new realities to become overly influenced by established interests seeking to maintain a status quo that is beyond its ‘sell-by-date’ and in catering for the current situation, neglect to make provision for the challenges of the future.

Provisions for the Development of Recreational Sea Fisheries and for the Development of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector.

It is understood that much of the Marine Bill is concerned not with delivery of policies, but in providing the legislation to enable the government of the day to pursue various courses of action should it wish to do so in future.

The Recreational Sea Angling sector has discussed various options in the past with the view to maximising the significant social, environmental and economic benefits that could ensue from future policies aligned to the intention of promoting the development needs of the Recreational Sea Angling sector.

Much of this would be difficult to do under existing legislation, and therefore the introduction of a Marine Bill presents the opportunity to amend legislation in a way that will give policy makers the option of meeting some aspirations of the sector in future years, without the expense of legislative tinkering.

Such items that need to be considered are the legislative changes needed to make the following possible.

- Management of some species of marine fish wholly or primarily as Recreational Species, perhaps with the introduction of a classification of those fish as Sports Fish.

- Where management plans are considered for the management of any species of fish, or marine ecosystem, there should be a statutory requirement to consider the impact upon Recreational Sea Fisheries, and an obligation to consider options which could enhance the Recreational Sea Fishery.

- Organisations responsible for the management of inshore fisheries should be obliged to be responsible for the proactive development of Recreational Sea Angling. 

- Some areas to be defined as Recreational Sea Fishing areas, where commercial fishing is prevented, either wholly or partially, including the establishment of a ‘Golden Mile’, and protection of important Recreational Sea Angling Areas such as estuaries and coastal areas important to Recreational Sea Angling.

- The obligation, when planning coastal developments and structures, or when these are being re-furbished etc, to consider access by Recreational Sea Anglers.

- There should be provision for financially supporting organisations that provide representation of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, much as SEAFISH exists to promote the development of the commercial fishing industry.

- Funding should be able to be made available to enterprises involved in developing Recreational Sea Fisheries. 

- Fisheries Science should be obliged to also consider species of interest to the Recreational Sea Angling Sector, and the information needs of fisheries managers concerned with the development of Recreational Sea Fisheries.

- Organisations concerned with the management of marine resources should be obliged to regularly review the social and economic value of the Recreational Sea Angling sector, the potential and opportunities available from further development of the sector, publish plans for future development of the sector and review progress.

As stated above, the debate regarding the implementation of such measures is perhaps for another time, however the opportunity to enable legislative provision for such measures should be embedded within the legislative changes proposed within the Marine Bill.  

Comments on the Draft Marine Bill

Sea Fisheries Committees

We welcome the long overdue reform of Sea Fisheries, and the intention to provide them with a much clearer mission definition.

And the powers needed to act quickly and strongly to meet emerging threats to the marine environment and to both commercial and recreational fisheries.

However, we feel that a stronger message should be delivered in describing their new duties; that their future role is principally one of conserving, protecting and enhancing the inshore marine environment, and that management of access to the resources contained within the marine environment by various stakeholders is a secondary consideration.

And that their future duty includes ensuring fair and equitable access by all stakeholders, rather than any particular stakeholder, taking into account the differing social and economic value to be attained from competing interests when considering the overall management of the resource or any specific proposals.

And a greater accountability for decisions undertaken.

We very much support a name change, to reflect both their new mission, and to drive home the fact that there is a change.

We also feel that the new name should reflect there role as the authority responsible for the inshore marine environment.

Of the options given in the Marine Bill white paper, we favour ‘Coastal Fisheries and Environment Authority’, however we feel that ‘Coastal Environment Authority’ would be a better name.   

Establishment of Marine Protected Areas

We broadly support and welcome the proposals to create powers to establish Marine Protected Area (MPAs).

However, though acknowledging that there will be circumstances where it will be necessary to exclude all activity, other than scientific research, we cannot stress enough that exclusions and restrictions should only be considered when specific activities are likely to significantly impact upon the attainment of the objectives for establishing a particular MPA.

As well as areas that are protected we would also like to see other areas where the intention is to proactively enhance the biodiversity or productivity of an area (ie by the construction of spawning areas, artificial reefs, repair of areas degraded by bottom trawling or dredging and mineral extraction etc)

Where it is necessary to curtail Recreational Sea Angling in a particular area that is valued by the RSA community, we would like to see powers within the Marine Bill for the establishment of ‘compensatory’ areas as part of the establishment plan, which would provide areas of at least equal size and productivity.

There also needs to be provision for proactive identification and full consultation with grass-roots’ stakeholders (ie individuals directly affected as well as representative organizations), and efforts to attain understanding of the purpose of such areas and a buy-in of the benefits to be attained, at the very earliest stage of any particular proposal.

Marine Spatial Planning

We value the concept of Marine Spatial Planning in regulating the conflicting demands from various sectors for use of the marine area.

However we have concerns that areas designated for a certain purpose may unfairly and unnecessarily restrict activities by others.

Where an area is designated as an area for (say) wind-farm construction, there should be safeguards to ensure that other activities can continue until such time as construction actually begins, and during both construction and post-construction, only activities which are incompatible with that use are restricted.

Similarly if an area is designated for (say) recreational yachting, and is only used at weekends or on special occasions, that other activity is not restricted during periods when the primary activity is not taking place.

Coastal Issues

It is pleasing to see within the Marine Bill proposals an emphasis on the ecological management of resources and protection of the vulnerable marine environment.

However we have concerns that much of the emphasis of the proposals is with management of the marine areas, but little attention is paid to addressing the greater issues within the estuarine, coastal, and transitional areas.

Given that there are problems in dealing particularly with fisheries conservation issues outside of 6 and 12 miles, it is surprising that not more is being made of the opportunity to better manage problems within the area directly under UK control.

Particularly so, that it is these areas which contain so much of value, and that the health of the close inshore regions often fundamentally affects marine areas and resources further offshore.  

Perhaps there is an assumption that the Water Framework Directive adequately covers concerns within this area, although close examination of the WFD shows that without additional powers and co-ordination of authorities that determine activities within coastal regions, there will be considerable difficulty in delivering the requirements of the WFD, and the WFD itself does not cover so much of what could be achieved within the protection and enhancement of the ecology of estuarine and coastal areas.

There is an opportunity presented by the Marine Bill to examine more closely the many issues that need to be addressed, and to introduce legislation giving authorities the powers needed to protect and enhance the close inshore areas, as well as ensuring that co-ordination is effective between the different authorities that are responsible for the land/coast interface.

Some opportunities that we particularly want to see addressed are: 

Defence of transitional habitat ��" Saltmarsh, Estuaries etc

Squeezed between onshore coastal development, flood defences, and rising sea levels, these extremely valuable habitats are increasingly threatened, leading to a loss of marine bio-diversity both near to shore and offshore, as spawning, feeding and nursery grounds are lost, as well as a source of generation of ‘bottom of food chain’ organisms reliant on shallow, nutrient rich areas, protected from the full force of storms and deep water swells.

To adequately protect and to regenerate such areas requires close co-operation between both marine and onshore planning and development agencies, which needs to be specifically addressed within the Marine Bill proposals.
Impact of Coastal Developments

Increasingly coastal developments, including along estuaries, are impacting on the inshore environment, not only directly by changing the physical characteristics of the land/sea interface, but indirectly by introducing increased pollution, recreational water use, etc.

Again, onshore planning authorities must take into account effects on abutting coastal and marine environments, and this can be accomplished by including such proposals within the Marine Bill.

Discharge consents ��" Chemical and other contaminates, Sewage, Water-temperature, Water Abstraction

Even if discharged far inland, within river basin catchment areas, such discharges can have profound effects far downstream within estuaries and inshore areas.

When permission is granted for such discharges, the combined effects of such discharges should be assessed on a regional basis and the effects taken into account through consultation with both river basin management and coastal management authorities.

There will also be many other issues which though characteristically considered of only interest in land based planning management, also have profound effects on estuarine, inshore and offshore environments, and upon the stakeholders dependent upon the resources within those environments, and proposals within the Marine Bill should adequately reflect the importance of co-ordination of onshore planning consents upon the coastal environment.

Powers to enhance the marine productivity and/or biodiversity of inshore areas

As well as protecting valuable established habitat, it is feasible to introduce features into inshore areas that will increase the productivity of areas, such as the construction of gravel banks, or the creation of artificial reefs etc.,

Unfortunately such initiatives usually need the agreement of a number of bodies, both inshore and offshore, making the planning of the establishment of such features difficult and expensive.

There should be provision within the marine bill to streamline the planning of such developments, with a single body responsible, having the power to authorise development, as well as a statutory obligation to consider such schemes that will add to inshore productivity and biodiversity. 

Regulation of Recreational Sea Angling 


It is understood that the Government is of the view that those benefiting from services should pay towards the cost of providing those services.

And as administration, regulation, science, management and enforcement of fisheries legislation is currently being paid for from the public purse that beneficiaries of that regime should pay towards those costs.

It is also understood that the proposals in the Marine Bill White paper, if adopted, would not automatically mean that a system of charging Recreational Sea Anglers towards those, and other costs incurred as a result of proactive management for the improved benefit of the Recreational Sea Angling experience, would necessarily be implemented.

Those closely involved in examining the feasibility of such a scheme have come to realise that any such scheme will only be feasible if there is a high level of willing compliance, and to achieve such willing compliance there needs to be a recognition that worthwhile benefits are to be delivered to those actually expected to pay.

(In simple terms this means access to more and bigger fish of the species of greatest interest to Recreational Sea Anglers).

Although it is the expressed intention to consult in depth upon any subsequent proposal to introduce a charging scheme for Recreational Sea Anglers, we are concerned that merely including the power to introduce such a charge within the Marine Bill, without any commitment to ensure that benefits are delivered in return, or also including the powers and legislative changes that the government needs to deliver those benefits, may result in a future government having the power to introduce such a charge without any associated worthwhile benefit being delivered, or indeed not having the powers necessary to deliver such worthwhile benefits.

We would therefore expect that the section of the bill proposing powers to charge Recreational Sea Anglers should clearly state that any funds raised over and above that needed for essential management, administration and enforcement of the charging scheme itself (capped at 10% of the funds raised) will be ring-fenced and used to deliver benefits to Recreational Sea Anglers.

And that these benefits should be largely defined, and the powers and legislation needed to implement delivery of those benefits be included along with the charging proposal themselves, so that it will be clear that such a charge can only be introduced that has clear benefits for Recreational Sea Anglers, and that there will be the legal powers needed to deliver those benefits. 

(And to be clear, the ‘benefits’ should be tangible benefits that will be valued by individuals who will be paying for a licence, rather than simply intangibles such as research, enforcement and representation.  In effect delivery of more and bigger fish in front of paying anglers, rather than ‘policy’).

Bag Limits

Recreational Bag Limits are often used in other parts of the world to ensure the health of Recreational Fish Stocks and are usually part of a package to limit the total take of fish by all exploiters of the species.

Few would argue with the sensible implementation of reasonable bag limits upon anglers’ catches where this is for essential conservation reasons and is applied proportionately to all takers of fish.

However, it would be unacceptable to limit the take of fish by anglers if there is no proportionate limit placed on the take of others, or where such bag limits are imposed simply to reserve the availability of fish to other sectors, or to protect their markets from illegal selling of fish caught by unlicensed fishermen when other legislation makes that illegal.

Here we would want to see a clear statement that bag limits will only be imposed on Recreational Sea Anglers for essential conservation reasons and applied proportionately to all who take fish of those species.

And in determining the ‘share’ of a stock that is used to determine the bag limit to be applied to Recreational Sea Anglers, that the social and economic value obtained from the catch of Recreational Sea Anglers be considered, as well as the need to maintain the viability of local angling charter fleets and regional RSA infrastructure.

Bait Digging

We note the proposal to include regulation of bait-digging within the remit of the Sea Fisheries Committees.

Whilst we recognise the need to protect the marine environment from over-excessive bait digging and collection, and the need to ensure that such operations are carried out with the least environmental impact possible, we must stress the importance of being able to provide Recreational Sea Anglers with natural sea baits. 

Often there is no other real alternatives.

Rather than simply regarding the issue as one of ‘management’, enforcement  and restriction, we feel that the Marine Bill should also place responsibilities for ensuring that there is access by sea anglers, and the professional bait diggers who supply the market, to adequate, well and  sustainably managed bait beds (similar to the excellent work by some sea fisheries committees in ensuring well managed access to shellfish stocks). 

Access Issues

Shore anglers generally require access to deep water marks that contain good stocks of quality fish (size is important to the angling sector!).

In many areas this means access to man-made structures, piers, harbours, jetties, marinas etc.

(In many countries, ‘angling piers’ are built specifically to provide access to angling opportunities, with additional value being attained through tourism, shops and restaurants etc)

However, increasingly access to such structures is being lost as a result of fears of public liabilities in case of accidents, and restriction to port areas because of security fears etc (albeit the presence of anglers actually increases security!).

The needs of anglers for access to such structures should be recognised and enshrined in proposals within the Marine Bill, and in the planning regulations relating to such developments (including refurbishments) on the coast and estuaries


Related news

» Draft Marine Bill Consultation
by SACN posted on Jul 11,2008
» Evidence to Marine Bill Select Committee
by SACN posted on Jul 11,2008
» Draft Marine Bill Launched
by SACN posted on Apr 03,2008
» SACN in Parliament
by SACN posted on Nov 20,2007
» The Marine Bill - Next Steps
by SACN posted on Apr 21,2008

comment Comments (1 posted) 
  • I have shore fished the Yorkshire coast for 55 years on and off. I would like to make the following comments on the Defra consultation paper. 1. There is a big distinction between shore and boat rsa's. It is a lot harder to catch fish shore fishing. A lot less fish are caught shore fishing and it is a lot less damaging to the environment. 2. In my first 20 years fishing 10 or more fish were common for a days fishing and sizes were often in double figures. 3. In the last 30 years it is common not to catch any fish and I would say 8 hours fishing averages 4 fish. 4. 30% of rsa's return fish. 30% will return if cleanly hooked. 40% take fish of the appropriate size limits. Of this 40% about a quarter would take below size. (Not like the French rsa who take everything for soup de poisson! I have fished the Med from the shore for the last 40 years) 5. Only a small % of rsa leave line and litter etc. About the same as litter louts in the general public. I have seen many anglers cleaning up beaches and taking line etc home if no bins. This is a general society litter education problem and I feel providing costly bins would not improve matters. 6. Over the years of plastic introduction both the North Sea and the Med have become full of plastic. I spear dive in the Med and always see plastic bags etc on every dive. I pull plastic out of the north sea and humber on every fishing trip - a lot coming from untreated sewerage - plastic panty liners. This is only since the 70's. I suggest an advertising regime 'Plastic in the sea will outlive you!' or similar. (I was on the East Coast on Wednesday and saw 5 washed up lobster pots. No one will move them) 7. To improve the present low shore catches, I would support the 1nm ban (the impact of shore fishing, as opposed to boat rsa, is minuscule), 8. I would leave shore anglers out of any regulation apart from what exists or numbers and therefore local revenue would decrease. (I'm not against an annual shore licence but as most of my colleagues would view this as a crude gathering of revenue, reminiscent of speed cameras, I fail to see how the revenue could be used to the rsa's advantage. There is plenty access and I have not seen any evidence of excessive danger to other beach users - dog walkers are probably a bigger danger as I have been bitten, had my tackle urinated on and trod in the doggie do's) I have also been stoned by yobs at the top of the cliff at Filey Brigg last summer! 9. I think another department of enforcers and admin would be counter productive and not cost effective. Comparing the negligible annual catch of shore anglers with the inshore trawlers and nets massive wasteful catches should convince most educated people that the latter are doing the damage to stocks. 10. The majority of rsa honour the code of protecting all wildlife and as with the litter comment above, I feel the same applies here and that the education process starts at school, the home and the present day irresponsible media. Kind regards Stewart Calligan
(Posted on January 28, 2008, 11:44 am stewart calligan)

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