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DEFRA meet with RSA Representatives (Updated 23 feb 07)

Dec 14,2006 Leon Roskilly

Yesterday DEFRA met with a number of representatives of various RSA organisations, including SACN.

This was the second of what is intended to become regular twice yearly meetings giving the DEFRA Coastal Waters team and RSA representatives the opportunity to discuss issues of concern and updates on current progress of a number of relevant issues.

The meeting was addressed by Rodney Anderson, the new DEFRA supremo who is concerned with the overall direction of DEFRA (not just fisheries) as an environmental organisation responsible to all stakeholders and concerned with obtaining Best Value for UK PLC from the resources that DEFRA manages.

He described how DEFRA are seeking to engage with the UN, as well as Europe to conserve fish stocks which know nothing of national boundaries.

Other presentations and discussions took place on Fisheries Science (CEFAS), Enforcement (MFA), plans for Elasmobranchs (DEFRA) and Conservation of Mullet (NMC).

There was also an update on the Development of a DEFRA Strategy for the Development of the Recreational Sea Angling Sector by stakeholders comprising the Inshore Working Group, and progress on the Marine Bill (a white paper is expected to become available in March)

Other RSA issues, including contentious subjects such as licensing and bag-limits, the Golden Mile etc were also discussed.

Although no actions were agreed, attendees found the meeting  useful in providing a platform for a wide number of RSA organisations and interests to engage directly with DEFRA and an opportunity to network and therefore agreed that the regular meetings should continue, rather than simply channelling all RSA interaction with the Coastal Waters team via the small number of representatives on the Inshore Working Group.   

*** 23 Feb 2007 ***

13 December 2006
G1, 3-8 Whitehall Place West, London
11:00 – 15:00



Trevor Hutchings Defra – Fishing Industry Management Division (Chair)
Rodney Anderson Defra – Head Marine and Fisheries Directorate (morning session)
Anthony Hynes Defra – Fishing Industry Management Division
Erin Priddle Defra – Fishing Industry Management Division
Rob Blythe-Skyrme Defra – Fishing Industry Management Division
Georgina Karlsson Defra – Sea Fisheries Conservation Division (afternoon session)
Sackey Bennin Defra – Sea Fisheries Conservation Division (afternoon session)
Andy Goodwin Defra – Economist (morning only)
Invited guests 
Adrian Farley Southern Sea Fisheries Committee
Alan Brothers Sussex Sea Fisheries Committee
Bob Cox Bass Anglers' Sportfishing Society (BASS)
Dave Rigden National Mullet Club (NMC)
Leon Roskilly Sea Angling Conservation Network (SACN)
Nigel Proctor North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee
Phil Arnott Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Association of Sea Anglers (YLASA)
Richard Ferre National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA)
Sean O’Driscoll Angling Trades Association (ATT)
Steve Coppolo Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee
Tony Williams National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA)
Mike Smith Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
Mike Pawson Cefas
Marine Fisheries Agency 
Graham Ford-Keyte Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA)


Chris Caines Professional Boat Mans Association
David Gibson Professional Boat Mans Association
Geoff Hancock North West & North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (NWNWSFC)
Gerrard Twigger RSA North West
John Leballeur Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS)
Tom Pinborough Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee (ESFJC)
Tony Anderson Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee (NSFC)

List of Annexes

Annex A Directorate Organogram
Annex B Comments from morning question period

Item 1: Welcome and introductions

1.1 The Chair welcomed attendees to the second angling stakeholder meeting and welcomed views as to whether these meetings should continue or if they should be taken forward through the Inshore Fisheries Working Group (IFWG) – Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) sub-group. 

1.2 The Chair highlighted the aims of the meeting, including;

 Stakeholders and the Coastal Waters team to get to know each other further.

 To improve Coastal Water’s knowledge of sea angling and stakeholder requirements.

 To improve sea angling stakeholders knowledge of Defra policy areas, MFA enforcement, and Cefas fisheries science.

 To discuss the  work of the RSA sub-group on the development of a RSA strategy.

 To discuss the Marine Bill and its relevance to the RSA sector.

Item 2: Approval of minutes and matters arising

2.1 Minutes of the previous angling stakeholder meeting on 15 March 2006 were approved.

Item 3: Head of Marine Fisheries Directorate (MFD) – Fisheries Vision

3.1 Rodney Anderson, Head of MFD, gave a presentation on the structure of the Directorate (Annex A), an overview of the business plan and challenges ahead. 

There were several key messages discussed, including:

 Defra’s role is not to promote the commercial catching sector (or any other sector) but to manage fisheries and the marine environment.

 There was a need to strengthen relationships with stakeholders. It was noted that fisheries management is not sector specific and it is important that stakeholders understand Defra’s position in managing the marine environment for the benefit of society.

 The social, environmental and economic parameters needs to be clearly identified and balanced in a way that reflects the needs of the marine environment. This could be achieved by setting environmental limits (a concept currently being explored through the Directorates’ draft fisheries vision), where the environment is considered the priority.

 The recreational and commercial sector will share access to fisheries and all interests will be fully considered when future management measures are considered.

3.2 As part of this presentation, stakeholders were invited to consider two questions posed to them in advance of the meeting.

1) What do you (RSA stakeholders) think we (Defra) do with respect to sea angling?

2) What do you think we should do with respect to sea angling?

Delegates were invited to post comments before the meeting commenced and Mr Anderson choose several for discussion. 

Several stakeholders felt that Defra is a sponsor for the commercial sector. 

Mr Anderson responded that it is the job of the department to manage the UK’s fisheries by  including all groups in a management scheme for the greater good of society and the marine environment.

A complete list of answers can be found in Annex B.

3.3 Several stakeholders raised the issue of bag limits for bass.

They questioned the conservation benefit of imposing such measures on unlicensed fishermen, noting that this would penalise a sector that is small and unregulated. 

It was further noted that if bag limits are applied, then they should be implemented as part of an overall management measure and not be imposed exclusively on the RSA sector.

Carcass tagging was suggested as an alternative management tool because of its perceived conservation and management benefits if applied to the entire sector. 

3.4 Concern was expressed about bag limits being proposed through SFCs. Defra noted that while a number of SFCs are currently considering the introduction of bag limits through byelaws, stakeholders were reminded that any proposed byelaw would first need to be approved by the Committee and there would be an opportunity to comment on any byelaw when it was advertised.

Only then would a decision to introduce bag limits be considered. 

3.5 Several stakeholders queried Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and the Marine Bill timetable.

Mr Anderson noted that MSP must consider the multiple uses of the ocean, including RSA.

With respect to the Bill timetable, Mr Anderson noted that delays are a result of the complexities involved. It is, however, anticipated that a Marine Bill White Paper will be published in the spring.

Item 4: Presentation by the Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA) on Enforcement

4.1 Graham Ford-Keyte gave a presentation on the nature and role of the MFA.

4.2 The issue of buyers and sellers legislation was raised and stakeholders asked whether the MFA could clarify how it works in practice.

Mr Ford-Keyte noted that the MFA is responsible for enforcing regulations as they stand but that the exemption for small landings, which they accept may include small quantities of bass, was necessary as the scheme was designed to tackle problems of undeclared landings by large-scale commercial fishing operations without placing a disproportionate burden on small businesses.

4.3 On the issue of enforcement, it was noted that anglers were unclear about who to call to report a fisheries offence.

It was agreed that suspected offences should be reported to their local fisheries office, either the MFA or the SFC.

The EA also has a fisheries hotline for reporting suspected illegal activity.

These organisations work closely together to ensure reports are followed up where possible.

It was highlighted however, that fishing vessels operating near the shore were not necessarily acting illegally. .

Concern was expressed about whether SFCs are adequately funded to carry out prosecutions.

It was reported that SFCs do take prosecutions and any issues around funding will be addressed through their reform...

Item 5: Presentation by Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) on fisheries science

5.1 Mike Pawson, Cefas, gave a presentation on stock assessment in relation to bass and provided a summary of a paper titled, Assessing the status of sea bass stocks around England and Wales, due to be published in January 2007.

He explained how Cefas estimated the relative abundance of juvenile bass resulting from each year's spawning (year class strength) and how the results showed good survival rates of juveniles since the early 1990s due, in part, to the management measures protecting fish under 36 cm .

He also noted that the absolute level of bass biomass is likely to be underestimated because the assessment primarily uses data on catch numbers at each age from commercial landings in the inshore sector, but do not include estimates of the bass catch by the UK recreational fishery or of the offshore bass fishery.

Mr Pawson further noted that an increase in the spawning stock biomass of bass in the late 1990s and early 2000s was associated with an increase in recruitment from 1989 onwards, probably due to a warmer climate.

5.2 The NFSA queried how to retrieve data for other species.

Mr Pawson responded that official data for non-commercial species were likely to be unreliable, but data from anglers could (with appropriate statistical analysis) provide a fairly accurate snapshot of the health of a species. Methods of retrieving these data should be discussed more widely within the angling sector.

Item 6: Update on elasmobranches by Defra

6.1 Georgina Karlsson, Defra, updated the group on Defra’s tope consultation.

Mrs Karlsson explained that there had been reports a commercial fishery was being considered for tope, and that Defra had concerns about the sustainability of a commercial fishery at the levels being proposed.

It was therefore decided to consult on possible measures to prevent commercial exploitation. 

There had been a good response to the consultation paper - over 350 responses.

The most notable suggestions were that there should be a Code of Practice for anglers and that commercial fishermen should be allowed a tope bycatch. 

A summary of responses should be published some time in the New Year.

6.2 Stakeholders welcomed the consultation but felt that it did not adequately reach the angling community. 

Defra responded that a wide range of stakeholders, including angling organisations, had been notified of the consultation but accepted that it was difficult to engage every angler.

This is an area however, where RSA representatives could help by reaching out to the wider angling community through their networks.

6.3 Sackey Bennin, Defra, provided an update on skates, rays and spurdog.

He referred stakeholders to a Defra paper on the Conservation of skates, rays and spurdog, which can be found on http://www.defra.gov.uk/fish/sea/conserve/pdf/skates-viewspaper.pdf.

This paper is supported by a Cefas report titled Scientific investigation into a management measure for spurdog, skates and rays – maximum length limit, which can be found on  http://www.defra.gov.uk/fish/sea/conserve/pdf/skates-cefaspaper.pdf

More specifically, the Defra paper discusses the UK proposal to the EU Commission asking that the STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries)  consider the impact of new management measures to conserve skates, rays and spurdog.

6.4 Mr Bennin further noted that these were current Commission proposals involving limits and reductions on fishing for certain elasmobranches species.

6.5 It was questioned whether Defra would support the addition of spurdog on the CITES list for protection (as proposed by Germany). 

Defra considered that fisheries management measures under the CFP was the most effective mechanism for protecting this species.

Item 7: Presentation by the National Mullet Club

7.1 David Rigden, Chair of the National Mullet Club (NMC), gave a presentation on the conservation of grey mullet as a recreational species.

The presentation was supported  by a NMC position paper on grey mullet, which can be found at http://www.thenationalmulletclub.org.  The NMC proposed that:

1. Grey mullet is provided recreational-only status.

2. A ‘golden mile’ be introduced around the coast of the UK to protect RSA species.

3. The winter bass pair-trawl fishery is closed as a EU measure.

7.2 Defra thanked Mr Rigden for his presentation, noting the interest in conservation of this species.

Any measures to manage grey mullet as an RSA species would be considered in the context of implementing  the proposed RSA Strategy.

Item 8: Discussion on the Inshore Fisheries Working Group (IFWG) – Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) Strategy Sub-group

8.1 Anthony Hynes, Defra, provided background on the formation of the IFWG - RSA Strategy sub-group, noting that the IFWG decided to form the sub-group as a way to take forward the RSA Strategy.

During the first meeting, the NFSA agreed to submit a draft strategy to help improve understanding of the sector and progress the work of the sub-group.

Meetings took place in June & July to discuss progress on the Strategy and a revised version was presented to the group on 12 December.

The group had considered the following areas as key to the development of a strategy:

 determining an appropriate body to deliver measures,

 discussing the benefits from adopting an RSA Strategy,

 identifying stocks of interest to RSA,

  shore access ,

 improving communications, and

 establishing a Code of Conduct.

8.2 Mr Hynes noted that several areas in the strategy require further discussion, including the concept of a ‘golden mile’ and inclusion of bag limits.

A further meeting is scheduled for February with the intention to agree the Strategy within the sub-group and formally present it to the next IFWG meeting in March for endorsement.

8.3 SACN asked if the revised draft could be sent to their members.

Although this was a matter for the SACN, Defra thought it preferable to wait until the strategy is endorsed by the IFWG in March before any wider circulation took place.

Item 9: Additional items and close

9.1 The Chair provided an update on the Marine Bill, specifically  on powers to enable the introduction of a chargeable rod license for sea anglers; powers for bag limits and proposals to modernise  SFCs.

9.2 It was questioned whether the Bill would have powers to revoke historical rights of other EU vessels within UK waters.

Defra noted that this could only be considered in the context of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2012.

9.3  Finally, the Chair asked if delegates would like to continue with the angling stakeholder meetings.

All stakeholders were in favour, noting that these meetings provide a good arena to discuss angling issues and further improve the relationship between Defra and the RSA sector.

Annex B

What do you think we do?

 Seek to push hard decisions downwards

 Listen & talk a lot but act less

 Do not manage stocks effectively

 Sponsors of the commercial sector

 Look after the interests of the commercial fishermen

 Beginning to accept and understand RSA

 Increasingly talking to RSA sector

 Manage the commercial fishery, which sometimes has the side-effect of benefiting RSA

 Environmental watchdog

 Understand the importance of particular species and places of value to the RSA sector and develop policies to enhance and protect the UK’s recreational sea fisheries

 Manage resource utilisation

What do you think we should do?

 Punch for England within the CFP and take care of RSA needs

 Create and police a decision making framework that seeks to get the best out of the marine environment

 Take the occasional hard decision

 Manage fish stocks sustainably

 Maintain a healthy population profile within each species

 Designate some species as angling species (i.e. flounder)

 Support RSA to facilitate growth of the sector without the need to restrict its activity

 Equitable utilisation of resources

 Develop policy for the sustainable management of UK fish stocks, which is not primarily for commercial exploitation of the catching sector

 More of the same but with results for anglers

 Develop policy and management objectives that recognise the potential of the RSA fisheries within the UK

 Deliver both economic and social benefits to the UK

 Recognise RSA as having an equal stake

 Look after the interests of all stakeholders

 Recognise the commercial sector’s needs for access to fish stocks is very different. Stocks should be managed for best value (i.e. good proportion of large fish)


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