SACN in Parliament
Nov 20,2007 00:00 by SACN

This week SACN's Leon Roskilly was asked to deliver a presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Marine and Coast Issues on the Marine Bill Proposals.

The meeting, attended by MPs and addressed by the Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw, took place in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

Leon made the point that nature intended our seas to be teeming with fish, and the fact that they are not is not as a result of some natural disaster but the cumulative effect of years of poor management, laying much of the blame at the door of DEFRA.

However, Leon also pointed out that the situation could be changed with the Marine Bill creating institutions with the mission, the resources and the powers to deliver a restored marine environment that we would all be proud to hand to future generations.

Leon also welcomed the proposed root and branch reform of Sea Fisheries committees, emphasising their primary role as custodians of the marine environment for the benefit of all stakeholders, and putting the health of the marine resources before all other considerations.

On Marine Protected Areas, Leon highlighted concerns over displacement of effort, particularly if large areas were closed, leaving the same number of boats seeking to supply the same number of fish from the reduced open areas.

He also warned of the dangers of excluding anglers from closed areas simply on the basis of dogma, and emphasised the need for consultation.

With regard to licensing of sea anglers, Leon forcefully advised that, in the light of the recent bass mls decision, this proposal should now be dropped until DEFRA have proven that they are willing and able to deliver tangible benefits to those expected to pay.

On bag limits Leon said that these would only be acceptable as a necessary conservation package applied proportionately to all those who take fish, and never simply to preserve the catches and markets of others.

And finally on the regulation of bait collection he pointed out that this would also involve a responsibility on the regulators to ensure adequate access to well maintained and sustainable supplies, much as SFCs currently manage and maintain cockle beds for commercial exploitation.