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Bristol Channel Talks Continue

Economics +1 more

UK - A third round of talks between National Federation of Fishermen's Organisation (NFFO) and Redercentrale, the representative body for Belgian Fishermen, took place recently in London. On the agenda were shared concerns about conservation measures for Rays, the potential impact of marine conservation zones and the Round three wind-farm destined for the Bristol Channel.

The previous meetings, in London and Ostend, had secured Redercentrale’s support for the North Devon Fishermen’s Association voluntary Ray Box, and this time it was agreed to promote a minimum landing size of 38cms (wingtip to wingtip) within the North West Waters RAC.

The Belgian organisation was again able to provide details of their fleet’s presence in the Bristol Channel which is part of a nomadic pattern of fishing that includes the Irish Sea, the Bristol Channel, the North Sea off the Danish coast and the Bay of Biscay. In turn, the NDFA was able to describe its trials using square mesh panels and increased mesh size (from 80mm to 100mm) in the targeted Ray fishery.

Redercentrale and the NFFO are equally concerned about the rush to establish a network of marine conservation zones in UK waters, in addition to European Natura 2000 protected areas.

Although MCZs are being established under UK domestic legislation and therefore, outside the six mile limit will not apply to non-UK vessels, it is clearly the UK’s intention to submit MCZs, once designated, to the Commission for adoption under the Common Fisheries Policy. This means that all international fleets, such as Belgian vessels, would be directly (as well as indirectly) affected. Yet at present the international dimension of fishing outside the six mile limit has hardly been touched on by the four regional projects.

The Atlantic Array wind-farm development, likewise, has the potential for massive displacement of fishing activity from fishermen’s customary grounds. The meeting covered the main features of the development programme and how to ensure that the fishing industry’s interests and concerns will be taken into account, unlike our experience with Rounds 1 and 2 developments, where consultation generally amounted to little more than a box-ticking exercise.