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Differentiating Minor & Major Fishing Vessel Offences

UK - A wide range of issues were covered at a recent meeting between the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), held recently in the MMOs headquarters in Newcastle.

Amongst the issues discussed were:
  • The design application and enforcement of management measures within marine conservation zones and special areas of conservation
  • Electronic logbooks, including the development and availability of an integrated VMS/e-logbook system.
  • The performance of the English EFF programme
  • Progress in implementing the new EU Control Regulation, including:
  • Weighing of catch provisions
  • A 10 per cent margin of tolerance
  • Engine power measurement
  • Marking of pots
  • The application of Fisheries Administrative penalties
  • New MMO arrangements to ensure that all infringements are dealt with in a timely and consistent way
  • Delivery and practicality issues associated with the Defra consultation on the future of under-10m quota management
  • The MMO’s compliance and enforcement strategy
  • Voluntary net tagging that could potentially reduce the time and hassle of boardings at sea
  • The need for better considerations of the practicalities of fishing operations during boardings

“Absolute Minefield of Offences”

The MMO and NFFO are agreed that the complexity of the Common Fisheries Policy has led to an “absolute minefield” of potential offences for fishing vessels.

There is therefore a need for pragmatic and proportionate enforcement that, so far as possible, separates minor infringements from determined and recurrent rule-breaking.

Fisheries Administrative Penalties have helped to streamline the process and a new system of monthly reviews of all fisheries offences is being implemented to bring consistency and to ensure that prosecutions if they are to happen are brought forward in a timely fashion.

The Federation raised a number of incidents in which boardings at sea had been handled clumsily with apparent disregard for fishing operations and our concerns would be passed on to the Royal Navy.

It was agreed to reinstate liaison days with the Fisheries Protection Squadron, with port visits by fisheries protection vessels in the Irish Sea, Shoreham and Hartlepool on dated in the near future.

The potential for repeated prosecutions for infringement of the 10 per cent margin of tolerance –particularly for small quantities - was raised and the need for a reasonable, pragmatic and risk based approach was underlined.

It was agreed to discuss further the details of a voluntary net tagging scheme which potentially could reduce the time and anxiety of net measurements at sea.

The navigational chaos that will result from implementation of the new Control Regulation requirements on flags, radar reflectors and lights on dhans marking pots was emphasised. The huge cost and navigational consequences of vessels confronting a city of light and a snowstorm of radar signals underlined the need for a practical solution.

Conclusions

This was a constructive meeting which aimed to make the best out of a management system that is over-complex, in places fundamentally irrational, and certainly far removed from the practicalities of fishing; but is the law - until that law can be changed, said both parties.

The MMO has faced a difficult baptism of fire but the meeting showed that there is at least a strong will to temper the rough edges of the CFP without abandoning the core purpose of enforcing fisheries regulations. The Federation will be meeting the MMO to continue this dialogue at regular intervals.

the Fish Site Editor

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