A new approach to fisheries management could see the UK place itself as a world leader in securing a more resilient future for our seas and coastal communities but a key opportunity to deliver the transformative change needed is at risk of being missed.
The Future Fisheries Alliance (FFA), a partnership of the RSPB, Marine Conservation Society and WWF the on January 18th, in recognition of its significance in setting out how seafood production can contribute to tackling climate change, improve ocean resilience and restore biodiversity while maintaining a thriving sustainable fishing industry that aspires to world leading management.
The JFS is a requirement of the Fisheries Act 2020, the UK’s first primary fisheries legislation in almost 50 years. The JFS is the opportunity for the four fisheries authorities of the UK to set out their ambition to deliver against the objectives of the Act and how they intend to bring about transformational change on the water, and as such should provide a toolkit for delivery, setting out clear time bound commitments for this change.
The most direct pressure on our seas is fishing and alongside climate change, commercial fishing was identified as one of the predominant human pressures preventing the achievement of Good Environmental Status – a measure of the health of UK seas for which 11 out of 15 indicators are failing (see the ELUK Marine Strategy Part 1 Response).
The Future Fisheries Alliance core asks are:
The FFA focuses on key aspects of fisheries management including sustainable fishing. Our partners at the Marine Conservation Society publish the Good Fish Guide and Sandy Luk, (Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society) highlights that the latest Good Fish Guide update shows all new UK ratings are either amber or red rated. It is crucial the Joint Fisheries Statement and Fisheries Management Plans deliver transparent and improved management to recover depleted fish stocks, and create a pathway for an environmentally sustainable and thriving fishing industry.
How technology can underpin sustainable fisheries management
The use of technology can underpin sustainable fishing. The FFA advocates for Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) with cameras as a cost effective, tried and tested tool that underpins sustainable fisheries management by capturing robust data that provides an understanding of the impact fisheries are having on our seas. This includes better data for stock management and information on the accidental capture of marine wildlife such as seabirds and marine mammals and how impacts can be minimised. REM also improves transparency and accountability and can remove potential barriers to entering sustainable supply chains, all of which will support the positive marketing of UK seafood. The FFA are urging UK fisheries managers to commit to rolling out REM as a key fisheries management tool that will support the recovery of our seas and the fisheries and coastal communities that are dependent on them.
Improved ocean health can help tackle climate change
We know that ocean health is vital in tackling climate change and that industries operating across our seas have an essential role to play in this regard. UK fishing needs to change and modernise to meet this challenge. The Joint Fisheries Statement is a crucial opportunity to demonstrate the UK’s world leadership for fisheries and aquaculture and help mitigate climate change. We are calling on the governments of the UK to commit to and implement a climate-smart strategy.
Our key asks for improvements to the Joint Fisheries Statement
In order to bring about transformative change, moving us beyond the status quo for fisheries management, governments specifically must:
This isn’t the first time that the RSPB feels the UK government could have been more ambitious as we have previously drawn similar conclusions about the targets consultation for the Environment Bill and the UK commitments at the CBD meetings in Geneva.
The consultation on the draft Joint Fisheries Statement closed this week, after which responses will be reviewed and then finalised and signed off by all four fisheries administrations by November 2022.
Now is the time and this is the opportunity to transform fisheries management and deliver a resilient, climate and nature smart fishing industry. However, unless significantly strengthened, the JFS will fall short of achieving its ground-breaking aim of delivering world leading sustainable fisheries management and will fail to satisfy the Fisheries Objectives under the Fisheries Act.
Kirsten Carter is the Marine Principal Policy Officer at RSPB, follow @NaturesVoice
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
Read more about the Future Fisheries Alliance’s key asks for the Joint Fisheries Statement in the parliamentary briefing .
To read the full JFS consultation response see Joint Fisheries Statement Consultation Response | Marine Conservation Society | Marine Conservation Society (mcsuk.org)
Read more about Climate Smart Fisheries in the report Shifting Gears: Achieving Climate-Smart Fisheries.
Find out more about fisheries and seabirds by reading about the RSPB's key asks to tackle bycatch in fishing gear and overfishing of key prey like sandeel.
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