Sprat shoal © Paul Naylor
The UK Marine and Coastal Access Act brings in a new approach to managing inshore fisheries in England and Wales. One that recognises the impacts fishing can have – not just on fish stocks but also on the wider environment.
It creates new responsibilities and powers to manage these impacts. Meanwhile, the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which influences fisheries management throughout UK seas, is undergoing a major review. Improvements could make a significant contribution to Living Seas.
Fishing – more than any other human activity – has the potential to cause widespread damage to marine habitats and wildlife. However, if we get it right, wise management of fishing can bring the greatest benefits for wildlife over large areas.
Practical action can be taken to prevent the accidental capture of animals such as dolphins and seabirds, minimise the damage to seabed habitats from heavy fishing gear, reduce impacts on the marine food-web, and ensure target species are not over-fished.
Amid concerns about food security and dwindling wild fish stocks, farming of seafood is likely to increase, so there is also a need to ensure this industry is environmentally sustainable.
We believe that changes afoot now, and in the next few years, could mark the turning point towards a sustainable seafood industry in the UK. But a change of name for the fisheries management bodies is not enough.
Those bodies need to embrace their new powers and responsibilities and use them proactively to improve the sustainability of seafood and the health of the sea.