Giant step forward for nature recovery at sea

Government publishes Fisheries Command Paper today

Today, the Government launches a key document setting out a vision for the future of UK fisheries, Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations.  This, and the consultation launched alongside it, will inform both the Government’s forthcoming Fisheries Bill and the longer-term development of fisheries management.

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas, The Wildlife Trusts says, ‘The Wildlife Trusts are really impressed that the Government is committed to reversing the loss of marine life and where possible to restoring it.  This is a giant step forward for nature recovery at sea.’

The Wildlife Trusts welcomes the Command Paper and its aim of increasing the sustainability of fisheries.  It addresses a wide range of necessary topics including how management will be introduced through new laws, negotiations with other countries over managing shared fish stocks and how we will continue to meet international obligations. It also sets out objectives around increased sustainability including setting and enforcing sustainable fishing limits, preventing discarding of fish, collecting best scientific data and, most important, protecting the marine environment.

Fisheries management has an important part to play in delivering a better future for wildlife.  Fish are part of marine ecosystems and catching fish has wide environmental effects, including the alteration of food webs, damage to seabed habitats and bycatch of whales, seabirds and other non-target species.  This on top of the impact on the populations of fish themselves.

There is much that is positive in this new fisheries Command Paper.  There is a recognition that true sustainability means healthy fish stocks and a healthy marine environment.  In addressing this issue, the Command Paper highlights the links between fisheries management and the wider UK Marine Strategy, restating the commitment to delivering Good Environmental Status by 2020.

Fisherman (c) Toby Roxburgh/2020VISION

Toby Roxburgh/2020VISION

The Wildlife Trusts

This is a giant step forward for nature recovery at sea

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas

We particularly welcome the continued commitment to deliver a well-manged, ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the proposed measures to allow the effective management of MPAs in offshore waters.  And finally, there are measures around setting sustainable catch limits and basing fisheries management on sound science.  All of this speaks to a commitment to minimising the adverse impacts of fishing while ensuring it has a sound future.

Joan Edwards continues, ‘We remain extremely concerned about the Government’s approach to the discarding of fish.  While we welcome the Government’s commitment to ending this practice we have doubts over the practicality of some of the proposals.’ 

The Wildlife Trusts believe that there is much that is positive and to be welcomed in the Command Paper.  However, there are areas of concern and many of the proposals need fleshing out.  We will be looking closely at the progress of these proposals as they make their way into new legislation, to make sure that the positive aspirations they set out are delivered.