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TOPIC: Notes re private meeting of IW Sea Anglers & Fisheries Minister at Newport

Notes re private meeting of IW Sea Anglers & Fisheries Minister at Newport 7 years 2 months ago #1

INFORMAL NOTE OF PRIVATE MEETING BETWEEN IW SEA ANGLERS & RICHARD BENYON, MP, MINISTER FOR THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AND FISHERIES
25 MARCH 2013 AT RIVERSIDE CENTRE, NEWPORT, IOW

Present:
Richard Benyon, MP, Andrew Turner, MP
Andrew Wenden, Chairman & Secretary, IOW Division of Angling Trust
Alan Deeming, Angling Trust and Secretary Bembridge Angling Club
Tony Williams, Angling Trust IOW Conservation Group Representative and Chairman, Vectis Boating and Fishing Club
Sean Graham, Director, UK Hooks
Joan Wheelton, Secretary, Vectis Boating and Fishing Club

Subject: Proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around the Isle of Wight (Balanced Seas)

Andy Wenden opened the meeting by introducing those present who had represented IOW on the Balanced Seas local group. He thanked the Minister for the opportunity to meet and discuss a number of questions, which had been submitted in advance. The Minister replied that he was here to listen and hopefully reassure people. He took his responsibility as Minister for Fishing and Recreational Angling very seriously.

Alan Deeming began by asking about MCZs not being introduced in the first tranche. He said further investigation would be needed when the next tranche was being progressed, and asked the Minister how he saw future consultation. Did he see further consultation by reconvening the original process or consultation by some different method?
The Minister said there was a danger of over-consulting. They had the input from Balanced Seas, and they would have the responses from this current consultation process, which would cover all 127 proposed sites over the next few weeks. The next consultation would be about management plans. If some of the IOW sites were to be taken forward in the next tranche they would be consulting on management plans. It was crucial this should be done at a very local level. DEFRA knew what they wanted to protect and where these features were. He said activities which did not conflict with protection of these sites should be permitted. Local people provided value for project management as the eyes and ears of the marine environment. The feature on Countryfile (25.3.13) had put the case for angling really well.

Alan Deeming said that anglers were concerned about consultation on management measures, but were also concerned about pre-defined views on their activities, eg they understood that in reference areas any form of angling was to be totally banned. Anglers would disagree that their activities would damage any conservation area. Would there be any further consultation on these pre-defined views?
Tony Williams noted that Reference Areas were not being introduced in the first tranche. He referred to the DEFRA document ‘Marine Conservation Zones: Consultation on proposals for designation in 2013, December 2012’, para 2.10.2: ‘We anticipate the review will take a fresh look at requirements for reference areas, including size, number, location and management measures, particularly in relation to long-standing non-commercial traditional activities.’ The Minister explained that this was because the reference areas had been criticised thoroughly by the Science Advisory Panel as not having sufficient data. If they followed the proposed guidelines angling would be prevented in an area where there would be no problem.

Tony Williams then referred to Question 2*, relating to an anomalous situation arising locally, where the IOW would find itself with agreed management measures, voluntary codes, etc., through MCZs, and now Hampshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) and Natural England (NE) were taking a different approach. They had gone in through European Marine Sites which surround the Island and were asking SIFCA for mandatory measures to control activities, especially in seagrass beds which surround the Island. HWT and NE wanted to prevent things like beam trawling and oyster dredging but had now proposed a Hand Working by-law which would also affect bait digging, cockle picking, push net prawning, etc. and other traditional beach activities. To illustrate the point Tony drew attention to the Balanced Seas map of Bembridge area with seagrass beds marked. HWT/NE proposals would affect the whole of the defined area - a vital area not only for angling but also for study courses, cockling, winkling, crabbing, and all other beach activities. Andy Wenden confirmed that anglers were worried that the new measures would throw the baby out with the bath water, and that normal seaside activities people enjoyed and considered important could get lost.

Tony Williams said the proposed SIFCA by-laws would add another layer to a conflicting management scenario: allegedly voluntary codes through IFCAs, allegedly mandatory codes through Solent European Marine Sites, and mandatory by-laws for managing the reference areas.
Alan Deeming said anglers were also worried that IFCAs might introduce enforceable mandatory by-laws which would totally by-pass all the consultation and voluntary agreements which had taken place in the Balanced Seas exercise.
The Minister said that although Reference Areas were not being taken forward in this tranche, in areas where there were very special sites (thinking particularly of reefs) there was nothing to stop local IFCAs bringing forward a by-law to protect precisely that location. However any by-law should be designed to prevent any activity which would cause damage, eg beam trawling or scallop dredging. The Minister said he would be very worried if he heard that overly proscriptive controls were being brought in. Andy Wenden said that some action was needed or there would be a mandatory ban. On being asked by Alan Deeming if he were prepared to investigate the HWT/NE proposals the Minister agreed to look into this matter. (SIFCA representative Eamon Reardon.)

Alan Deeming said the Group was reassured that the Minister supported selective measures rather than a blanket ban on activities in Reference Areas, which hopefully would allow recreational sea anglers to continue with their traditional activities.
The Minister queried the Reference Area outlined on the Bembridge map, asking why it extended so far to the south east. Alan Deeming said he understood that the map had been generated for commercial trawlermen who needed a large turning circle. The group discussed the red zones marked on the map. Tony Williams promised to send the Minister more data.
The Minister said that it was most important that management plans were clear and understood.

Alan Deeming asked the Minister who would be responsible for non-fishing related management measures at local level. IFCAs had confirmed that their brief extended no wider than angling and fishing-related activities. Alan Deeming suggested that monitoring of non-fishing activities such as anchoring of yachts and other non-fishing boats could fall to local councils, creating an additional burden on Councils with limited budgets.
The Minister responded that he was not sure on this point.

The Minister then turned to the remaining questions submitted in advance by the IOW Group.
He agreed that an inequitable situation would be created if angling boats were prevented from anchoring whereas yachts and other boats could anchor.
The Minister advised that the responsible body for governing recreational sea angling was DEFRA.

On the proposal to increase the Bass minimum landing size currently before the Minister, he said that consultation was ongoing. As a big supporter of fisheries he wanted to try and achieve what had been achieved in Ireland. He did not think people should be catching fish that had not had a chance to breed. The Minister said that his Department was considering how to proceed on this: whether it could be done through Europe and extended Europe wide, or whether the UK could do it unilaterally. He said the case was well made and he was pretty hopeful the increase would go forward – a previous attempt had not been taken forward.
Tony Williams suggested that commercial pressures might have been responsible for the previous failure. Anglers were all in favour of allowing fish to breed.
The meeting closed with the Minister saying that the comments of the Group had been heard. He had done everything he could to try and encourage sea angling. He was keen to see more young people going into the sport and believed that nothing they were doing in this project must detract from that. In addition there could be a huge economic value to be achieved.

Andy Wenden thanked the Minister for his time and reassurances.
J Wheelton
28 March 2013

*Question 2: ‘Does the Minister, therefore, recognise that there is now an anomalous situation as a result of IFCAs having been recently instructed to take action in relation to the risks identified within the ‘Draft Fisheries in EMS’ matrix which is resulting in SIFCA proposing to introduce byelaws without any regard for socio-economic impacts and with only limited consultation?’
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