The Best Practice in World Fisheries conference took place at the historic Fishmongers’ Hall in London in November 2017, organised by a team from the Fishmonger’s Company and the Blue Marine Foundation, including Dr Tom Appleby of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). Both Tom and Emma Bean from the International Water Security Network participated in the conference on the day.
The conference of invited guests brought together over one hundred leading figures in fisheries, drawn from all sectors including industry, producer organisations, regulators, environmental organisations and academia, to examine world practice in fisheries management. The aim of the day was to consider what lessons the United Kingdom should learn and apply to its own waters following its exit from the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy.
Speakers involved in fisheries management in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Norway presented their country’s experience and led debate with the audience as to how such experience could and should guide the UK as it makes its way out of the EU and towards a new era for fisheries management.
Several themes emerged as the conference progressed, including:
- The need to define best practice and be clear about the aims and objectives of any management regime put in place, as well as how to measure achievements.
- The need for any future management regime to be founded on a strong scientific base favouring sustainability. Evidence was given from the USA experience, and in particular the science-based approach taken by the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that has led to the rebuilding of US fish stocks (resulting in some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world).
- A suggestion that the costs of fisheries management, which can be considerable as they include the scientific evidence required for any management scheme, could be taken on by industry to some extent. Evidence from Australia and New Zealand of differing types of such a scheme proved interesting to all those attending.
- The need to add further definition to the concept of eco-systems-based management before it could prove a useful tool in fisheries management. The New Zealand Fisheries Act provided particular inspiration to this theme, with its approach of embedding environmental principles directly in the legislation.
- All speakers noted the need for better regulation of recreational fishers, which could only come from greater involvement by, and data from, such fishers.
- The recognition that UK fisheries management after Brexit will still need to focus heavily on international cooperation and management given the amount of shared stocks with both the EU and Norway.
Dr Geoff Tingley of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (formerly Principal Scientist at the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries) particularly stressed that “when speaking to government, the fishing industry needs to be organised, coherent, and needs to speak with one voice whenever possible”, while Dr Torben Foss of PWC (formerly Director General in the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries) warned that the fishing industry could not leave matters to the government, noting that “we in Norway know what it is like when fish is the last thing on the negotiating table”.
The conference report together with videos of each of the presentations have now been published and can be found here. The report has been welcomed by the Environment Secretary, The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP, who said: “I have always been clear any new domestic fishing policy needs to be guided by science, and I welcome this report and the insight it gives us into practices around the world”.