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Forthcoming rule changes which will affect the fishing industry

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The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is providing an update on the upcoming changes to fisheries regulations to enable the fishing industry to prepare.

What is happening?

A new technical conservation regulation is due to be introduced this summer. This regulation aims to reduce the capture of juvenile fish and minimise environmental harm. The technical conservation regulation that is now in force was launched in 1998 and will be superseded by the new rules following a review last year.

The new technical conservation regulation is much less prescriptive than the one it replaces. It has also been changed to take into account Landing Obligation rules. The amendments to the regulation now make rules regional – these are by area such as North Western Waters (Union waters of ICES sub-areas V, VI and VII) or North Sea (Union Waters of ICES divisions IIa, IIIa and IV).

The main reason for this change is to allow fishermen to work more flexibly. For example, mesh sizes are now minimum sizes and do not prevent fishermen from using larger mesh sizes if they want to. However, in some fisheries fishermen may be required to use more selective gear, such as adding a square mesh panel to their net.

Custom House Quay at Weymouth Harbour

The text of the amended technical conservation regulation has now been agreed by European Member States and is expected to come into force during the summer of 2019.

The MMO will be producing and promoting public guidance for fisheries affected by changes in these rules.

The MMO promoted the change in Landing Obligation rules for 2019 last autumn. New gear requirements were introduced in the Irish Sea from 1 January 2019. However, changes in gear requirements for some fisheries in the Celtic Sea area only come into force on 1 July 2019.

We would therefore like to remind fishermen working in this area that they need to be aware of these rule changes. Read the guidance on the new rules for the Celtic Sea or speak to your local MMO office.

Fresh sea fishes in boxes

The UK is currently working with other European countries to look at the possible introduction of bycatch reduction plans. Bycatch reduction plans are considered where zero catch (Total Allowable Catch) of a fish stock is recommended for a given year.

The aim of these plans is to reduce unavoidable bycatch and to help that stock to recover. Various measures to assist in reduction of bycatch are being considered and discussed with affected local fishing industry representatives.  When these measures have been agreed, we will issue further communications on this.

What the Marine Management Organisation is doing

As explained in its compliance and enforcement strategy the MMO will provide guidance and raise awareness of the rules as a first step to achieving compliance. Work being carried out by the MMO so that it can support industry to understand and comply with the changes includes:

  • Working with the European Commission and Defra to gain understanding of the implications of legislation changes by location of fishing activity, sector and gear type
  • Training staff so that they can provide advice and guidance to fishermen in person
  • Working with fishing industry representatives to understand the best way to provide guidance to fishermen and help spread the word about the changes
  • Producing tailored guidance and materials to help people understand how the changes may affect them
  • Working with Devolved Administrations to send out clear and consistent information

Newlyn Harbour filled with boats and fishing vessels with views across Mounts Bay with St. Michaels Mount visible in the distance. A few people visible in the harbour area.

Information for the fishing industry on changes to the technical and gear rules

What is the Technical Conservation regulation?

This regulation aims to reduce unwanted catches, including juvenile fish, in line with the newly introduced Landing Obligation (discard ban). It also updates measures to enhance protection of protected species and habitats. The regulation allows for more fishery-specific detailed rules to be introduced.

Why is it being changed now?

The original technical conservation regulation (EC850/98) came into force in 1998. The Landing Obligation (discard ban) was introduced in 2015 and the technical conservation regulation needed to be changed to further reduce unwanted catches.

When will it come into force?

We expect that the new technical conservation regulation will come into force in either the end of June or July in 2019. However, the exact date is to be confirmed.

What is staying the same?

Many of the rules which you have to comply with will not change with the introduction of the new Technical Conservation regulation.  For example, most minimum sizes of fish and most areas where fishing is restricted remain the same.

Fresh mackerel on the market

How does this affect fishing operations?

The new regulation is separated into regions.  For most English vessels, North Sea and North Western Waters will be most relevant. These regions are the same as for the Landing Obligation (discard ban).

The new regulation removes the complicated catch composition tables which set out the percentage of target species allowed for each net mesh size. These rules have become outdated because they led to wasteful discarding of fish.

In general, the aim is to encourage the use of more selective gears and to allow fishermen more flexibility in what gear they use. Larger regional baseline mesh sizes will be introduced. Smaller mesh sizes for certain fisheries are allowed, providing certain gear selectivity and bycatch requirements are met.

For example, smaller mesh fisheries are only allowed where escape panels are fitted for some gears and where whitefish bycatches are small.

What else do I need to know?

At the end of last year, the MMO put out guidance for changes to the Landing Obligation rules in 2019.  Requirements for selective gear came in as part of this in the Irish Sea (VIIa) on 1 January. However, further selective gear requirements for the Celtic Sea will be introduced from 1 July. Guidance on the Celtic Sea gear requirements has been available for several months but we will be working to remind fishermen working in that area of these changes

What are you doing to ensure that the fishing industry knows about this?

Clearly, there are a number of changes coming from different regulations.  So we are aiming to combine the rules into one set of regional guidance with links to the relevant legislation.

The MMO will be issuing public guidance on the GOV.UK website. In addition, we will send copies of this guidance to major fishing stakeholders including producer organisations so that they can keep their members informed. At a local level, MMO officers will speak to affected fishermen and also be available to them to answer questions on the changes.



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