As our seas are used for more and more activities it is essential that fisheries are properly accounted for when planning for other marine uses. We work to help ensure fishing interests are fully considered at all levels from high level policy through to individual marine license decisions.
We have worked to ensure that fisheries are reflected in the marine policy statement and in the national policy statement on renewable energy.
The UK Marine Policy Statement states that Marine plan authorities/ decision makers:
· Consider the potential impacts of other developments on fishing activity, as well as potential environmental impacts – including the impacts of displacement and whether it is possible for vessels to relocate to other fishing grounds, as well as consider the potential impacts of this displacement on the viability of fish stocks
· Consider the impacts on local communities of any reduction in fishing activity, redistribution of fishing effort or associated impact on related businesses
· Encourage opportunities for co-existence between fishing and other activities (p43).
· Early consultation should be undertaken with representatives of the fishing industry
· Assessment by the applicant should include detailed surveys of the effects on fish stocks of commercial interest and any potential reduction in such stocks, as well as any likely constraints on fishing activity
· The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) should consider the extent to which the proposed development occupies any recognised important fishing grounds and whether the project would prevent or significantly impede protection of sustainable commercial fisheries, including that caused by any safety zones and sought to design the proposal having consulted representatives of the fishing industry with the intention of minimising the loss of fishing opportunity and has been mitigated where reasonably possible
· Mitigation schemes are to be designed to enhance where reasonably possible, any potential positive benefits to the affected fishing industry and commercial fish stocks.
It wasn’t long ago when it was typical for marine planning decisions to recognise the presence of fisheries only belatedly in the planning process once project plans had already advanced and identified the location of their proposals. Planning was sectoral and in many ways disjointed.
The UK has been at the forefront of developing marine plans with the objective of making the planning of marine use more systematic and we have actively engaged in the process to ensure that the East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plans, South Marine Plans and Welsh National Marine Plan contain appropriate policies for fisheries. We continue to engage in the development of the remaining marine plans on the same basis.
Important fisheries policies in the East inshore and offshore marine plans, for example, include:
Within areas of fishing activity, proposals should demonstrate in order of preference:
· That they won’t prevent fishing activities on, or access to, fishing grounds
· How, if there are any impacts on the ability to undertake fishing activities or access to fishing grounds, they will be minimised
· How, if impacts cannot be minimised, they will be mitigated
· The case for carrying on with their proposal if it isn’t possible to minimise or mitigate the impacts
Proposals should demonstrate, in order of preference:
· That they will not have an adverse impact upon spawning and nursery areas and any associated habitat
· How, if there are any impacts upon the spawning and nursery areas and their habitat, they will minimise them
· How, if impacts cannot be minimised they will be mitigated
· The case for proceeding proposals if it isn’t possible to minimise or mitigate the impacts
The governance Policy GOV2 has particular relevance for fisheries, given the likelihood of new activities falling within areas where fishing activity already takes place:
· Opportunities for co-existence should be maximised wherever possible.
It is still early days for marine planning and it remains to be seen how these policies will influence decision-making for individual marine projects. One current limitation is that whilst the plans provide a recognition of fisheries, the fisheries evidence base hasn’t enabled more spatially defined policies to be adopted.
Here at the NFFO, we continue to work with the MMO and others to improve the evidence base in order to realise this goal. We do this by gathering fishing activity data (see UK Fishermen’s Information Mapping Project (UKFIM)) and developing approaches to interpret data in a meaningful way.
This is explained in our Fishing Matters Blog: Identifying core fishing areas in marine planning.
Oil and Gas
The development of the North Sea oil and gas fields in the 1970s was initially a source of friction between both of our industries. Since then both of our industries have learned to understand one another’s needs to the extent that today a fruitful working relationship is the norm.
At the NFFO, we continue to ensure this is still the case by working with:
· The U.K. Fisheries Offshore Oil & Gas Legacy Trust Fund Limited (FLTC) exists to manage interactions between both industries. It operates an endowment fund to offset negative legacy issues, in particular focussed on addressing fishermen’s safety
· FishSAFE provides information on the location oil and related surface and sub-surface infrastructure and an active early warning system for fishing vessels when operating in the vicinity of such infrastructure
· The Oil & Gas UK Fishermen’s Compensation Fund provides a scheme for compensation for damages to fishing gear from oil and gas related debris that cannot be attributed to a single operator. The fund is financed by Oil and Gas UK (OGUK).
Renewable energy is a newcomer to the marine environment. The current emphasis is on offshore wind, but wave and tidal energy are also beginning to be developed.
The possibility for overlap with existing fishing grounds places a new emphasis on a system of marine planning that can effectively assess compatibilities and conflicts between different marine uses in order to make the most efficient use of marine space.
As offshore wind developments are a fairly new prospect, understanding how fishing activities can operate in co-operation with these is still somewhat of a learning curve. In order to improve knowledge we are currently working with the Crown Estate to gather evidence on the actual changes to fishing practices following the installation of wind farms and the first results of this work have been published.
It’s unlikely fishing activities will be able to operate in the same way as in open waters, as the infrastructure of wind farms presents a potential marine hazard.
This places an emphasis on the need for good project design and good operational arrangements and protocols. Since 2002 both the fishing and marine renewables industries have worked through the Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables (FLOWW) group to promote coexistence between both industries.
Hosted by the Crown Estate, a key activity of the group has been to develop best practice guidelines for fisheries liaison, most recently updated in 2014. This guidance provides advice to developers on liaising with the fishing industry at all stages when planning, constructing and operating projects.
We focus especially on the development of fishing liaison and coexistence plans, to outline specific operational arrangements, as well as any longer term mitigation measures, to limit impact. These may include, for example, establishing minimum time frames for consulting and notification of works, communication of hazard information and agreed procedures for the removal of static gear from works areas and addressing any damages to gear. The Kingfisher information system (KIS-ORCA) provides an important conduit for communicating hazard information to the fishing industry.
Cables are a potential risk to fishing activity and we are working to ensure that good practice is undertaken in order to minimise the potential for snagging risks. Often the fishing industry can provide detailed knowledge of the nature of seabed substrata that can greatly aid the planning of cable routes so that burial can be achieved.
It is essential that the fishing industry is consulted in the preparation of cable protection plans which are often dealt with following license consent.
It’s critical to assure the fishing industry that no snagging hazards exist post installation, if bottom towed fishing activities should return and operate within the vicinity of a site – this can be done with post installation trawl surveys.
Systems also need to be in place to detect any emergence of cables due to seabed movements and response procedures to ensure that safety is maintained.
Despite the best of intentions, some level of disruption to existing fishing activity is inevitable and in the worst cases, usually for safety reasons, access to fishing grounds may be lost. The FLOWW group have prepared guidelines for addressing disruption settlements and community funds.
Community funds are a good way of recognising new activity coming into an area of existing activities. The West of Morecambe Fisheries Fund is a good example of joint working among developers and the locally affected fishing fleets to support projects that provide a wide benefit to the affected fishing community.