The Company’s Oceans Programme works to facilitate the global sharing of knowledge around the management of fisheries and the ocean. As part of this, the Fisheries Charitable Trust organised an exchange visit with a group of civil servants and industry members to learn about the co-management frameworks operating in the USA. The experience provided options for consideration as the UK builds a new system for fisheries management and collaborative research, post-Brexit.
The group attended the federal ‘New England Fisheries Management Council’ meeting in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and travelled to Rhode Island to visit the Commercial Fisheries Research Institute, and to Port Judith speak to the local fishing industry on fisheries research and management.
Fisheries Exchange Program Delegation Members
Robbie Fisher, Head of Domestic Fisheries Sustainability and Devolution, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Richard Hoskin, Head of Fisheries & Marine Conservation Management, Marine Management Organisation
Lewis Tattersall, Head of Fisheries Management
Fiona Taylor, Head of Sea Fisheries, Policy and Grants, DAERA
Hannah Fennell, Head of Orkney Fisheries Association
Emma Plotnek, Executive Director, Fishing into the Future
Alison Freeman, Fisheries Programme Manager, Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust
Emma Plotnek, shared some of her experiences from the exchange:
“The U.S. has a very formalised management system conducted with authority, integrity and accountability and sets the right tone for the discussion when making decisions. Whilst the structure may not be perfect, stakeholders understood the processes in place, and subsequently, they knew when and how to intervene. At its core, this is the essence of co-management.
Important, life altering , decisions on fisheries and marine management are discussed and agreed upon at Fisheries Council meetings. All participants at the council meetings had the opportunity to speak publicly to the council – but there was one rule – you have a strict 3-minute timer to keep to. We saw a range of politicians, fishers and scientists take the stand, with carefully curated messages on emotional issues but, they tended to be spoken in a respectful, interesting and succinct manner. We saw speakers preparing and perfecting their speeches beforehand in the lobby – crowds of fishermen huddled round, offering advice to their nominated spokesperson. I asked myself, could the UK benefit by having more order in how we communicate, and could we work harder on our messaging?
The Commercial Fisheries Research Institute (CFRI) values the contribution the fishing industry play in the design and development of research projects and was thus set up to support industry’s ideas and to obtain funding. Just like the Council meetings, collaboration, in this instance between industry and academics, are part of the landscape of fisheries management. The UK differs from the U.S. system in that, whilst we also value this collaborative approach, a scientific support body like the CFRI, which is open to all fisheries and offers its services for free, does not exist.
This leads to me to my third and final point. It was clear from the lavish hotel where the Council meeting was held, the extensive support network that surrounds each of the Council meetings, and the resources channelled into the CFRI and fisheries research more broadly, that significant funding was being spent on managing the U.S’s fishing and marine resources. These funds were being spent on processes and systems which enable stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds an equal and fair opportunity to influence fisheries management and/or science. Whilst the UK also invests heavily in its fisheries and marine resources, in comparison, these processes don’t exist. Subsequently, the ability for the industry to communicate and to use research as evidence widens between rich and poor fishing associations/businesses. Charities are often left responsible for trying to bridge the funding gap and growing divide. Moving forward it is important that the UK Government invests enough thought, time and financial resource to ensure that everyone who wants to engage in the fisheries management process is able to and comes away satisfied with the mechanisms to participate.”