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Commercial Fishing


NFFO & MMO Meeting on a Joined Up Approach to Managing ‘Spatial Squeeze’

NFFO & MMO Meeting on a Joined Up Approach to Managing ‘Spatial Squeeze’

The accelerated expansion of offshore wind and the pace of application of management measures within marine protected areas pose a potentially huge spatial challenge to the fishing industry. This is not just the well-known view of the fishing sector but is increasingly recognised by those involved in planning and regulation of the marine area.

The topic has been raised in recent fora such as the Fisheries Management and Innovation Group. As a result, the NFFO and the MMO met recently to discuss it further. Among the issues raised with the MMO were that responding to the challenge of spatial squeeze and addressing potential impacts, with measures that might be considered including appropriate safeguarding of the most important fishing areas, facilitating viable co-existence, and broader management of displacement, requires a joined-up approach set in the context of spatial planning for all interests.

That will need collaboration across government and regulators, a well-informed and cohesive industry response to the spatial squeeze, and a closer dialogue between the two. The resulting outcomes are likely to be more effective if the fishing industry and regulators of marine space work together. It is therefore incumbent on government and the fishing industry to work to address potential ‘spatial squeeze’ and the impact of displacement as far as possible. It will take effort, goodwill and intelligence to deliver well-thought through approaches.

Barrie Deas, NFFO Chief Executive, said:

“This was an important meeting in which there was an honest appreciation of the spatial challenges faced by our industry. There was a solid commitment to consider all the existing tools available to address adverse impacts on the most important fishing areas – accepting that there are both economic and socio-economic factors to take into account. Displacement can have profound knock-on consequences and so the best strategy is to assess this in the context of wider marine management and planning. Finding ways to pool data, share information and knowledge is an important first step. It is our ambition to continue the dialogue started in this meeting over the coming months. We will have to wait and see, given the undoubted complexities involved, whether the dialogue will lead to appropriate outcomes, but we cannot afford not to make the attempt. The consequences of doing nothing are too high and the pace of change too rapid.”

Amongst the issues discussed were:

  • Drawing on existing marine plans, there may be measures that could be applied now
  • The difference between fixed turbine windfarms and floating wind
  • Different forms of co-existence
  • How to ensure that fishing is treated in an equitable way with other sea-bed users, given that a licence to fish grants the right to fish, but no specific legal guarantee over access to fishing grounds – unlike farmers, fishers do not hold property rights over the grounds that they fish
  • Accurate and relevant data is essential, but the methodologies employed and the assumptions on which policy decisions are made can be as important as the data used in determining outcomes
  • Achieving a balance between risk and precaution in marine spatial planning
  • The importance of effective monitoring in arriving at the right policy decisions

The meeting was reassuring to the extent that the MMO and NFFO share a similar understanding of the scale of the challenges ahead, and the need for relevant evidence and engagement. There was also agreement that working closely together, whilst challenging at times, would be more effective for all concerned.