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Commercial Fishing


Northumberland trawling bylaw updated

Northumberland trawling bylaw updated

Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) have successfully amended a Trawling byelaw that will give greater protection to the marine environment in its district.

Following a public consultation by NIFCA during July 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has confirmed the updated ‘Trawling Byelaw 1’ came into legal effect on 11th August 2021.

The amended byelaw replaces previous legislation and prohibits the use of mobile fishing gear, except for vessels holding an exemption provided by NIFCA, within the Coquet to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). The exemption requires permitted vessels to use specific ‘light’ ground fishing gear.

These changes aim to protect rocky reef habitat in the MCZ from heavier bottom towed trawl gear and scallop dredges. The Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ is an inshore site located along the Northumberland coast. The site covers 192 km² of intertidal and offshore waters from near Whitley Bay in the south to near Alnwick in the north. It includes areas around St Mary’s Island and Coquet Island. The amended byelaw also requires fishing vessels operating within the 3-6 nautical mile boundary of the district, and below 18.3 meters in length, to have a permit. Any vessels trawling within the district must also record and share their monthly activity with NIFCA to enable the Authority to gather more data to support its marine management and conservation activities in the area.

Mike Hardy, NIFCA Chief Executive, explains: “We are very pleased that this byelaw has now come into effect. It gives added protection to the precious marine environment and the fishing grounds within the district, whilst allowing fishers to undertake trawling activity in a well-regulated and carefully managed way.”

The seabed protected by the Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ is made up of rock, sand, mud and sediment. This range of habitats provides a home for a large variety of life. Rocks in the shallow water are a habitat for kelp and red seaweed, whilst the deep water rock is a habitat for cup coral, sea-fans, and anemones, and sponges. These animals thrive in this deeper water where there is not enough sunlight for algal life to grow and these complex habitats and communities also support mobile species such as starfish, sea urchins, crabs, and lobster.

Full details of the updated Trawling Byelaw can be found at: www.nifca.gov.uk/byelaws/