Conservation Zones will adversely affect us, say fishermen
The confirmation by the Government of 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) has been met with joy from environmentalists but concern from local fishermen.
Three of the MCZs are in the North Sea off Northumberland – Aln Estuary, Rock Unique and Swallow Sands.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust has welcomed the decision, and that the Government has confirmed that there will be further consultation on an area from Coquet to St Mary’s Island.
Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust said: “What great news for the wildlife living in the North Sea and elsewhere in the UK. I really welcome the designation of the 27 Marine Conservation Zones. This is the first active step in what I believe to be the most important action Government can take to address the shocking state of nature at sea.
“Marine protection is an issue which matters to anyone who has ever spent happy afternoons exploring rockpools or been enchanted by chance encounters with dolphins, whales or one of the many other captivating species we enjoy in our waters.”
Amble Fishermen’s Association secretary, Michael Bould, told The Ambler: “We are not opposed to Marine Conservation Zones per se, but they haven’t demonstrated the clear necessity for them in this region. One of these designated offshore zones is massive, at about 4000 sq km, consisting almost entirely of sand and mud. Atogether the zones off the Northumberland coast cover an area greater than the actual county.
“These offshore zones will adversely affect the summer whitefish activities of larger boats which fish out of Amble. If they designate the zone from the Coquet to St Mary’s it will be a disgrace, as we already have a Special Area of Conservation from just north of Amble all the way past the border with Scotland, in which all trawling activity has been banned, and this would make the entire Northumberland coast a Marine Protected Area.
“People fish responsibly around here, and this is all too heavy handed.”
Steve Lowe believes support for the conservation zones is justified.
“There is huge public support for greater protection of our seas using Marine Protected Areas. They are one of the best tools to protect marine wildlife effectively and restore our seas to their full potential, following decades of neglect and decline.”
But local fishermen feel they are the endangered species.
“It’ll be another reduction in the ability of local fishing communites to make a living” said Michael Bould. “As well as conserving the marine environment NIFCA (Northumberland Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority) is supposed to protect the viable and sustainable inshore fishing industry, but they are failing to do that. This could well put the small inshore fleet out of business. NIFCA seems more worried about the threat of legal challenge from environmental NGOs than about preserving a vibrant inshore fishing fleet.”
A spokesman for NIFCA told The Ambler: “There is no commercial fishing activity within the Aln Estuary and other fishing activity, particularly angling, is low and therefore at this time we believe little management of these activities will be required. It is only activities which have a detrimental impact on the features for which the site is designated which require management, which could include other non-commercial activities. Any management put in place will be reviewed over time to ensure the site is achieving its conservation objectives”.