In November 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) invited responses to a consultation on proposals to develop fisheries management measures within the Northern Ireland inshore region. The measures proposed to safeguard features within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) whilst establishing scallop enhancement sites within the region. The team at MarFishEco were asked to help Northern Ireland’s Fisherman’s Federation (NIFF) understand and respond to the consultation.
The team undertook an objective evaluation of the methods used that resulted in DAERA’s recommendations submitted for consultation. Our findings concluded that DAERA’s methods were substandard and needed improved evaluation and data before decisions could be made.
Our response to the consultation clearly identified several cases in which significant data / knowledge gaps and potential errors in analyses exist in the consultation document. We also outlined that DAERA’s current recommendations have been submitted for consultation following close to no true industry engagement and outreach. Our evaluation firmly concluded that before DAERA moves forward with the proposed measures, further discourse, collaborative, and active engagement between DAERA, and Northern Ireland’s fishing industry must be found.
We are keen for our recommendations for improvement to the consultation to spur greater discussions that make for long-term conservation and fisheries gains and lead to a position where industry works in partnership with DAERA to seek agreement on management measures for the MPAs. As of July 2021, the MarFishEco team is working with NIFF to understand how to practically move forward and build a robust fisheries data collection system that correctly engages with and maximizes the wealth of knowledge within the commercial fishing sector.