The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority is one of ten IFCAs around the coast of England which manage sea fisheries resources and the marine environment from mean high water out to six nautical miles. We have powers under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to write and enforce our own byelaws in our own districts to manage the exploitation of sea fisheries resources, including within Marine Conservation Zones. We came into force in April 2011, replacing our predecessors the Sea Fisheries Committees.
Like all IFCAs, the Sussex IFCA has a governing committee . Ours consists of members from West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove councils, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Environment Agency, Natural England and stakeholders appointed by the MMO. The appointed members of the Authority are acquainted with the needs and opinions of the fishing community of the district and have knowledge of, or expertise in, marine environmental matters.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 Part 6, section 153 (1 & 2) and section 154 (1) details the duties of the IFCAs. We must:
- Seek to ensure that the exploitation of sea fisheries resources is carried out in a sustainable way
- Seek to balance the social and economic benefits of exploiting the sea fisheries resources of the district with the need to protect the marine environment from, or promote its recovery from, the effects of such exploitation
- Take any other steps which in the authority's opinion are necessary or expedient for the purpose of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development
- Seek to balance the different needs of persons engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in the district
- Seek to ensure that the conservation objectives of any Marine Conservation Zones in the district are furthered
These duties are embodied in a nationally shared Vision to lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry .
The Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) issues guidance to support the IFCA in carrying out its role, which can be viewed here .
Legislation pertinent to the governance and duties of Sussex IFCA include the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Sussex IFCA Order 2010 .
We work closely with the Marine Management Organisation who have a similar yet distinct role. They manage the quota allocation in England and they also monitor the amount of fish caught to ensure quota limits are not exceeded. They manage vessel licencing, required for commercial vessels to legally sell their catch and are the consenting authority for marine activities such as aggregate extraction and marina development. They are the lead fisheries authority between 6 and 12 nautical miles offshore.
Fishing activity in the UK is regulated under a complex system of management. Currently, the main management policy is the Common Fisheries Policy ( European Council Regulation No. 1380/2013 ) but this is likely to change once the UK has left the European Union. The European Union’s original Common Fisheries Policy, first introduced in the 1970s, managed fisheries and aquaculture with the aim of maximising an economically viable industry while minimising environmental impacts. The CFP has been revised several times, most recently in 2014. This revised CFP set dates for bans on fish discards, a legally binding commitment to fish at scientifically assessed sustainable levels and decentralised decision making.
Under the CFP, total allowable catches (TAC), as well as stock recovery measures, limit the amount of certain species which can be landed in ports with the aim of keeping catch levels appropriate for sustainable stocks. TACs are agreed by EU Member States each December in the EU Fisheries Council, with scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).
Each EU Member State is allocated a proportion of the total allowable catch for each stock. The UK’s quota is divided between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. England’s quota allocation is managed by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and there are specific quota management rules for fishing vessels.
Article 17 of the new Common Fisheries Policy requires Member States to use ‘transparent and objective criteria’ when allocating fishing opportunities. Social, economic and environmental factors should be considered, including contribution to the local economy, impact of the fishing activity on the environment and historic catch levels. Member States should support fishers who are using techniques which reduce environmental impact.
In England, quota is allocated to producer organisations in proportion to the number of fixed quota allocation units held on over-10-metre (vessel length) licences that are members of a producer organisation. Quota available for vessels over 10m but not a member of a producer organisation or vessels under 10m is held centrally by the MMO and usually managed on the basis of monthly catch limits.
Article 2 of new Common Fisheries Policy states that an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management should be implemented. The negative effects of fishing activities on the whole marine ecosystem should be minimised and degradation of the marine environment should be avoided.
In addition to the CFP, European Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98 (as amended) sets out technical measures which define when, how and where fishing can take place.