Strategies for re-building European fish stock - Invest in Fish

This is a ground-breaking project covering fisheries exploited primarily by the fleets of the UK, France, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands (www.investinfish.org). It seeks to assess the costs and benefits associated with the deployment of different management / operational tools intended to support the re-building of key commercial fish stocks found in the English Channel and Western Approaches (ICES areas VI e, f, g, h & j). Initiated by WWF, in collaboration with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) and Marks and Spencer plc, the project has run for three years, bringing together fishermen, managers, conservation agencies, environmentalist and special interest groups to explore practical ways forward.

Back in 2002 Nautilus staff members were asked to contribute their thoughts on the project format. Later, in 2004/ 2005, Nautilus undertook an assessment of the economic contribution of sea angling to the economy of the South West of England, together with the systematic capture of detail on angler aspirations and preferences. The report on this work is available in the “reports” section on the Invest in Fish website – “ The Motivation, Demographics and Views of South West Recreational Sea Anglers and their Socio-economic Impact on the Region”.

In the final stages of the project Nautilus has once again been called upon to provide the scene-setting introduction to the final report – building on our broad knowledge of South West England fisheries, and our contacts within the industry, economic development and natural resource management circles. This report, together with the likely stock recovery trajectories of different stock recovery options, can be downloaded from the “homepage” section of the Invest in Fish website – “ Invest in Fish South West - Setting a course for sustainable fisheries in south-west England”.

It is fair to say that three years of facilitated dialogue between the various stakeholder groups has substantially eased tensions between groups that hold opposing views on management and stock recovery strategies. This has resulted in some modification of views, but mainly a better understanding of the origin of the different points of view expressed, and an improved ability to debate the relevant issues without falling out with each other.

On top of this the project has pulled together an impressive range of resource, activity and economics data, and has captured statements of preference as to how resources should be managed from a wide range of stakeholders including, crucially, a cross-section of the general public. This information has been used to explore the consequences of different interventions on the economics of the fleet, and the health of stocks.

The outputs of this project are highly significant: · an improved ability to discuss resource management issues, · improved ability to assess and communicate the consequences of intervention and development options, and · easier relationships between individuals and organisations that hold and promote differing views of how our marine environment and resources should be managed and exploited.

Recent changes in the Common Fisheries Policy seek to encourage more locally based management of stocks and fisheries by relying more on advice from those people on the spot – fishermen, environmental interests, anglers and other resource users. This is being encouraged through the formation of a number of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), of which the one covering the English Channel and Western Approaches is the North West Waters RAC. It is expected that the work of the Invest in Fish project will have great relevance to the deliberations of the RACs, and the NWWRAC in particular, and that the bio-economic model that has been developed by the project can be utilised by these RACs in exploring different ways forward for fisheries management.