Fishermen back Lyme Bay agreement Published: 05 October, 2006
A DEAL to protect scallop grounds has been backed by members of a new grouping.
South-west of England scallop fishermen have backed moves to protect their fishery in Lyme Bay.
Thirty members and guests attended the Special General Meeting of the Southwest Inshore Scallopers Association (SWISA) held at Ivybridge Town Hall.
The opening business was to ask members to confirm the Lyme Bay Agreement that the SWISA Committee had, on their behalf, negotiated with DEFRA on August 23.
After giving a brief run-down of events leading to that final and crucial meeting with officials in London, association Chairman Nick Prust asked for and got unanimous approval for the actions taken.
The chart that had been drawn up and circulated was similarly adopted. Finally the members were asked to agree the Code of Conduct of Fishing Operations and Voluntary Agreement to Suspend Fishing with All Forms of Towed Gear on the Lyme Bay Reefs. Once again the members were unanimous in their approval of this ground-breaking initiative.
Nick Prust welcomed guest speakers Professor of Marine Ecology at Bangor, Wales University, Michel Kaiser; Neil Downes, Chief Fisheries Officer for the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee and Mike Bacon, regional officer for the Sea Fish Industry Authority.
Professor Kaiser is an acknowledged expert on the impacts of fishing gear on seabed habitats. He advised the fishermen to take full advantage of the Good News aspects of their decision to close to all towed gear a significant part of their scallop fishery so as to bring protection to the Pink Sea Fans and other fragile organisms on the Lyme Bay Reefs.
Neil Downes explained to the fishermen the options for future legislation covering the Lyme Bay Agreement Area. There are three choices, he said, the first is for a joint DSFC and SSFC byelaw that prohibits all forms of towed gear from the Lyme Bay Reefs as delineated by SWISA, secondly the Agreement could be given force of law through a Statutory Instrument under the existing powers of the Minister and thirdly, the Minister could apply a condition to fishing licences that enacts the Agreement. This last option, he said, is one that is favoured by the SFCs. It would involve a local management Committee to oversee the operational efficacy of the Agreement and would enable changes to be considered yearly. The Chairman indicated that these options would be given further consideration by the SWISA Committee in the near future.
Mike Bacon gave a presentation on the SeaFish Responsible Fishing Scheme. The scheme has been growing in popularity since its launch earlier this year at the Glasgow fishing show. The fish merchant sector is showing interest in sourcing fish from vessels that pay due regard to the environment and also handle their fish in ways that ensure the consumer gets the best possible product. The SWISA members have shown clearly their commitment to the environment and they already produce some of the best scallops from the region and would readily fit into the SFIA Scheme.
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