Marine Conservation Zone could be a catch for local fishermen

Amber Rudd MP recently spoke to Mr Tim Dapling, Chief Fisheries and Conservation Officer at Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) about the proposed Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) for Beachy Head East. Amber emphasised the importance of the Hastings fishing remaining unrestricted with their current fishing practices, but welcomed the opportunity to protect the seabed from destructive fishing methods such as beam trawling.

Amber was pleased to hear that Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) recognise in full the importance of supporting and protecting existing inshore fishing communities whilst fulfilling their marine conservation role, subject to a final decision by Defra on the MCZ’s designation early this summer.

Amber said: “We need assurances that life will only continue to get better for our fishermen here in Hastings. I am pleased that the Marine Conservation Zone could offer this, as it will prevent other vessels damaging the environment from which our fleet fishes sustainably.

I will keep an open channel of contact with Sussex IFCA as well as with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to ensure we can get some certainty for our town’s fleet. I will support our fleet with their views regarding the MCZ”

Tim Dapling said: “The Sussex IFCA would only introduce any fisheries management controls after a thorough examination of evidence provided in the Government’s conservation advice. This will include thoughtful engagement and a statutory consultation process with the local fishing communities of Hastings and other local ports in Sussex.”

He explained that, the process of introducing management would not be hurried. The importance of having solid support within both the fishing and wider communities would be vital to any future success. For a site of this scale, complexity and interest he anticipated it could take approximately two years after designation before any management was in place.  

Tim explained:

“Given the regulations on current MCZ sites, it is likely that only unsustainable forms of fishing activity will be affected. I anticipate that the vast majority of fishers would be unaffected by future management and access to the site would continue for operators using both static gears and existing light otter trawls for species such as Dover sole and plaice.

He added:

“Beachy Head East MCZ can provide a positive benefit to the inshore fishing communities, including the long term protection of essential fish habitats such as unique reef structures. Hastings and other Sussex fishing communities increasingly understand the future importance of developing sustainable inshore fisheries. The Hastings fishing community is at the forefront in Sussex to promote sustainable fishing and locally caught fish through its branding and history of sustainably accredited fisheries. Demonstrating that active commercial fishery communities can coexist with Marine Conservation Zone’s should gain the public recognition it deserves. 

I will continue to work closely with both Defra and Amber Rudd MP to ensure the right outcome for Hastings.”