Current Issues concerning the Marine Environment off the coast of Norfolk
At present MCNAG’s priorities focus on the life cycle of fishing gear. The following set of priorities clearly means that we have the primary, overall goal of positive engagement with EIFCA’s MCZ management program. We are striving to be part of the process to encourage the protection of what is a community owned natural resource. Use of that resource must be carried out in a sustainable fashion.
1. Improving gear design:
To reduce pollution and damage. Lower/no plastic, less/no rope, more stable, non- abrasive, more sustainable gear which doesn’t get lost. Our beach clean members are keenly aware of the environmental impact of the current dependence on plastic. Our dive volunteers see – first hand – how active and abandoned gear impacts upon the MCZ.
2. Enhanced litter data:
Improve beach cleaning information recovery to make collection data more detailed and relevant! Our beach cleaners have instigated improved, better targeted recording of fishing litter. There is no other data on gear loss being put forward.
3. Damage assessment:
We have developed new, more detailed methods for recording seabed damage and impacts. These enable logging, analysis and mapping which help the understanding of damage mechanisms. Our initial report was the first-hand basis of the NE advice and now conservationists are the lead in developing the assessment of damage. Our feedback corrected EIFCA press releases on ROV footage – although sadly not before they were reported.
Seasearch have a 16 year record of biological and habitat surveys to DEFRA standards, distributed annually by the JNCC.
4. Gear loss visualisation:
Every year beach cleaners have to clear masses of lost fishing gear from the coast, it is the major source of litter every winter and has been an ‘invisible’ cost of the industry.
No one else experiences how much gear is lost, after it is driven across the chalk reef. Our focus will be help the wider public understand the problem by demonstrating the sheer volume of fishing litter.
5. Gear recovery:
No one wants lost gear to stay in the sea, it kills animals, damages habitat and sheds plastic into our environment and food chain. Conservationists have been trying for years to encourage the recovery of lost gear.
In 2021 Seasearch developed and shared a partnership protocol for recovery and have shown that collaboration between conservation and industry can work, recovering lost pots for disposal. and still await meaningful industry and authority engagement.
6. Enforcement of good practice:
Fishing exploits a public resource and must be transparent, accountable and sustainable. Effective protection requires management and enforcement which is not possible without tracked, permitted, identifiable gear deployed in a non damaging manner.
Conservationists suggested a code of practice years ago, they should be asked to help develop an effective one now. No one else has the same wide, detailed, first-hand experience of fishing gear’s impact on the coast.