The UK government-sponsored Benyon Review that advocates banning fishing in a new set of areas known as highly protected marine areas (HPMA) is a hammer blow for fishing communities already ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, says the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO).
Forty per cent of the total area of English waters is already designated as marine protected areas (MPA). The NFFO states that the Benyon Review followed a sustained campaign by environmental lobbyists claiming that MPAs amount to ‘paper parks’ that offer little protection and downplays the benefits of the network to justify a new set of areas which would exclude all fishing activities.
“This fishing industry is already facing considerable loss of fishing grounds as management measures are steadily introduced in the existing MPA network and as a result of the huge expansion of offshore windfarms and cables infrastructure,” commented Dale Rodmell, NFFO assistant chief executive.
“In the Brexit negotiations [the government] is fighting to secure fairer access to fishery resources but if it follows the findings of this report it will then be taking away those hard-won opportunities,” he added.
The NFFO argues that the review panel, which it says included a number of leading MPA lobbyists, undertook only minimal engagement with fishing bodies and instead paid lip-service to the needs of small-scale fishing communities whilst prioritising ecological criteria.