Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sixth Report

3Sustainable Fisheries Programme

18. In September 2004, Defra began a "stakeholder engagement process", in close co-operation with the devolved administrations, known as the Sustainable Fisheries Programme (SFP). The aim of the SFP was to carry forward the Strategy Unit's conclusions and recommendations with a view to producing a joint Government response from the four UK fisheries departments in the spring of 2005. This process was designed to be "comprehensive and transparent and to provide for all interested parties to make input throughout the process".[13]

19. The kernel of the SFP was the Stakeholder Advisory Group, which included representatives from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Sea Fish Industry Authority, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF UK, Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Association of Sea Fisheries Committees and Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisations, amongst others.[14] Several small 'working groups' of stakeholders were also established with the aim of discussing a series of 12 issues papers, each of which covered a themed group of the Strategy Unit recommendations.[15] These discussions are on-going.

Initial concerns about the SFP

20. We received the bulk of our written evidence in September 2004, about the time the consultation process of the SFP was beginning. Concerns were raised by witnesses about the speed of carrying forward the SU report recommendations. The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) described the length of time taken between the publication of the report in March and the beginning of the SFP in September as "regrettable".[16] The Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO) stated that "progress with [the Strategy Unit report] has been slow and this is frustrating".[17] The Sea Anglers Conservation Network added that it was a "little disappointed" with the speed of progress so far.[18] The Shetland Islands Council and North Atlantic Fisheries College was "disappointed … at the Government's failure to make any positive or constructive response [to the Strategy Unit report]".[19] It went on:

the short answer to the terms of reference for the Committee's inquiry into "what has been done to take forward the proposals made … in the report" is "nothing".[20]

21. Some reservations were also expressed about who exactly would be involved on the SFP. The Shetland Islands Council and North Atlantic Fisheries College stressed that, to ensure an effective Government response, there needed to be an extensive involvement of stakeholders within the programme. It claimed that the response to the report was "too important to be left to the leisurely consideration of a semi-secret group of civil servants".[21]

Improved progress with the SFP

22. By the time we came to take oral evidence, between November 2004 and January 2005, the general mood of witnesses towards the progress made with the SFP was much more positive. Seafish told us that it was now "encouraged and heartened by not only by the progress that has been made [with the SFP] but by the manner in which that progress has been made".[22] It explained that at the time of submitting its written evidence, it was far less optimistic but that things had subsequently improved. There appeared to be a widespread feeling amongst stakeholders that they were actively involved in the process. Several commented on the positive and constructive atmosphere during the consultations of the SFP.[23]

23. After initial delays in initiating the Sustainable Fisheries Programme, we are pleased to see that the consultation process is now fully underway, with extensive involvement by interested and affected parties. We welcome this as indicative of a new co-operative and involved mood in the industry and look forward to the outcome of the programme, and the resulting joint Government response, expected in the spring of 2005.

13   Ev 55, para 7 Back

14   Ev 56, Annex A Back

15   Ev 55, para 8 Back

16   Ev 115, para 1 Back

17   Ev 45, para 10 Back

18   Ev 74, para 6.4 Back

19   Ev 146, para 1 Back

20   Ev 147 para 5 Back

21   Ibid. para 6 Back

22   Q348 Back

23   For example, see Q230 (National Federation of Sea Anglers) Back

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