Fisheries Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Honor Frost Foundation Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (FISH14)

Proposed amendments to include ‘features of archaeological or historic interest’ within the scope of byelaws and orders relating to the exploitation of sea fisheries resources

The proposed inclusion of archaeological and historic features can be addressed independently in each fisheries zone as follows:



(new MCAA 129A)

Schedule 7 page 54 line 25

Insert ‘(c) features of archaeological or historic interest’

Schedule 7 page 54 line 29

Insert ‘or features’ after ‘type of habitat’

English Offshore Region (new MCAA 129B)

Schedule 7 page 55 line 18

Insert ‘(d) features of archaeological or historic interest’



(new MCAA 134A)

Schedule 7 page 58 line 13

Insert ‘(c) features of archaeological or historic interest’

Schedule 7 page 58 line 17

Insert ‘or features’ after ‘type of habitat’

Welsh Offshore Region

(new MCAA 134B)

Schedule 7 page 59 line 3

Insert ‘(d) features of archaeological or historic interest’


Scottish Offshore Region

(new MCAA 137A)

Schedule 7 page 61 line 10

Insert "(c) features of archaeological or historic interest"

Scottish Offshore Region (new MCAA 137C)

Schedule 7 page 63 line 2

leave out "and" and insert "or"

Schedule 7 page 63 line 30

Insert "or feature of archaeological or historic interest"

Explanatory Statement

The addition of ‘features of archaeological or historic interest’ to the scope of fisheries byelaws/orders would enable specific marine heritage assets (such as important historic shipwrecks) to be protected from impacts from fishing gear.

The inclusion of ‘features of archaeological or historic interest’ in these powers would be consistent with these features being included within the scope of ‘the marine and aquatic environment’ in s. 40 of the Bill.

It is Government policy that marine heritage assets should be conserved. The UK Marine Policy Statement (HMG March 2011) states in paragraph 2.6.6.:

‘The historic environment of coastal and offshore zones represents a unique aspect of our cultural heritage. In addition to its cultural value, it is an asset of social, economic and environmental value. It can be a powerful driver for economic growth, attracting investment and tourism and sustaining enjoyable and successful places in which to live and work. However, heritage assets are a finite and often irreplaceable resource and can be vulnerable to a wide range of human activities and natural processes.’

In general, fishermen seek to avoid impacts with heritage assets such as wrecks because of the costs and dangers of ‘snagging’. Nevertheless, fish gather around features such as wreck sites so they attract fishing activity in close proximity, whilst some forms of fishing are targeted directly on wreck sites. Impacts – whether inadvertent and intentional – are known to occur and can have significant adverse impacts on fragile archaeological and historic material.

Impacts from fishing gear on archaeological and historic features such as wrecks can lead to damage or loss to gear, contributing to abandoned, discarded or lost fishing gear (ADLFG) and ‘ghost fishing’.

Existing heritage legislation does not provide protection from fishing activity. The offense of ‘damage’ etc. under heritage legislation such as the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 is difficult to prove with respect to specific fishing incidents. Assurances were also given during the passage of the Protection of Wreck Bill – a necessarily cautious Private Members Bill – that it would not restrict fishing activities. The inclusion features of archaeological and heritage interest within the scope of Marine Conservation Zones – which would have addressed this failing – was proposed in the course of debates on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill but turned down in the mistaken anticipation of a new Heritage Bill (Hansard 23 Feb 2009, HL vol 708 cols 39-52).

In recent years there have been positive steps in the commercial fishing sector – encouraged by IFCAs – to improve awareness of the sensitivity of marine heritage sites and to encourage fishermen to report the things they find. Heritage protection legislation is used sparingly at sea: compared to on land, very few heritage assets are designated and the restricted areas are small. It is not expected that byelaws and orders to protect features of archaeological or historic interest will need to be used often: only on those few features where there is a clear need to restrict the use of damaging gear types because of the specific sensitivity and importance of the heritage asset.

The impact of fishing and the absence of legal protection for archaeological and historic sites was used as a principal argument in favour of commercial exploitation of the wreck of HMS Victory 1744 (Hansard 29 Jan 2015; HC vol 591 col 1116). The ability to conserve specific heritage assets from fishing impacts using byelaws/orders would provide a sustainable option that is consistent with UK heritage policy and practice, removing the pressure to adopt precipitous responses.

Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage

Honor Frost Foundation

16 December 2018


About the Honor Frost Foundation

The Honor Frost Foundation’s mission is to promote the advancement and research, including publication, of marine and maritime archaeology with particular but not exclusive focus on the Eastern Mediterranean with an emphasis on Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.

The Foundation also seeks to foster and promote the protection of underwater cultural heritage (UCH).

The Foundation was founded in 2011 with a legacy from the pioneering underwater archaeologist Honor Frost. For further information please see


Prepared 18th December 2018