OEP response to Defra consultations on Fisheries Management Plans

The Office for Environmental Protection has responded to Defra’s consultations on Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs).

Following the finalisation of its Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS), the department is now developing its first six ‘frontrunner’ plans to pilot different ways of preparing FMPs in partnership with industry and stakeholders. It has held a series of public consultations to inform the process. Rather than respond to each individual consultation, the OEP has written one overall response.

This response follows on from our response to Defra's previous consultation on the JFS, in which the OEP broadly agreed with the principles underpinning the development of the individual plans, and stressed the need for the Statement to set clear and achievable targets against which delivery partners responsible for developing the plans could be held to account.

FMPs have an important role to play in achieving the goals of the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 (EIP23). Goal 6 in that plan sets out how they will ensure English fisheries will sustainably manage the harvesting of stocks and support the delivery of the appropriate objectives from the UK Marine Strategy. FMPs are also referenced as one of fifteen key policies which will deliver the apex biodiversity target – thriving plants and wildlife. 

The OEP has called for: 

  • Clearer identification of the policies that fisheries must apply to restore or maintain relevant fish stocks at sustainable levels – the current drafts of the FMPs are often lengthy and discursive, making it difficult to identify the policies that fisheries authorities are required to follow. The finalised FMPs should contain credible coherent delivery plans which set out clear and actionable policies that they must apply and the specific steps that must be taken to ensure they achieve that goal
  • Adoption of more prescriptive language – the emphasis should be more on how goals ‘will’ be achieved, not that they ‘can’ or ‘could’ be met.
  • A more precautionary approach to fisheries management – for some of the plans, there is a need for interim measures setting out how stocks will be sustainably managed while better data and evidence is sought for longer term planning.

Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP, said: “We trust that our observations will enable the strengthening of both final frontrunner and future Fisheries Management Plans. Doing so will ensure fisheries are well-managed, and will show that Government has credible, coherent plans demonstrating how its ambitions, targets and goals can and will be delivered.”