European scientists, led by a team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, have come up with a pioneering North Sea fisheries management plan which recognises the importance of humans and their interaction with the marine environment, or ecosystem.
The scientists, who are funded by the European Union, have produced the North Sea Fisheries Ecosystem Plan (FEP), which shows how an 'ecosystem approach' could be introduced to manage the North Sea fisheries and highlights the importance of consulting stakeholders, like fishermen, in developing management plans.
The creation of stewardship roles for those living and working in close contact with the sea, similar to those adopted by landowners and farmers to maintain the countryside, are among the FEP's proposals.
The report follows the reformation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which used to focus exclusively on the effects of fishing on the size of fish stocks. Now the Policy has been expanded to include the effect of the environment on fish stocks and how fishing affects the ecosystem. It also calls for more opportunities for fishing communities, and other interested parties, to play a part in decision making.
The FEP presents a management framework based on an extensive scientific study into how fisheries can be managed within the ecosystem. This study was based on a wide ranging consultation with North Sea stakeholders, including fishermen, scientists, conservationists and policy makers.
The North Sea FEP argues that a mixture of measures is required to achieve a sustainable fishing industry, as no single measure is likely to be the cure. This should include: