Press release: Code of Best Practice launched to tackle lost gear in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ

Joint Press Release 

Release Date: 20th May 2022

To illustrate joint working and collaboration. between Eastern IFCA, Natural England and fishing industry in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ

Fishing gear that is left at sea for extended periods, for example because it is lost, snagged or not tended to can be damaging to the environment, fisheries’ sustainability, and the viability of fishing livelihoods. Whilst the extent of lost gear in the MCZ has yet to be fully understood it is acknowledged that it represents a risk to the conservation objectives of the site due to the increased risk of potentially damaging interactions with the subtidal chalk habitat.


Eastern IFCA, Natural England, North Norfolk Fishermen’s Society and Norfolk Independent Fishermen’s Association are pleased to announce the launch of the Code of Best Practice for potting in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).


The intention of the Code is to reduce this risk by building upon and promoting existing best practice in relation to the operation of fishing gear. It is intended to minimise the risk of gear becoming lost and sets out what to do in the event of gear becoming snagged or lost by establishing a reporting system that will be used to help quantify the extent of the issue, monitor the positive effect of the Code over time and facilitate recovery.


The Code of Best Practice has been developed collectively and in consultation with stakeholders as part of the ongoing Adaptive Risk Management (ARM) of the MCZ. It has been endorsed by North Norfolk Fishermen’s Society (NNFS) and Norfolk Independent Fishermen’s Association (NIFA).


Commenting on the Code, NNFS Chairman John Davies has said, “As an eighth-generation fisherman from Cromer, I want a thriving fishery for future generations. This Code represents a lot of the actions that we already take as part our fishing activities and solidifies them. Losing gear is in no fisherman’s interest and we depend on the chalk for our fishing. We want to work together to resolve the issue for everyone’s benefit.”


NIFA Chairman Dave Chambers has said, “Losing gear is rare but it does sometimes happen. As fishermen, we don’t want to lose gear. Not only is it a huge financial loss but it can result in tangling with active gear. We need to work together to minimise gear loss happening and to reinforce best practice among all fishermen.”


The Code of Best Practice will be a live document that will be reviewed, refined and adapted over time as we develop our understanding of what works best in practice and as new ideas emerge.


The Code is envisioned to be an integral part of a wider initiative for lost gear management which will seek to bring together regulators, statutory advisers, fishermen, divers and beach cleaners in a unified and coordinated approach.


Natural England Marine Senior Adviser Georgina Roberts said, “Cromer is an important marine environment, and ensuring it remains healthy and biodiverse is key to supporting a sustainable fishery in the area. We want to work together with Eastern IFCA and fishermen to reduce the risk of gear being lost, for the benefit of fishermen and the marine environment.”


Commenting on the Code, Eastern IFCA CEO Julian Gregory said, “The Code of Best Practice is an important step towards achieving our aspiration of an environmentally sustainable fishery continuing within the MCZ and has been made possible by the willingness of all parties to work constructively together.”



Notes to editors:


Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) are a type of Marine Protected Area (MPA) designated by an order under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. MCZs are a national designation for protecting a range of nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ was designated in 2016 and extends along the Norfolk coast from just west of Weybourne to Happisburgh, extending around 10km out to sea and covering an area of 321km2. The site is designated for a range of habitats including the rare subtidal chalk feature.

The conservation objectives of the site include maintaining the condition of its features in favourable condition, or bringing its features into favourable condition if they are not already in favourable condition. This includes maintaining or restoring the structure and functioning of the subtidal chalk feature.

A Defra factsheet about Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ is available here.


Role of Eastern IFCA

Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) is a statutory fisheries and conservation regulator created under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and becoming fully operational on 1 April 2011.

Eastern IFCA is responsible for the management of sea fisheries resources in its district which encompasses the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, stretching from Haile Sand Fort in the North to Felixstowe in the South, and extending 6 nautical miles out to sea.

Our duties include ensuring that the exploitation of sea fisheries resources is carried out in a sustainable way, balancing the social and economic benefits of fishing with the need to protect the marine environment, and balancing the needs of different sea users engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources within our district.

In line with these duties, the Eastern IFCA mission is to: ‘Lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry’.

Eastern IFCA has an overriding duty to further the conservation objectives of MCZs within its district above its other duties.


Role of Natural England

Natural England is the appropriate statutory nature conservation adviser under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Natural England provides advice to Eastern IFCA on the impacts of fishing activities on marine protected areas (MPAs).

Such advice may relate to what activities are capable of impacting features, how the conservation objectives of the site may be furthered or hindered by activities and how the effects may be mitigated.

Eastern IFCA received formal advice about the impacts of crab and lobster potting fisheries on the conservation objectives of Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ in August 2020. The advice noted that while the cumulative effect of active potting can hinder the conservation objectives of the site, lost and stored gear which is left in the water for more prolonged periods of time represents a higher risk due to the increased risk of interaction with the subtidal chalk habitat.

A media release summarising the advice is available here.

Recognising the limitations of current data regarding the interaction between potting gear and the subtidal chalk habitat, Natural England advised an Adaptive Risk Management approach would be the appropriate way forward for managing the fisheries in the MCZ, as opposed to an immediate ban on potting activity.


Adaptive Risk Management

Eastern IFCA has been taking an Adaptive Risk Management (ARM) approach to managing the crab and lobster fisheries in the MCZ, as advised by Natural England. Eastern IFCA and Natural England agree that this approach has the potential to deliver more proportionate, evidence-based and participatory management.

ARM entails ‘learning by doing’ and adapting based on that learning. It is a flexible, adaptive and responsive approach to the management of marine protected areas where high levels of uncertainty exist, as is the case in the MCZ. This is because ARM offers a process for developing, trailing or testing multiple effective management options as we progress research and as our understanding of the interactions between ecosystems and human activities is improved.

Eastern IFCA is taking a collaborative approach to the implementation of ARM in the MCZ, working closely with Natural England, fishermen, conservationists and wider stakeholders. To enable this, Eastern IFCA has put in place a participatory governance structure allowing a high level of stakeholder engagement and input.

More information on how ARM is being implemented in the MCZ is available through our website.

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