Wash Fishery Order 1992 Replacement
The Wash Fishery Order 1992 (WFO), which is a hybrid regulating and several order used to manage wild shellfisheries (primarily cockles and mussels) and aquaculture lays in the Wash, will expire on 3 January 2022.
In March 2020 the Authority decided that the replacement management system would be a byelaw to replace the regulating order element of the WFO to manage exploitation of wild stocks, alongside a new several order to manage aquaculture on private lays. Since this time the Authority has developed both the new byelaw (and associated policy on access to the fisheries) and several order in consultation with the fishing industry and both are at an advanced stage in the process leading to approval.
Despite the best efforts of all parties neither the new byelaw nor the new several order will be in effect when the WFO expires. To ensure that the fishing industry is able to continue with business as usual the Authority is planning to use Byelaw 8: Temporary Closure of Shellfisheries to bridge the gap between the expiry of the WFO and the new regulation coming into effect. This would entail the Authority closing the Wash cockle and mussel fisheries and immediately providing written authority to those currently ‘entitled’ to a WFO licence and to lay lease holders to continue to operate in accordance with WFO regulations and licence conditions or the lay lease conditions as appropriate.
In simple terms, under these arrangements the Authority would continue to manage the cockle and mussel fisheries as it did under the WFO until the new management arrangements come into effect. From the fishing industry’s perspective this would be seamless as written authorisations would be issued proactively to existing licence and lease holders prior to the closure coming into effect.
The use of Byelaw 8 is the subject of a current consultation and will be considered by the Authority at the upcoming quarterly meeting on Wednesday 14 December 2022.
Note to Editors
To expedite the process in achieving approval for the new byelaw and several order, officers are working closely with Defra and MMO colleagues, who are treating the matter as a high priority.
The use of Byelaw 8 in the manner described has been carefully considered by the Authority’s legal advisor (a prominent fisheries lawyer) who confirms that the Authority is able to use the byelaw as intended.
The intention is to manage fisheries under Byelaw 8 in the same manner as is ordinarily the case under the WFO i.e. having undertaken stock assessments, Habitat Regulation Assessments, and consultation with industry. If the new management arrangements have not come into effect in time for cockle and mussel fisheries to be opened in 2023, the Authority would use written authorisations under Byelaw 8 in lieu of WFO licences.
The decision by the Authority to use its byelaw making powers to replace the regulating order element of the WFO has been a contentious one as many industry members would have preferred that the WFO be extended or another regulating order introduced.
From the Authority’s perspective the WFO was outdated and flawed and so a like-for-like replacement was not desirable. Because the byelaw making powers for IFCAs are wider than those of the previous Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee, which introduced the WFO, it was apparent that a byelaw could achieve the same as a regulating order. Overall, a byelaw was considered as the most appropriate means of managing the fisheries as it can better reflect the duties and obligations of the Authority as well as the evolving needs of the fisheries, the environment and those who rely on them.
Whether a Byelaw or an Order is used to manage the fisheries, the most important element is managing access to the fisheries. In recognition of this there has been extensive work and consultation with industry in developing the Eligibility Policy that was approved by the Authority at its quarterly meeting in September 2022.
The new policy is intended not only to address the flaws of the WFO but also to provide a more equitable system than that which previously existed. Importantly, both the new byelaw and the Eligibility Policy take account of the perspective of the fishing industry and provide the surety that their business models can sustain in the long-term.
The transition to the new arrangements is currently underway and is being carefully managed and whilst the delay in them coming into effect is regrettable, the use of Byelaw 8 will ensure that there is minimal disruption for the fishing industry. Importantly, the existing management under the WFO will sustain until the new measures are ready for implementation.
Contact for further information: Jon Butler, Head of Operations
8 December 2022