Case study Northern Devon

From Coastal Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Northern Devon FLAG case study


The FLAG area in North Devon, southwest England (See Figure 1) is focused upon the fishing communities of Appledore (eight vessels: twelve fishermen), Ilfracombe (ten vessels: twenty fishermen, including two over fifteen metre trawlers and eight potters), Clovelly (three vessels: six fishermen) and Bideford (sixteen vessels: twenty four fishermen)[1]. In total the Northern Devon FLAG covers an area of 1,903 km² and creates employment in fisheries for approximately sixty people[2]. The area is remote from major urban centres, extremely rural, with highly valuable natural environment assets (specifically: North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Exmoor National Park, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Lundy Marine Conservation Zone). The fishery is a year round demersal fishery catching a variety of flat fish. Ray is the main catch in North Devon, accounting for 70% of all landings [1].

Figure 1. Northern Devon FLAG, southwest England (Source: VLIZ, 2014)

While the area is strongly linked to the agriculture sector it is also a popular UK tourism destination. However, the economic profile of the area more broadly is highly vulnerable with few major employers, low wages and skills, coupled with areas of high deprivation. Although much reduced in scale, fishing still plays an important role within this economy directly (through income and employment), and indirectly (in terms of community identity and tourist visitor spend) [1].

Fisheries Governance Overview

Responding to real challenges facing this declining fisheries (including rising costs such fuel and licences, reduced number of new entrants, ageing demographic, increasing displacement of fishing grounds for conservation and commercial factors, climate change and poor market/supply chain conditions) the area secured FLAG status. FLAGs are funded by Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and are intended to support the sustainable local development of fishing industries and their related communities without increasing fishing effort. EFF is managed in the UK by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), a non-departmental public body under the government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Northern Devon is one of six English FLAGs. This funding programme has been developed in part owing to the acknowledgement at European Commission level that fisheries in smaller communities often make a considerable contribution to direct and indirect tourism, cultural and social value[3]. Thus many of the FLAG projects focus on capitalising on these contributions through encouraging tourism and cultural fisheries related projects for example through fish festivals. This is in addition to securing a higher value for catch landed through marketing and supply chain innovation. Making fishing a more secure profession to attract the next generation of fishers has also been central to a lot of the FLAGs with investment in fisher training, port/ beach infrastructure and other health and safety elements on the boats. EFF will be replaced with the EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) in 2015 with a particular focus on Integrated Marine Policy (IMP). In terms of governance North Devon+ is the accountable authority for the FLAG and it reports to the MMO. The FLAG has a mixture of fishing industry (fishers, fishmongers, fisherman’s association and Harbour Masters), private (tourism representatives) and public sector stakeholders (including local authorities and national environment and conservation bodies). In terms of industry representation at a national level the fishers have the option of membership through the NFFO (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations); the inshore specific national association NUTFA (New Under Ten Fishermens Association); and where relevant the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB). At a regional level some of the fleet are represented by the North Devon Fishermen’s Association (NDFA); while at a local level (to varying degrees of activity) smaller fleet and harbour associations exist to provide local fisher representation and organisation.

English inshore fisheries management (operating within six nautical miles) is policed and managed by the IFCAs (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities). The Northern Devon fleet work with the Devon & Severn IFCA. The IFCAs co-operate with the MMO on several areas including fisheries enforcement and marine protected area management. IFCAs are funded through local authorities, but report to Defra. IFCAs replaced sea fisheries committees in April 2011, with an important expanded socio-economic remit 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"[4]. The MMO is responsible for regulation and licensing of fishing in England. The duties and powers of the IFCAs and the MMO are set out in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (UK) and this takes account of the European Union instrument for fisheries management the recently amended Common Fisheries Policy or CFP[5]. The Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009 (UK) establishes the marine planning regime for the UK including underlying ICZM principles and the designation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) (and in England Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Natural England (an Executive Non-departmental Public Body that is responsible for advising the UK Government on the natural environment) works with relevant stakeholders in helping inform Defra on their planning for these sites. UK fisheries management and marine planning is informed by Cefas (Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), who are the executive agency responsible for carrying out research and monitoring of fish and shellfish stocks.

Summary of governance related challenges and opportunities faced by this community in securing sustainability goals

[Note: This summary table provides a time-specific snap-shot of the issues observed in Winter 2013 during the research for this case study. The full context and detail of these issues can be read in the full GIFS report here: Fisheries governance and the social processes that make up these structures are highly dynamic and this table should be read with that in mind.]

Environmental sustainability issues

Industry collaboration (led by the NDFA) with IFCA and the North Devon Biosphere Partnership on the data collection for the development of Marine Conservation Zones and the establishment of a consensus between diverse stakeholders. Through the Marine Protected Area around the Island of Lundy, which forms part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the North Devon fishers have been at the vanguard of engaging voluntarily with the conservation sector to co-manage and protect marine environments since 1971. Examples of fishers working in the region on conservation projects and marine science research in order to increase the understanding of the impact of the industry to help ensure any loss of fishing ground in based on locally accurate and up to date evidence.

Social sustainability issues

Despite the challenges faced by this FLAG there is an aspiration across different sectors to build on the hard won successes in terms of representative capacity and relationships forged. An emerging appetite to consider a more holistic regeneration approach to fisheries and sustainable communities would build on the opportunities identified through FLAG feasibility work and existing efforts to raise the voice and understanding of the industry in local governance mechanisms and policy making. Mature regional governance structure (NDFA), which has been responsible for raising issues faced by the industry directly at ministerial level, or through the national industry structures (e.g. NFFO or SAGB). This is the dominant (and in many cases the only) structure the fishers belong to and rely on to raise their voice in national debates (such as wind farm compensation and MCZ consultation). With the exception of a few Harbour associations and semi-active Fishermen’s Associations there appears to be very little grass roots community representation and a distinct reluctance on the part of most of the industry to engage in local governance. This disengagement limits the security of routes to representation of regional fisher agendas. Limited fisher engagement at a local level is variously described as being caused by individualism, low levels of social capital, geographic isolation, mistrust of authorities, and community rivalry. The result of these shallow levels of engagement risk reliance on community stars and a democratic deficit resulting in a narrow representation of community issues that does not reflect the diversity of the community needs. As an industry facing multiple threats (ageing population, restricted fishing grounds and increased regulation, and concerns over a negative popular perception of parts of the industry) this creates a very challenging context to encourage collaboration and consensus. This FLAG has found the national level management of the FLAG programme (rather than devolution of power to the local level) creates a perception of mistrust within the industry rather than enabling a sense of empowerment within the local fishing communities. This makes the fisher engagement needed for more successful co-management even more elusive.

Economic sustainability issues

This low-profile industry voice and lack of regional fishing identity has perhaps contributed to a perception in local government that this is an industry in decline with small-scale economic value that is largely shaped by national and European level governance. The result is that the fishing industry has historically had minimal contact with local government beyond health and safety and harbour infrastructure. As a consequence until recent years - with the introduction of structures like the FLAG - the industry has not featured prominently or benefited from regional socio-economic planning and development. The absence of a more holistic regional planning approach that takes account of the value and interconnectedness of the fishing industry with local communities is a direct barrier to their economic sustainability. The disjointed nature of the fishing industry in North Devon and absence (with the exception of recent FLAG efforts) of collective working to build and invest in a common fishing identity and market is a direct barrier to the economic sustainability of these small fishing communities. There is a need to improve the maturity of the local supply chain infrastructure and develop that local market identity in North Devon to enable local catch to be consumed locally for a greater value and so increase the economic and social sustainability of small-scale fishing in the region.

References and Relevant Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Northern Devon FLAG, (2011) Northern Devon FLAG Development Strategy 2011-2015. Northern Devon FLAG.
  2. FARNET (2014): Northern Devon FLAG Factsheet. (Accessed: 10 April 2014)
  3. DG MARE (2013) Studies for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy: Lot 3 Socio-economic dimensions in EU fisheries (Final Report). European Commission, DG MARE
  4. Defra (2010) Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities: vision, success criteria and high-level objectives. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London.
  5. EC COM, (2013) REGULATION (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy

Relevant links