Study Cornwall and Scilly Isles

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Cornwall and Scilly Isles FLAG case study


Covering the largest coastal area in any of the English FLAGs the Cornwall and Scilly Isles FLAG is 3,563 square kilometres in size (See Figure 1), and as an industry fishing employs directly over 1000 people in the region. The Cornish fishing industry is one of the most varied in the UK with over fifty different species landed and fishing practices ranging from otter trawling to crab/lobster potting, to hand lining[1]. The large mixture of gear, size of boat, catch and vast distances within and between different ports is an important consideration in developing a more inclusive management approach in this region. Fishing is an important part of the Cornish economy and as in the other case studies it makes a substantial indirect contribution to the coastal economy through the draw of the fishing boats, fresh fish to buy and eat, and the picturesque fishing villages that are so central to the identity of the region and the tourism offer.

Fig cornwall.png
Figure 1. Cornwall and Scilly Isles FLAG, southwest England (Source: VLIZ, 2014)

Fisheries Governance Overview

Responding to challenges facing the industry in the region (including rising costs such fuel and licences, reduced number of new entrants, ageing demographic, increasing displacement of fishing grounds for conservation and other commercial factors, climate change, declining port/harbour infrastructure 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). Cornwall and Scilly Isles 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[2]. 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, heritage centres and art installations. 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, in 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 Cornwall Development Company is the accountable authority for the FLAG and it reports to the MMO. The FLAG has a mixture of fishing industry (fisher, fisherman’s association chairs and Harbour Masters), private 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 the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB). At a regional level many of the fleet are represented by the Cornwall Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) or the South West Handline Fishermen’s Association (SWHFA); while at a local level (to varying degrees of activity) smaller fishing 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 Cornish fleet work with the Cornwall IFCA and Isles of Scilly 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"[3]. 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 European Union instrument for fisheries management the recently reformed Common Fisheries Policy or CFP[4]. 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

Examples of collaboration with the IFCA on data collection and marine surveys for the development of evidence to inform conservation related fisheries management. Fisher participation in and support for conservation based education projects led by Surfers Against Sewage and Fishing for Litter. Examples of members of the fleet participating in the Seafish ‘Responsible Fishing Scheme.’ As the market value of sustainably sourced fish with clear traceability and provenance increases this makes reduced fishing effort possible. SWHFA membership demands commitment to sustainable fishing practices and promotes sustainable fish products.

Social sustainability issues

Development of multi-sector partnership through the FLAG helps protect the future of the fleet by developing the connections between the fleet and the wider community (e.g. through education, tourism and cultural projects). This in turn protects industry cultural practices and sense of identity for future generations. The development of a professional training hub in Newlyn for the fishers in the region is essential for securing necessary skills as the industry evolves, but also acts as a centre for community activity and sharing of knowledge and so is a valuable asset in the social fabric of the community. Where there are gaps in the local level grass-roots governance network in individual ports and coves there is a risk of further isolating those parts of the industry. This in turn raises issues of democratic deficit and community star reliance in the regional governance structures. Disengagement at the local level risks increased marginalisation of the local fisher voice and detrimental implications for the future of less connected and politically active fishing communities. Barriers to fisher engagement (e.g. isolation, individualism, mistrust of authorities, lack of social/political capital, lack of positive experience of engagement and partnership, and alienating governance norms) undermine the security of the routes to participation and ability to influence fishing and wider development policy for all but the community stars/ industry leaders. Developing models of co-management and co-operation in such a complex and highly diverse fleet (geographically, boat size, gear type, type of catch) is challenging. They often have differing needs and face different threats. They also contribute to, or detract from, the sustainability of the industry and communities around them in differing ways. Understanding how these might work together to achieve improved sustainable fishing communities raises real concerns for governability and fisheries management.

Economic sustainability issues

A strong network of community leaders working to develop the representation and inclusion of the fleet and maritime issues in more strategic economic development planning ensures the industry maintains its economic and political stake in regional and even national policy debates. Mature industry regional governance works to protect the economic viability of the fleet through securing quota and efforts to limit the impact of competing interests and increased regulation. The economic future of the small-scale industry in particular appears fragile as it becomes more regulated, access and running costs increase and fishing grounds are restricted. Yet in examples of FLAG investment in the port side infrastructure used by small-scale fishing boats there has been an unexpected benefit of increased belief within the community that the industry holds a safer and economically viable future for the next generation of fishers. Innovative examples of reconfiguring the supply chain to ensure the financial return/ added value remains closer to the fishers provides both increased economic security and reduced fishing effort (owing to the increased market value for sustainably sourced fish).

References and Relevant Links


  1. FARNET (2014): Cornwall and Scilly Isles FLAG Factsheet. (Accessed: 10 April 2014)
  2. 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
  3. Defra (2010) Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities: vision, success criteria and high-level objectives. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London.
  4. 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