North Western Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from North Western Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Dr Stephen Atkins
North Western Protector, our main
patrol vessel berthed in Whitehaven
The North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation
Authority (NWIFCA) was founded in 2011 under Statutory
Instrument 2200 following the Marine and Coastal
Access Act 2009. It merged the previous Cumbria Sea Fisheries
Committee and North West Sea Fisheries Committee into one
district. CEO Dr Stephen Atkins explains more about its work.
The English inshore fishing industry is vital to remote coastal areas with few
employment opportunities. To make a living, fishermen must work with tides at
all hours and in all weathers. Fishing is hard work and dangerous. All these factors
were recognised in 1890 when Sea Fisheries Committees were first set up with
statutory duties to manage the marine environment and coastal sea fisheries of
their districts. This core function has changed little. Our remit is now as it was then:
to apply specialist knowledge and expertise to sustainably manage our district.
The NWIFCA district
In 2010, SFC became ten independent Inshore Fisheries and Conservation
Authorities covering all the English coast. We were given new duties and
powers to design unique management frameworks needed to meet the specific
environmental, economic and social challenges of each district. Our shores on
the northwest of England are characterised by extensive ecologically important
intertidal estuarine mudflats and saltmarshes as in the Solway Firth, Morecambe
Bay, Ribble, Mersey and Dee Estuaries. Our coastal ecosystems host nationally and
internationally significant populations of waders and other sea birds. The shallow
coastal waters are nursery and fishing areas for many commercial species such as
cod, salmon, sea bass, plaice, crab, lobster, cockle, mussel and shrimp.
»Chairman, elected annually, is
Cllr Paul Williams of Cheshire
West and Cheshire Council
»Established in 2011
»Based in Carnforth, Lancashire
»Services: Supplies a variety of
fishing permits and promotes
sustainable fishing
»No. of employees: 20
»In 2019 1,871,637kg of
cockles and 722,720kg of
mussels were harvested from
»The length of the coastline of the
NWIFCA District is 850km and
covers 3353 sqkm
»18 important marine protected
areas cover 78% of the district
North Western Inshore Fisheries
& Conservation Authority
Highlighting best practice
Our district extends six miles seawards
from the shore and from the border of
Wales in the Dee Estuary to Scotland
in the Solway Firth. We have 30
members; ten are councillors from
our eight councils that have sections
of the northwestern coastline. The
Marine Management Organisation,
Environment Agency, and Natural
England each provide an officer to give
specialist advice. Some 17 members
are unpaid public appointments
made by the MMO and selected for
their fishing or marine environmental
expertise. Our annual budget of
approximately £1.4 million in 2020 to
2021 is provided by council precepts.
Protecting the coast
In our district, 78 per cent of the
area, including most of the sand
and mudflats, is designated Marine
Protected Area (MPA) for rare and
threatened wildlife. Sensitive coastal
saltmarsh, rocky reef and shingle
habitats must be protected from
noise and disturbance impacts of
shore-based fishing caused by quad
bikes, tractors and wagons, and the
impacts of fishing gear deployed by
fishing vessels. We protect the marine
environment and manage fisheries by
enforcing compliance with national
and EU legislation. We also make IFCA
bylaws, which typically develop and
improve the care of designated marine
protected areas by limiting when,
where, how and how much fish can
We operate a fleet of four rigid
inflatable patrol boats and a 20-metre
fisheries patrol vessel, FPV North
Western Protector. She is an advanced
marine survey vessel equipped with
side scan sonar, underwater cameras,
water samplers, grabs dredges and
a pot hauler for lifting crab and
Our permit schemes record who is
fishing and where. They also provide
catch return data for our main
fisheries: crab and lobster, cockles
and mussels, netting, and non-
commercial fishing. Sanctions for
breaching fisheries bylaws start with
warnings followed by administrative
financial penalties and criminal
prosecutions where courts can impose
Our science officers devote much of
their time to survey and assessment
of the condition of protected areas
and features. The use of seabed
towed fishing gear is not generally
permitted in MPA because of the
potentially high impact. Before fishing
of any kind is permitted in an MPA,
an impact assessment must be carried
out to ensure that the activity will not
damage a site or its features.
Cockle and mussel fisheries
Cockles live just under the surface of
intertidal muddy sand while mussels
need a stonier substrate. Fishing these
common marine organisms must be
regulated to prevent overfishing and
promote sustainable use.
The industry changed in early 2000s
when demand for cockles and mussels
suddenly increased. Small coastal
communities in our district were
overwhelmed by international gangs
Dense mussel bed
at Heysham Flat in
Morecambe Bay with
the nuclear power
station behind
We protect
the marine
and manage
fisheries by
with national
and EU
arriving to exploit then unregulated
fisheries. Cockle fisheries became
associated with violence, damage to
property, money laundering, illegal
immigration, people trafficking and
A fishing tragedy in Morecambe Bay
on the night of February 4, 2004
led to the introduction of stronger
regulations. A number of workers were
caught in the dark early hours of a cold
February night by the dangerous tides
for which Morecambe Bay is infamous.
Now all commercial cockle fishers must
be registered with NWIFCA under
a permit scheme. They must have
training to ensure they are competent
to fish safely before receiving a permit,
which costs £500 per year. Holders
must renew each year or lose their
permit entitlement. A limit of ten new
permits each year ensures that the
maximum number of permits does not
increase significantly. Permits are highly
prized and there is a long waiting list.
Cockle and mussel fisheries are
seasonal and variable from year to
year. Shellfish beds are opened in
defined areas for defined periods after
stocks are confirmed by survey and
all impacts have been considered. We
hold multiagency meetings to agree
with partner bodies how each fishery
should be managed and to minimise
impacts on local residents. These
meetings consider factors such as
access routes, parking arrangements
for wagons and times of fishing day
and night.
The future outside EU
The industry we operate in has
changed a lot in recent years, in
response to new bylaws, permit
schemes and the 2009 Marine Act.
Having left the EU in 2020, the
government has scheduled legislation
to return the UK to its former status
as an independent coastal state.
Outsidethe EU and the Common
Fisheries Policy, we hope and expect
that the government will deliver its
promises and take control of fishing
post-Brexit. This includes increasing
the share of fish available to UK
vessels and local small scale artisanal
fishermen, as well as making fishing
more sustainable.
In the future, the NWIFCA aims to
further our sense of coastal fishing
community in northwest England by
promoting small-scale local fishing
operations. Management of fisheries
will be increasingly focused on
developing the maximum sustainable
yield from coastal waters while
securely protecting both the marine
environment and the livelihoods of
inshore fishers. Currently, we work
with local communities and want to
increase this, in order to give local
people a greater stake in their fisheries
and increase their commitment
to fishing in ways that cause less
impact on the marine environment.
We also want to develop an inshore
fishing industry that is diverse, does
not damage fish stocks or marine
ecosystems and supports the maximum
number of jobs directly and indirectly
through local processing and distinctive
regional products such as Morecambe
bay shrimps and other shellfish.
In the future,
aims to further
our sense of
coastal fishing
community in
England by
small-scale local
Redshank are a
protected species in
northwest England

This article was sponsored by North Western Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy