East Anglia’s new coastal watchdog backs Hugh’s Fish Fight

A new conservation group today pledged to protect East Anglia's inshore fisheries - by backing Hugh's Fish Fight.

Watchdog the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (EIFCA) has taken over the policing of our coastal waters from the Eastern Region Sea Fisheries Committee.

EIFCA, which will be responsible for an area stretching from Lincolnshire to Suffolk, is backing TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign against waste caused through discards, where under-sized or quota-busting catchies are thrown back dead because it is illegal to land them.

Today it pledged to protect lobster stocks by bringing in a test to identify those that have been illegally fished and landed while carrying eggs, that have been scrubbed off.

It said it would cut the discard of mussels and cockles including the appropriate use of hand collection and suction dredge fishing.

And it also promised work to research and re-establish once common species such as the flounder.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall sent a message of support before today's launch, at Wisbech Boat House, beside the River Nene.

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'I'm delighted to hear that the EIFCA is championing the Fish Fight campaign,' he said.

'Any organisation that is against the discarding of fish and which works to develop markets for less popular species of fish is a good one in my book.'

Ken Sale, chairman of EIFCA, said: 'This is a very exciting but challenging time for EIFCA. The tremendous support for campaigns such as Fish Fight show that people understand that management of the seas, balancing commercial and environmental interests, is vital.

'EIFCA is all about promoting the best fishing practices in coastal waters, ensuring a long-term future for our inshore fisheries – but unsustainable practices in the open seas, driven by flawed EU quota rules, are bound to affect inshore catches of some species, especially finfish such as cod and haddock.

'The development of new markets for different types of fish will also benefit inshore fishing boats, raising the value of their catches, with economic benefits for the whole community.'

Duncan Vaughan, chief executive of EIFCA, said: 'Two words in our title sum up what EIFCA is all about: Fisheries and Conservation.

'The creation of IFCAs nationally is recognition that the long-term interests of the marine environment and the inshore fisheries are the same.

'In this respect EIFCA will be able to build upon the excellent work of the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee – which ceases to exist at the end of March after over 117 years.'

EIFCA plans to take a pro-active role in fishery management, covering everything from shrimps to sea bass.

'Enforcement will of course be part of our work,' said Mr Vaughan. 'But we will be working hard to reach consensus on what constitutes best practice, drawing upon research and sound science as well as the years of experience in our officer team and the industry.'

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