Fishing into the Future – an industry-led charity with a mission to chart a course to sustainable and prosperous U.K. fisheries – has announced the launch of its Fisheries Research Education Programme (F-REP) and is encouraging fishermen from across the UK to apply for a place. F-REP is pitched as a series of three-day residential events taking place in multiple locations around the country. The events aim to provide an opportunity for people from fishing, science and policymaking to learn from each other’s expertise and work together effectively ahead of the implementation of Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) – which are set to radically overhaul the way commercial fishing is managed in the UK.
This will be the fifth residential event that Fishing into the Future has run since its inception but the first since Brexit and the COVID pandemic. The landscape of fisheries management has shifted significantly in this time with the release of the Joint Fisheries Policy, which commits to a movement towards co-management. The new systems of managing commercial fishing through Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) provide the opportunity for all interested groups to contribute to decisions about the management of marine resources.
Explaining why she believes the F-REP programme is an important step to facilitating a co-management approach in the U.K., Emma Plotnek, Fishing into the Future’s Executive Director, said: “The success of co-management depends on having the right conditions for everyone to work together.
“Through the programme, fishermen gain an understanding of the limits and structure of the management system and the science that underpins it. Equally important, policymakers understand the reality of working in the fishing industry, so policy reflects the real-life social and financial situations of members of the industry.
“On a human level, people build connections and trust, coming away being able to pick up the phone and have an honest conversation and really listen and understand one another.”
While each event is regional and focuses on local fish and shellfish species and the FMPs related to them, Emma is eager to make it clear that this is “not another platform for dissecting and developing policy, rather it’s an opportunity to build the skills, knowledge and connections that enable everyone to confidently contribute to the Working Groups for FMPs or Regional Fisheries Groups.”
Emphasising the value of fishermen attending these events, Emma also said, “Fishing is not just about catching fish, it involves so much more. It requires staying informed about policy and research, knowing the right places to influence and participate in fisheries management and getting involved in data collection. This requires an understanding of fisheries management and science – which from afar, can seem complex. This is why we provide a space to discuss and ask questions in a language understood by all.”
“These will not be your average ‘workshops’. They are tailored to learning and connecting. We co-design the events with the people involved; we have a planning team for each one comprised of members from the local industry. We eat, learn and socialise throughout the time we are together to build an honest and meaningful experience.”
“Fishing into the Future is built and guided by fishermen. This means we use fishermen as facilitators, strive to develop interesting sessions with active learning that resonates with everyone involved, and put a big focus on relationship building. The magic happens when people sit next to each other and eat a meal, get chatting, find common ground and see each other not just as another fisherman on the quayside or another civil servant in an office – but a human with a life and a job driven by the same passion for fisheries.”
Two F-REP events have already been planned with more to come. The first is from 6th-9th November 2023 at Chilworth Manor, just outside Southampton – focused on the Non-Quota Species FMPs. The second is in Yorkshire from 26th-29th February 2024 – focused on Shellfish FMPs. The venue for this event has yet to be confirmed. The programme has received a combination of funding from the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme, the Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust and the Seafarers Charity.
According to Fishing into the Future, there will be sessions on fisheries management, science, data collection, economics and social science – with an opportunity to quiz experts and have a conversation without the technical jargon. There will be a chance to develop confidence and communication skills, while fishermen will be encouraged to swap stories and tips for running an effective fishing business. Eager not to have a rigid lecture-style set-up, the sessions will be interactive, with a strong emphasis on learning by doing.
Recognising that fishermen need to spend time at sea, Fishing into the Future has sought industry guidance on the best time to schedule the F-REP events to minimise disruption. However, recognising that this will still involve fishermen taking time away from their vessel, they have committed to covering all travel expenses and have set some funding aside to remunerate fishermen for their involvement.
Applications to participate in both F-REP events are currently open. You can sign up by completing a short online form on the Fishing Porthole website, or if you’re looking for more information, interested individuals are encouraged to contact Emma at email@example.com.