A Church of England vicar on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne called the proposal to ban local fishing a “real mistake” with a “massive socio-economic impact”.
One of the most important centers of early Christianity in England, the Tidal Island in Northumberland saw the first significant Viking attack in Europe and is the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels, now preserved in the British Library. Every year, half a million visitors flock to the 12th century priory, castle, pubs and cafes.
But today’s residents – around 160 – say the government’s proposal to ban fishing to restore the ocean threatens centuries-old livelihoods and would “tear the heart out” of the community.
The plan would introduce a 129 sq km Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA), covering the island and northeastern Farne Islands to allow marine life to fully recover, according to Defra. The area, one of five proposed pilot HPMAs for England, boasts 850 species of seabirds and fish, 40 of which are threatened or important.
“I don’t think it was thought out well,” Rev Canon Dr Sarah Hills, vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church, told The Guardian. “AND [I don’t think] Defra considered the massive socio-economic impact. They could have made an effort to find out before launching this proposal. It’s a real mistake. “
Between 10 and 15% of the island’s permanent residents are small-scale crab and lobster fishermen, the only type of fishing allowed in the already protected marine area.
If the proposal goes ahead, the fishermen, who manage six boats from the island, would be “perplexed,” Hills said. They couldn’t move north or south because other fishermen are already working there.
Defra acknowledges plans could see fishermen displaced in other ports along the coast, which “would lead to increased fishing pressure in surrounding MPAs and potential conflict between fishermen in this fleet due to lack of space to place pots. additional “.
Hills said the islanders practice sustainable fishing and are not against HPMA per se. It wasn’t a question of “fishermen versus environmentalists,” she said.
Fishermen say their methods have enabled a thriving seal population, citing a scientific study published by the University of Plymouth, which concluded that “commercial pot fishing is likely to be compatible with marine conservation if managed correctly at levels. low and sustainable “.
“The Church of England has many ways of trying to uphold justice, and this is a real issue of social justice,” Hills said, adding that the fishermen had asked her to be their spokesperson.
He said that if the island’s fishermen were forced to leave their jobs, they would have to leave the island completely because the tides twice a day only allow access to the mainland for 14 hours a day, making other jobs difficult.
Fishing families study and work in his school, pubs and restaurants, and at least three are fully trained rescuers – half the coast guard team and the island’s 999 response, Hills said.
The Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), which would be responsible for regulating and overseeing the HPMA, said strict rules are already in place for fishermen, including trawling or dredging.
“There are five types of marine protected areas around Lindisfarne,” said Les Weller, president of the NIFCA, “We are one of the most protected parts of the coast.”
Weller said he only found out about the proposal from a Guardian article published in June. “This is a top-down consultation and is very poorly considered,” he said. “Our seas here have never been in decline.”
Weller said he would conduct a “balanced, bottom-up consultation” and present the result to Defra before the September 28 closing date.
A Defra spokesperson said the consultation will inform future decisions about the HMPA’s borders.
“Highly protected marine areas will protect the marine environment and help a wide range of valuable habitats and species to fully recover, while ensuring that we can continue to meet the sustainable needs of those who rely on our seas,” said the spokesman.