Vital role in preserving our fisheries

Parkol Marine has beaten off stiff international competition to win tender for ground-breaking boat, amidst new national shipbuilding programme. Multi-million-pound investment will provide skilled jobs boost and help safeguard the region’s fishing industry and marine environments for decades to come

Nationally, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) is responsible for policing our inshore fisheries, carrying out inspections at sea and ensuring fishermen and others adhere to the latest regulations, including, allowable fish sizes for sustainability and adherence to environmental principles.

The duties of authorities like this shifted significantly in 2010, with around 80 per cent of NEIFCA’s (North Eastern division of IFCA) activity now focused on marine protection as well as fish and shellfish management, reflecting the growing imperative around conservation, environmental concerns and food production in the UK. The NEIFCA region includes 900 square kilometres of protected marine areas, some globally recognised as well as domestically significant, and featuring incredibly sensitive habitats.

Eighty-five per cent of regional fishing vessels operate within this area, an industry worth £33 million, annually, to the local economy and people – and it is hoped the new vessel will help NEIFCA safeguard that for the next 20 years at least.

Capable of travelling up to 60 nautical miles offshore, the new boat will also play a key role in supporting the work of partner organisations where there is an urgent need, such as policing illegal incursions of fisheries limits and responding to extreme marine environmental events.

David McCandless, Chief Officer for IFCA, explained its evolution also coincides with a hugely important evolutionary period for the UK fisheries generally. “Post-Brexit, the political agenda has shifted and the Government is reviewing previous regulations such as quotas as a matter of urgency, to support our homegrown fishing industry.

“Therefore, new data which helps us to build a clear picture of what needs to be done to build and manage our marine livestock, has never been as important as it is now.

“Stringent European quotas significantly restricted the amount of white fish our regional fisherman were allowed to catch over recent decades and many fell back on crab and lobster fishing, which now represents 90 per cent of local activity, an over-reliance which could threaten our regional industry if, for example, stocks became dangerously depleted or were hit by a catastrophic environmental event.”

David added: “Data generated by the new boat will help us assess changes to marine habitats, formulate plans to manage them better and assess the effectiveness of those activities. It will also help us identify where there is an abundance of alternative fish, such as whelks, prawns, scallops and squid, which we can help our local fishermen to capitalise on, informing future UK fisheries policy.

“Unfortunately, events in the River Tees in 2020 demonstrated just how precarious over-reliance can be, with a high proportion of their crab, lobster and other marine life wiped out overnight for still-unexplained reasons. Therefore, through careful investigation we want to be able to give our fishermen access to a wider range of species again as a protective step.

“We are hopeful that the new Fisheries Act 2020 will result in more scope for our local fisherman, and hopefully we can positively impact how that evolves.

“It’s a huge feather in the cap for our region’s fisheries that, following a hugely competitive international tender process, this vessel is going to be built in our home port, by a local company with such a long and respected shipbuilding heritage as Parkol. When completed, it will be a frontrunner for the whole country, demonstrating what can be achieved in the battle to preserve our precious sea environments. We’re hugely excited about watching the boat take shape over the next year-and-a-half, and then seeing the difference it can make.”

Andy Page, Designer for Chartwell Marine – which specialises in concepting innovative commercial boat designs to solve specific industry issues – is responsible for the vessel blueprint. He explained: “This vessel is built off our trusted Chartwell Ambitious Offshore Wind Crew Transfer Boat platform, a proven hull form, operational internationally in the UK, Europe and USA. Chartwell are very proud to be working with NEIFCA and Parkol on this project following a strong history working with a number of UK IFCAs to deliver the right boat for the job”  

“We’re delighted to be part of such an innovative project, which we’re sure will yield incredible results for NEIFCA.”

NEIFCA is largely funded by a conglomeration of local authorities and a proportion of the finance for the vessel is being provided by a combination of 11 of those, including East Riding of Yorkshire Council as the lead authority and North Yorkshire Council. NEIFCA will also be sourcing a proportion of the money itself, from savings and the sale of its existing vessel, as well as grant funding from the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).