The Island Council is considering draft legislation that will put in place mechanisms for the Administrator, with Island Council’s approval, to protect the Islands’ marine life and biodiversity. This will be used to control fishing or exploitation of our marine life when evidence suggests that not to do so would put its numbers or existence in jeopardy.
The measure arose initially as a result of concern about the harvesting of berried lobsters (i.e female lobsters/crayfish with eggs). If the legislation is enacted, it would be my proposal to seek Council approval for immediate restrictions with legal effect on the exploitation of berried lobsters.
Key components of the draft law are:
- Continuation of the current requirement to possess permits for the export of fish products.
- The Administrator, with Council approval, will be able to designate particular marine species for protection; licenses will be required for their fishing, sale or export. He or she can also designate areas or seasons where certain species cannot be fished, or ban the use of certain equipment – spear guns, long lines etc. All decision would be evidence based.
- Licences can be issued for scientific research of protected species.
- Penalties are introduced for breaking the terms of any restrictions including sequestration of equipment, and fines up to £20,000.
The aim is to protect the most vulnerable of our marine species. There is no intention for these restrictions to impact the small fishing sector on Ascension – nor should they. The numbers of the fish brought in are small. It is the harvesting of all marine life that needs to be carefully monitored and where protection is needed and justifiable, these new measures will provide the means to introduce them. No-one will want to see a species eradicated from Ascension’s shores.
This proposed legislation brings Ascension into line with other British Overseas Territories, though the measures are much lighter than in most other places.
Written comments for the Council’s consideration will be most welcome and can be sent to Nicola Dillon, or submitted through the Council's website page.
Deadline: Friday 28 June.