MPs flex mussels (!) to criticise Marine Management Organisation consultations
When we compiled our data a couple of weeks ago on how many central government consultations there had been in 2019, we noted that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ dominance at the top of our league table was bolstered considerably by their supervision of two organisations, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation. One of these has now come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
In a debate in Parliament on Marine Licensing yesterday, the MMO’s consultation processes were lambasted by Steve Double, the MP for St Austell & Newquay, as “out of date and not fit for purpose”. The issue at question was regarding licensing of mussel farms in the picturesque Cornish village of Mevagissey. Mussel farms, for the aquaculturally uninitiated, are created by intertwining heavy rope with large floats and placing them in coastal waters. Although it is a fast-growing sector, some have criticised Mussel Farms as they can cover large areas of the sea, and prevent more traditional fishing. In Mevagissey, this was exactly the problem. The local Mevagissey Fishermen’s Association was perturbed to discover that a large mussel farm had appeared, apparently without consultation in St Austell bay. Upon contacting the MMO, as the licensing body, they were told that some consultation had been undertaken, most notably with the Royal Fowey Yacht Club.
Although Mr Double did not question the right of the Yacht Club to be contacted, he did raise queries over why other interested stakeholders had not been approached. He was not alone in questioning the consultation, being joined by his neighbouring MP Scott Mann (North Cornwall). The MMO is currently undergoing the first round of its consultation on four new marine plans, including ones that cover the constituencies in question. We will be keeping a close eye on how they go!