July 2019 - From Fal Fishery Management Committee to Fal Fishery Cooperative CIC April 01 2020

Firstly, the CIC was incorporated on 30th March 2019, the 'last day of the 2018-19 fishing season' following a meeting held at Mylor Yacht Club at the end of January 2019.

Cornwall Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA), the new 2016 Regulatory Authority, have a Management Committee and the Vice Chairman, who became Chairman of the Fal Fishery Management Committee (FFMC), wanted to ascertain the “one thing that oystermen want to see happen to improve the fishery”. Following the FFMC meeting in November 2018 Cornwall IFCA refused to distribute his letter and questionnaire on the grounds they thought it contravened the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), even though it was aimed only at working licensed oyster gatherers.

So the Chairman and the Vice Chairman, personally distributed the letter, a questionnaire and invitation to the meeting in January 2019, only to licenced oyster gatherers asking for feedback on "ways to improve the stocks of native oysters"... the resulting comments were unfortunately sent back to Cornwall IFCA,  who then refused to give the Chairman the responses on the same GDPR grounds. However, after much discussion about ‘who’s information it was’ they did later ‘summarize the responses’ for the Chairman. They comprised of mixed opinions, approximately 50% "wanted to see improvements" and the other 50% "could see no need for any change"... unfortunately most of those that wanted to see improvements have since given up as the stocks and the markets have made it "unviable".

See reponses

The Chairman immediately resigned from the FFMC altogether stating “if he cannot represent the voice of the people then he wants no part in the inevitable demise of the fishery and certainly not on his watch”. The Vice Chairman attended the following committee meeting in April 2019, stating as ‘acting chair’ he expected to be responsible for agreeing the agenda and meeting the secretary 30 mins before the meeting started, but he was neither consulted nor allowed to act as Chairman and not unsurprisingly the Chair & Vice Chair elections were first on the agenda that was distributed by Cornwall IFCA secretary.

It was suggested and indeed happened at the previous elections three years ago, that the Vice should become Chair, but that still left a Vice to be elected. However, due to the fact the earlier suggestion failed to be added to the Terms of Reference the meeting started with Cornwall IFCA secretary stating that it was not ‘officially recorded’ therefore elections would need to take place.

The first election was for Chair, the Vice stood for election, but was beaten by a merchant member and a few votes, next was the election for Vice, the current Vice decided not to stand and the only member to stand, another merchant, was elected. Many fishermen members were very upset the previous Vice never stood again to be Vice as now two merchants were Chair and Vice and that worried them immensely. It should be noted, that The ‘Port of Truro Oyster Protection Association’ banned merchants from even attending its annual AGM many years ago as they felt it posed a dangerous risk to the fishery if decisions were made by merchants who could control the market, and not by fishermen.

The ex vice chairman also resigned on the grounds of “obscure manipulation of legal rights” as a Vice Chairman and in the absence of a Chairman, the acting Chairman. Having both resigned from the FFMC the ex chairman and ex vice chairman got together and, as was proposed by the ex vice, at the very poorly attended meeting in January 2019 that was boycotted by the Chairman of the ‘Port of Truro Oyster Protection Association’ and all its members, they both decided to go ahead regardless and incorporate the ‘Fal Fishery Cooperative CIC (FFCCIC)’ to act as a voice for those not represented in either the committee nor the association.

The Chairman of the new FFCCIC then also resigned from the new CIC too, on the grounds “it was not worth doing anything for other fishermen” so leaving it temporarily without two directors and three funding applications to complete. The Vice took the role as Chair and immediately found a second director.

The new CIC chairman then personally spent last summer writing the three big applications for funding, unfortunately one for the restoration of the oldest oyster boat 'Shadow' was unsuccessful due to “lack of community involvement” and the second to the Seafood Innovation Fund for a 'floating hatchery' was also unsuccessful due to comments that were untrue and in fact quite dangerous to wild populations of native oysters (see the responses blog) and not the financial forecast or team, but resubmission was highly recommended. The third for a 'storage facility' was too late for European Marine Fisheries Funding so we were told to resubmit to the new UK MFF when it launched in 2020. 

The latest meeting and FFCCIC AGM was held on the 30th January 2020 where the Crowdfunder UK campaign was presented to find final comments before going live a few days later. The Chairman invited: Natural England, Cornwall Council, Cornwall Chambers, Cornwall Marine Network, National Lobster Hatchery, University of Exeter, Bangor University, Access to Finance, other stakeholders and all fishermen. The turnout was great and all of the above had representation but only a handful of fishermen attended, the general consensus was that "the fishery really does need some support from outside of the fishery" as it was indeed an important industry for the economics of the county and many authorities have offered their services to the FFCCIC and future applications... which is great, especially when it is a public fishery that dates back centuries!