20 January 2022
At the annual Coastal Futures Conference many speakers and members of the audience have raised questions about IFCA funding. Here the Association of IFCAs, the national voice of the IFCAs in England provides an overview of the funding arrangements for IFCAs and some of the key challenges that the ten IFCAs in England face.
Coastal Local Authorities fund the IFCAs. These local authorities, where there were new burdens placed upon by the Marine and Coastal Act (2009), received some support from central government, by way of New Burdens funding. This annual grant to the funding local authorities, represents about a third of the IFCAs income. This grant has remained static since 2011. We have heard that Defra has no longer ring-fenced this grant, but has bid to continue to be able to provide the same level of support next year; we are yet to hear the outcome.
To put that into its wider context; funding local authorities are facing extreme funding pressures. Cllrs are making exceptionally difficult decisions about where they spend their money, against a raft of legal responsibilities. The support for the vast majority of the IFCAs, by their funding councils has been ongoing, against the backdrop of these pressures.
Inflation has however significantly eroded the value of the grant received by Defra. The duties of the IFCAs have increased considerably since inception. Importantly, the grant was anyway around 50% of what the 2009 Act says was needed. We have also lost access to the EMFF control and enforcement funds that previously funded many IFCA vessels.
Today we face future new duties (fisheries management plans, highly protected marine areas to name a few). The IFCA model of local accountability, decision making and dialogue and engagement is, arguably the best in the world; this model can deliver, but it requires proper resourcing. Our achievements have been very significant, and we recognise with proper funding we can do more to demonstrate these benefits.
We remain committed to co-management, developing sustainable fisheries, delivering conservation and supporting fisheries communities, in all their forms through collaboration and effective compliance. We are innovative in our thinking and outlook, with creative partnerships at the heart of what we do.
Today however several IFCAs are reaching crisis point and without better investment it is unclear how several IFCAs will, in the short term, be able to meet all their legal duties, let alone unleash the full potential that a world class fisheries management and conservation system will deliver.