Fishing entitlement must be reformed if communities are to boom following Brexit

Fishing entitlement must be reformed if communities are to boom following Brexit

by Aaron Brown
article from Monday 10, September, 2018

FISHING FOR LEAVE welcomes some areas of the UK Government's fisheries White Paper more than others. One thing we are adamant that must be fulfilled is that all repatriated resources are held as a national resource and divided out to all fishermen in a community.

If the government doesn't take back the 700,000 tonnes worth approximately £3-4bn processed annually and allocate them outwith the current failed British allocation system we shall never see a revival.

Resources must be allocated to communities under the principle of one tonne to one boat. If someone doesn't use their slice it goes back in the pot to be divided again.

That is the case we've represented repeatedly to the highest levels of government, and has had some acknowledgement in the White Paper – but it must be seen through.

This is in spite of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation insisting all repatriated resources are distributed through the current Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) system that has facilitated and driven consolidation as the Common Fisheries Policy quota system failed.

 One thing missing which we are adamant there needs to be is a stronger economic link that British fishing vessels must comply with. This is to realise what all policy should aim to deliver – maximum benefit from a national resource to communities – whether through administration or sustainability.

We advocate 60 per cent British ownership and 60 per cent British crew – with a five-year dispensation for 100 per cent foreign crew in all waters. This is until new policy attracts British lads to a post Brexit industry on the up. Most importantly, it must be stipulated that 60 per cent of catches must be landed, sold and processed in the UK. This would revitalise ports, processors and their buying power.

Any foreign vessel granted access must also land here to deliver economic benefit from resources caught in our waters and ensure compliance. This is to clamp down on EU-owned but UK-registered 'Flagships' which dominate the National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations behaving like fishing tourists. Be a genuine British boat or slip your hook.

We are adamant that the blight of ‘slipper skipper’ shore-based quota renters must be banned and that any boat-to-boat rent is capped at 3 per cent of the gross realised on that quota. This is to end the financial illiteracy of ever more money being thrown at quota. It's currently bleeding 40-60 per cent of profit from the fleet. It is stifling reinvestment and curtailing wages that would incentivise young men.

Any fishing entitlement should be under the same stipulations as in Norway and other Nordic countries. Entitlement must be held on an active vessel, if not within two years you must use it or lose it.

 Quotas will never provide accurate science, as you only see caught what the quota is set to – not the natural predominance or fluctuations of stocks. They will never conserve fish as fishermen either have to discard to find the right species their quota instructs they can keep or stop and bankrupt the entire British fleet on exhausting their lowest quota with choke species under the 2019 discard ban.

Quotas mean we will always harvest out of balance with nature as we are imposing our own theoretical targets and then trying to hit them. Anyone advocating retention of quotas is seditiously trying to protect vested interests or doesn't have a clue about the practicalities of a mixed fishery such as ours. Quotas never work for fishermen due to the above as we either have to spend more time and money at sea discarding or choke and go bust.

As the system doesn't work its been a race to the bottom buying ever more Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) unit entitlement just to tread water and stagnate (FQAs = quota stocks and shares). FQAs have allowed and driven consolidation to a few big corporates, killing coastal communities and the heritage that draws young men to an otherwise hard occupation.

All through nothing more than stupid policy where a select few hope they'll 'pockle' the system to be the last men standing. Those few MPs standing behind a federation that advocates this for an easy ride or sell should hang their heads in shame. Having a few big companies in a few big ports won't secure coastal communities and constituencies.

 That's why Fishing For leave advocates a system of refined effort control with Flexible Catch Compositions (FCCs). We're happy the government proposes trials but they must be meaningful not designed to fail. They must crack on ASAP and not listen to those trying to stop them. If this potentially world-leading system won't work there is nothing to lose or hide from trying it, but everything to gain if it succeeds. Under such a system everyone is limited to an equal, sustainable amount of fishing 'soak' time monitored by sensors as hours gear is deployed.

Such a system automatically solves and delivers, allowing everyone big or small, static gear or mobile, an equal opportunity to reach their potential and make a living. Soak time is derived from calculating how long it would take the whole fleet to catch all the resources in a sea area amalgamated together.

This makes it impossible to overfish an ecology as we currently do, discarding over the quota limits we can land to find what we can keep under quotas.

FQAs are converted to FCCs that denote the sustainable mix of species a vessel should aim to catch. This preserves the investment and entitlement in FQAs for the bigger holders. Exceed that percentage and you can keep what you catch rather than discard.

However, to stop a race to fish for high value or vulnerable species, any 'wrong' fish incurs a penalty of time equivalent to the value of the fish.

The 'wrong' fish pays for the time but there's no benefit to target the wrong mix as it curtails your year. As there's time for the crime, science knows what it sees is an accurate reflection of stocks and we'll get the TAC mix into line.

As boats can keep what they catch but lose time it means you've caught less but can land more whilst providing accurate data to properly sustainably husband stocks for generations to come. As there would no longer be a dysfunctional quota system everyone gets a slice of time to fish.

No quota rent and no need to see consolidation to a few in a profitable well managed industry gives young lads a chance to make a career from deck to wheelhouse.

Most importantly as accurate catch per hour per size/type of gear is recorded, it delivers a highly accurate Catch per Unit of Effort (CPUE) system. This is the holy grail of accurate science to deliver sustainable fishing, which reflects and is in line with nature’s fluctuations.

 That's what FFL advocates. Sadly a powerful minority of big interests are institutionalised and don't want change.

Either DEFRA and MPs chose the vision of managing and allocating fishing entitlement for the many above – or keep the same old system that's caused decline to the last few.

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