2 Reform of domestic fisheries management |
13. The need for reform of the current quota
management regime has been widely recognised for some time, not
least because of the serious difficulties that the current arrangements
have caused for the small-scale fleet. Defra's consultation (originally
expected before the end of 2010)
built on the work conducted by the Sustainable Access to Inshore
Fisheries Project (SAIF), and followed on from the final report
and recommendations which the SAIF Advisory Group made to Defra
in August 2010. In the
Ministerial Foreword to the consultation, Richard Benyon states
that the aim of the proposed reforms is "to secure a more
sustainable future for the fishing fleet as a whole, and specifically
[...] to address the issues facing the English under-10m fleet".
14. The consultation sets out proposals that
address the structural arrangements of the English fishing fleet,
including an abolition of the quota pools managed by the MMO and
a move towards allocation of quota directly to every vessel in
the English fleet. The proposals envisage the creation of 'community
quota groups' which would allow small-scale fisheries to set up
their own quota management organisations. These would have a similar
role to POs in enabling quota to be traded between their members
so that they can obtain the optimum level of quota for their individual
15. The consultation also contains proposals
for realigning quota opportunities within the fleet, seeking to
address the historic under-provision of quota to the under-10m
fleet. As well as looking to reallocate persistently under-fished
quota, Defra is also proposing a one-off reallocation of 3% of
quota from the offshore to the inshore fleet.
16. The fundamental problem facing the inshore
fleet is a lack of available quota, due in part to the underestimation
of the fleet's capacity when FQA was introduced in 1999. This
miscalculation meant that the inshore fleet received a smaller
proportion of quota than it might otherwise have done, and, by
extension, vessels in the offshore fleet received a higher proportion
of quota. As the amount of quota available to the UK under the
CFP is fixed, increasing the inshore fleet's share of English
quota will necessarily reduce the amount that is available to
the offshore fleet.
17. The New Under Ten Fishermen's Association
(NUTFA) were clear in their evidence that a rebalancing of quota
allocation was essential if the problems facing the inshore fleet
were to be addressed
although they, along with the National Federation of Fishermen's
Organisations (NFFO), were reluctant to give a figure for what
they considered to be a reasonable percentage of quota to be reallocated.
It appeared to us that this was due to a reluctance to show their
hand whilst negotiations were still ongoing.
Defra's consultation sets out its proposed approach to the reallocation
REALIGNMENT OF UNDER-FISHED QUOTA
18. First, the Department proposes that quota
which has been consistently under-fished by an individual PO during
the period 2007-10 be reallocated from the offshore to the inshore
fleet (on condition that the inshore fleet has used a high proportion
of its current allocation of these stocks).
19. Defra's consultation document states that
"in some cases, this un-fished quota would be of great benefit
for the under-10m fleet". However, we note that the FQA will
be selected for realignment based on the fishing patterns of the
offshore fleet (i.e. whether POs have made use of their quota)
rather than the needs of the inshore fleet. We believe that the
Department should go further and should identify those stocks
and areas where a realignment of quota allocation would be of
real benefit to the inshore fleet.
20. In addition to the realignment
of under-fished quota allocations, we recommend that the Department
consider, on a case-by-case basis, the realignment of quota allocations
for those stocks and areas which are not persistently under-fished
but which would be of particular benefit to the inshore fleet.
We recommend that a realignment of quota be carried out where
such benefit can be demonstrated.
ONE-OFF REALLOCATION OF FIXED QUOTA
21. Second, the consultation proposes a one-off
reallocation of 3% of English quota from the offshore to the inshore
fleet, to be limited to those stocks where the under-10m fleet
has fished an average of at least 90% of its initial allocation
since 2007. The Department believes that:
The low level of the redistribution will have minimal
impact on the Sector in England, but by focussing on those stocks
where uptake by the under-10m fleet is high, the benefits will
be high. Moreover, making this one-off redistribution removes
long-standing uncertainty within the English Sector on what measures
might be taken and enables the whole industry to plan with greater
confidence for a sustainable future.
22. Although Defra's proposals are of course
at a preliminary stage, we note that the consultation document
does not set out any detailed rationale for fixing the level of
reallocation at 3%. We are concerned that this figure may have
been arrived at by reason of expediency rather than being underpinned
by evidence. Past errors in allocating quota caused serious problems
for the inshore fleet. In seeking to address these problems it
is essential that the Department adopts an evidence-based approach,
rather than simply seeking an acceptable compromise between the
competing interests of the inshore and offshore fleet. It is unclear
from the Department's consultation paper how far, if at all, it
has examined the implications of different levels of reallocation
across the fleet.
23. Defra must set out in detail
why it believes that 3% is the most appropriate proportion of
quota to be reallocated from the offshore fleet. We recommend
that the Department conducts and publishes an analysis of the
effect that its proposed reallocation of 3% of quota will have
on fishing opportunities across the English fleet. This analysis
should be conducted before any final decision is made about the
percentage of quota to be reallocated.
24. A possible alternative to a fixed percentage
reallocation of quota away from the offshore fleet is a state-funded
decommissioning scheme which would release quota from decommissioned
vessels which could then be made available to the inshore fleet.
This is the NFFO's preferred solution to the problem of limited
quota availability; they argue that having caused the current
difficulty facing the industry, the Government has a "moral
duty" to fix it.
They were not, however, able to put a figure on the costs of such
a scheme, noting that it would depend on scale and ambition.
NUTFA aligned themselves with this view in our oral evidence session
and when asked why Government should fund such a scheme they argued
that the situation of the under-10m fleet was not of their own
making and it was "unacceptable" for Government to "wash
their hands of the mistakes they have made".
25. The Minister made clear that whilst there
may be a role for decommissioning schemes at some time in the
future, they would not form a significant plank of the proposed
reforms. His reservations were, first, that funding such a scheme
would be impractical in the current public spending climate; and
second, that previous decommissioning schemes "did not present
good value for money for the taxpayer and certainly did not address
the chief purpose for which they were intended."
In line with these comments, the consultation document does not
include any suggestion that decommissioning schemes will be implemented.
26. We are not persuaded by
the argument that the offshore fishing industry should be compensated
from the public purse for giving up quota which they originally
received only due to Defra's miscalculation. Whilst there may
be circumstances in which decommissioning may be appropriate in
the future, at a time when public finances are seriously constrained
we do not believe that a state-funded decommissioning scheme is
an appropriate solution to the problems facing the inshore fleet.
27. Under its quota management rules, Defra has
the power to reallocate unused quota in-year. Despite having this
power, the Department has never exercised it. This was a key frustration
for the fishermen's organisations that we took evidence from,
particularly NUTFA who described it as a "nonsense".
The NFFO agreed that the Department's inaction was "hard
28. The Minister told us that whilst he understood
the frustration that some fishermen feel, there were "a multitude
of reasons" why quota could remain unused at the end of the
year. Defra provided further information on the obstacles to in-year
reallocation in writing:
... there are several reasons why the in-year reallocation
of unused quota is not currently undertaken. For example, quota
holders may be retaining their quota to fish later in the year,
or to use as swap currency to acquire different quota. The prospect
of reallocation can encourage a race to fish, which could mean
that fish is targeted out of season, thus increasing effort and
discards of other stocks. Such reallocation may also impact on
prices due to a surplus of fish on the market. Furthermore, there
is also a risk of 'ghost' fishing
in order to secure ongoing access and prevent reallocationsomething
that is difficult to enforce against.
29. Defra's proposed reforms focus on a more
strategic and permanent reallocation of persistently unused quota
and the Department does not suggest making greater use of its
power to reallocate quota in-year.
30. We understand the frustration
felt by fishermen who are desperate for additional quota, yet
see quota allocated to other vessels going to waste. Whilst we
appreciate that simply reallocating this quota towards the end
of each year may have undesirable consequences, we believe that
the current situation is unacceptable and Defra's failure to address
this issue until now has disadvantaged many members of the inshore
31. It is important that Defra
does not allow the same situation to arise again in future. Alongside
the strategic one-off reallocation of quota which is proposed
in its consultation, we believe that Defra should also look to
make greater use of its power to reallocate unused quota in-year.
Defra should design and implement a system which balances the
need to avoid a 'race to fish' with sufficient flexibility to
allow for in-year reallocations of quota as and when they are
Extension of fixed quota management
into the inshore fleet
32. Vessels in the inshore fleet are currently
not allocated quota directly, but instead fish against a 'pool'
of quota administered by the MMO. A key element of the Government's
consultation proposals is that this pool cease to exist, and that
FQA be allocated to individual vessels in the inshore fleet.
33. The NFFO and NUTFA were broadly supportive
of the extension of FQA into the inshore fleet, although with
two important caveats. First, both organisations were clear that
this would only work if a "critical mass" of quota was
made available to the inshore fleet.
Second, they argued that if the extension of FQA led also to an
extension of rights-based management (allowing fishermen to trade
quota) it was crucial that safeguards be put in place to prevent
quota from flowing out of the inshore fleet and into the hands
of bigger organisations.
34. The Minister agreed that safeguards would
be necessary to protect the inshore fleet and Defra's consultation
proposes a 'one way valve' to prevent community quota held by
the inshore fleet from being sold into the wider fleet. The proposals
envisage the possibility of this safeguard being removed in time
if a stronger community fleet required more flexibility and the
consultation asks for views on whether safeguards should be temporary.
35. There is much support for
the extension of Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) into the inshore
fleet. Should this take place, then the introduction of safeguards
to prevent the FQA held in community quota schemes from being
sold into the wider fleet is essential. We would be wary of any
move to remove such safeguards in future and recommend that this
should only take place after a detailed review and once it has
been established that the small-scale fleet would benefit from
their removal in both the short and longer-term.
36. Under the current rights-based management
regime which operates in the offshore fleet, it is possible for
quota to be held by other than working fishermen (i.e. anyone
other than an active fishermanwhether a retired or inactive
former fisherman, or an outside interest). This quota may then
be leased back to fishermen. NUTFA were opposed to this practice,
describing it in their written evidence as "an unacceptable
use of a public resource, especially one that is the lifeblood
of the commercial fishing industry and vulnerable fishing communities".
The NFFO took a more nuanced view, agreeing that the bulk of quota
should be in the hands of active vessel operators, but arguing
that quota trading performed a function and was acceptable "at
37. In written evidence submitted after the oral
evidence session, Defra told us that it was not possible to determine
what proportion of quota was held by 'other than working fishermen'.
The Department told us that they were considering establishing
a national FQA register in conjunction with the Devolved Administrations
which could evolve into a quota trading platform in time.
38. It is unacceptable that
Defra does not know how much quota is currently held by 'other
than working fishermen'. We recommend that the Department take
steps to develop a register which will allow them to monitor who
holds the English fleet's FQA. This register should allow the
Department to ascertain what proportion of quota is not held by
39. We are not convinced that
the holding of quota by outside interests is ever appropriate.
We expect Defra in its response to this Report to clearly set
out and justify its position on this matter, explaining what (if
any) benefits there are to this practice. Unless it can be demonstrated
conclusively that the holding of quota by outside interests provides
a clear benefit to fishing communities, we recommend that Defra
take action to limit the holding of quota to active fishermen.
4 See Government's initial response to the final report
of the SAIF Advisory Group. Back
The SAIF project was established to consider options for the long
term reform of the English inshore fishing fleet. As part of SAIF,
Defra commissioned several research projects and also set up an
advisory group whose membership included representatives of the
inshore and offshore fleets, retailers, NGOs, and Producer Organisations. Back
Q 21 Back
Q 22-23 Back
See Qs 19-25 Back
Ev 31, para 12 Back
Q 35 Back
Q 32 Back
Q 94 Back
Q 50 Back
Q 51 Back
"Ghost" fishing is the practice of falsely declaring
landings where either no fish were landed at all, or the fish
landed were of a different species to that declared. It may occur
where ongoing access rights are dependent on a track record of
catching a specific quota species. Back
Ev 34 Back
Q 10 Back
Q 46 Back
Ev 29 Back
Q 47 Back
Ev 34 Back