Finnie under attack over "slipper skippers" –

Finnie under attack over “slipper skippers” Published:  08 December, 2005

SCOTTISH Shadow Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has today slammed Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie for failing to ensure that fishing quota is only allocated to active fishermen.

After receiving a reply to his parliamentary question in connection with quota being held by retired fishermen and banks, Mr Lochhead said he had asked Mr Finnie, how much of the fishing quota was held by retired fishermen, and if Ministers have plans to ensure that only active fishermen are allocated fishing rights.

The answer Mr Lochhead received from the minister shows that 5% of the total UK fishing quota is held by those who no longer actively fish or others, and the Government had no specific plans to end the practice.

Commenting Mr Lochhead said:

“It is absurd that Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie has allowed a situation to arise where fishermen at sea are having to lease quota from former fishermen sitting in the comfort of their own

living room and leasing their quota over the telephone to the highest bidder.

“Fishermen have enough trouble trying to make a profit as it is without having to pay additional costs to acquire fishing rights allocated free by the Government to former skippers. Fishing rights are a national asset and should only benefit fishermen at sea. I am pleased that there has been a steady reduction in the amount of quota in the hands of slipper skippers and others but it is time that all fishing quota which is already scarce given recent cuts is reallocated to active fishermen.”

Mr Finnie told the MSP that there are a number of important issues to be examined during the course of the quota management change programme which commenced earlier this year. No decisions have yet been taken on the specific changes needed. That will only happen after in-depth consultation of the options in consultation with stakeholders. One of the main issues under consideration relates to quota entitlement, trading arrangements and the allocation of quota.

Quotas, he said, are allocated to fish producer organisation to manage on behalf of fisheries administrations and it is their responsibility to allocate quota amongst the vessels in their membership. Current figures suggest that the amount of quota held by non-active fishermen is falling and currently stands at around 5% of the total FQA (fixed quota allocation) units available to the UK fleet.