NFFO chief responds to under-10metre quota allocation for Britain –

NFFO chief responds to under-10metre quota allocation for Britain Published:  30 March, 2012

BARRIE Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO, has written to Westminster’s fishery minister in response to quota allocation for Britain’s under-10 metre fleet.

While sympathetic to the Minister’s plight, he wrote: “Our fear is that the route that you appear to have chosen as a solution is about to satisfy no one whilst alienating many. The danger of your current course is that, as an industry, we will all be left worse off than before.”

He went on to suggest a number of possible solutions.

“The current focus on redistribution/reallocation/realignment, from the producer organisations to the under-10s, distracts from the central point which is that the problems facing the under-10s are multi-layered and that adjustments to the domestic quota arrangements, though attracting most attention and generating much heat, can only be a relatively minor part of any effective and lasting solution.

“We have previously explained how the problems facing the under-10m sector evolved from the 1980s and 1990s; there is no need to go over that ground again. If however, there is a genuine will within Defra to put the under-10m fisheries on sustainable and profitable footing, it is necessary to deal with the underlying structural issues rather than treating the symptoms.

“Against this background, our advice is:

1.Defer implementation of the pilot projects and redistributions until 1st January 2013; use the intervening period to develop a comprehensive solution to the problems in the under-10m fleet; this makes sense at a number of levels, not least preparing the ground for the pilots adequately and rebuilding cooperative links between the POs and the under-10s that are currently failing in a fog of fear and mutual suspicion. We believe that NUTFA and UKAFPO could be persuaded of the value of such as an approach.

2. Identify the core under-10 fisheries in which pool catch limits seriously constrain the fleet; the MMO statistics that we have seen so far suggest that this is a specific and geographically focused problem rather than the widespread and generic problem that has been portrayed. Solutions should be focused on these specific fisheries. This does not preclude more general support for the under-10 fleet but would have the merit of recognising that quota shortage is not a generic problem for this sector of the fleet and focusing policy accordingly.

3. Address the underlying problem of skewed fleet development. The fact that around 14% of the under-10m fleet catches around 70% of the pool allocations suggests that this is a core aspect of the problem. Any policy approach to the under-10s is unlikely to succeed unless this point is addressed explicitly.

4. Address the structural overcapacity in the under-10 m fleet. We are open to discussing a voluntary decommissioning scheme that is not wholly funded by government. Over the last 20 years the English over-10m fleet has been reduced by over 50% to fit its quotas; the numbers of under-10s have remained broadly static whilst their catching capacity has increased; we are not suggesting that a similar fleet contraction is necessary for the under-10s – but this sector of the fleet should be assisted to make an adjustment to balance capacity with fishing opportunities on a voluntary basis. We would suggest that a limited scheme (decommissioning, or some form of licence parking) targeted at the high catching under-10 would offer best value for money. It would be worth investigating that the type of transitioning finance linked to a Fisheries Improvement Plan highlighted at the recent launch of the International Sustainability Unit might be available from the World Bank or charitable foundations.

5. Dealing with the issue of latent capacity must inescapably be part of the policy.

6. Proceed with developing ways in which tailored quota management can be brought to the under-10m sector; encourage cooperation between POs and under-10m pilot groups at a regional level; the under-10s currently have quota assets that are not being used to their best advantage.

7. Underutilised quotas whilst other fishermen go short are not defensible. However, if there is market failure this should be addressed as such rather than reverting to the inherent limitations of administrative redistribution. Much can be achieved in a spirit of cooperation. The corollary is also true: cooperation will evaporate in an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

8. Recognise that in some important instances relative stability shares are the underlying issue, rather than domestic quota distribution. The obvious example is cod in the Eastern channel where France holds 84% of the quota and the UK holds 7%: tinkering with domestic quota management rules can only have a limited influence on outcomes. Without destabilising relative stability, we believe that against the background of increasing TACs, it should be possible to secure significant additional tonnages of stocks of importance to the under-10m fleet through astute exchanges with other member states; this will not be cost free so it is worth considering what the UK is willing to trade in return – this need not be restricted to quota. It is time to be imaginative.

9. It is also worth reflecting on the fact that if TACs had remained at 1990 levels there would barely have been an under-10m quota problem that couldn’t have been addressed through underpinning and licensing constraints; the recent trend towards increasing TACs reflecting rebuilt stocks should provide more room for manoeuvre.

10. If, as part of a comprehensive package as described above, it is still necessary for you to consider quota redistribution as a last resort, this should be undertaken as part of a one-off adjustment in which security of quota through a formal system of user-rights discussed and agreed with the producer organisations.”