NFFO reports on key quota conference –

NFFO reports on key quota conference Published:  24 May, 2011

THE National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has just returned from a conference in Copenhagen which has been assessing  the progress made in introducing a catch quota system. It could go some way towards  solving some of the issues around quotas, the NFFO says.

This is the system that has been on trial for three years in the North Sea and documents all catches (not just landings) using CCTV which record all fish as it comes aboard. It is thought to be one of the ways in which it will be possible to revoke large areas of complex and often counter productive CFP rules along with reducing discards. The meeting was organised by the Danish Fisheries Ministry and attended by a large number of industry and scientific representatives. The NFFO said the strengths and weaknesses of the quota system were fully discussed along with its future potential.

The NFFO said the key feature of a quota system is that it accounts for all catches, including discards, by verifying logbook information using CCTV cameras which record everything coming aboard. This very precise information can be tied to a reward system that encourages vessel operators to adapt their fishing patterns to meet management objectives. These incentives compensate skippers for the additional scrutiny and hassle factor associated with operating the  system.

At present the system is used by 12 English and 26 Scottish vessels in the North Sea cod fishery and two vessels in the Western Channel sole fishery. Trials and operational schemes are also in place in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and France. In the case of the cod fishery, the catch quota vessels are offered additional cod quota and more relaxed days-at-sea restrictions but must stop all fishing (for all species) when the cod quota is exhausted, whether or not they have other unutilised quotas. It adds: “On the evidence so far, catch quotas have a role to play in the move towards fully documented, low discard, fisheries that are the increasingly obvious destination for all European fisheries. But catch quotas do not necessarily have to be the only way that this is achieved. The application of a quota system is not without its difficulties, particularly in the demersal mixed fisheries. The meeting was adamant that there should be no automatic or blanket extension of the system to other stocks or fisheries, without carefully, on a case by case basis, evaluating and addressing the specific mixed fishery issues in each.”

The meeting concluded quotas could only be extended to other stocks and fisheries in an incremental way, fully taking into account the specifics of each fishery. Abandoning a voluntary, incentivised, approach for a blanket requirement, as suggested recently by the Commissioner, would alienate fishermen yet to be convinced of the merits of catch quotas and undermine all the hard work that has been done to get to this stage.