Fishing for Leave give our synopsis on the University of West of Scotland (UWS) report which accesses and compares the fisheries management systems of our Nordic neighbours for their applicability to the UK post-Brexit.
There is much commendable recommendations with which our organisation would agree; such as recommending an end to anyone who is not an active fishermen holding and monopolising quota – slipper skippers.
The report noting that corporatising quota as in Iceland, and the error of previous UK governments of administering the UK share of EU quota in a similar manner, only leads to consolidation to a few big companies and that a more social approach of administering a national asset for communities as in Norway is also commendable
However, the report has been cited by some to justify their pervasive misgivings against any effort control system – this is being amplified through a deliberate effort by some NGOs who also sight the thoughts of a paper on Marine Policy –
This is either through attempting to discredit effort control from a personal bias towards the status quo of quotas, which keeps Britain closely aligned with the EU, or through a misunderstanding that effort control can be implemented in different formats. Not just as has been done in Faroe and New England which is often cited to discredit it.
The truth is that neither overly arbitrary and rigid quotas, nor a simple blunt Days at Sea limit on time at sea, work environmentally or managerially. However, as the UWS report briefly eludes to, quotas, despite best efforts, simply do not fit mixed fisheries in order to achieve the best environmental protection and responsive management possible.
As an alternative from continuing with a Quota system that has failed the environment, Fishing for Leave have developed a refined variant of Effort control that is a hybrid of both quotas and time at sea.
This is to provide more precision of control towards individual species lacking in the implementation of previous effort control systems, whilst avoiding the rigidity of quotas.
Quotas that have failed most graphically by the environmental travesty of fishermen being forced to discard tens of thousands of tons of fish above quota limits in order to comply with the quota limits.
The refined system learns the lessons from the short comings of the practical application of the principle of effort control elsewhere. However, there are those who keep ignoring this and continually try to tarnish any system of effort control by association to others.
QUOTAS VS EFFORT CONTROL
No Quota systems work in any mixed fisheries anywhere. We are glad to see that the report acknowledges this that an effort-based system could be more relevant to highly mixed fisheries such as those around the British Isles.
The fundamental truth that quota advocates skip over is, that despite an ever-burdening regulatory avalanche by the EU to make the system work, quotas have failed for 30 years to provide the best environmental management and stewardship of our seas.
Granted a system of quotas can be implemented in different formats too, but every nation currently working quotas in mixed fisheries (often those less so than our own) suffers from the fundamental failure that it is impossible to set rigid, pre-defined targets to match a mixed dynamic fishery with changing admixtures of intermingled species.
Even the Norwegians and Icelandic systems are not a paragon of virtue although administered far better than the EUs implementation of a quota system.
Everywhere quotas are used it has resulted in fishermen being forced to discard dead those species which they have run out of quota for and then have to catch even more fish than necessary whilst attempting to find what they can keep.
This is the opposite of environmentally sustainable, as although the amount of species landed and recorded will have to reflect the imposed quota landing limits, a slaughter of much more will have taken place at sea.
No matter how a quota system is administered its fundamental failure is because, by fishing to pre-defined, arbitrary targets, what is landed and recorded only reflects the pre-defined quota limit that is set rather than the actual abundance or fluctuations of interdependent stocks.
This creates a situation which the UK is stuck in (amplified by the EUs remoteness and bureaucratic inertia) where the system talks to itself. An inaccurately set quota limit results in landings that are an inaccurate reflection of stocks. Inaccurate data means further inaccurate quota limits are set and year upon year the system gets more out of line with reality.
As this happens fishermen are forced to misreport, distort fishing effort towards species that should otherwise perhaps be left alone or most detrimentally to the environment discard en-mass and kill more than necessary to find what they are allowed to keep to match their quota.
Banning discards and the requirement to have quota for all catches (as will become fully enforced in the EU as of 2019) doesn’t address the quota systems problem but bans the symptoms.
If fully enforced when a vessel exhausts its lowest quota it must stop fishing to avoid catching the wrong fish even if it has quota for other species left. Seafish estimate that these ‘choke species quotas’ tying the fleet up early means 60% of UK Resources will go uncaught and presumably a similar percentage of the fleet will go bankrupt.
Norwegians and Icelanders manage with a ‘no discard’ policy as they have less of a mix of species than around the British Isles which makes it easier to target to a species which you have quota for.
Many also manage by paying lip service to it – it’s no discards in name only. Discarding still happens, however, two nations which are highly dependent on fisheries are not going to come down hard on their fleet who are making their best effort to comply given the system.
Environmentally due to how mixed British fisheries are quotas simply will not work and haven’t given the evidence of the last 30 years. How certain individuals in government, academia and NGOs can advocate doing the same in an increased dose is Einstein’s definition of madness.
In converse to this the problem with the effort control system as administered in Faroe and New England is not the principle but the implementation. In both areas they only had blunt days at sea alone.
DAYS AT SEA ONLY
Days at Sea alone causes the converse problem to quotas by being too lax a system and giving no control over the species targeted.
As the report acknowledges, the principle of time at sea alone theoretically means that so long as you know how much boats can catch in a given amount of time and then set the level of time to limit the amount of stock harvested in that time then you are sustainable.
Everyone can keep and record all they catch which should be a nice even slice of the mix of species abundance at that given time. Theoretically this gives accurate real time data that reflects species mixture and abundance so you can manage and respond in real time.
The problem is that when limited in time economic necessity takes over and effort is contorted towards targeting a bigger mix of higher value species.
In addition to this measuring and enforcing time in Days at Sea from the harbour, rather than actual fishing time at sea measured in hours, means scientists don’t accurately know if someone caught 10 tons in 1 hours fishing or in 24 hours of fishing during their Day at sea, and therefor can’t accurately set the right amount of time to be sustainable.
This means as in Faroe the amount of time at sea was overset for a number of years as the fleet was catching more per hour than thought. i.e. the fleet were catching at 1 ton per hour but only fishing for 12 hours per day. This showed a catch of 12 tons per day but the government set X amount of days on the presumption that fishing effort was spread over 24 hours. This meant boats were getting twice the hours (a full 24) than was actually sustainable.
Another side effect is that because time at sea was measured in Days from harbour to harbour vessels targeted grounds closer to shore to minimise steaming time to the fishing grounds – the system gave an incentive not to spread out over a wide range of grounds.
PROPOSED BRITISH SYSTEM IS NOT FAROE OR ICELAND BUT A HYBRID
The hybrid and refined system of Effort control Fishing for Leave has advanced to the government utilities technology so that time will be measured and enfored accurately as actual fishing time in hours, monitored by a soak time sensor.
This means scientists will know the correct catch per hour of effort and can work out accurately how much time our fleet needs to catch a sustainable amount of biomass.
If we know our vessels catch 0.1ton per hour and we have 1000 vessels in a sea area we know that to utlilise 140,000 tons our fleet needs 1400 hours to empty the pot.
It is impossible for our fleet to exceed this sustainable limit of overall tonnage. Fishing gear is already efficient, and vessels cannot be made bigger and more powerful due to the licensing system of Tonnage and Kilowatts.
In addition to this the proposed system adopts quotas as a secondary control within the system to give control over the targeting of individual species. This is achieved by converting quotas into Flexible Catch Compositions percentages.
Rather than having to hit an arbitrary 20tons of cod out of 100 tons of a vessels overall quota – and then either having to discard or cease fishing – a vessel would be required to aim for 20% of the overall catch to be Cod based on what is currently thought to be a sustainable proportion of Cod under the quota system.
If a vessel catches above the percentage for Cod then it needn’t have to discard but can exchange a value of time equivalent to the value of the fish. This means a vessel can keep what it catches but cannot do as in Faroe and go free for all in a race to fish for the highest value species as this would incur a loss of a lot of time at sea.
Because there is a sacrifice of time to pay for the ‘crime’, scientists know that if the fleet start to land alot of cod, even although they are incurring time penalties for doing so, it is because the species is becoming more abundant than previously thought.
Conversely, if less of a species is shown then upon scrutinizing other data which a new technological monitoring and sensor system can provide – such as weather/fishing pattern, tides and water temperature – then we need to lessen effort on that species.
This means we have applied the right principle of effort control management in a mixed fishery but refined and developed a system, utilising technology, to implement it in a manner that addresses and improves upon the limitations of Faroe and other previous effort control systems.
Adoption of such a system would mean Britain would have created one of the worlds first highly accurate effort/quota hybrid systems which provides accurate real time data and monitoring to facilitate sustainable, environmentally friendly real time management.
It will have fused elements of the quota system giving the control missing from other effort control systems. but by providing a mechanism of exchanging a value of time for a value of fish, the hybrid provides the flexibility missing in current quota system.
Crucially, for those NGOs who advocate environmental protection but want to continue quotas, this system means not only accurate management but that because vessels can land all catches they needn’t be at sea continually and catching as much fish as currently to find what they need to keep to be profitable.
This refined effort control system is a catch less but land all system.
Neither arbitrary quotas or blunt days at sea work. We have developed a system that could allow Britain to solve the problem with a flexible quota effort control hybrid.
Fishing for Leave have repeatedly asked (and all we need is permission) to conduct a limited self-funding trial to prove if our hybrid effort/quota system falls on its face or works.
Such a system if proven in a fair trial would allow Britain to bursts back to being an independent coastal state alongside our Nordic neighbours with an management system that solves both Faroe and Iceland and Norway problems.
However, some officials seem inept or institutionalised to care for an environmentally and economically sound world leading fisheries policy.
For those who self-pride themselves on their academia it is a strange logic to wish to discredit a different system by associating it with another. Because one particular partial application of a principle fails any other different application must also be bad.
By this odd logic because the principle of a four wheeled vehicle in the format of a go cart cannot complete an off-road circuit then all four wheeled vehicles including Land Rovers must also fail.
One would surmise that academics and civil servants would relish the opportunity to prove a principle one way or another yet, despite continually pushing for a pilot of alternative systems to prepare Britain for leaving the CFP, there is a blind insistence that business must continue as close to the EUs failed systems as possible.