FISHERIES BILL MAIN CONCERNS
Having now scrutinized the Fisheries Bill fully in detail, Fishing for Leave summarize our main points of concern which MPs need to be aware of and address.
Remedial action through amendments is vital if we are to realise a stable UK policy which delivers on the governments white paper objectives.
Aspirations we all want to see delivered suitably – namely sustainable fisheries management which delivers maximum economic and social benefit to British communities for generations to come whilst fulfilling our UNCLOS obligations as an independent coastal state.
The Fisheries White paper, which sets out and commits the government to a particular course, had many objectives that pleased and gave hope to many in the industry.
Both DEFRA officials and Ministers and parliament have stated their commitment to the White paper objectives but these are not catered for legislatively in the bill. They must be included to ensure they are a statutory requirement that can’t easily be abandoned by change of government.
It’s therefore vital fishermen make the effort to chisel their MPs as your future is in their hands.
**It is VITAL to remember the points below are achievable only with a clean Brexit which the Withdrawal Agreement DOES NOT deliver **
The WA renders the Fisheries bill a moot point, as we will still obey the CFP for the Transition and be de-facto associate members thereafter in ‘a’ CFP instead of ‘the CFP’ – MPs must vote down the WA or betray coastal communities.
Main Points of Concern;
1) Devolution – The Fisheries bill grants powers beyond what we feel is legally obliged under the devolution settlement. This breeches the White paper commitment – which acknowledged near universal industry concern – that there must be uniform British policy for a mobile industry.
Currently the CFP provides overall framework and unified policy and objectives which the DAs implement. The UK repatriating this as the nation state replaces the CFP with British policy – there cannot be a ‘power grab’ when DAs do not have the powers currently.
The Bill gives UK policy but it is one where the powers conferred to DAs makes it a policy of fragmentation to a balkanized UK industry. This is an operational headache as divergence of rules and contention on powers and policy will make the industry a political football.
Diplomatically the UK will be the independent nation/coastal state which will be party and bound to international obligations and agreements. So much power on fishing opportunities, policy and licensing of British and foreign vessels is conferred to DAs that it creates a situation whereby the UK will have to honour the cheques but the DAs will be signing them.
FFLs members most repeated concern is that the Fisheries Bill continually stipulates that the Secretary of State can only proceed policy with the ‘consent’ by DAs.
We fear this immediately leads to fishing being leveraged for concessions in return for consent.
The Devolution settlements state that a DAs fisheries zone; ‘means the sea area within British fisheries limits…under the Fishery Limits Act 1976.’
The Fishery Limits Act 1976 (as amended) states; ‘British fishery limits extend to the seaward limits of any area for the time being designated by Order in Council under section 41(3) of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009’
The Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009 (41) states;
(3) Her Majesty may by Order in Council designate an area as an area within which the rights to which this section applies are exercisable (an “exclusive economic zone”).
(4) The Secretary of State may by order designate the whole or any part of the exclusive economic zone as an area in relation to which the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers or any Northern Ireland department are to have functions.
Fishing for Leave, and our preliminary legal advice, can find no documentation detailing that such designation under the 2009 Act was granted. However, the proposals in the Fisheries Bill seem to do this which doesn’t seem to have been done already.
Our scrutiny thus far suggests no such order was granted as it ran contrary and was rendered redundant by the CFP having control over all British waters. It is therefore a question of reasonable expectation.
Does Devolution mean only out to 12nm (rather than 200nm) as that is what is stated in the devolved settlements or is there a reasonable expectation that it should be automatically out to 200nm (although not stated) due to the CFP having previously blocked exercising of powers over the full 200nm limit…? This needs urgent consideration and scrutiny.
FFL feels the devolution sections grant to much power for political considerations – trying to appease DAs which will never be appeased – rather than sticking to White Paper commitment to industry representations that there must be one UK policy under control of the national government
2) Discard Charge Policy (Section 23-27) – this proposed scheme doesn’t address strict individual species quotas don’t work in highly mixed fisheries. It is trying to administratively plaster over the symptom of the problem rather than the cause.
The proposal is that to avoid ‘choke species’ – where a vessel must stop fishing on exhausting its lowest quota as of 2019 – the government will use repatriated resources in a government pool to provide quota so as the vessel can keep fishing for the species he has quota of his own for.
This government allocation cannot be sold for profit so there is no financial incentive to target a species whilst relying on the government to cover it.
All this policy achieves is discard on land instead of discarding at sea. It means boats will be running an expensive shuttle service where half their catch can’t be sold for profit. What covers the costs of ice, boxes, extra fuel, harbour dues for vessels to handle this fish and deliver it ashore when it uses up limited storage space? How do vessels retain crew who are asked to do double work without being paid for it?
There is no mention or consideration of what happens to the fish when landed – as no monetary value can be realized are hauliers and processors to handle it for free? If it has then we have arrived at worse that the USSR – where industry is asked to work for free for the government.
It doesn’t address that the reason boats are catching well out of line with stocks is because the data quotas are based on is misaligned to reality. That’s because under a quota system you’ll only see caught/recorded the quota limit set rather than a true reflection of actual abundance. Landing up to a higher ceiling only means boats are reaching that higher height.
This hair-brain, ill-conceived policy is administrative mitigation to allow the recording of fish in a different spreadsheet column not solve the root problem – quotas don’t work in mixed fisheries.
We need a legislative commitment that policy must allow management that can generate accurate science/reporting under a system that allows fishermen to land a true representation of what they encounter in their catch and to profit from it whilst limiting fishing effort to provide sustainability.
The only way to do this is under effort control where vessels are limited in fishing time at sea in return for being able to land all catches. Persisting with quotas whilst adding administratively complex sticky plasters will mean Britain replicates EU efforts to persist up a cul-de-sac.
3 – Negative Resolution Procedure – much of the powers conferred in the bill allows the executive to set rules from the top down through Negative Resolution. MPs will then have to attempt to back track later if rules are found unsuitable.
This negates the point of ‘taking back control’ to escape autocratic top down bureaucracy by moving to bottom up policy making with parliamentary scrutiny.
We wish to see regional groups with teeth where stakeholders, scientists and administrators have to work together and agree for something to pass. This allows policy proposals or amendments to develop at the coal face and is management from shop floor up not from Whitehall down.
4 – Auctioning Repatriated Resources (Section 22) – Doing so would see a national resource further monetarized and corporatized into the hands of those with already deep pockets. It would thwart fair distribution to rejuvenate coastal communities. It would perpetuate the monetarisation of resources to economically illiterate prices and/or continue slipper skippers.
5 – MMO Imposing Charges (Section 29) – The Fisheries Bill confers upon the MMO the ability to impose enforcement measures and to charge for them ( the DAs will be able to do so similarly).
This is wide open to abuse where management becomes judge, jury and executioner.
Government needs to pursue cost reduction from reforming and scrapping inept management. Not cost recovery to cover for an ever-increasing regulatory burden. More costs and more burden kills the golden goose.
Charging a set rate for particular services disproportionately hurts small businesses. If government wants industry to contribute to costs to achieve worthwhile measures such as better science the industry is not adverse.
BUT, it must be done through a % based levy making cost burden proportionate from biggest to smallest. Industry must have a stake in how the money is spent AND administrators must declare bi-annually that targets are hit and money well spent for levy payment to continue.
6 – Nothing on Fair Allocations on Repatriated Resources – It is a disgrace that there is no legislative commitment that allocations must deliver maximum sustainability and benefit for all fishers and coastal communities through fair shares to all fishermen and communities.
We want, and feel this is best achieved, with the greatest degree of simplicity by what we propose of a one ton to one boat rule.
Whereby if there is 100 tons for a species in an area, and there are 100 boats, then each gets 1 ton. We want to do this for demersal AND pelagic species.
Therefore, on the east coast for repatriated herring 150,000t/500 North sea boats is 300t each boat. At £150k that is a massive boost especially proportionally to smaller operations.
This will realise reinvestment in more modern, safer, fuel efficient boats; attract youngsters to a viable career; and importantly will see marketing and processing infrastructure investment and jobs all over.
Most importantly environmentally it creates holistic seasonal fishing again rather than boats hammering only one particular species. It is simple legislatively and in implementation practically
7 – Nothing on Slipper Skippers – Those ashore holding entitlement and renting it to active fishermen at punitive prices are bleeding 60% of the profit from active fisher. Stifling reinvestment and new entrants/career path incentive.
The UK should replicate the same rules as Norway – fishing entitlement must be on an active vessel – use it or lose it within two years. This will drive a big re-distribution of FQAs back into the active industry.
Prices on active vessels swapping current UK shares must be capped at 4% of the value of the gross realised on that fish at market. This is to avoid and disincentive slipper skippers hiding their fish on an active vessel and continuing to charge extortionate prices.
8 – Nothing on banning Electric Pulse or Sandeel Fishing –
Electric pulse fishing was allowed through a derogation for a “trial” against the EUs own scientific advice. It has now gone on for 10 years with 100 Dutch boats – this is a commercial enterprise masquerading as a trial.
It is now shown in trials that Electric Pulse fishing is harming the bottom of the ecosytem/food chain and is being seen to cause severe problems where used. It must be banned to show Britain’s commitment to sustainable fisheries.
Sandeel fishing allows the Danish industrial fleet to remove around 300,000t pa of this valuable feed at the bottom of the food chain to use as pig feed. It must also be banned to rectify the food shortage seen in the condition of fish caught in the areas Sandeel fishing happens.
9 – Nothing on Economic Link – Currently under EU freedom of establishment any company can register a shell in Britain and buy UK boats/entitlement. The government tried to stop this in 1988 but was overruled in the Factortame case by the ECJ – proving parliament was no longer sovereign.
These EU owned but UK registered ‘Flagships’ now hold half what the UK does get from the EU. The ‘economic link’ needs tightened to say a British vessel must be;
60% British citizen owned.
60% catch is landed, sold AND processed in UK to derive economic benefit
60% of crew must be British with a 5 year derogation until we train up and attract British crew.
10 – Nothing to Stipulate a Trial of Effort Control or other Replacement Policy –
There is nothing to push an administration in Sir Humphry mode to move towards new management to replace or improve on the failures of the CFP.
We still believe hybrid of effort and quotas is the answer. It would achieve the redistribution of fishing entitlement fairly to all fishermen whilst still leaving big FQA entitlement holders with their entitlement investment.
Without such a legislative requirement there is nothing to stop the UK mirroring the failed CFP in perpetuity.
A lot of what pleased and gave hope to do many in the Fisheries White Paper has gone missing. It’s therefore vital fishermen make the effort to chisel their MPs as your future is in their hands.