Britain must abandon the failed system of quotas or bankrupt the fleet in trying to make quotas work with the ill-founded discard ban.
Fishing for Leave previously set out why retaining and intensifying Quotas and an ITQ system will ruin the British fishing industry and lead to a failure to rebuild coastal communities.
The alternative to quotas is Effort Control where vessels are limited to an ecologically sustainable amount of time at sea (Days-at-Sea) in exchange for being able to keep what they catch.
This level of time is determined by taking an ecology wide approach of what is a sustainable biomass to remove from the ecology and how long it will take a fleet in a given area to catch this fish.
Effort Control accepts the reality that vessels will unavoidably catch a mix of species that is impossible to determine, that species mixture fluctuates and that it is impossible to accurately micro-manage each individual species in a dynamic mixed fishery.
By allowing retention of all catches this produces a discard free and more sustainable fishery both environmentally (as vessels catch less fish in the restricted time at sea) and more sustainable economically (as being able to land all catches whilst spending less time at sea increases profitability) especially as there is no need to rent and buy entitlement to fish.
Rather than cherry picking with quotas, which are based on a paucity of data that the quota system generates as landings do not reflect catches, Effort Control allows all catches to be retained facilitating management that allows an ecology wide balanced harvest of a slice of species from the ecology
As an Effort Control system generates real-time data, with a true reflection of fish abundance and distribution, this allows real-time management in response to circumstances shown.
Allowing fishing effort, activity and management to react, respond and work with nature rather than trying to impose a rigid human quota system upon it to create a continuing balance between what nature produces and the effort that humans exerts.
RACE TO FISH
However, there are concerns that pure Days-at-Sea, where vessels can keep what they catch, does not take account the realities of economics where vessels will target the most valuable species to maximise returns.
This means economics contorts effort towards high value species which can become over exploited whilst distorting catches from being a true representation of what is in the sea.
Resultantly, whilst trying to maintain overall effort to allow a balanced harvest, vessels can race to fish for high value species, potentially resulting in over exploitation. Therefore, some secondary controls within effort control are required as refinements to negate a race to fish within the overall allowance of time in an ecology wide approach.
This avoids effort being linked and set to protect the most valuable or vulnerable species as the lowest common denominator which would result in there no longer being an ecology wide sustainable harvest of all species and economic un-profitability for vessels.
WORLD LEADING ALTERNATIVE
Fishing for Leave have taken the principle of effort control and heavily refined it by adding secondary systems to avoid any “race to fish” or management being set to the lowest common denominator species. These were designed as answers to solve these problems as previously implemented in other effort control systems.
The Key to this refined effort control is the secondary system of Flexible Catch Compositions (FCCs). FCCs works through setting catch composition targets of a sustainable mixture of species that a vessel should aim to catch for high value or vulnerable species.
For Example a vessel traditionally only caught 10% Cod and 10% Monkfish.
If the vessel exceeds this mix it needn’t discard but can exchange a value of time at sea, (effort), for the equivalent value of the “wrong” species caught.
As time is reigned in the more “wrong” fish, (effort), the boat exerts the less environmental impact a vessel can have.
This system therefore deters any race to fish for high value or vulnerable species to avoid loss of time and being able to fish all year whilst vessels needn’t discard as value of the “wrong” fish compensates for the value of the time lost.
This encourages vessels to use their time wisely to allow utilisation of their total allocation of sustainable time by catching a sustainable mix of fish. Whilst allowing some elasticity either side of where you should be by swapping time for fish.
Conversely, anyone going ‘tonto’ in a race to fish is reigned in quickly- although they may catch the wrong species the exhaustion of their time at sea means they take less biomass from the eco-system leaving all the other fish they could have caught in the sea.
Therefore, this secondary refinement of FCCs avoids any race to fish for high value or vulnerable species and allows allocation of time at sea to be set on an ecosystem wide basis.
FCCs would be based on current track record of vessels which would maintain current fishing effort and distribution. As FCCs would be based on track record this would see the system of FQA entitlements the industry has invested in preserved.
The only difference is that FQAs would be entitlement to a composition of the catch rather than an arbitrary weight limit of a quota which causes discarding.
This system therefore provides the safeguards for Britain to move to discard free Days-At-Sea.
With an integrated system of modern monitoring technology to record catches, soak time, temperature, depth, weather facilitated and generated by the management system above allows accurate real-time science and therefore real-time dynamic management in line and working with mother nature.
Such a system will negate the current arrangements of annually attempting to set rigid allocations of quota based on a paucity of data which is then extrapolated through complex mathematical models.
Current management is based on estimates on an annual basis – the alternative Britain has would be trail blazing in allowing an holistic, dynamic, responsive real time system that evolves with nature.
- It is the discard free system everyone’s been looking for with no success for 6years
(tool box shuffling deck chairs. Works by addressing the cause – quotas – not bans the symptom – discards).
- The refinement of FCCs avoids any race to fish for high value or vulnerable species.
- It allows effort to be set on an ecosystem wide basis.
(Not to the lowest species like the CRP when effort was set like a quota).
- It allows accurate real-time science and therefore real-time dynamic management working with and responding to mother nature rather than misconstrue effort and impose upon it.
- Has less environmental and ecological impact as vessels will catch less fish with no discards.
- It increase profitability as vessels catch less but land more in less time at sea.
- It eliminates the debilitating situation of quota rental and slipper skippers which bleeds around 50% of profit from the industry and is the primary cause of instringency against effort.
- Most importantly it gives an equitable system where large and small can prosper which will allow communities and coastal constituencies to rebuild and flourish for generations. Not continue with the same policies as currently which are of perpetual decline and consolidation with the choke species being the nail in the coffin.
EFFORT CONTROL ALLOWS BRITAIN TO FULFILL OBLIGATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
Effort control would allow Britain to fulfil her international obligation under UNCLOS to fish in the most sustainable manner possible under the best science available – allowing Britain to be world leading.
It allows Britain to husband and utilise efficiently and sustainably all the resources in the UK EEZ. By avoiding choke species bankrupting the UK fleet it allow Britain to avoid our neighbours invoking Article 62 of UNCLOS to claim the “surplus” fish that Britain is unable to harvest from lack of capacity
Britain either move to a system that ticks all the boxes or for convenience, and to appease a minority of quota interests, we drive ourselves off a cliff ecologically and economically.
Coastal communities didn’t vote Leave and Conservative to stay the same – saying we only need to worry about policy after Brexit is a fudge for remain and the status quo by those who never wanted out in the first place and would happily continue consolidation, as in Iceland to a few hands.
The public and fishing communites and constituencies will not accept what should be a tremendous Brexit dividend to be squandered when with booming stocks and decent management Britain could become the equal of Norway as a fishing nation.
The only way to achieve this is to move to Effort Control and not have a continuation of the same Quota system with a de-facto system of ITQs that has failed for 20 years.