Industry Can’t Continue with Quotas.

Fishing for Leaves outlines why our proposed Days-at-Sea system is essential to transition to as an alternative to the current EU quotas. This is to avoid continuing the status quo which would crush the industry in a pincer movement between a continuation of EU shares of UK resources and ill conceived discard ban that addresses the symptom (discards) rather than the cause of discards – quotas.

The industry must seize the opportunity of the fresh start with Brexit, to move to an alternative system from quotas that is beneficial to everyone. Otherwise the status quo will remain and the vast opportunity to rebuild and rejuvenate all the industry and communities will be squandered.

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Above: 100s of prime Cod and Hake discarded dead because of of EU quota rules unsuited to Britain’s rich mixed fisheries. Each fish would be 6 fish suppers. From this one 5hour haul (x4 daily) fishermen are forced to discard food to feed a thousand.

As detailed last week, FFL believes future British fisheries policy must;

  • Ensure all British resources are automatically repatriated leaving no ability for the EU to claim its current shares by continuation of the quota status quo.
  • Have a sound ecological basis that works for fish and fishermen by being fit for purpose for mixed fisheries.
  • Address the cause of discards (quotas) not ban the symptoms with a devastating CCTV/Catch Quota discard ban.
  • Transition to a new system whilst recognising the substantial investments in the current system that was foistered upon the industry.
  • Benefit all from the biggest company to the smallest family business.

That is why Fishing for Leave advocates transitioning to a Days-at-Sea system that changes current Fixed Quota Allocation (FQAs) units from being expressed as arbitrary kilogram quotas to flexible catch composition percentages.   Under Tens would be exempted from these catch compositions due to their low catching levels and capacity.

This provides a way to transitions away from the current EU quota system whilst incorporating British FQAs into the system for business stability.
Days-at-Sea with incorporation of FQA units allows continuity for large investments whilst a level playing field for all vessels regardless of size or sector.

Fishing for Leave also advocates a resources amnesty where current shares and allocations are recognised but all of Britain’s repatriated resources go into a government pool with no monetary value attached to be allocated across the whole industry.

This is critical to stop the political construct that is forcing vessels to desperately rent or buy quota at exorbitant prices. This is forcing many from the industry causing unnecessary consolidation into ever fewer hands.

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To persist with quotas will mean;

  • The EU will have claim to its current allocations under the Vienna convention and Human rights.
  • We WILL have a Discard ban which will decimate the industry with quota ‘choke species’.
  • Increased Rental prices beyond the already damagingly high levels.  Purchase prices will be prohibitive -forcing boats further into debt, loss of equity in the business or out the industry.
  • Consolidation of the industry into few hands. Allowed by political indifference and aided and abetted by a small minority in the industry who care only for themselves and not for the industry, communities and our way of life.
  • The Family and community industry will be wiped out as everything will end up in a few big company hands as it has done in Iceland and New Zealand.

Fishing for Leave bears no malice to big companies and believes everyone should be allowed to prosper fairly to whatever level their efforts determine. However, what is happening with the current quota system is a political construct not natural progression.

Further consolidation will finish many ports, stifle new entrants and disincentivise young men from the hard challenge of fishing by eliminating the ability to progress.

We implore the minority who want to continue quotas to see that an alternative system is inclusive in benefiting them too.   Would it not be advantageous to move to a better system that ensures a clean break from an EU system and puts the whole industry on a sounder footing?

What has happened with quotas has been a fiddle on a monumental scale by a minority who were in the loop during the quota reference period of 1994 to 1996.

Currently we are seeing mainly family businesses stagnating or being undermined as the industry is bled dry by having to rent quota from slipper skippers and quota renters.

As Ian McSween, formerly CEO of the SFO Producers Organisation, pointed out in his newsletter before retirement – beneath the façade the industry is structurally a sick puppy – as he poignantly observed stocks are booming yet some of the top skippers in the country have felt compelled to sell up.

Other areas of the country have been left to survive on the few species that are not quota pressured as access to their traditional fisheries has been eroded.  The West coast and Irish Sea are prime examples.

Some people will fume at the above but it is the truth of the situation.

Sadly, we fear that due to political indifference, and a minority within the industry who are blinded by self-interests, that we will end up continuing the same old bad habits post Brexit.

All Fishing for Leave aims and hopes for is an ecologically sound, simple policy that allows healthy stocks that all fishermen, from big company to small family, can work to continue an industry, communities and fishing families for generations to come and we welcome anyone in the industry who wishes to see and support this.