Keeping Quotas Continues Same Failures

 “The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster…. Exchanging a disastrous system run from Brussels for one run by London is no panacea”

These words were written in a 2005 Conservative Green Paper which campaigned on restoration of national control which, with leaving the EU, will now come to pass.

Fish stocks have been shown to be on the increase and many are now at sustainable levels – this essential raw ingredient, when finally managed correctly, can allow Britain to become one of the world’s leading fishing nations.

However – this increase in stocks has been in spite of the management of the CFP not because of it – the CFPs has only achieved a reduction in fishing effort by decimating the fishing fleet through regulatory ineptitude – 60% of the UK fleet has been scrapped.


Stocks have managed to increase despite fishermen being forced to exert more pressure with discarding.

Government reports estimate that on average 40% of the fish caught across the North Sea fleet is needlessly discarded. As vessels are forced to catch more fish than necessary to find what their limited quota allocations allows them to keep.

As quotas only limit what vessels can land, rather than what they can catch, we have unlimited catching. With 4 out of every 10 fish being discarded this represents a 66% greater catch than was necessary and landed.

Quotas cause a race to fish to catch alot in order to find what can be kept – this is defeating conservation rather than ensuring it.   All Quotas have managed to do is to constrict landings to match the quotas rather than the catches.

Britain’s marine ecology is a highly mixed fishery and vessels will always catch a mix of species.  The amount is determined by a vessels time at sea, its catching capacity and the skipper’s ability. The Quota system is working against this reality and will always cause discards as it’s impossible for fishermen to catch the specific amounts of each species to match their quota without catching others.

All vessels can do under quotas is either illegally land (blackfish) the “wrong” species of fish or discard them.

For anyone to claim that the current system has been successful or beneficial is for the birds when quotas and discarding is adding stock pressure and there is a list of ports, harbours, boats and families that reads like a war memorial.

The only way the fishing industry has kept going is through being able to discard and through consolidation of quota into fewer hands.To continue with the same said system that has been recognised to be a failure, is environmentally improper and has caused economic emaciation but put it on steroids is, for a lack of a better word – mad.


The proposed solution is to ban the symptom (discards) rather than address the cause of them – the quota system.
Catch Quotas – where quotas will be catches instead of landings will create ‘Choke Species’  as vessels will have to stop fishing when they hit their lowest quota. When vessels hit their Choke Species they will have to tie up regardless of whether they have quota for the other species.

Diagram Above Illustrates that when the vessel hits its lowest quota allocation it will have to stop fishing despite still having plenty quota for other species.

Recent Seafish reports estimate that Choke species will leave approximately 60% of the available resources un-caught resulting in early closures of fisheries, tie ups of vessels and the bankrupting of much of the British fishing industry.

As quotas cause discards, and as fishermen will try to continue to discard to remain fishing, the only credible way to have a discard ban under a quota system is with full CCTV surveillance of vessels to ensure they do not discard.

Fishermen are hugely fearful that continuing with a bad management regime and enacting a ban to solve a problem of the regimes own ineptitude will be a suicide pill.

An ITQ Catch Quota Discard ban system (Fully Documented Fishery FDF) has already been trialed and was an operational and economic impossibility – the trial failed after 5 weeks. In 2013 one family business, attempted to replicate a Catch Quota, Discard Ban, ITQ fishery as some extol should be followed post Brexit.

The vessels lasted 5 weeks before they had to call the trial off as it was impossible to keep fishing legally.  They calculated they alone would utilise the entire UK North Sea Hake allocation such is the disparity between stocks and quotas.


The fundamental failing of the quota system in mixed fisheries is that humans are trying to impose a rigid system of individual quota limits on a dynamic and ever fluctuating wild marine environment.

As landings by fishermen only reflect what quotas allow them to land, with much of what catch discarded, this vital source of data is misconstrued from reflecting the true mixture and predominance of species.

Resultantly, as the theoretical quota limits misconstrue landings this creates data that is a poor reflection of reality and therefore science suffers from the paucity of data the system creates.  Consequently, quotas are set out of line with species predominance and mix – the Quota system has created and generates a bad data loop.

Where the science, quotas and the landings become further detached from the reality of the changes in the marine environment as humans aim to hit our own self-imposed quota targets.

Rather than taking a sustainable, balanced harvest where we work with and align effort to what mother nature produces, and thereafter reacting to changes, the current quota system and its micromanagement is an abject failure.

The current system is a 30year long cul-de-sac, Brexit provides three options

1) Keep quota – keep discarding to avoid choke species – not acceptable.

2) Keep quota– ban discards- decimate the fleet with choke species & consolidation– not acceptable.

3) Move to a new system of refined effort control as FFL advocates which is the only way to end discards.