Only Days-at-Sea work in a Mixed Fishery

The CFP quota system has been an environmental and economic disaster.

By continuing this regime the industry would be trapped in a pincer by continuing an EU system and EU shares of it and the Discard ban. This would squander the opportunity of a clean slate to rejuvenate UK fisheries, therefore Fishing for Leave proposes a ‘Days-at-Sea’ scheme for future UK fisheries management.

Unless the opportunity of Brexit to regain and repatriate all our waters and all our resources is betrayed then, with a clean slate, we must decide what to do next.

To ensure repatriation of all resources, rejuvenation of the industry and to avoid a calamity with the discard ban the UK must look to a new fisheries management regime.

Fishing for Leave highlighted that Quotas will never work in mixed fisheries and that the current quota system is horrendous and untenable on three accounts;
1) Diplomatically – if the UK continues with quotas it will be continuing an EU system. Giving the EU legitimate claim that it should continue to receive its slice of the pie. It will be near impossible to unpick an adopted system in the face of EU resistance and domestic political indifference.

2) Environmentally – quotas do not, and will never, work in the demersal mixed fisheries around the UK. They cause the tragedy of mass discarding, as vessels are forced to discard fish to comply with quota allocations. Quotas lead to an ill-founded need for a discard ban that address the symptom rather than cause of the problem. With poor landings leading to inaccurate stock assessments leading to ever poorer quotas the industry is trapped in a downward spiral.

3) Operationally – Quotas cause greater fishing pressure and reduced profitability. Boats spend extra time and effort at sea discarding to find what they can keep. The industry has bled itself white buying and renting quota with continual consolidation onto fewer vessels. Some species have a TAC so ridiculously low that it would be insufficient for a handful of vessels and these ‘choke species’ will see the fleet tied up when hitting the lowest quota allocation. The discard ban with a catch quota system monitored by cctv, advocated by a few narrow sighted individuals in the industry who thought they were clever, will be the final nail in the coffin for family fishing and most communities.

It is a simple equation – BOATS + QUOTA = DISCARDS. To stop the Discards you need to eliminate the quotas or eliminate the boats.

If the UK persists with Quotas because of a minority of vested interests, who cannot see past their own short term self-interest to the bigger picture of the wider political and environmental situation, we will see the industry destroyed Brexit or not.

Alternative Days System

Fishing for Leave advocates a Days-at-Sea system as being the only ‘fit for purpose’ and ecologically sound policy that would allow the UK to address that Quotas don’t work in a mixed fishery and allow the industry to sidestep the discard ban and a continuation of EU relative stability quota shares.

However, as the industry has invested in FQA allocations – not the quotas themselves – a way to change allocations from arbitrary kilogram quotas to be expressed in a days-at-sea effort regime must be provided

It is critical for business stability to preserve FQA investments whilst transforming them into a fit for purpose Days-at-Sea system. Many skippers and/or boat owners have been forced to spend considerable money to purchase FQA entitlements to survive in a system foistered upon the industry.

The industry must now look to the future and not the past.

To allow a transition of FQAs from quotas to being incorporated in Days-at-Sea, and to protect high value species from excess exploitation, Fishing for Leave proposed transforming FQAs from being expressed as an arbitrary kilogram quota allocations to a flexible catch composition percentage.

– Example – If a vessel had Total 500 tons of quota and 100 tons was Cod then 20% of this vessels catch may be Cod. By converting FQAs from kg quotas to catch compositions the vessel still has allocations to catch 20% Cod but it is composition of total catch taken in the mixed fishery.

To stop discards this percentage is flexible – if exceeded the vessel needn’t discard the fish but may keep what it catches by sacrificing time at sea to compensate; time which is not needed as a successful catch of fish is aboard.

This means, in this example, if you catch Cod you may land it but have an incentive to avoid Cod as you will be penalised by loss of effort (hours/days).

Rather than having an arbitrary catch limit in kilograms that causes discards, the catch-composition percentages within the ‘days at sea’ scheme act to discourage vessels from pursuing species they normally do not target but allows keep what you catch in a mixed fishery.

As shown below the system acts like fine adjustment on a set of scales.  Where you are trying to balance stock recruitment against overall catch effort but are then providing incentives through flexible catch composition percentages to avoid particular species.



It allows a skipper flexibility to balance what he is catching against his time at sea to make a viable trip whilst deterring a free for all on high value species or niche fisheries.

These catch compositions are based on track records of FQA units previously landed (i.e. owned and rented) this acts as re-referencing and eliminates slipper skippers(quota renters).

Fishing for Leave also proposed a resources amnesty – that current allocations are recognised and preserved for business stability, but all resources repatriated to the UK after Brexit should go into a government pool. To be distributed across the whole industry for the benefit of all from 70m pelagic to 7m punt. Fishing is a people’s resource, one that belongs to this nation.

We must end this ever-corporatized situation where fishing rights will eventually end up in the hands of few, one that is destroying our fishing communities and heritage.

 Ecological Basis of Days-at-Sea

A future UK policy must be based on sound first principles, and the Days-at-Sea system is the only way to limit effort when you are catching a variable mix of species.

Ecologically Quotas fail in a mixed fishery because they are trying to remove individual “chunks” from the ecosystem which unbalances it. They cause discards and consequently excess effort as vessels are forced to catch more but land less to find what they can keep. They cause inaccurate reporting and poor science- it is a downward spiral of bad data, bad allocations and mass discards.



To be ecologically sustainable you must treat a mixed fishery as one overall stock of fish (a mix of species) not individual blocks (single species).

Faroe operate a Days-at-Sea system based on the concept that you must treat the ecology of fish stocks as a whole – recognising that an ecosystem resembles a pyramid of interdependent species. You must allow a slice across all species so the ecosystem is harvested uni-formally and reduced evenly to balance the stocks.

You must skim the sides of the resource, Balancing effort against recruitment allows the pyramid ecology of all species to expand-and-contract at an ecologically sustainable amount, to expand and contract like a set of lungs – to breathe.

To be sustainable we then must balance overall catch (effort) with overall recruitment and vary the fishing effort in accordance with that trend.

. Example – the North Sea sustains 1million tons of fish – 200,000 tons can be removed to balance catch against recruitment. 200 vessels have the catching capacity of 5tons per day = 1000tons/per day. To hit this overall extraction of 200,000 the fleet needs 200 days per vessel.

Days-at-Sea allows and encourages accurate reporting and therefore provides real time data as vessels can keep what they catch.
Under a Days at Sea system –
– If total advisable extraction levels are reached before vessels exceed their days-at-sea allocation then it shows the stocks are abundant and a safe increase in fishing effort may come.
– If total advisable extraction levels are not reached within the time limit then stocks are scarce and days should be cut until landings outrun time again.

Fishing for Leaves proposed system operates like a set of scales balancing effort (days at sea) against recruitment (landings) with catch composition percentages based on the maintained and preserved FQA investments (detailed above) providing a fine tuning slider on top of the overall ecosystem.



A Days-at-Sea system would allow keep what you catch, would be founded on ecologically sound first principles and would eliminate the cause of discards rather than ban the symptoms.

Days-at-Sea would provide accurate data of what is in the sea and it would lead to greater sustainability and profitability as vessels would catch less and land more. As icing on the cake it would be an easier system to administer so reducing the regulatory burden on fishermen and government.


Summary of the Principles of FFL’s proposed system are:

1 – Days-at Sea with keep what you catch. It removes inaccurate catch recording giving more accurate data for science.

2 – It removes the cause of discards ending catch more land less and allows the UK to sidestep an EU quota system and continued EU shares of the quota pie.

3 – To provide business stability by preserving FQA track records and the investment in them by converting FQAs to be expressed as flexible catch composition percentages instead of arbitrary kg quotas.

4 – It increases profitability by landing more in value for catching less in quantity, in a shorter time. Less time at sea and less pressure on stocks is required with Days-at-Sea, keep what you catch.

5 — Time at sea would be measured as soak/fishing time and not judged on the ‘harbour to harbour’ time as it is now.

6 – It improves sustainability and eradicates the need for discards. It is also easier to administer.