SFF Had Best Come Clean On Iceland

In a recent visit to Iceland by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Brexit Group to familiarize themselves with Icelandic fisheries management Bertie Armstrong CEO of the SFF In an Icelandic newspaper said

“We are very fond of what we have seen here”,  “Great facilities and great looking at this model where the same company has the boats and the factory” and “We want to be a fishing country, like Iceland, Norway and Faroe Islands and we look forward to the Icelandic system after this visit”. 

It is well known that the Icelandic ITQ system has caused heavy monetarisation of fishing entitlements, with a resultant consolidation of quota into the hands of a few large corporate companies.

For the SFF to say they are “very fond” and “it’s great to look at this model” and that “they look forward to the Icelandic system“ is an appalling dereliction of the majority of their membership by the SFF. It flies in the face of their protestations about a sea of opportunity for coastal communities.

Britain already nearly have a de-facto ITQ system in all but name – it is just called an FQA system that was established in 1999. It is this quasi ITQ system that has got us into such a mess and why 90% of fishermen voted to Leave for a drastic change not more of the same.

Britain is already halfway down the path towards to consolidation of entitlement into a few big company hands under our de-facto ITQ system, with the majority of the fleet being squeezed by punitive quota purchase and especially leasing costs.

The quota system has caused discards which the public and NGOs demand is stopped.  The only way the majority have survived is through being able to discard to find what they can keep and/or through making up landings with non-quota species.

A fully enforced discard ban where all fish caught has to be landed and counted against quota is going to see the majority of the fleet go bust through choke species.

When the ban kicks in there is going to be a scramble for quota to cover for every fish that comes aboard and an acceleration of consolidation as most will fall by the way side.  Barely any family owned boats have enough to survive… even many bigger companies are going to struggle.

For Mr Armstrong and the SFF Brexit group to be advocating retention of the same bad quota system when the ability to discard to survive is about to be stopped is bad enough.

But to then extol increasing the dose of the same bad medicine by copying Iceland. which is the current system on steroids  and which has irrefutably caused huge devastation to the numbers of the Icelandic fleet, coastal communities and family businesses, is incredible and un-tenable.

We have this one chance with Brexit to reset with a system that works environmentally and just as importantly allows everyone from biggest company to smallest boat to survive and to rebuild communities.  Not continue with the same as the last 20 years of consolidation to last man standing

For Mr Armstrong to advocate going to a version of the current system but on steroids – ITQs – just beggars belief.

The majority of family businesses in the SFF had best start asking some serious questions as to how they will have a future under a continuation of the same old but on steroids?

It is about time Mr Armstrong and co. came clean as to what is going on.

From FFL attending meetings and working with officials –

  • Why are the SFF telling officials that chokes species are not any major problem that the quota system that causes the chokes in the first place can’t get around?
  • Why are they failing to mention the punitive situation of quota rentals that officials have never heard of?
  • And why in gods name are they driving the government hard for an Icelandic ITQ system?

To have sat through a recent stakeholders meeting and heard Mr Armstrong ask for no radical change as his vision for the next 10years, aside from taking back control as a coastal state, is poor.   To then try to denounce FFLs proposals by saying things are rosy in the garden when we’ve lost every major fishing port in the North Sea south of Peterhead, with around 100 boats having been lost from the NE fleet in 10years, beggars belief.

Can Mr Armstrong seriously stand and assert that the current fleet will survive under a continuation of the current regime but accelerated to a full blown ITQ system coupled with a discard ban?   He needs to come out crystal clear right now to the family fishing industry in Scotland.

Is this the minority who are driving the SFFs grand strategy? To keep the wheels on a dysfunctional system that has been invested in by hiding the truth of it to government in order to keep consolidating to last man standing as the fleet slowly administratively asphyxiates?

Can they not see past the strategy of last man standing lumped on the industry in the last 20 years. Would it not be better to design and move to a system that ends the cause of the problem whilst maintaining FQAs and investments in them as FFL has designed and advocates?

Perhaps this is why the same said individuals never campaigned for Brexit when everyone was screaming for it and hid behind a guise of neutrality to excuse themselves after failing to support getting out the CFP for 20years.

That is why it was left to FFL alone, driven and organised by former FAL & SBF members, to carry the torch for the industry with no help or so much as a thank you from the controlling interests in the SFF.

A comment from an Icelandic scientist who met with the SFF delegation just about sums it up

“Bertie Armstrong is here, and is brainwashed by Icelandic quota holders.

HB Grandi who they are enthralled with has 12% of the Icelandic quota, he is the biggest. Recently they bought out a fish company in a nearby village and 40 people lost their jobs.  To me Bertie is an arrogant, dangerous man”.