Skippers Fear Discard Ban with Quotas Means Bankruptcy!

British Skippers fear that by banning discards rather than removing the cause of quotas the majority of vessels will be bankrupted.

Below, David Gair, a Northumberland skipper of 30 years, highlights his fears that a Catch Quota Discard Ban will bankrupt most, force quota into a few hands and suits only fat cat, quota renting slipper skippers. 

Demersal Landings Obligations (Discard Ban)

I, like everyone else, received my letter from MMO last week outlining the new discards ban. I replied to Mr Phil Haslam outlining my concerns and fears and got a prompt reply. So, may I say thank you for that.

However, not all the points I raised were addressed. Two points in particular were the decimation of the fleet and the starvation of the sea birds.  I don’t know which is the more important issue in the eyes of MMO/Defra, but I can guess and time will tell.

Now, am I right in saying that, in a nut shell, with the Discard ban/Catch quota system the MMO/Defra are wanting us to do the following-

  • Go to sea, land everything we catch, sized or undersized.
  • Set it against the meagre quota we have.
  • Pay someone to transport and get rid of all the discard’s from our own pocket.
  • When we quickly exhaust our smallest quota allocation we have to tie up.

So, when we run out of our lowest quota we either –

1) Tie up permanently and go out of business.

2) Rent quota from someone who is blessed enough to have plenty – some slipper skipper sitting on his or her backside laughing and raking it in.

What part of either option is good business management on my part?

I invite anyone from MMO/Defra to run my business successfully next year and make a profit under the new rules that are forth coming from them. Any takers?

img-20161125-wa0001

Then comes the apparent magical solution!;

MMO and Defra say there will be no days at sea and that you can work 365 days – You’re going to need every one of them because you’re going to spend half your life at sea steaming around to find a clean fishery which you have quota for.

They also offer the magical solution that you can put holes and escape panels in your trawls so you don’t catch anything at all, except what you have a bit of quota for.

Still confused as to how this will work… well there’s more.

On a typical week trawling on my local grounds I can, and sometimes do, catch and land up to 25-30 different species.  This, for the benefit of MMO/Defra, is called a mixed fishery.

Can the powers that be show me this design of trawl that can differentiate from all these species and filter out what I can catch and land and what I cannot.

The least bit of fishing experience would allow them to understand that it is impossible to design a net to catch only one species cleanly.

I trailed escape panels 4 years ago for CEFAS and found on a direct prawn fishing they were ok but that at certain times of the year, when we rely on making up a day’s pay with other fish, they had a huge impact on profitability.

What are we supposed to do then? I only see two options-

  1. Move to other grounds, somewhere that could be up to a 200-250 miles steam or more, to try to find a “clean” fishery whilst putting more needless pressure on other grounds which someone else relies on.
  1. Take the panels out and hope and pray that the species that might choke the fishery is gone and we can carry on fishing. But if not rent in the fish at a loss if it’s even available at all to try to continue fishing. All this will do is make the fat cat quota renters fatter.

Making any sense to anyone yet?

If you’ve ever rented quota you know where I’m coming from. It is crippling good fishermen and fishing businesses.  If you are lucky enough that you haven’t or haven’t needed to well you might not understand what all the fuss is about.

If anyone can explain it in more simple terms and assure me I’m not going to go out of business please feel free to enlighten me.

discards%20318x203A haul of marketable whitings discarded because of lack of quotas. Under discard ban they must be landed. This “choke species” will force the vessel to tie up immediately for the rest of the year even if it has other quota to catch.

The quota system is just fine as is if you’re narrow minded, have plenty quota, are a slipper skipper/quota renter or are foolish enough to keep renting it from the fat cats.

As I see it quota rental is one of the hands that’s strangling the fishing. The other is going to be the discard ban.

It would be interesting to see the financial breakdown across the industry to see what percentage of the turn over goes to renting fish and, when broken down, what amount of the fish is caught just to finance the rentals.

I think there would be a few dropped jaws when you saw the amount of fish taken just to cover for this needless expense.

Withdrawing from the EU with a clean slate and a decent policy should give a chance to secure a good living for all in the industry.  As I see it the present quota system and discard ban is anything but a good system or a good living.

We should take back from the EU that was wrongly given away and we should land what we catch on a sensible non-transferable days at sea scheme on something like 200 days per boat per year.

As everyone knows the best form of conservation is when the boats not at sea and tied up.  We would catch less fish, be able to land more of it, wouldn’t have discards and wouldn’t have to rent quota.

I say if you can’t make it pay on 200 days you either don’t want that boat or well, I don’t need to say the other bit!

I liked the quote from Iain Harcus of the Aalskere on Sky News which told a sad truth –  ”the best skippers were the ones that landed the most  fish, now it’s the one with the most quota”.

Most in the industry won’t and can’t survive in Discard ban with Quotas.   If this is the system that the powers that be and certain individuals in the industry want or think will work well I’m sorry guys you need to return to a planet far far away.

It will be interesting to see what the government does about Brexit and the fantastic opportunity we have laid before us.

As it’s been said before the fishing will be the “acid test of Brexit”.

Just a pity our industry wasn’t more united. We can have the table and what’s on it if we unite if we don’t, sorry lads we’ll just get the crumbs that fall from it.

David Gair

Aquarius BH456