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Catch App for Under-10s
The MMO is introducing a mobile phone-based catch app for recording catches from the under 10 metre fleet. The NFFO addresses questions that have arisen.
Q. Are there problems with the new catch app?
A. Yes. After several problems were raised by members about the app at the NFFO AGM in 2018, the MMO delayed implementation of the new system. The new version was rolled out in January, but some small-scale fishermen are still facing problems.
Q. What sort of problems?
A. The NFFO has submitted this list to the MMO:
1. The app is missing several ports. The MMO advice in these circumstances is to use next nearest port. However, on the face of it, it is an offence to list wrong port when using the app to record catch
2. The app will not accept part kgs, so 250g red mullet, rounded up to 1kg, 2x 350g john dory rounded up to 1kg. Both rounding on the face of it, create offences as the estimates are automatically outside 10% tolerance
3. Some harbours have no phone signal. MMO has advised it will transmit when back in range. It is however an offence to land without prior notification
4. A 50kg exemption is available to larger vessels. That makes life a lot easier, but the same concession is not available to the under-10m fleet
Q. What has the MMO’s response been?
A. We are waiting for a definitive reply but in the meantime, the MMO has said that no fisherman will face prosecution if there are genuine problems in specific fisheries. They have said that they are not in the business of criminalising a whole sector because of problems implementing a new system.
Dispensations have been issued in cases when it is clear that the design of the new app is not fit for purpose in particular circumstances
Q. What happens now?
A. The MMO will be urged to work systematically until all the problems are resolved.
Q. Doesn’t this still leave the risk of prosecution?
A. Theoretically, yes, but every aspect of control, monitoring and enforcement relies on an element of discretion by the authorities.
Q. How many people face problems?
A. It’s hard to say but the MMO tell us that the app is successfully working on around 1000 of the active 1400 under-10s
Q. Wouldn’t it be better for the MMO to withdraw the app until all the problems are resolved?
A. It’s not unusual for new large-scale technology projects to hit problems. The way forward is to systematically resolve the shortcomings, not abandon the attempt. Besides, EU infraction procedures still have sway if started before the UK leaves the EU. There are no signs that having come this far, the MMO will abandon the project.
Q. Isn’t it inherently difficult to estimate caches, especially of small amounts?
A. It is. This has been a longstanding problem in the over 10m fleet too, especially when the margin of tolerance between logbook estimate and sales note/ landing declaration was reduced from 20% to 10%. The discretion exercised by the enforcement authorities means that this hasn’t led to endless prosecutions
Q. What’s the NFFO’s view of the catch app?
A. The bottom line is that we need accurate, catch data from all fisheries including the under-10 sector and recreational fisheries, if we are to successful manage our fisheries to maximise the benefits. The under-10 sector has suffered badly in the past because of this lack of data, in quota share outs and in battles over space to fish. The electronic log-books used by over-10m vessels aren’t appropriate for the conditions on smaller vessels and the mobile phone -based catch app seems to offer a useful tool. But the system must work. The problems that are being highlighted must be resolved.
If we are to successfully get low-impact vessels out of the quota system, the trade-off will be to have confidence that the vessels are truly low impact and the catch app will be central to that.
Q. The MMO may be taken to judicial review about the failings of the catch app. Will the NFFO support that?
A. We have to look at the big picture. The Government supports co-management and the Fisheries Bill, as the UK leaves the CFP, provides a huge opportunity. Co-management means the fishing industry, fisheries managers and fisheries scientists working together as equals to deliver sustainable and profitable fisheries. If one party is being taken to court, that cooperation will never get off the ground. The NFFO won’t be joining that bandwagon. We need to resolve our differences in a different way, rather than fund overpaid lawyers.