Landing Obligation Forum
A series of meetings between regulators and the fishing industry, to discuss the implementation issues arising from the landing obligation, have now been formalised as the "Landing Obligation Forum." Another name for the forum could be an "in-year implementation/solutions group."
Defra, the MMO, UKAFPO and the NFFO will meet regularly to assess progress, identify problem areas and work on potential solutions. This means that policy makers, regulators and the broad range of diverse fishing interests (under and over-10m inshore and offshore) are in the room. This is not a policy making group, but it does provide a space where issues can be discussed frankly and give expression to a genuinely collaborative approach. These discussions run parallel to separate conversations being held with processors and retailers, as well as discussions between Defra/MMO and UKAFPO on the more operational aspects of quota management.
The Forum will be chaired by the NFFO and Defra will provide a secretariat to ensure that all action points are followed through.
Identifying potential choke risks and formulating possible solutions will be on the agenda for each meeting, as will regular updates from Defra on developments on the policy side that could have an impact on the industry.
There is a recognition that the industry has done much already to reduce unwanted catch, but improved selectivity and avoidance are inherently difficult in some fisheries, where losses of marketable catch as well as technical issues can be an obstacle. High survival and de minimis exemptions have been central to avoiding serious chokes in 2019, so far. The Group will assess how these are operating.
The group will also discuss the overall performance of the landing obligation and identify where improvements could be made. When the new legislation was adopted in 2013, interspecies flexibility was considered to be a major tool for the avoidance of chokes but has proven to be all but inoperable in practice. The group will discuss this and alternative mechanisms that could help with the integration of the landing obligation into the broader fisheries management system.
The five stocks subject to zero catch advice, and the innovative way of dealing with this through bycatch TACs and bycatch reduction plans, will be a particular focus of attention, simply because they are new and untested.
Big changes such as the landing obligation tend to generate unintended consequences by creating new economic incentives. The Group will keep track of these to ensure that they do not take the industry as a whole in unwelcome directions.
There is wide acknowledgement amongst regulators and the wider industry, that the landing obligation marks a huge change and challenge. Those challenges are best tackled in a cooperative collaborative way and the forum is a vehicle for that cooperation.