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Meeting with Minister on Under-10m Issue
A small NFFO delegation, representing a cross-section of the Federation’s membership, recently met UK Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, to discuss in detail the government’s approach to resolving the problems faced by part of the under-10m fleet. The meeting was primarily focused on the issues raised in a recent NFFO letter to the Minister.
The Federation stressed:
- That the problems facing the under-10s are multi-layered and that domestic quota arrangements are only one facet of the issue
- That the quota difficulties faced by the under-10m fleet are not generalised but are regionally and fisheries specific: with the Eastern Channel and Thames Estuary facing acute difficulties
- That the Government’s focus on quota distribution risked making the situation worse for both under and over-10s
- That a ‘package approach’, embracing the following, was required:
- Latent capacity in the under-10m fleet
- The high-catching under-10s that constitute 14% of the under 10m fleet but catch 70% of the under-10m pool quotas
- Access for the under-10m fleet to much more tailored and responsive quota management
- That Defra could play a positive role in making unutilised quota available to the under 10s by facilitating stronger links and communications between local under-10 fleets and regional POs.
The Minister indicated that if he had access to available funds, a well designed decommissioning scheme would be central to the solution to balancing fleet capacity with quotas available to the under-10m fleet. He welcomed the Federation’s constructive and reasonable approach and indicated that his officials would closely examine the suggestions advanced. He also indicated that apart from UK’s own financial constraints, the Commission’s suspension of EFF funds for decommissioning tied his hands on a publically funded decommissioning scheme. He agreed however was to look closely at other funding possibilities for a voluntary decommissioning scheme.
The Federation has expressed concern that the Government’s focus on redistribution of quota from the producer organisations to the under-10s will destabilise the reasonably well functioning system of fixed quota allocations – a variant of a system of rights based management – without resolving the problems faced by some under-10m fisheries. We remain reasonably convinced that with goodwill on all sides, solutions can be found. However, the current piecemeal approach is divisive without prospect of resolving the core issues.
This was a constructive meeting, focussed on the underlying issues facing a number of specific under-10m fisheries. It will only be through cool heads and goodwill that a way through this complex of problems will be found.