The Future of Our Inshore Fisheries Conference will be held in London on 8th/9th October. Your…
NFFO Chairman, Tony Delahunty discusses the future of quota management in the under-10m Pool
The NFFO has already expressed, as part of its response to a recent Defra consultation, its support for the provision of a voluntary facility that would allow under-10m vessels to manage their own allocations (as part of a group or as an individual vessel) on the basis of their FQA allocations. We think that this facility will be most relevant to the 14% of higher catching under-10s, which account for around 70% of the under-10m fleets catches of quota species.
Whilst this approach will help remove some of the quota pinch points that have arisen in some specific under-10 fisheries, through better targeted and adaptive quota management, we are clear that for most under-10m vessels this will not be the preferred option. The primary reason for this is that the flexibility to alter target species to adapt to the changing availability of different stocks is of central importance to most inshore fishing vessels; and that this is best met through the retention of the pool approach to quota management. This is exactly the position that I find myself as the operator of an under-10m vessel on the south coast. We mainly target crab and lobster but at certain times of the year it makes sense to target some of the quota species that become available within our area. This is when the flexibility of the pool is invaluable.
In the event that there is significant uptake of the voluntary option to accept and manage under-10 FQAs, it will be important to safeguard fishing opportunities within the remaining pool. With fewer high catching vessels fishing against the pool the uptake of the pool quotas should be less too, all other things being equal. But it will be equally important to tailor quota management to the under-10s which remain under the pool arrangement.
This should involve a fundamental review of the arrangements for the residual fleet operating within under-10m pool. This could include:
- Intelligence available to identify, forecast and address potential quota pinch points
- Underpinning arrangements, first introduced in the 1990s to provider a safety-net for the under-10s in the event of TAC reductions
- The optimum use of unused quota available to the pool, to use as currency to secure quota for which there is a need
- The use of variable periods for quota limits to reflect the specific characteristics of particular fisheries
- Strengthened communications between the under-10m fleet and quota managers to ensure period limits and quota tonnages are aligned with what is required
- The voluntary provision of precision data from under-10m vessels to strengthen stock assessments and tailored quota management
The aim should be to make available to all under-10s the kind of responsive, tailored, quota management that already brings benefits to those vessels operating within producer organisations. There is no reason why under-10m vessels in the pool arrangements should be second class citizens.
No one is claiming that these steps will be a panacea. After all quotas are intended to constrain catches. But resolving the problem of the high catching vessels operating within the under-10m pool, whilst safeguarding the remaining fleet, has the makings of a balanced, workable approach.