The NFFO backs the need for improved catch reporting but says the Government’s proposed…
Sustainable Access to Inshore Fisheries Advisory Group (SAIF) Consultation: NFFO Response
This paper is the NFFO’s response to the SAIF Proposition Paper which was circulated on 21st January 2010. Our response is in four parts:
Steps Towards Sustainable Inshore Fisheries
This paper is the NFFO’s response to the SAIF Proposition Paper which was circulated on 21st January 2010. Our response is in four parts:
Part 1 Introductions
Part II Defining Problems/Analysis
Rights Based Management
Part III Defining Solutions/Proposals
One Industry Solutions: Proposals
Part 1 Introductions
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations is the representative body for fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The SAIF Proposition Paper is a staging post in the work of the SAIF project. The project was set up by Defra to address the problems faced by the inshore fleet in England and to identify possible ways forward. It is primarily focused on the issue of quota constraints in the under 10-metre sector.
Although the under-10 metre quota problems are deep rooted and have developed over many years, they have become especially acute since the introduction of Registration of Buyers and Sellers legislation made it a legal requirement for under-10 metre vessels to submit sales notes; this in turn disclosed that catches previously attributed to the under 10m fleet had been significantly underestimated. The additional recorded catch has put pressure on the ‘pool’ system of quota management, leading in recent years to stringent catch limits in a number of key fisheries of importance to the under-10 metre fleet, in order to maintain a 12 month fishery.
The difficulties faced by the under-10 metre fleet have been intensified by the reduction in TACs over the last 20 years, with no corresponding adjustment in the capacity of the inshore fleet.
In responding to the SAIF Propositions Paper, the NFFO has outlined its own vision for the future of under-10 metre quota management. This is a vision based on different precepts than those that underpin the current debate, which on the whole amount to advocacy for a form of separate development. Instead, the NFFO proposes the reintegration of the under-10 metre fisheries into the mainstream UK rights based management system, as a full and active participant with a high degree of self determination.
Part II Analysis / Defining the Problem
The SAIF Group Propositions Paper primarily focuses on:
- inshore fisheries in isolation from the rest of the UK fishing industry
- the whitefish sector
- quota issues
- the future
This emphasis has the advantage of directly addressing the most intransigent problems facing the inshore sector. On the other hand, in aiming for intensity of focus, the SAIF paper makes little attempt to situate the discussion within its broader context, especially in relation to:
- the historical evolution of the UK quota management arrangements as a system of rights based management
- the wider under-10 metre fisheries, including shellfish and non- pressure stocks
- the place of inshore fishing in the wider UK fishing industry
- the direction of EU fisheries and environmental policies
Our response tries to refocus the debate on the future of management arrangements for the inshore fisheries within these wider parameters.
Evolution of the UK Quota Management System and a two tier Approach
It is difficult to appreciate the current position of the under-10 metre fleet, or to suggest ways out of the current impasse, without some understanding of the way that the arrangements for managing the inshore fisheries have evolved.
The respective shares of each member state were agreed in the 1983 CFP Relative Stability settlement and shortly afterwards restrictive measures (fishing vessel licensing and national catch limits) began to be applied in the UK to those fisheries where catches exceeded national allocations.
At the outset of UK management arrangements for “pressure stocks” in the mid 1980s, all quota restrictions were set by Government in consultation with advisory committees, on which industry organisations were represented. Subsequently, during the mid to late 1980s, UK fisheries departments offered producer organisations the option to manage their members’ quotas for specific stocks. Over time, the range of stocks for which “sectoral” management was offered as an option was increased, until the point when POs were given the option of managing all TAC stocks caught by their member vessels – or none. Since then quota management has become a primary role for all producer organisations in the UK.
The two tier approach to quota management in the UK thus had its genesis in a default: quotas for vessels not covered by sectoral arrangements continued to be set centrally by Fisheries Departments, albeit in consultation with industry organisations. The residual over-10 metre “non-sector”, along with the quota uptake of the under-10 metre fleet, continued to be subject to central management whilst the rest of the fleet elected to be managed under PO arrangements.
In fact therefore, the “two tier” approach1 to quota management has a longer pedigree than suggested in the SAIF proposition paper and this is quite significant.
The evolution of the UK’s quota management arrangements into a system of rights based management was not the result of a single, conscious, policy decision but was the result of a series of pragmatic adjustments to fishing vessel licensing and quota management rules, that in combination and in effect introduced tradable fishing entitlements.
The introduction of FQAs was indeed a significant step in the evolution of the UK quota management system towards a rights basedmanagement system. Its intention however was more limited: a move away from the use it or lose it lottery associated with a rolling reference period as the basis for quota entitlements. However, the separation of those parts of the industry who wanted (and were capable of) managing their quota allocations during the course of the quota year, and a residual group of over 10metre vessels who did or could not, along with the under 10 metre fleet predated FQAs by more than a decade.
The reason that producer organisations agreed to take on the (unpaid and sometimes onerous) responsibility of managing quota allocations on behalf of their members, was that, against the background of increasingly restrictive TACs, delegated responsibility for quota management provided an important opportunity for POs to tailor quota arrangements to the specific fishing patterns of their member vessels. It was therefore precisely to escape the negatives associated with blunt and inappropriate quota rules imposed by relatively remote central fisheries managers that the PO sectoral management system evolved.
It is important be clear that the use of the dividing line at 10 metres for quota management purposes was a wholly arbitrary decision. The UK chose to use this breakpoint principally because under-10 metre vessels were not required to complete EU logbooks. However, other member states have defined their inshore fleet, for various purposes, in a variety of different ways, including under-12 metres, under-15 meters, under-17 metres and length of trip.
The divergence between the conditions in the sector and the under-10 metre fleet intensified during the 1990s. Whilst individual POs developed quota arrangements appropriate for their own fleets, the non- sector and under-10s continued to be centrally managed by government. Over time the different POs developed a varied range of approaches to quota management suited to their own membership. These included variations on the pool concept, with monthly/ bi-monthly limits, but also annual vessel allocations, some of which some were linked to historical entitlements and amounted to a form of internal individual transferable quotas.
Additionally, and very significantly during this period, with the exception of Channel cod, North Sea sole and nephrops and Western Channel sole, the under-10 fleets during this period for the most part enjoyed 12 month fisheries unconstrained by quota constraints. Within this context, there was little incentive to develop innovative quota arrangements in the under-10 metre fisheries, so long as the management arrangements delivered a 12 month fishery unconstrained by limits.
In fact, it was the contrast between the relatively relaxed under-10 metre regime and the more stringent (logbook and sales note based) regime for the over-10 metre fleet, that provided the primary motivation that over time led many fishing vessel owners of over-10s to move into the under -10 metre sector. This, in time, contributed significantly to the imbalance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities in the under-10 metre sector and increased pressure on the inshore fisheries quota management.
By contrast, and with some specific notable exceptions, over the last 20 years the difficulties of managing quota in the PO sector have been eased substantially by a dramatic reduction in the capacity of the over-10 metre vessels and therefore the number of fishermen working in the over 10 metre fleet. Of the five decommissioning schemes run by fisheries departments between 1993 and 2009, (worth some £ 75 million) only the last (amounting to £5 million) was focused on the under-10 metre fleet. In a nutshell, driven by EU capacity reduction targets and cod recovery measures, publically funded decommission schemes eligible to over-10 metre vessels, have led to major adjustment between fishing capacity in the over-10 metre fleet and available quotas. The relative inattention afforded to the under 10 metre fleet and the exclusion of under-10 mere vessels from most decommissioning schemes from 1993 to 2008 is one important reason for the lack of “fit” between capacity (including potential capacity) and fishing opportunities in the inshore sector.
Against this background, it can be said that the problems faced in the under-10 metre sector today have a number of causal factors that have developed over time and have compounded each other:
- The evolution of a two-tier approach to quota management in which a residual non-sector fleet and under 10 metre fleet continued to be managed centrally by fisheries departments
- The UK’s decision to use the under 10 metre logbook requirement to differentiate its fleets for quota management purposes when other member states took different decisions in this regard
- The use of the more or less arbitrary line at 10 metres as the basis for a range of differential licensing and quota restrictions
- The initially more relaxed regulatory regime in the under 10-metre sector which attracted capital and fishing effort into the inshore fleet from the more heavily restricted over-10 metre fleet.
- The other side of the same coin, the increasingly restrictive regulatory regime for over-10 metre vessels that led substantial amounts of fishing effort to migrate from the over-10 to the under-10 metre sector. The distribution of this additional capacity and effort was not even. It is possible to make a reasonably strong correlation between the most intense difficulties in under 10-metre quota management with where the development of the fleet in terms of numbers of new-builds proceeded furthest.
- An uneven approach to fleet structures by UK fisheries departments that largely ignored the under-10 metre fleet - arguably amounting to a policy of neglect.
- As a subset of 6 above, the failure to adequately address the consequences of the expansion of the active under-10 metre fleet at an earlier enough stage.
- A high degree of latent capacity represented by the large number of under 10 metre licences attached to inactive or low activity vessels that retain the potential to be attached to more active vessels with the right to fish against pool allocations. This in turn reflected fisheries departments’ extreme unwillingness to licence the under 10 metre fleet until its hand was forced by emerging problems in under 10 metre quota management in 1994. Restrictions on engine power and aggregation of licences were introduced in 1997 as the problems became more manifest.
- The “threshold effect” which saw the development of a fleet of under-10 metre vessels with a catching capacity much greater than the “traditional” low-capacity under-10. The emergence of the “rule beater” or “super under-10” has been a significant part of the issue confronting under-10 quota management; this has only partially been addressed by restrictions on licence transfers and subsequently by the 2009 decommissioning scheme for under 10s which was weighted to draw out the high catching part of the fleet.
- The introduction of under-pinning of specific under 10 metre allocations in 1994 (to prevent systematic erosion of under 10 metre allocations as a side effect of the UK quota allocations system) was applied rather too late to provide a comprehensive safeguard for under 10 metre allocations. Had TACs remained broadly at 1994 levels, underpinning could have provided an effective protection for under-10 allocations.
- An endemic imbalance between UK fishing capacity and available quota on specific stocks (such as Channel cod), arising from inadequate catch statistics and negotiating failures in the 1983 CFP relative stability settlement. The consequence of this failure applies of course across the whole UK fleet in these fisheries
- The application of a rigorous catch recording and accounting system (Buyers and Sellers legislation) after years of reliance on crude estimates that systematically under-calculated under 10 metre catches.
- The overall reduction of UK fishing opportunities as the average levels of TACs set by the EU have been reduced under the impact of:
- EU Cod Recovery plans
- The precautionary approach
- Movement to maximum sustainable yield
- Technological developments in the fleet that have increased catching power of the under-10 metre fleet. One example could be the expansion of trammel nets in the sole fishery
It is evident, therefore, in light of this litany that the genesis of the problems facing the under-10 metre fleet with regard to quota issues are complex and multi-faceted and do not arise from a simple, singular, cause. They are therefore unlikely to yield to a single solution.
Wider Context: Segmentation of the Under-10 Metre Fleet
Pigeon Holing: One consequence of the evolution of the fisheries management regime over the last 20 years has been to increasingly define groups of fishermen by their target species, type of gear used and size of vessel. This categorisation may be an inevitable part of managing fisheries effectively, or it may simply reflect bureaucratic convenience, but it does carry important consequences. The loss of flexibility to change gear, target species and vessel type in response to a range of market conditions and conservation status of particular stocks reduces the economic resilience and flexibility of the fisheries as a whole. It can make a fleet excessively dependent on the fortunes of a single stock and prevent early diversion to alternatives. Specialisation and pigeon holing have become two sides of the same coin and nowhere is this seen more acutely than in the inshore sector. Past (possibly temporary, short term) decisions have been ossified into permanent fleet categories through formal management decisions on licence and quota entitlements.
Segmentation of the under-10 metre fisheries only really took off in the last 10 years, initially with shellfish licences and segmentation based on fishing for quota stocks after 2004. The most recent example is the introduction of two tier under-10 metre licences in 2009.
There is probably no way back from most of this fleet segmentation despite the loss of economic and conservation resilience that it implies. For the foreseeable future the focus will have to be ensuring the biological and economic viability of each segment in its own terms. To a large extent this means dealing with the latent capacity that is a historic legacy of the way that the under 10 metre fisheries have evolved and been managed.
Shellfish: Perhaps understandably, the SAIF project (and therefore this response) has so far focused on the part of the inshore fleet dependent on whitefish pressure stocks, from an economic, management and social perspective, it is important to appreciate that the significance of the shellfish fisheries has been understated. As the current Propositions Paper is a work in progress the significance of the shellfisheries may be addressed later but at present it is a serious and glaring deficiency.
Non-pressure stocks: Likewise, it is important to recognise the significance of non-pressure stock catches in the economic viability of the under-10 metre fleet, and for that matter, parts of the over-10 metre fleet. It will be important for the SAIF project to take this into account as it moves forward.
The fishing industry, including the inshore sector, is diverse, geographically dispersed, segmented by target species, gear type, vessel and enterprise size. On the whole, fishermen tend to be strong individualists for whom cooperative, collaborative actions with other groups of fishermen do not come as second nature. Bureaucratic pigeon-holing has intensified these divisions.
There is however an essential unity in the fishing industry arising from shared experience and shared challenges, which exists despite the divisions and segmentation discussed above. It is our contention that this essential unity should be the basis for future policy.
EU Fisheries and Environmental Policies: A Differentiated Regime?
In considering the future of arrangements for inshore fisheries in England the SAIF project will want to take into account the possibilities in the emerging post reform CFP.
The idea of a differentiated regime has gained considerable currency since its inclusion by the European Commission in its Green Paper on CFP reform and has clearly had an impact on the SAIF Group’s thinking.
It is therefore important that we deal with this directly.
The Commission’s suggestions for a differentiated regime for inshore fisheries is driven primarily and overwhelmingly by its wish to break the principle of relative stability and move towards a system of international individual transferable fishing rights. It is important to understand this motivation rather than to harbour the illusion that the Commission’s approach is driven by its view that there is an intrinsic advantage in a differentiated regime with separate arrangements for inshore fisheries.
To deflect potential criticism that a system of international, tradable fishing rights would inevitably lead to concentration of ownership, with deleterious consequences for small fishing communities, the Commission has advanced the idea of a fundamental dichotomy in the fleet. In this view the “offshore/industrial/large-scale/high-impact” part of the fleet will be governed by economic principles and internationally tradable fishing rights, whilst the “inshore/small-scale/artisanal/low-impact” sector will be eligible for public support3 and local management.
It is an understatement to say that the Commission faces a challenge in defining an “inshore”, “small-scale”, “artisanal”, and “low-impact” fleet that makes sense across the EU. The present definition employed in the EFF Regulation is under-12 metre vessels using passive gear and although this will clearly be the starting point employed by the Commission where this will end up is unclear.
The Commission has indicated that in applying a differentiated approach it will not compromise the EU conservation regime. This suggests that it would be unwise to assume that catches by the inshore fleet would be unconstrained or ignored even under a differentiated regime unless it could be demonstrated that they are negligible.
We would make two comments on the Commission’s ambitions:
- There is little or no appetite amongst member states for a move away from the principle of relative stability and the 1983 allocation keys, whatever the Commission’ motivations and ambitions. There could however be ways of making relative stability more flexible without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This means that the impetus for a differentiated regime is likely to lessen rather than increase as the CFP reform negotiations progress.
- The Commission lines up features assumed to be associated with inshore fisheries: “inshore”, “artisanal”, “low impact”, small scale. The difficulty is that in reality these are not mutually exclusive categories. A large vessel may have a large environmental impact but equally, depending on gear, target species etc it may have a relatively low impact. Equally, small scale vessels in aggregate may have a significant impact on a particular stock. Certain types of “small” vessels can out-fish larger vessels, depending on the criteria of “small” and “large”. Some small vessels operate on a basis very far away from anything that could be described as artisanal. Some small vessels operate quite far from anything that could be described as inshore. In other words, a differentiated regime, applied in a top down fashion, at European level, is a rather theoretical concept, remote from the realities of fishing fleets, fishing patterns and day to day fisheries management
- There can be good reasons for local management and separate arrangements for inshore vessels but these cannot be successfully applied at EU level through a blanket top-down, one-size-fits all approach.
Clearly, within the UK fishing industry there are large vessels and small vessels, vessels that are closer in scale and style to industrial operations and others that are better described in terms of artisanal fisheries. There are vessels that fish close to shore and others that have greater range and fish far from their home ports and far from the shore. There are also vessels that fish with gear that has a greater environmental impact than other types of gear.
Accepting this reality, however, is not also to accept that it is possible or desirable to design and apply a fleet definition that separates these fleet characteristics into neat bureaucratic categories:
- Some large vessels sometimes fish close to shore as part of their fishing portfolio
- Some relatively small vessels fish far from what under any definition could be considered “inshore”
- Some under 10 metre vessels have the capacity to out-fish some over 10 metre vessels
- Some inshore vessels depending on the type of fishing will have greater environmental impact than some larger vessels
- A few (less than 5 in the UK) inshore fisheries take up to 25% of individual TACs
Untangling these complex and dynamic patterns through a new set of discriminatory rules, or worse still, simply imposing a strict geographical or arbitrary size criteria, would be a recipe for chaos and should not be attempted.
Furthermore, it is almost an iron law of fisheries management, and certainly has been the UK’s experience, that if there is a differentiated management regime, fishing effort will find a way of migrating to the zone that has the most attractive conditions and that controlling this is no simple task.
The essential point that we would make is that a differentiated regime raises a number of fundamental questions the answers to which are not straightforward. These include:
- The definition of an inshore/artisanal/small scale/ low impact fleet or zone
- How to deal with vessels that do not fit the criteria
- How to deal with large vessels that currently fish inshore
- How to deal with relatively small vessels that fish “offshore”
- How to deal with the practical management issues that would be an inevitable part of a differentiated regime
- How to deal with the unintended consequences
- How to handle effort migration from the “offshore/industrial/economically focussed/large scale” sector into the more favourable conditions of the inshore regime
Against this background, we are of the view that whilst separate arrangements for parts of the fleet will make sense in specific areas for specific reasons, these should be made on pragmatic grounds on the basis of subsiduarity, that is at the lowest practicable level and closest to the fisheries concerned. It would be a profound mistake to raise a differentiated regime up to the level of a general organising principle at EU level or for that matter at member state level. This would be to compound errors the consequences we are already dealing within the difficulties facing the under 10 metre fleet.
In short, we disagree with the fashionable, but profoundly mistaken view, that European, UK or English fisheries should be divided into two distinct and separate components operating under different regimes. On the contrary, we take the view that the divisions between under-10 meter and over-10 meter sectors are the result of a wholly artificial bureaucratic set of rules applied for the convenience of fisheries administrators which has had many, and mostly deleterious, unintended consequences.
Although it is certainly true that some under 10-metre vessel operators are well organised in fishermen’s associations and even producer organisations, it is also well recognised that geography and sectional differences, along with a strong element of individualism, works to undermine the involvement of the under-10 metre fleet in collective representative organisations. Even the largest representative organisations and those established specifically to represent under-10s, can only claim to directly represent a small proportion of the overall under-10 metre fleet. Many fishermen in this sector remain wholly outside any representative structures at local, regional, national or international levels.
As the effects of the management regime and specifically, TAC reductions and quota restrictions, have been felt more directly in the under 10 metre sector in the wake of Buyers and Sellers Registration, the sense of alienation felt by the under-10s has become acute.
It was in response to, on the one hand the disengagement of the under-10s from the existing representative structures, and on the other hand their mounting sense of frustration about the direction of management measures, that the NFFO mounted its outreach programme of port visits in 2009/10. NFFO Executive Committee member, Alan McCulla, in an extensive series of port visits and through meetings large and small, discussed the concerns and perspectives of the inshore sector directly with many hundreds of fishermen, many of them operators of under 10 metre vessels. This, partially EFF funded project, remains the only systematic attempt to engage with under-10 fishermen directly in their ports, and to draw them systematically into the dialogue on the future of the sector.
Although as one might expect, a wide range of views were expressed, reflecting different localities, sectional interests and immediate concerns, some unifying themes did emerge:
- A recognition that the under 10s were frequently disadvantaged by not being part of the mainstream dialogue on fisheries management
- A willingness to find new ways to ensure that the voice of this sector could be heard
- Different views were expressed on how this could be achieved, some emphasising on the one hand greater involvement and engagement with existing structures, such as the NFFO regional committees, and on the other hand some advocating separate and exclusive representative structures for under 10 metre operators, up to and including a separate regional advisory council for under-10s.
The primary success of the outreach programme was that it demonstrated that if an effort is made, it is entirely possible to develop new ways through which the voice of the inshore sector can be heard. It was disappointing in the extreme that an ambitious follow-up outreach programme submitted by the NFFO has been rejected for EFF funding.
Representing the under 10s at national and international levels will always be a challenge because of geography and the wide range of interests and views. The role of key individuals in the ports is critical. Outward looking leadership in the ports can provide a strong and effective voice at the highest levels. Equally, insular leadership focused on local empire building can be a major obstacle that frequently short-circuits under-10 metre input.
The NFFO’s view, witnessed by its outreach programme, is that:
- The frustrations felt in the under 10 metre sector are real and valid
- innovative ways of ensuring that the genuine views of the under-10 metre fleet are heard on a systematic basis should be a priority for Defra and the NFFO
- the divide between under and over-10s is a largely artificial division reflecting past bureaucratic decisions: there is an essential continuity of concerns on most issues that transcends the divide at 10 metres
- It is therefore not appropriate for fishermen’s representative structures to passively reflect that divide
- The extension of the outreach programme combined with a reinvigoration of the NFFO regional committees remains the most viable means for inshore voices to be heard directly at national and RAC levels
- This should lead to the formation of a professionally run producer organisation for under 10s. The experience of the French regional committees, whilst not appropriate for the UK in all respects demonstrates that a partnership approach in this area between fishermen and government is a positive model
- A strong case for public funding to support the formation of a producer organisation for those under 10s not covered by other POs can be made, at least in the early years of its development
- The suggestion that there should be a separate regional advisory council for under-10s rather misses the point: RACs’ purpose is to foster dialogue between different parts of the fishing industry and with other stakeholders rather than to create or reinforce new or existing artificial boundaries
Rights Based Management
In recent years, within EU member states and further abroad, there has been a progressive movement within fisheries towards rights based management. This has been seen both within the theory of fisheries management through FAO guidelines on fisheries management, to practical organising principles in the allocations systems of some member states.
The evolution of the UK quota management system, at least for the over 10 metre fleet, has followed a trajectory that has led it close to a rights based management system. The elements of this system are:
- Delegated responsibilities for sectoral quotas to producer organisations and other industry groups ,
- Quota entitlements at vessel level
- Administration of quotas at producer organisation (or group) level
- Progressive liberalisation of rules on transfer and swap arrangements that have facilitated quota transfers and ultimately quota trading
- Entitlements based on a rolling reference period that have subsequently been translated into FQAs
- Quasi-ownership/use rights based on the legal concept of legitimate expectation,
The emergence of an extensive system of quota transfers and quota trade, whilst not without its difficulties, has amounted over time, to a reasonably functional, reasonably well adapted system of rights based management at member state level.
It cannot be denied that the threat of EU infraction proceedings against the UK and increasingly stringent landing controls associated with cod recovery, provided at least part of the impetus for the development of trade in quota, as vessels strove to ensure that their quota entitlements aligned with their landings.
Nevertheless, the UK along with the Netherlands and Demark is now well along the progression to a full rights based management system, the characteristics of which are:
- Defined use rights
- Stability in entitlements
- Safeguards over use rights
- Transparent rules
- Transfer and trading flexibility to allow full usage
- Effective two way flow of information
It seems certain that given the movement of fisheries management in the UK, Europe and indeed the rest of the world, in the direction of rights based management, in the medium to long term, the solution to the problems facing the under 10 metre fisheries will have to be compatible with this approach. Our energies would be best focused on how this could be achieved.
Evidence of reasonably functional, rights based management systems in a number of member states will be an important part of the argument in the coming CFP reform debate within the Council of Ministers and European Parliament to deflect Commission pressure for a pan-European rights based system. It is therefore all the more important therefore to find an equitable and fair way of integrating the under 10s into the UK rights based management system.
It is because rights-based management has progressed so far in the UK that we rule out simple redistribution from the over-10s to the under 10s as a solution to the complex of problems facing the under-10 metre fleet. Such an approach has been advocated by some (in strident or heartfelt terms, depending on one’s perspective) but it is clear already that it would be fraught with legal and political difficulties and it is by no means clear that it would provide a durable solution anyway. An alternative approach which avoids a coercive redistribution but achieves a viable inshore fleet in balance with its fishing opportunities is described below in Part II.
SAIF as a Ground Clearing Exercise: effort control – a blind alley
The SAIF project has already done the debate on the future of inshore fisheries a great service, by clearing away some of the misconceptions and woolly thinking that have hampered the task of identifying a way forward; none more so than in relation to effort control.
Whilst the problems of applying quantitative catch limits in mixed fisheries and the perverse outcomes that this can give rise to are well known, the suggestion that the inshore sector should move to a days-at-sea regime is both naïve and dangerous. The SAIF project has successfully exposed the pitfalls of an effort based regime.
Effort control should be rejected as a solution for the current problems facing the under 10m fleet because it fails both in conservation and economic terms. This is because:
- The weight of evidence suggests that, driven by macro-level decisions on achieving MSY in European fisheries, reflected in ICES advice, and given the imperatives of the precautionary approach in European and national fisheries policy, there would be a tendency to set effort levels in reference to whichever stock is currently weakest
- The strong likelihood is therefore that number of days allocated to inshore vessels would be much lower than is presently fished by the inshore fleet
- Effort control sets up a dynamic that ensures that vessels fish harder when they are at sea (more gear etc). The Americans call one facet of this intensification “capital stuffing”. Days-at sea limitations are therefore unlikely to achieve its conservation objectives of lowering fishing mortality or necessarily reducing discards
- Effort control is a rigid, blunt and absolute constraint in a way in which quota restrictions are not. Quota swaps, alternative quota species, non-quota species, alternative areas are all possibilities available under a quota regime that are precluded by effort control.
- For North Sea joint stocks, it is unlikely that Norway would concede to exclude any significant level of catches from the EU/Norway reciprocal agreement. Therefore, quantitative restrictions would continue to run in tandem with days-at-sea restrictions.
- Those tempted by the superficial attractions of effort control should cast an eye at the operation of the current Cod Recovery Plan
Never was the phrase out of the frying pan into the fire more apt, even if substituting effort for quota was on the menu at EU level, which to our knowledge it is not. Effort control would be a blind alley for the inshore fleet - as it is currently for the over 10 metre fleet subject to the EU cod recovery plan. This is not an alternative that should be considered and it is helpful that the SAIF paper usefully spells out why.
Part II Defining Solutions/ Proposals
We have made clear above:
- The problems facing the under 10 metre fleet are complex and have a range of causal factors
- Notwithstanding the complexity of the issues the corrosive problems facing the under 10 metre sector must be addressed.
- A differentiated regime would be a wholly artificial construct introduced for spurious reasons far from the realities of real fisheries that would be impossible to apply in practice
- the solution for the under 10 metre fisheries in the medium to long term will have to be compatible with a rights based management system
- That an effort regime for the under 10s is a blind alley
One Industry Solutions
It is possible to define the essential problems currently facing the under 10 metre fleet as:
- An imbalance between the available quota in specific under 10 metre fisheries and the catching capacity of vessels in the under 10 metre fleet
- A residual number of super under 10s fishing against under 10 metre pool allocations whose catching capacity is incompatible with stable, viable quota arrangements in the pool system
- Severe resultant challenges to the economic viability of under 10m fleet
- Heavy discarding as a result of shortage of quota
- Fragmentation of the inshore sector that has denied it a fully effective voice at national and international level that has led to a strong sense of disenfranchisement
Against this background it is possible to spell out a range of measures which if implemented in combination could offer a way forward for the under 10-metre sector. The underlying assumption in this approach is that there is one, not two, fishing industries and that the divisions that are now apparent arise from the unintentional consequences of management measures.
Our central thesis is that the under-10 metre fleet should be reintegrated into a single management system where all fishermen are subject to the same regime.
This could be done in the following way:
- A one-off fleet adjustment to bring capacity in line with available fishing opportunities. Following a comprehensive assessment to identify remaining pockets of fleet overcapacity this would mean a substantial fishing vessel decommission scheme which would recompense those owners of vessels both above and below 10 metres who voluntarily elect leave the industry with a Defra/EFF decommissioning grant.
- It would be a condition of the decommissioning scheme that Defra retains the quota associated with the decommissioned vessels. This contrasts with the way quota has been handled in decommissioning rounds from 1995 onwards but not in the 1993/4 decommissioning round, when the quota was retained by fisheries departments and redistributed to the industry on a fixed formulae
- Quota retained from decommissioned vessels would be used in two ways:
- To facilitate the entry of super-under 10s into membership of producer organisations
- To redress historic deficiencies in the under 10 metre allocations arising from the late application of underpinning3
- The establishment of a producer organisation for the under 10 meter fleet with professional management to manage under 10 metre allocations and to participate effectively in national organisations such as the NFFO and UKAFPO, and through the former in regional advisory councils and the European representative structures
- It would be worth exploring the way that the Danish Government, in combination with the Danish Fishermen’s Association , have moved to a rights based management system which embraces substantial parts of the inshore fleet. Our understanding is that inshore vessels can buy quota from offshore vessels and from other inshore vessels but offshore vessels cannot buy quota from inshore vessels. All transactions are voluntary but there safeguards are in place against erosion of the inshore quota base. Whatever the merits of the Danish scheme we do not see this arrangement, if introduced, displacing the need for a one-off adjustment through decommissioning scheme to rebase the
under-10 metre quota pool.
- Even assuming successful outcomes for all of the above strategies, it is clear that in some specific under-10 metre fisheries, quota constraints will remain a profound problem because the underlying difficulty lies not in the domestic quota distribution arrangements but in the relative stability allocation keys. The principle of Relative Stability overall serves the UK well and it is highly doubtful if it was to be removed as a cornerstone of the CFP whether the UK would be able to retain its current TAC shares. There is a compelling argument however for, within the context of CFP reform, of introducing a degree of flexibility into the EU allocations system. More flexible swap and transfer arrangements, always subject to agreement by the contracting parties, could be used to reduce frictions arising from the crude application of relative stability. The obvious candidate here is Channel cod where the UK’s 8.5% share of the TAC is at the heart of the difficulties faced by both under and over 10 metre vessels in the UK fleet, leading to a major discarding problem. All this begs the question of currency and how to secure the agreement of the current quota holders but the RACs have shown how progress can be made on the most intransigent of issues and as the CFP moves towards long term management plans it cannot be feasible that a problem that gives rise to endemic discarding can go unaddressed.
Possibly reflecting the composition of the SAIF group, the Propositions makes much of local management.
The NFFO supports local management where it makes sense, following the subsiduarity principle that decisions should be made at the lowest practical level.
But for the most part the SAIF has been dealing with quota issues and these relate exclusively to finfish which for the most part do not lend themselves to local management solutions. If the inshore fleet is a factor in the mortality of a stock that mortality (unless wholly insignificant) will have to be taken account either by the new Regional Management Bodies or by the Commission, Council and member states, as at present.
We can certainly see the force of management of local shell fish stocks at a local level but it is not immediately obvious what IFCAS would manage in terms of finfish. So a degree of caution is necessary here.
To date, the relevance of CFP reform to the under-10 metre fisheries has been discussed in terms of a differentiated regime. There are however other parts of the CFP reform that if implemented, could offer a positive, viable, legal and dynamic future for the under 10 metre fleet.
The CFP Reform Green Paper talks in general terms of a radical decentralisation of the CFP, with a transfer of responsibilities to regional management bodies and to the fishing industry itself. The NFFO has detailed a way through which this transfer of responsibility could be delivered through the concept of sustainable fishing plans, prepared by industry organisations themselves within a system of approvals and audits. (Annex 2)
We are reasonably confident that a facility to move in the direction of a reformed Common Fisheries Policy based on sustainable fishing plans, rather than the present complex system of prescriptive rules, will form part of the Commission’s reform proposals.
This represents a huge opportunity for the fishing industry, including the under 10s. There is no intrinsic reason why the under 10s could not organise themselves as a single producer organisation, or as members of existing POs, to prepare and submit sustainable fishing plans detailing how vessels in each group will fish sustainably over the next 3 to 5 years.
There are certainly obstacles and challenges to the realisation of the vision, but from our point of view, integrating the under 10s into a national rights based management system within a system of delegated responsibilities offers a superior prospective than the divisive and poorly thought through uncertainties of separate development within a differentiated regime – whether that differentiation is at national or EU level.
Those obstacles and challenges include the geographical dispersal of the under-10 metre fleet around the coast, the participation of the fleet in many different fisheries with many different fishing methods and rates of uptake. On the other hand a professionally run under-10 PO within a rights based system would be well placed to benefit from community quota arrangements of the type already in existence such as the Dutchy Quota Company.
A strong case can be made for providing the under-10 meter fleet with public support during an initial period to establish an effective, professionally run producer organisation.
The SAIF project usefully focuses systematic attention on the problems confronting the inshore sector. As a ground clearing exercise its Proposition Paper has already performed a useful service by collating information, isolating issues and tentatively suggesting possible ways forward.
On the other hand, the SAIF Propositions Paper suffers through its rather narrow, self-imposed focus, which does not sufficiently take into account the evolution of the UK’s home grown system of rights based management and the wider EU context in which inshore management takes place (and will continue to take place).
Partly for these reasons the SAIF propositions are inward looking and unduly influenced towards insular solutions which emphasise a continuing and even increasing separation of the under 10 metre fleet from the rest of the UK fishing industry.
By contrast, the NFFO emphasises the essential continuity between the “inshore and “offshore” sectors of the UK fishing industry and points to the essentially artificial and bureaucratic basis for the divide between the under 10 metre fleet and the over-10 metre fleet. On this basis we posit a range of measures that if implemented in combination offers a way out of the blind alleys of unviable quotas and a worse alternative in effort control.
Moreover, the potential opportunities for the under 10 metre sector to organise itself within the context of CFP reform to secure a high degree of self-determination is a prize to be striven for.
- Strictly speaking there has been a three-tier system: sector, non-sector and under 10s
- The anticipated WTO round for 2010 includes provisions to eliminate subsidies in fisheries with the possible exclusion of small scale fisheries in developing countries.
- It is probably beyond our data to quantify the degree to which the under 10s have been disadvantaged given that underreporting of catches at the time was the norm but that underpinning was introduced in 1994 and certainly initially anyway provided some degree of protection for under 10 allocations