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Under-10m Pilot Quota Schemes
The Industry/Defra working group charged with developing solutions to the quota problems facing parts of the under 10m fleet, met again recently to review responses to the Defra consultation and discuss ways forward.
The group is comprised of representatives from NFFO, NUTFA and UKAFPO, although, of course, the Federation has overlapping membership with both organisations.
One of the clear messages to emerge from the consultation and also from the port meetings that have been held around the coast, is that despite the acute quota shortage in some under 10m fisheries, there is a real fear that a rush into a system of community quotas based on FQA entitlements, would leave many under-10m vessels potentially worse off than before. There was also a strong signal that the flexibility afforded by the pool system that allows vessels to change target species and to adapt to new circumstances was highly valued by many under-10s.
On the other hand, there is a recognition that quota management centred on a remote bureaucracy, however well-meaning, would never be able to match the effectiveness of the professional quota managers in locally based producer organisations. The challenge lies in how to bring those benefits to the under-10m fleet.
The working group came to the conclusion that the way forward for most vessels lay in a less rushed timetable, with pilots to test how groups of under-10s could work under a regionalised pool arrangement, with access to professional quota management. One of the first of these group schemes is likely to be affiliated to the Cornish FPO which already has a substantial under 10m membership, and has offered to host a scheme for non-CFPO members who are interested in the trial.
The aim will be to demonstrate that a pool system, with quota limits are set on a monthly basis for the whole fleet, linked to professional quota management with a regional focus, can deliver a wider and deeper range of fishing opportunities for the under-10m fleet over the course of the year. It may be possible to run a range of pilots trialling different approaches: an under 10m pool linked to a PO, as in the CFPO example; or a self-standing under-10 group managing its own quotas.
Clearly, one of the key issues that remain to be settled is the criteria that will apply to the pilot schemes in terms of quota made available, reporting requirements, sanctions etc. More than one meeting will probably be required to thrash these out before the pilots start on 1st January 2012.