FIXED QUOTA ALLOCATIONS AND SUSTAINABLE FISHING
Fixed Quota Allocations and Sustainable Fishing. The NFFO’s members span all sizes of vessel and so must be scrupulously fair when it comes to the controversial issue of quota distribution, which has been raised as the Fisheries Bill passes through Parliament. This detailed paper argues that despite some flaws, Fixed Quota Allocations have played a central role in putting fishing in the UK on a sustainable basis. It also makes the point that the challenges currently facing the small-scale inshore fleets have little to do with the FQA system itself and cautions against abandoning a tried and tested approach.
The Fisheries Bill is currently passing through Parliament. An amendment, if adopted, would end the system of Fixed Quota Allocations (FQAs) by removing historic catches as one of the criteria to be used when allocating quota. FQAs, originally based on catch records, have been the backbone of the UK’s approach to quota distribution for two decades.
The amendment is part of an ongoing campaign by environmental NGOs and others, to shift quota from larger vessels which primarily work offshore, to small-scale fleets which mainly operate near-shore.The FQA system has been subject to a range of criticisms, some more valid than others. All of these criticisms deserve serious consideration and should be carefully weighed against the evidence and with the alternatives available. A list of the most frequently made criticisms would include:
FQAs lead to haves and have-nots in the fishing industry and create barriers to access including to new entrants
FQAs and quota trading have allowed the emergence of slipper-skippersand speculative holdings, which raise quota lease costs for those who actually catch the fish
Quota shortage in some under-10m fisheries are cause by the FQA system
FQAs lead to concentration of ownership
FQAs allow foreign ownership of a national resource
FQAs lead to unsustainable fishing
The respective merit of these criticisms are weighed in the body of the paper and where relevant, solutions are discussed.
This paper’s central point, however, is that those behind amendment have giveninsufficient credit the contribution that FQAs has played in shifting the main commercial fisheries in the UK fisheries away from the chaotic, unsustainable fishing patterns which were endemic in the UK in the 1990s. This contribution has been substantial and sustained and has taken us very far towards our sustainability goals. If accepted, the amendment would lead to a reckless experiment, and the abandonment of one of the core pillars of sustainability in the UK fleet.
The Government’s approach, as expressed in the Fisheries White Paper and the Fisheries Bill, has the merit of recognising the strengths of the FQA system, whilst opening possibilities of testing alternative approaches in a measured, proportionate, and careful way. In an arena where there is a high risk of generating undesirable unintended consequences, we think that this must be the responsible way forward.
Small-scale fisheries in the UK do face challenges and it is important that these are addressed in a rational, informed way. The Inshore Management Conference,scheduled for October 2019, is an important, inclusive and evidence-based initiative, aimed at exploring options for the management of our of the UK’s multi-faceted inshore fisheries.