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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

British Fishing Industry in the annual Fisheries debate to be held on the 15th of December.

Next Thursday, 3rd December, MPs in Parliament will consider the state of the British Fishing Industry in the annual Fisheries debate that precedes the Brussels Council of Fisheries Ministers that this year will be held on 15th December.

UK Fishing industry leaders are preparing their final submissions to present to MPs and to the Minister, George Eustice, in the hope that the very best deal is secured for 2016. Jim Portus, the Chief Executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation Ltd will again represent Westcountry fishermen and he issued this preview ahead of giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Fisheries next Wednesday.

The first of the scientific reports about the state of some of the fish stocks was published by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) in June whilst the remainder came out towards the end of October. For Westcountry fishermen they are a “curate’s egg” of good and bad. Jim has already briefed Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, but says that attending the Parliamentary Committee and then Brussels is vital when crucial decisions are being made that could affect SW fishermen badly if things go the wrong way. Jim Portus said, “Local MPs, Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency includes Brixham, Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay and Sheryll Murray, MP for SE Cornwall, have continued to show their concern about the wellbeing of local fishermen and about the problems they are facing in the near future. I have been impressed with how each has listened to the fishermen, researched the issues and raised various matters during the past year with the Fisheries Minister.

“In my final briefing to the Minister and MPs, I will be placing emphasis on a short list of key issues:

1. The scientific advice for Channel stocks. It is important that the stocks should continue to flourish, but it is important also that cuts to quotas are fully justified. Often the advice is couched in terms of single-species exploitation, but for the fishermen earning a living in the English Channel and adjacent regional seas, the important thing for the Minister to bear in mind constantly is that the fisheries are mixed. It is essential that this diversity is recognised as strength to be cherished.

2. For reasons of stock recovery, Beam Trawler operators in the Channel ports have been working since 2007 under very strict conditions of limited time at sea and area-based restrictions. The latest scientific advice shows that the main stocks they exploit, Dover Sole and Plaice, have recovered such that the 2016 quotas will be significantly higher than this year’s. It will be important to ensure that the markets are kept strong for higher volumes of these fish passing through the auctions.

“The new “ban on discards”, otherwise known as the “Landing Obligation” comes into force for certain Demersal species on January 1st. Trawlermen searching to catch Whiting may face some difficulties as for this species the quota increase is likely to be small, yet everything they catch must be landed. I will be pleading that any increase to allow for the landing of discards is distributed to the fishermen concerned and not skimmed off the top for others to benefit.

“The species that have always given the UK Channel fishermen trouble, Cod and Haddock, will again cause difficulties. Proposed cuts are in the order of 30% and our fishermen will be forced to keep discarding as they will not have enough quotas. These species do not come under the Landing Next Thursday, 3rd December, MPs in Parliament will consider the state of the British Fishing Industry in the annual Fisheries debate that precedes the Brussels Council of Fisheries Ministers that this year will be held on 15th December.

UK Fishing industry leaders are preparing their final submissions to present to MPs and to the Minister, George Eustice, in the hope that the very best deal is secured for 2016. Jim Portus, the Chief Executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation Ltd will again represent Westcountry fishermen and he issued this preview ahead of giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Fisheries next Wednesday.

The first of the scientific reports about the state of some of the fish stocks was published by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) in June whilst the remainder came out towards the end of October. For Westcountry fishermen they are a “curate’s egg” of good and bad. Jim has already briefed Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, but says that attending the Parliamentary Committee and then Brussels is vital when crucial decisions are being made that could affect SW fishermen badly if things go the wrong way. Jim Portus said, “Local MPs, Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency includes Brixham, Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay and Sheryll Murray, MP for SE Cornwall, have continued to show their concern about the wellbeing of local fishermen and about the problems they are facing in the near future. I have been impressed with how each has listened to the fishermen, researched the issues and raised various matters during the past year with the Fisheries Minister.

“In my final briefing to the Minister and MPs, I will be placing emphasis on a short list of key issues:

1. The scientific advice for Channel stocks. It is important that the stocks should continue to flourish, but it is important also that cuts to quotas are fully justified. Often the advice is couched in terms of single-species exploitation, but for the fishermen earning a living in the English Channel and adjacent regional seas, the important thing for the Minister to bear in mind constantly is that the fisheries are mixed. It is essential that this diversity is recognised as strength to be cherished.

2. For reasons of stock recovery, Beam Trawler operators in the Channel ports have been working since 2007 under very strict conditions of limited time at sea and area-based restrictions. The latest scientific advice shows that the main stocks they exploit, Dover Sole and Plaice, have recovered such that the 2016 quotas will be significantly higher than this year’s. It will be important to ensure that the markets are kept strong for higher volumes of these fish passing through the auctions.

“The new “ban on discards”, otherwise known as the “Landing Obligation” comes into force for certain Demersal species on January 1st. Trawlermen searching to catch Whiting may face some difficulties as for this species the quota increase is likely to be small, yet everything they catch must be landed. I will be pleading that any increase to allow for the landing of discards is distributed to the fishermen concerned and not skimmed off the top for others to benefit.

“The species that have always given the UK Channel fishermen trouble, Cod and Haddock, will again cause difficulties. Proposed cuts are in the order of 30% and our fishermen will be forced to keep discarding as they will not have enough quotas. These species do not come under the Landing conservation and management of living aquatic resources, including biological, economic, environmental, social and technical considerations. 

HCR: Harvest Control Rules are fisheries exploitation rules, usually set by the institutions of Brussels (DGMARE, CoFM & EP). HCR can also be set by a Member State, but only if equal to or stricter than EU Rules. 

CEFAS: An Agency of DEFRA, The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) is a world leader in marine science and technology, providing innovative solutions for the aquatic environment, biodiversity and food security.

NWWAC: North Western Waters Advisory Council (formerly NWWRAC “Regional” Advisory Council). A body established in the 2002 Common Fisheries Policy to enable those closest to the resources, on a regional seas basis, to provide advice to the institutions of the EU, particularly DGMARE. These are pan-sector organisations comprising eNGOs and fishermen’s representational bodies, such as NFFO, SWFPO & NUTFA. See also NSAC, PelAC, SWWAC. Although the NWWAC functions in relation to the N East Atlantic and N Sea, the designation NWW relates to the relative (NW) geography of the EU seas.

Discards Landing Obligation (DLO):

A campaign led by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall highlighted the dreadful waste of fish caused by TACs and quotas being set out of synchronisation with the state of the stocks (B, F & R). Over-quota fish had to be dumped. The campaign led to former Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki pledging to “ban” discards of the quota species. This has led to the graduated imposition of the Landing Obligation that started in January 2015 for Pelagic stocks and will be total for all Demersal stocks by 2019. The Landing Obligation will apply only to stocks that have quota or quantitative restrictions, including non-TAC Bass. 

Discards Uplift Quotas: The amount of additional quota that the EC Commission calculates would enable fishermen to land all that they catch without discarding what they traditionally have wasted. In England it is Defra Minister’s intention to use that “extra” quota to appease Greenpeace by donating the first 100 tonnes, plus 10% of the residue of each uplifted quota species to the non-sector and under 10m sector.

Sectors of the UK fishing industry: In the UK the fishing quotas are divided amongst Producer Organisation (such as SWFPO Ltd) and those fishermen who are not in POs. The Pos are described collectively as the industry “sector”. Those vessels that are greater than 10metres and are not in a PO are collectively known as the non-sector and are managed by the MMO. The under 10metre fleet is in a length specified part of the non-sector and is also managed by the MMO.

FQA Fixed Quota Allocation Units:

In the UK the fish quotas are not only divided amongst sector groups according to the fishing track record history of the members of the sectors, but also the tonnages are sub-divided into, nominally 100kgs “units”. When the system was devised in 1997, the 1994 to 1996 track record reference average tonnages per license were divided into 100kgs units that were “fixed” in time, hence Fixed Quota Allocation Units. The original intention was to halt the “race to fish” that tainted the CFP in its early years. The recent 2012 decision of the Minister to break into the FQA unit system and to distribute some little used quotas to the under 10m sector, has caused the re-introduction of the “race to fish” and the “use it or lose it” mentality that prevailed pre-1998. Pelagic: stocks of fish that shoal, such as sprats, mackerel, herring, pilchards and tuna. Often generically called “oily fish”.

Demersal: stocks of fish that inhabit waters on or close to the seabed. Such as cod, haddock, plaice, sole, pollock, whiting etc. Often generically called “whitefish”. Shellfish: stocks of fish that include crabs, lobsters, whelks, mussels, scallops, queen scallops, razor clams, cuttlefish, octopus, squid etc. Also includes Nephrops or Scampi, the only shellfish that is on quota and subjected to the Landing Obligation.

DGMARE: The Directorate General of the European Union responsible for Maritime resources and Environmental matters. They provide advice and recommendations to the Council of Fisheries Ministers and the European Parliament. Under the Lisbon Treaty and others, it is the CoFM and the EP that set regulations for the sustainable exploitation of fish stocks each year.