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Monday 29 January 2024

Pollack crisis - NFFO call for action.


The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has called for a two-stage response to the crisis engulfing the inshore fleets, following the decision to cut the total allowable catch to an unmanageable 832 tonnes, with a risible UK quota of 203 tonnes for 2023.

Draconian Cuts following Benchmarks

This draconian cut to the pollack quota has followed a radical change in perception of the stock by ICES scientists, following one of their periodic benchmark meetings; but there are sound reasons to question whether this opinion will be sustained when the assessment is revisited in the future. ICES benchmark exercises are important as they allow the science to evolve. By questioning the models used, and the data employed, weaknesses can be weeded out.

But when benchmark exercises result in extreme volatility in stock perception, followed by radical changes in recommended TACs, a mechanism is needed to moderate these swings. Scientists don’t make the right call 100% of the time. There are already several examples of scientific opinions reverting to the original view further down the road, but by then the damage is done. So long as the biomass is projected to increase in the following year, a management mechanism is required to reduce the volatility and filter out radical swings – either way, up or down. It makes no sense to inflict serious socio-economic damage on the fleets – only to follow a revised opinion later.

Most ICES assessments are uncontroversial but a pattern is emerging where benchmarks are followed by extreme swings in advice. That is what has happened with pollack.

TAC Constraints

TAC constraints – minimising the extent of TAC swings to, say 15%, have been employed effectively in the past but seem to have dropped out of fashion. Applying a TAC constraint would have moderated the TAC reduction for pollack in 2023, but would have still seen the biomass increase by the end of 2024. As it is, the year-end quota negotiations have left us with an unmanageable fishery for the coming year. This is a chaotic way to manage fisheries and we need to move beyond it as a matter of urgency. A mid-year review of the TAC decision is required to retrospectively apply some kind of TAC constraint. The UK should initiate discussions with the EU immediately to rescue this situation.

Longer Term

In the longer term, ICES should examine whether the form in which it provides advice is as useful to fisheries managers as it might be. In recent years there has been some attempt to supplement zero TAC advice with options to deal with unavoidable bycatch – but this doesn’t help where, like pollack, a substantial part of the catch is targeted. Limiting extreme swings in the advice, especially when there might be doubts about the safety of those opinions, would help to avoid catastrophic mistakes with serious real-world consequences.

In the meantime, however, an urgent intervention is required by fisheries managers (and in this context this means the UK and the EU) to call off the dogs.

Knock-on Effects

Our immediate concern has to be for the fleets targeting pollack – many of them small inshore vessels – with few if any alternative opportunities to sustain them during 2023. There are, however, already signs of diversion of effort with potentially destabilising consequences in adjacent fisheries. We fear that the progress in rebuilding the biomass of the bass stock will be impeded if faced with increased effort. Likewise, redirection into non-quota fisheries like crab, lobster and crawfish could do untold harm to stocks and conservation strategies. In a word, the TAC decision on pollack could set us back years in a range of other fisheries.


What is required at this juncture is a healthy dose of pragmatism. Client Earth’s attempt to use the European Court to tie the EU to rigid formulaic rules in setting TACs is now likely to be defeated, following the ECJ’s recently released provisional judgement. We are reasonably confident that Blue Marine’s legal manoeuvring will meet the same fate, not least because the UK’s Fisheries Act provides explicit flexibilities to meet complex situations of this kind.

What is required is a pragmatic and urgent intervention by the management authorities to avert the immediate crisis, followed by a longer-term evaluation of how to avoid getting into this situation again. This would allow time also to develop a suite of measures to rebuild and sustain the pollack stock through more intelligent management measures, applied with the support and involvement of the fishing industry. Better data, more targeted measures, real-time information from the fishery (including from the significant recreational fishery) could all be in the mix.

The priority for now, however, is to revisit the TAC decision immediately.

Ful story courtesy of the NFFO website.

Where Did All The Fishermen Go? - A Very Cornish Theme Park


This video seeks to document the social and demographic change in a Cornish village after the demise of the fishing industry and the proliferation of holiday and second homes. It uses archive stills and video set against re-photography to show the de-population of a village.

Friday 19 January 2024

Thursday evening in to #FishyFriday morning and it's -2˚ in Newlyn!

Heading for the gaps in only her second week of fishing, Inter-Nos, the latest boat to join the Cornish sardine fleet...

though she had to wait for the Billy Rowney to be nudged out of the gaps...

with the outside temperature lower than the inside of the market the fish were looking pristine on this morning's market, though only a few boxes of cuttles with the Enterprise which was the only major landing of the morning...

with a good selection of ray wings...

name this fish...

a smattering of handy cod...

and monk tails...

while the slack box of squid next to the cuttles is a reminder of how the larger mesh size used by the local trawling fleet has impacted on squid landings - most simply pass through the mesh of the trawl and cod end these days...

unlike this lucky conger...

a sign of the times, the auction is going green...

bit it will be a while before the red boxes bevome a part of Newlyn history, by which time there will probably be souvenir example gracing everybody's garden...

inshore fish like these sardines came courtesy of the Pelagic Marksman...

along with a few mackerel...

and bass from other inshore boats...

plenty of fish is just what makes these guys smile and be the happy chappies they are...

and what's not to smile about when the day starts like this?


Thursday 18 January 2024

Cornwall, the UK's favourite and biggest fish destination


Boats landed over £40 million pounds worth of fish into Newlyn in 2023.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (CIoS) seafood industry is comprehensive, covering all stages of the supply chain, including businesses supplying and involved in primary production, via fishing and aquaculture, processing, whole- sale and distribution, retail, and foodservice via restaurants, cafés and other outlets. 

Across the entire local seafood sector and upstream supply chain, there were around 7,800 jobs in 2021. The seafood sector is around four times more important to CIoS, than seafood is to the UK as a whole. This is true for most key economic indicators, including jobs. 2.9% of jobs in CIoS depend on seafood, compared to around 0.7% of UK jobs. The key driver behind this significant over-representation in seafood locally is the presence of the marine fishing sector, which in turn relies on sustainably-managed fish and shellfish stocks. For every job in the CIoS catching sector, there are 15 more jobs across Cornwall and Isles of Scilly in other seafood sub-sectors. 

Fishing contributes relatively higher added value per worker than other sub-sectors within the overall CIoS seafood industry. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between tourism and seafood in CIoS. Five of the additional 15 jobs located across CIoS in other seafood sub-sectors rely on tourism as well as on seafood.

Read the full report below:

Quota Leasing Scheme

There is anticipated to be excess quota in the non-sector pools. In order to make the best use of this quota and to ensure opportunities are available to as many vessels as possible. Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is taking the following action for English vessels.


Details Offer of additional quota to vessels in the non-sector with under 10 metre capped licences and over 10 metre: Category B, C and no-quota annex licences.

The MMO is opening a window for vessels in the non-sector with under 10 metre capped licences and over 10 metre: Category B, C and no-quota annex licences to apply for access to additional quota. We are opening up additional access to a limited number of stocks earlier this year than in previous years to allow vessels to make the most of this opportunity. Vessels with these licences have a limited number of quota stocks for which they can fish. Under this scheme, these vessels can apply for access to more opportunities for the remainder of 2024. At this stage only stocks where the MMO are confident there is excess within the non-sector pools will be released.

The offer means that a small amount of the quota that England receives from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement will be distributed via the MMO to these vessels upon application and depending on availability. It will enable vessels with restricted non-sector licences to fish above their current limits for the leased quota stocks up to and including 31 December 2024.

The stocks covered by this initiative are:

Anglerfish - Area 7 Plaice – North Sea

Cod - North Sea Nephrops – North Sea

Haddock - Areas 7b-k Sole - North Sea

Herring - Areas 4ab Skates & Rays – North Sea

Horse mackerel - North Sea (Areas 4b,4c,7d) Sprats – North Sea

Mackerel - Western Sprats – 7de

Megrim - Area VII Whiting – North Sea

Applications for access to this additional quota should be emailed to: fmc@marinemanagement.org.uk by 08:00 on Monday 22 January 2024.

Applications made after this date may still be considered but quota availability after this date may be reduced. Applications must include vessel details (name, PLN and licence number), a basic fishing plan and quantities of individual stocks required. Where there are competing proposals for stocks the MMO may assess applications against economic, environmental and social criteria.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Modernising EU fishing vessels with digital tools.

The European Council has recently adopted the revision of the EU’s Fisheries Control Regulation, which aims to ensure that EU fisheries control and monitoring systems stay up to date with the latest developments in the technological field and enhance the way we manage fishing activities.

In light of this latest development, Fish-X is hosting a webinar on 26 January 2024 at 10 am CET, diving into the integration of digital tools into small-scale fisheries (SSF) vessels.

Join experts from maritime authorities, the SSF sector, research, and academia as we explore the transformative impact of modern technology on efficiency, sustainability, and resource management.

Don’t miss this chance to be part of reshaping the future of fishing fleets! 

💡 Register now for the Fish-X webinar: https://lnkd.in/eDQ2Ni63

Government to support small-scale fishing industry across the UK in latest medical consultation

The government launches a consultation on medical exemptions for fishers working on vessels 10 metres and under in length.

It is worth noting that "The Secretary of State for Transport is considering providing an exemption under regulation 14 of The Merchant Shipping (Work in Fishing Convention) (Medical Certification) Regulations 2018 so that existing fishers working in fishing vessels of 10 metres and under (registered length as defined by the Fishing Vessels (Codes of Practice) Regulations 2017) in length are exempt from regulations 4 and 5."

Therefore, take advantage of this chance to have your say!

There are 3,385 Under10m vessels in the UK as of January 2024
They make up over 80% of the workforce and many fish singlehanded.

Government gives industry a chance to have its say on concessions that would benefit fishers on vessels of 10 metres and under. Safety of fishers is paramount and today will make sure that remains the case while ensuring fishers can continue their important work Government continues to listen to the views from across the fishing industry An industry-wide consultation starts today to see how small-scale fishers can fish as safely as possible.

In November 2023, regulations came into effect requiring fishers working on small UK flagged vessels to have a certificate of medical fitness. The government has worked to support those who can still fish but would otherwise be unduly forced ashore. Some grandfather rights have been extended for eyesight, BMI, diabetes and most recently seasonal fishers.

Unlike larger fishing operations, those who operate vessels of 10 metres and under are usually independent and require more support, which is why today the Department for Transport is seeing how to best deliver medical exemptions safely so hard-working, small-scale fishers aren’t unduly forced ashore.

The potential concession is being considered by the Secretary of State for Transport after listening to the concerns of those in the fishing industry as well as MPs representing coastal communities.

Industry is being urged to have its say on the proposals, which are being published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The blanket exemption from holding a valid medical certificate would only apply to those who have already been working on vessels of 10 metres and under for at least 4 weeks between 30 November 2022 and 30 November 2023.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

The safety of those who are working in our fishing industry is paramount and it’s vital that any medical requirements work for them. That’s why we have actively listened to views from the fishing industry and MPs representing coastal communities, already granting concessions for factors such as eyesight, diabetes and BMI.

This consultation shows that we are open to proper solutions that uphold the highest standards of safety.

See the MCA’s GOV.UK pages to read and take part in the Medical exemption - existing fishers on vessels of 10 metres or under consultation.