New CFP philosophy prompts changes to fleet management

Trawlers like this will be managed differently under new devolution rules Trawlers like this will be managed differently under new devolution rules

September saw the publication of a new report promoting the benefits of implementing a moratorium on catching in 49 over-fished areas, reports Adrian Tatum.

It says ‘sustainable fish stocks and vast profits’ could be achieved by calling a short suspension to fishing and stocks could be re-built within five years. The report, No Catch Investment, by the UK based New Economics Foundation thinks the costs of allowing fish stocks to recover are ‘vastly overwhelmed’ by the benefits. It goes on to say that this could be achieved by £9.16bn of private investment to maintain fishermen’s incomes and their vessels, but profits could then reach £4.43bn by 2023 and when stocks fully recover, total landings could reach £14.62 a year.

It is another report that has hit the headlines highlighting the challenges facing the global fishing industry and one of the reasons why the EU is reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Whether the reforms will be as ambitious and forward thinking as the New Economics Foundation report, only time will tell.

But almost certainly the industry is likely to see change in the quota system when the final reforms are announced in 2013. This is likely to see the management of fish stocks being devolved down to each member state.

The original CFP reform proposal put forward by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki last year contained three key elements; restore all fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015, reduce and regulate the size of the EU’s fishing fleet through an internal trading mechanism and eliminate the practice of discarding fish that are outside a boat’s quota.

But it is the subject of Individual Transferable Quotas that has seen considerable opposition and is set to be changed when the final reforms are announced. Proposals suggest that each member state will take responsibility for managing the size of its own fleet. The final agreement is likely to include a mechanism for sanctioning countries that do not make adequate arrangements

This will almost certainly mean changes to the way fleets and fishing companies are managed throughout the EU.

Agreeing to be decentralised via regional management was a priority for the UK, for example, which has successfully reduced capacity in its own fleets.

The agreement in the UK was reached earlier this year and saw a Concordat on the management of the UK’s fish quotas and licences put into place. Changes to the EU Common Fishing Policy could see other member states follow a similar system.

Under the Concordat, Defra, the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government will each be allocated annually agreed shares of UK quotas for distribution to their fleets. These allocations will, as now, be based on Fixed Quota Allocation Units (FQAs). But there will be no permanent split of UK quota and fishing vessels will continue to be free to move their operations to another part of the UK. The Concordat also rationalises arrangements for the licensing and administration of fishing vessels, and formalises existing arrangements for the management of the UK’s fishing effort under the EU Cod Recovery Plan.

The UK Concordat says that from 1 October 2012 fishing vessels licences are subject to new conditions. The existing agency arrangements for the issue of licences will be terminated and each administration will only issue licences to vessels registered in and administered from ports in its territory. Individual administrations will decide, on a case by case basis, whether any local licence restrictions should apply to the licences of vessels that opt to reregister as a result of the new licensing policy.

Fishing vessels will in general be administered from the district that they predominantly fish out of. Also, administrations may, with the agreement of other interested administrations, license a vessel notwithstanding the fact that the vessel fishes predominantly out of a district in the territory of another administration, where it appears to the administrations that the vessel in question has a material and significant link to the administration that proposes to license it. Any additional foreign owned vessels entering the UK fleet in future which do not fish out of a UK port will be required to nominate an administrative port which will normally be that at which the vessel agent is based. The Concordat goes on to say that licences may be transferred from vessels registered in one administration's territory to vessels registered in another administration's territory.

Producer Organisations
Interestingly, there will be no new restrictions on Producer Organisation (PO) membership. PO’s may therefore receive quota from more than one administration and there will be no restriction on vessels licensed by one administration fishing against quota received by a PO from another.

POs may account separately for quota uptake purposes to each administration which issues it with quota allocation.

Quota, once allocated to a PO or other management group, is within its control and it will be free to utilise it in any way. However international trading of quota will remain subject to the agreement of the quota-issuing administration and the MMO acting for the UK.

Where under-10m pools continue to exist, vessels that move to another administration will be permitted a share of UK quota based on a methodology to be agreed.

There is also disagreement emerging between member states backing the European Commission’s proposal to abolish vessel modernisation and scrapping aid and the states that defend the concept. “It is contradictory to want both,” says EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki.

The discussion on aid confirmed differences of opinion already known to exist. Among those condemning scrapping and modernisation aid. Some believe, that these measures, used widely in the past, have not proved effective.

Fleet modernisation aid may be saved in some cases and it is expected the majority of member states may endorse the principle (change to less polluting and more energy-efficient engines and investments in more selective fishing gears), on the strict condition that it does not result in capacity increases.

Whatever the changes to the Common Fisheries Policy come 2013 and whatever interpretations the member states make of them, we can surely expect changes to the way fleets are governed and managed forever.


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