English Inshore Producer Organisation – next steps
It is clear that the under10m fleet desperately both needs and deserves improved access to fishing opportunities. They recognise the potential benefits of an improved management structure and through that, more control over their own destiny. They consider it vital to retain, and even enhance that inherent flexibility so necessary to the prosperity and survival of an under10m vessel restricted to fishing local waters. They want a level playing field with the Sector, to be able to sit at the table on an equal basis with their larger scale colleagues and work more in partnership than in conflict, albeit recognising that the balance of rights needs to be finally settled for that to happen. They also recognise and require support for more effective representation and in many areas, similar assistance for marketing and supply chain issues.
Against this, the approach epitomised by the current Defra proposals, specifically with regard to the allocation of individual transferable rights that would inevitably have a monetary or tradable value was seen by many as the proposal’s Achilles Heel. Apart from the general objections, the introduction of this approach would seriously discriminate against under tens on the basis of the massive imbalance of current accrued resources between the sectors when competing for limited resources.
We are therefore faced with a need for change; an almost unanimous rejection of FQA’s but support for a similar approach to allocation and management based on the PO model. Yet at the same time a clear concern expressed that allowing quota to have a tradable and monetary value would undoubtedly and inevitably lead to the demise of this sector of the English fleet and a concern that allocations to individuals would also lead to aggregation, either within or outwith the sector and loss of quota.
So in terms of the proposal for pilot projects by Defra to test alternatives to the current system, Nutfa had put forward a Recommendation within its response to the Consultation, based upon the creation of an Inshore Producers Organisation for England, but managing the pool quota, together with any reallocated and realigned quota and any other quota that it would acquire over time, for the benefit of the whole fleet, rather than through the allocation of individual FQA’s.
This paper seeks to expand on the proposal and consider what needs to be done to pursue this initiative. It is certainly clear that it is not possible to write an application for support for the creation of an inshore PO at the present time without procuring additional resources in order to do so. Whilst we would like to progress the idea without delay, on the basis that change is urgently needed within the under ten fleet , it is not something that we can do in isolation and without some significant research.
In previous discussions with Bella Murfin and colleagues, it was made clear that the idea of an inshore PO was something that Defra could support and that the relevant legislation, primarily 104/2000 and 2318/2001 was generally supportive.
It is however very much the case that an Inshore PO, managing a pool, rather than individual quota allocation requires some thinking about and discussion between the applicant and Defra / MMO et al.
Even in the event that we were making an application for a straightforward traditional PO, there are a raft of questions that need answering, some of which do not appear to be forthcoming from Defra’s recent enquiries with PO’s in that respect, and some political aspects that require consideration. There are equally a number of practical issues surrounding infrastructure and the use of and relationship with existing MMO ground staff that will require debate and resolution.
At the same time, and to quote the Minister, if I was starting from somewhere, it wouldn’t be from here.
The current reporting and recording procedure for under ten landings is in the opinion of many informed individuals, not fit for purpose. Defra are unable to put any confidence level on the quality of data or the efficacy of buyer reporting and therefore the accuracy of what finally is used not only for quota management and allocation by the MMO but would, in the event that Defra’s proposals for FQA’s were taken forward, be the basis for quantifying an individual’s track record. This is unacceptable. (See Note 1 below)
It is worth noting that many respondents to the consultation on the RBS methodology made clear their concerns in this respect and felt that relying on a third party to report landings was likely to be problematical and that a straightforward log book system would be preferable, more accurate and make fishers themselves more accountable.
In recent discussions with the MMO, it is apparent that postal notification of licence variations is likely to be scrapped in the near future in favour of an SMS message to licence holders, telling them to look on the MMO website for updates.
If we are to collectively rely more upon modern communication systems, including mobile phone based VMS systems, to the extent that their efficiency would be reliable enough to take legal action against anyone who “didn’t receive it” then perhaps we should be considering introducing a system whereby fishers could simply send a text message with the species and quantities as soon as they land? This is not a facetious idea but illustrates the options that are potentially available to replace the current reporting system. Perhaps a slightly more practical approach, without more research, would be to make log books a requirement for all commercial fishers, irrespective of size of vessel. I suggest that this may need to be the case in any event in light of the current proposals within the CFP Draft Regulation that espouses Transferable Fishing Concessions to all vessels other than those under 12 metres using passive gear. There is a danger of ending up with a range of reporting requirements dependent not only on the length of the vessel in question, or whether an under ten is leasing but also for vessels of under 12m using both static and mobile gears having to record catches dependent upon the method used at the time. The thrust of one element of Defra’s recent proposals was aimed at removing arbitrary divides between the sectors and therefore a log book system for all, with of course allowances for vessels without wheelhouses or other shelter to record catches on landing (or via text as suggested previously) rather than contemporaneously may be worthy of consideration. It is certainly the case that if overarching changes are to be made to the current system then it would seem sensible to kill as many birds with one stone as possible. It is also the case that these initiatives would possibly make the overall reporting, recording and management system for under ten metre landings far more transparent, efficient and cost effective than is presently the case.
A further salient point is that with regard to costs. Like any other management service, including existing PO’s, a charge will be necessary but the inshore fleet must recognise that they have never had to contribute directly to the management, marketing or representation of their sector. Little wonder then that it has become very much the poor relation, in many cases struggling for survival, and with little historic standing or influence on the wider stage. It also needs to recognise that if it is to survive and prosper that there is an ever increasing need for these services against a backdrop of management and regulation from both the European Commission and Parliament.
Whilst initial full funding for a pilot study and the subsequent creation of an inshore PO may be forthcoming via EFF and Defra, the organisation would inevitably and rightly have to generate sufficient income to be self supporting in the long term.
At the same time, it will be vital for the organisation to acquire and generate sufficient resources to be able to operate in a similar fashion to existing bodies if there is to be anything of a level playing field.
Apart from running costs and funds for the acquisition of additional quota, there is little doubt that questions with regard to funding any reductions in both potential over capacity and latent effort will need to be collectively addressed. We are aware that straightforward funding for decommissioning is unlikely to be forthcoming on the basis that the EU Commissioner and others have raised concerns with regard to its past effectiveness, although we feel somewhat aggrieved that the under ten fleet, with the exception of one small and badly targeted recent tranche has never had the opportunity to benefit from the £120m plus thrown at the over ten sector in past years and is therefore expected to deal with any capacity problems without an equitable level of support.
Nevertheless, Defra has indicated that there may be an element of match funding available to support a reduction in capacity, latent or otherwise, within the under ten fleet and it therefore begs the question as to where the industry match funding is likely to come from. Defra have suggested approaches to wealthy NGO’s but in reality, it will be largely incumbent upon the industry itself to generate the funding required for the most part. It may be worth considering a further and one off element of government funding if the creation of an inshore PO can show savings on the current administration cost of the under ten metre pool by the MMO.
Although the recent Nutfa tour highlighted differences of opinion with regard to how and if one should deal with latent and over capacity, and indeed whether they actually exist and the level of threat they represent, there was general agreement that any such reductions should be paid for, even if that payment was not overly generous. There was a view that in the same way that PO’s are currently arguing, and seem to have succeeded in persuading the government, that they have a ‘legitimate expectation’ in terms of the value of their holdings, so owners of licences, that have a far clearer legal claim of ownership than perhaps does a quota holder, should therefore be recompensed in the event that government decided to remove that property right.
At the same time, it is clearly inefficient to attempt to manage quota allocations to the fleet when managers have no clear idea of just how many vessels they are dealing with and just how many vessels may decide to prosecute a fishery or fisheries on any given day. It is therefore impossible for the MMO, unlike the PO’s who have a legal requirement to do so, to produce an accurate fishing plan for fishers within their jurisdiction.
It is clear that the long term and effective management of inshore quota must be based upon, at least in general terms, a more stable number of vessels than is presently the case. It may be that any vessels that are deemed to be ‘long term latent effort’ should have to give a period of notice before coming back into any given fishery so as to allow managers to be able to allocate quota more effectively than the current scenario where they have to be overtly cautious for the reasons outlined above.
It was also clear from responses during the tour that there are a significant number of under ten metre vessels, latent and otherwise, that would grasp the opportunity to leave the fishery, given even reasonable compensation and it may be that a special case could and should be made to Europe to provide funding for a one off rebalancing requirement?
Debate is necessary to consider “ownership” of quota by individual inshore fishers. A major premise of this proposal is that it seeks to avoid, by the ring fencing of the existing pool and other quota, the problems associated with the monetarisation of the resource. At the same time, it recognises that fishers should have the ability to lease and purchase quota from external sources so perhaps the baseline management of pool, reallocated, realigned and other available quota acquired by the inshore PO should be sufficient in the first place?
In short, it is our contention that before an application could be constructed in support of an inshore PO, we need to undertake a funded pilot study to answer the plethora of practical and political questions that any such application would throw up. Amongst these questions are:
• Definition of geographical area
• How PO rules are currently adhered to or otherwise and to what extent (necessary to understand real world politic)
• RBS confidence levels
• Interaction between industry managers and MMO ground staff
• Revised Reporting procedures and methodology
• Revised Recording procedures and methodology
• Costings and funding
• Management and data systems
• Location and staff
• Initiative interaction with CFP Proposals
• And importantly, the fleet view
• Interest in and buy in from other Devolved Administrations and their respective fleets.
The overarching proposal fits with the current Government’s commitment in terms of the Big Society, provides an incremental approach to more self management and responsibility for English small scale fishers, may provide an acceptable template for fishers and managers within the Devolved Administrations whilst at the same time seeking to avoid the pitfalls inherent within a value based FQA system.
Note 1: It is salient to note that although RBS requirements are ostensibly EU wide, it is clear to anyone who wants to look that many of our European cousins don’t in fact appear to bother with it to the same extent as the UK. It is suggested that France and Spain at least pay only lip service to the requirements under the legislation and effectively allow their small scale fleet to get on with fishing unencumbered by the requirements laid down. So not only are UK inshore vessels managed differently from the wider EU, but are subject to a recording system that is clearly less than effective or accurate and furthermore that Defra wants to use it as a basis for the allocation of FQA’s that would then cast the system in stone with no opportunity for any further review).
NB: I also attach my original aide memoire developed from the tour report for information.
• Single English Inshore Producer Organisation
• Incremental approach
• Take over management of English pool quota
o Manage for wider purposes
o Focussed on industry needs
o Seat at the table on equal terms
o Inclusion of reallocated and realigned quota
• EFF support plus % of Defra savings over three years
• Build up financial reserves with fees to:
• Match fund decommissioning
• Buy out latent capacity
• Acquire quota
• Effective representation and marketing
• Retains all quota within ‘family’
• Prevents aggregation or loss – protects national assets
• All inshore quota movements dealt with by PO (at market prices) [PO has first option to purchase]
• All decisions by National Board
• Long term rationalisation of a public resource
• EFRA Report:
o Quota in hands of working fishers only
o More opportunities to acquire quota
o Register of holdings and increased transparency
o Discard reduction