Fishing for Leave would like to commend the excellent intervention by the Rt. Hon. John Redwood in the Express.
Brexit automatically ends EU access to British waters & repatriates a £6-8bn industry under international law and the principle of Zonal Attachment – where a nation has a share of internationally agreed catch limits based on the predominance of species in its waters.
Should the government exercise exclusive sovereignty over our waters and resources then the British industry can boom under bespoke, discard free, independent UK management which Mr Redwood eludes to.
To end the reprehensible practice of discarding in mixed fisheries caused by arbitrary individual species quota limits – (without bankrupting the British fleet with early tie ups) – Britain can set limits on vessels fishing time at sea. Limiting fishermen to a sustainable level of hours fishing time needed to catch a particular sustainable biomass.
In exchange for a limit on fishing time fishermen would be allowed to keep & record all catches. This is in sharp contrast to having to either discard or stop fishing for the year on exhausting their smallest arbitrary quota.
Fishing time at sea in ‘soak’ hours would be combined with a system of time penalties to steer fishermen to aim for the right catch composition of species – based on the TACs set for species and the vessels track record of landings.
These penalties of valuable fishing time are to discourage any economic incentive to ‘race-to-fish’ for high value species. However, vessels can keep any ‘wrong’ species caught in exchange for a loss of valuable time at sea, an amount equivalent to the value of the ‘wrong’ species.
This ensures there is no economic incentive to race-to-fish nor to discard as the retention of ‘wrong’ species pays for the loss of time. This means these are Flexible Catch Composition (FCC) limits where fishermen can keep unintended catches of particular species – something entirely absent from the current arbitrary weight limits of the quota system.
This would allow all catches to be landed whilst having the safeguard of curbing overall effort and catches at sea should vessels not stick to a mix of species deemed sustainable.
Crucially, because all catches are landed scientist would have a huge amount of data they would know is accurate because there was a penalty of valuable time incurred to land all species.
This huge level of information provided by accurate catch data would allow science that is finally an accurate reflection of natural abundance. With fishing limits brought into line with nature. This means that after a few years fishermen would rarely incur time penalties as limits would begin to reflect stocks.
This dynamic system would allow real-time management that follows mother natures fluctuations based on the real-time data generated by this system of management.
This is the complete opposite of the current failed system where arbitrary quota targets based on limited data are imposed on nature and the fishing industry bludgeoned with rules to try to make catches match theoretical targets.
Additionally, with such a system converting larger vessels current FQA entitlement units from being entitlement for quota in kilos to these time penalties based on catch compositions it would preserve businesses significant investment in the current FQA system and the greater fishing potential for particular high value species these FQAs confer.
Conversely, in giving all vessels an equal time limit from a national pool all vessels large or small have a shot at making a living.
For those larger vessels without FQAs such a system would award them catch mixture limits they should aim for based on an average of species mix in their area. For example out of 200,000 tons of all species in the North Sea 20,000 tons may be Cod.
Therefore, vessels on the national average should aim for a catch composition of 10%. A vessel who invested heavily in FQA entitlement may traditionally be able to catch 20% Cod and therefore retains and reaps the benefit of his investment.
For small inshore vessels with much smaller catching capacity such time penalties would not need to apply given their catching capacity and range limiting their ability to race to fish. A vessel catching 300kg a day has the difference of a few percent equal a few kilos of ‘wrong’ species.
Brexit, and new management based on the above system, means not only a multi-billion pound boost of national resources.
It allows a final solution to the abhorrent discarding of fish as fishermen struggle to match mixed fishery catches to strict quotas.
This system won’t tie up and bankrupt the British fleet as an enforced discard ban will.
It’s a system which preserves the current investments in fishing entitlement the biggest interests in the industry are desperate to preserve by hanging onto the dysfunctional status quo.
It’s time to get out and get on with a brighter future and not hang onto dysfunctional EU systems for vested interests or political convenience.