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Fish Quotas

Volume 590: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to proceed with the introduction of fixed quota allocations for fish. [HL2267]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Lord Donoughue)

From 1 January 1999, the annual allocation of fish quotas to producer organisations, the non sector and other groups will be linked to fishing activity (catches) that took place in the reference period 1994 to 1996. These arrangements, referred to as fixed quota allocations (FQAs), will apply to all quota stocks caught in domestic waters except for North Sea herring taken as a by-catch in industrial fishing, and to certain stocks taken in external waters. The fisheries departments are writing to the owners of over 10m vessels, producer organisations and other interests to advise them of the new arrangements.A consultative paper setting out proposals for the introduction of fixed quota allocations for domestic waters was issued by the fisheries departments last November and was sent to the owners of some 2,300 fishing vessels over 10m, as well as producer organisations and other interests. Almost 300 replies have been received. Although the majority of those commenting were not in favour of the change, there was strong support for a system of fixed quota allocations from producer organisations, which together, represent some two-thirds of the over 10m fleet and catch more than 90 per cent. of the UK's quota. After careful consideration of all the arguments, we have come to the view that there would be significant benefits to be gained from moving to fixed quota allocations, although we would wish to review such a system in 3 years' time in the light of the experience gained.Producer organisations will have a key role to play during the introduction of fixed quota allocations. There is apprehension among fishermen that moving to a fixed quota allocation system may disadvantage those whose fishing activities were curtailed during the reference period 1994 to 1996. The arrangements that are being introduced will provide scope for POs, acting with their members, to undertake internal adjustments to take account of anomalies that may have arisen in the reference period. Separate arrangements are also being made to cater for those fishermen who belong to the non sector.

Concern was expressed during the consultation exercise that fixed quota allocations would pave the way to the introduction of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and, separately, could lead to increased pressure on non quota stocks. On the first point the Government have no plans to introduce ITQs and no such action would be taken without full and proper consultation with the industry. On the second point the fisheries departments will be monitoring the impact of fixed quota allocations and, if necessary, action to safeguard the position of non-quota stocks will be considered. In this context, and given more general concern over growing pressure on scallop stocks, we shall be consulting the fishing industry and other interests about proposals to limit future access to the scallop fisheries.

The proposals would involve the introduction of new licensing arrangements with effect from 1 January 1999. From that date, in the case of vessels over 10m in length, permission to fish for scallops would be granted only to vessels which met the qualifying criteria at 31 May 1998. These criteria may include both a track record of scallop landings prior to that date and the use of appropriate fishing gear during the corresponding period. No activity in the scallop fishery after 31 May 1998 would be taken into account. The arrangements for fishing by under 10m vessels would not be affected by the proposed licensing changes, although they will continue to be required to comply with the technical conservation rules applying to scallop fisheries. These rules are under separate review.

A separate consultation exercise on the application of fixed quota allocations to external waters stocks at North Norway, Svalbard and Greenland met with unanimous support. Fisheries departments therefore intend to introduce fixed quota allocations for these fisheries on 1 January 1999 as part of the process of applying fixed quota allocations more generally. Detailed aspects will be explained in a forthcoming consultative letter on proposals for the future licensing of fishing opportunities in external waters.