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DEFRA must improve fisheries quota management system, say MPs

3 June 2011

MPs have today criticised the Government for its approach to the trade in fishing quota. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry into domestic fisheries management examined the system for managing and allocating quota to the English fishing fleet and found that urgent changes are needed to preserve fishermen’s livelihoods.

Anne McIntosh, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Quota was described to us as the 'lifeblood' of the fishing industry. We were shocked to discover that Defra does not currently disclose who holds quota in England. This means that we don’t know how much fishing quota may be held by 'slipper skippers' or organisations who have little or no connection to the fishing industry and who merely trade it as a commodity.

We are very concerned by the apparent turning of quota into a commodity at the expense of working fishermen, and we have called upon Defra to justify its position. Our report recommends that quota should only be held by working fishermen unless the holding of quota by outside interests can be shown to be of clear benefit to fishing communities."

Miss McIntosh added,

"The distribution of quota to smaller fishing boats, known as the under ten metre fleet, was a particular concern for the Committee. If the Government accepts our recommendations the under ten metre fleet would have more opportunities to acquire fishing quota – providing a life-line for those fishing communities most vulnerable to the current rules.

Ahead of planned reforms to the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Committee took evidence on Defra’s actions to tackle the practice where unwanted dead fish – discards – are thrown back into the sea."

Anne McIntosh added,

"Discarding is a waste of natural resources and our witnesses were united in wanting to see an end to this unsustainable practice. We were encouraged to hear that Defra is already undertaking work to address this problem, but we believe the Department could do more to build on the success of trials such as Project 50%, and we call on the Department to place a clear priority on doing this."

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