Examination of Witness

Part of Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:29 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Aaron Brown:

Absolutely. We would say for pelagic species, where you are catching an individual bulk species and vessels can reasonably accurately target that, although at times you do get it wrong, a quota system is fine. The problem is that dynamic mixed fishery—the white fish; we include nephrops in that mixed fishery. What we are saying is catch compositions but not arbitrary limits, which, again, is a problem. It has flexibility.

To avoid a race to fish, to avoid giving people a blunt dollop of time and their going off and targeting the highest value species because the economic incentive is there, what you are effectively doing under this system is a buffer scheme, if you like. It is a trading scheme. “Okay, I’ve caught the wrong fish. It’s worth money”. Then, rather than discard it into the sea unrecorded and keep on fishing and killing more of that species while trying to find one you can keep, what you are moving towards is trading overall ceiling of effort for that wrong fish. So it is a compensation scheme, effectively, in which you get the financial benefit of that fish and your men get their pay—we will come on to that with the system that DEFRA proposes for discards—but, overall, your ceiling in the year comes down to meet you.

That would solve the bass problem. You could put in a zero catch composition for bass. Any catches would have a time penalty. Boats could be tied up on the Monday but they would have that bass landed, and the financial benefit of it. It would work for spurdogs. We really believe there is a system here that merits a good look, and proper scrutiny and trial. As we say, we lose nothing if it fails and we gain everything if it succeeds.