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:

To some extent, that would be difficult now. It would come back to black fish, which were really stamped out through the vessel monitoring system and designated ports legislation, whereby vessels now have to book in three hours in advance and declare their catch. Effectively, the only way to do it would be coming in and mis-declaring that you did not have those fish—because otherwise you would be declaring them, and the Government would know they were there—and taking them up the road. Obviously at the ceiling, you could say, “Well, the tally was wrong.” There is some degree of openness to abuse.

However, the thing that disappoints us most, where our system works but this one allowing fish to come in does not, is that it does not address the fundamental flaw: arbitrary quotas do not work in mixed fisheries. All that happens is that we are now setting an arbitrary target that we try to hit, and all this scheme does is allow you to make it right up to that target. It does not actually tell you, “Is that more abundance of fish?”

In the south-west with haddock, say, or in the North sea with hake, you could lift the quota up—double it—and the fleet would still catch it. Does that tell you there is a greater abundance of species, or does it basically show that you have given more legislative headroom to bring fish ashore? The only way that scheme would work is if you increased the quota disproportionately high, which no one is going to agree to. Since there would be no economic incentive for the boats to go off and handle all these fish that they are not profiting from, you would see where the fleet came up to and what a natural abundance catch was. That might be 60,000 tonnes, but if you had set the quota at 100,000 tonnes, you would know that there was not that abundance. The scheme, effectively, does not work. It needs taking out.