Fishing quota - additional allocation from 2024: island communities impact assessment

Impact assessment for the allocation of Additional Quota in relation to island communities.

Step Four - Assessment

Assessment of unique impacts on island communities

The issues arising from the AQ consultation responses and the proposed mechanisms for allocating AQ from 2024 with regard to island communities are assessed below.

Allocating using Historic Track Record, with a periodically updated reference period

The location of the fish stocks for which Scotland has AQ, and industry structure around the coast presents an intrinsic barrier to significant benefits being immediately felt across all islands from AQ. Non-sector vessels make up the vast majority of the Scottish fleet but allocating more quota to the non-sector will only work if boats have the capacity to catch the fish and utilisation increases. The exception is the case of Shetland which already benefits from AQ, both in terms of its sectoral fleet and inshore non-sector fleet.

A periodically updated HTR or “rolling” reference period recognises previous investments made by the current fleet and corresponds with proven vessel activity. It reduces costs to the active fleet by providing AQ and will help meet planned activity for these vessels.

This rolling reference period may also enable new entrants to slowly access this fishing opportunity through leasing of quota, as their uptake and access increases.

Reserving some AQ to be used as Special Allocations to the non-sector group of vessels.

Special allocations of AQ to the non-sector may provide additional social and economic benefits by enabling fishermen to diversify to target demersal and pelagic fish which may increase profitability and take advantage of seasonal availability of certain stocks in inshore waters. This would allow for a wider distribution of the AQ and increase the potential to build resilience into coastal communities thus securing jobs and retaining working age people in island communities.

The majority of 10 metre and under vessels utilise lines when targeting finfish stocks, particularly cod/saithe/mackerel, though there is a small number of vessels which operate trawls (in the period 2021-22, less than 10% of all landings of species, for which Additional Quota was awarded to the non-sector groups, were made by vessels carrying bottom-impact, mobile gears). The use of lines is often associated with higher selectivity, reduced bycatch of fish species and a lower impact on the marine environment than other forms of fishing, though it may present a greater risk of entanglement of seabirds.

Many of these vessels primarily target non-quota shellfish species (such as crab and lobster) and allocating greater quantities of whitefish and mackerel species covered by quota will also allow for diversification and potentially also reduce fishing pressure from these non-quota species.

Applications to access West of Scotland Cod on environmental, social and economic criteria

Following revised assessment by ICES resulting in the setting of a directed fishery TAC for West of Scotland Cod for the first time since 2012, approximately 200 tonnes will be available for allocation as AQ, with a landed value in the region of £750,000. From Table 5 the island community with the fleet composition that is best placed to take advantage of this allocation is Shetland, though there is non-sector interest in fishing whitefish in Na h-Eileanan Siar.

An outcome of the consultation is that from 2025 West of Scotland cod AQ is to be allocated to Scottish registered vessels (sectoral or non-sector) following an application process. In this process vessels will have to align with environmental, social and economic criteria. This allocation may afford new opportunities to island based fishing businesses if successful in making an application.

Retaining the option of allocating in-year quota transfers on an equal basis.

This is expected to be used when negotiation leads to gains of quota. This will be cost-neutral and there should be no difference in outcome for sectoral vessels targeting mackerel whether they are based on the mainland or Shetland. There may be an impact in cases where allocations made on this basis lead to vessels receiving quota they do not intend to fish that could lead to downstream impacts in other island-connected fishing businesses. As an example, a pelagic vessel targeting mackerel that also receives an allocation of herring. This vessel may not pursue the allocation, leaving it unfished when other businesses may have been willing to target it, leading to economic gains from trading of quota instead of active fishing.

Discussion of specific Demographic, Economic , Social and Gaelic impacts

Demographic: The average age of someone working in the fishing industry in the UK is 40. Relative to the rest of the UK, the Scottish fishing fleet has a younger demographic breakdown. AQ may contribute to increasing catch rates, landings and profitability which in turn would encourage additional workers into the fishing industry workforce at crew, processing and transport stages. AQ distributed to island-connected vessels and businesses may therefore secure and encourage employment opportunities on the islands. This may also incentivise the retention of working age people in the islands and is likely to be a benefit to many island communities. Shetland, due to the location of fish for which there is AQ, the concentration of relevant vessels and the processing and transport capacity, is likely to benefit, and be able to realise that benefit to the greatest extent. Fishing needs fit and healthy working age people, a key demographic in decline in Shetland. AQ may contribute to factors drawing people below 45 to remain or move to Shetland to work.

Economic: Following from the demographic advantages above, the associated economic benefits from creating employment at sea and onshore employment generate additional value for the local economy.

The majority of mainly smaller 10m and under vessels will typically land locally to Scottish island ports and generate revenue for island ports, fish buyers, hauliers and transportation networks. This fleet segment is also engaged in direct sales on a local scale, for example to the hospitality sector.

AQ will provide additional fishing opportunities to the vessels which are allocated extra quota and therefore this will have a direct economic benefit to those recipients.

Since AQ will be accessed by vessels that target finfish rather than shellfish, there is expected to be a benefit to islands economies, but this benefit will principally be realised in Shetland, given the fleet composition and level of allocation to the Shetland FPO.

Access to special allocations of AQ to non-sector vessels may allow for a diversification away from the traditional heavy reliance on shellfish including Nephrops in the islands and provide an opportunity to increase pelagic fishing in regions which may reduce food-miles and increase food security in rural communities. This may also have impact on the hospitality sector by providing an additional source of locally caught produce.

AQ transported from islands to the mainland would incur transportation costs and may impact market prices elsewhere, however, it may also be of economic benefit to island fishing communities and enable them to catch their own bait locally for use by vessels targeting shellfish thereby reducing the additional costs of sourcing bait from the mainland. In addition island based vessels typically land locally to Scottish island ports and therefore generate downstream revenue for fish buyers, hauliers and transportation networks connected to the islands and benefit the island economy.

Social: Both the previous demographic and economic factors will have consequences for social impacts and the we anticipate that allocation of AQ as a whole will make a positive contribution to social factors, for example providing special allocations to the non-sector may lead to more fishing opportunities, strengthened earnings security and associated downstream benefits. Every job created directly involved in fishing supports between 2.5 and 5.6 jobs, sector dependent, in the value chain[2].

Gaelic: There is unlikely to be an appreciable impact on the use of Gaelic as a consequence of the publication of the policy.

Potential barriers or wider impacts

The fish stocks for which Scotland has AQ are not uniformly distributed around the Scottish coast and consequently the concentration of vessels and shore-based infrastructure is focused in a few locations. This means that there is a barrier to realising the full benefit of AQ if a fishing vessel is based outside of these locations. For example, allocating more quota to the non-sector fleet on an island that primarily targets shellfish will only work if boats are modified to fish for it and utilisation increases. The exception, as noted above, is the case of Shetland where the non-sector inshore fleet already targets several AQ species.

Historic Track Record provides quota to people who can catch and process it already and there is a risk that it may not be fished if given to people without a track record. However, as set out in consultation responses, fishers without a track record (such as non-sector vessels) need confidence that they will have access to the fishing opportunity to invest in new equipment. Therefore, the move to a rolling reference period for HTR and the increase in Special Allocations reduces this barrier compared to the status quo.

Vessels could be adapted for alternative fishing methods such as traps, netting, jigging and lining provided sufficient monthly quotas are available, but this may require new infrastructure and markets to be developed. Long-term confidence in AQ availability was seen by many consultation respondents as being necessary.

Mitigations already in place for these impacts

There are existing economic opportunities for fishing species outside of those covered by AQ. Excluding Shetland, island-connected vessels mainly target shellfish & mollusc species that either have no total allowable catch limit or in the case of Nephrops, a total allowable catch that is generally underutilised by the existing fleet (2013-22 average utilisation: 94%, excluding 2020).

Allocations of fish quota have been made available to non-sector vessels based on the west coast, including those on islands, to access additional demersal or pelagic opportunities. We will significantly increase the special allocation for the species with good utilisation to incentivise further uptake.

Is a full Island Communities Impact Assessment required?

The evidence shows that the policy will likely have outcomes (such as levels of satisfaction, or different rates of participation) for an island community which is significantly different from other island communities. The concentration of islands-connected vessels, which can target and land demersal and pelagic species into well-amened ports in Shetland means there are different circumstances in different islands with Shetland fishers better realising the benefit from AQ compared to fishers connected to other islands.

The effect of this policy may therefore amount to an advantage for one island community and a status quo or disadvantage for another island community. As determined in the assessment, the concentration of vessels and infrastructure in Shetland and Northeast mainland Scotland means these areas stand to receive similar benefits from the outcome, while Orkney, na h-Eileanan Siar and other islands are anticipated to be less able to benefit.

A full Island Communities Impact Assessment IS required.



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