Fishing quota - additional allocation from 2024: consultation outcome

Scottish Government analysis, response and outcome to the consultation on the allocation of additional quota (2024). This outcome will be applied to the issue of fishing quota allocations in 2024.

Section 4 - Call For Evidence For Further, Future Allocation

In this section we explored options which we did not consider could be put in place for 2024 due to operational complexity but wanted to seek feedback to inform future policy development. We set out that additional consultation may be needed before any could be introduced.

Call For Evidence – Enhanced Selectivity

Here, we asked for views on retaining AQ to incentivise the adaption of fishing behaviour to reduce the environmental impact of the activity through the use of more selective gear. The intention being that this could be developed in line with the Future Catching Policy, in conjunction with the Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC).

Benefits arising

As this option relates to environmental factors, supportive comments suggested stakeholders already had ideas about how enhanced selectivity could be introduced through this route. Specific areas mentioned were spatial management of fishing, the use of remote electronic monitoring of vessels, compliance with other aspects of quota management, ranking fishing gear and techniques according to their selectivity and allocating AQ accordingly.

“This is a requirement under that Act and should be incorporated throughout the AQ and EQ systems. Conditions which could increase selectivity include: • Spatial management measure to avoid spawning sites and high bycatch areas (including seasonal and permanent area closures) • A requirement that all vessels are fitted with enhanced vessel monitoring systems (REM) ensuring all bycatch is recorded and accounted for. • A higher proportion of AQ allocation is provided to those vessels that best meet the requirements under the act • Technical measures that require specific low impact gear or gear modifications” [Organisation – anonymous response]

“The quota should be prioritised to vessels which demonstrate the best social, economic and or environmental outcomes. Lack of selectivity of some fishing gear is one of the primary drivers of our failure to achieve Good Environmental Status in our seas and at every opportunity more selective gears should be incentivised. Even within gear types those deploying the most selective gear modifications should have preferential access to fishing opportunity. For example a Nephrops trawl vessel utilising a 'Swedish grid' (or similar high selectivity device) should be prioritised access to quota over another Nephrops trawl vessel who is not operating such a system. Or a hand line fisher over a nett fisher. Larger mesh, escape hatches etc Another option to incentivise selectivity would be preferential access to quota for those vessels fitted with REM to ensure all bycatch is recorded and accounted for, and this data be then used to better understand avoidance/selectivity measures. Another option would be to preferentially allocate quota to those vessels demonstrating the highest level of compliance with the landings obligation.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

There were varying views as to how AQ should be used in this approach. Several responses expressed the view that a portion of AQ should be ring-fenced, but then went on to indicate there should be further conditions placed upon its allocation beyond being in exchange for the use of more selective fishing gear or techniques. Reflecting economic and social concerns, respondents noted that AQ should be preferentially allocated to non-sector vessels, that any AQ allocated in this way should be blocked from being traded, that it should only be allocated to Scottish boats landing their catches into Scotland. Among supportive comments there was caution that while a good idea, there may not be enough AQ to act as an incentive to participate.

“static gear used by smaller vessels is much mor selective than the larger vessels as such insentivising the U10 fleet using static gear will fully adress this issue” [Individual – anonymous response]

“Should be Scottish boats landing in Scottish ports who get preference to aq” [Individual – anonymous response]

Benefits identified were the reduction in environmental impact, the closer adherence to legislative requirements, the economic benefit to businesses willing to invest in more selective gear or fishing techniques to unlock more fishing opportunities, and the potential contribute to mitigating the twin crisis.

“Any monetary benefits arising from this scheme should be put towards activities that mitigate against the joint crisis of climate and biodiversity. One such suggestion would be using the proceeds to fund adequate compliance and enforcement of non-compliance of fisheries management measures within the marine protected areas network.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Costs arising

Responses opposed to the proposal maintained that fishing practices were already highly selective, citing mesh size and catch cameras, or that ICES advice should be the basis on which we judge the sustainability of a fishery, indicating a preference for using discard minimisation to incentivise selectivity in place of retaining quota. There was mistrust of the process of setting selectivity criteria, and some respondents questioned whether FMAC was the correct forum to discuss and develop ideas relating to enhanced selectivity. It was set out that if allocating quota to smaller vessels then more selective fishing methods would naturally be employed.

“We are always open to new opportunities to be more selective and over the years we have worked collaboratively with groups in certain projects to be more environmental and economically viable. In previous trials that we have been involved with, legislation has been a barrier and this takes time to address. The AQ quota should not be utilised in achieving greater selectivity, our opinion is that the discard component should be used in this instance.” – [North East of Scotland Fishermen’s Organisation]

Some eNGO respondents rejected the principle of ‘top-slicing’ some AQ to be allocated via FMAC

“Section 25(3) of the Fisheries Act 2020 explicitly states that ‘when distributing catch quotas and effort quotas for use by fishing boats, the national fisheries authorities must seek to incentivise the use of selective fishing gear, and fishing techniques that have a reduced impact on the environment’ Fisheries Act 2020 ( (see answer to Q1). It is therefore a requirement that allocation of quota must incentivise low-impact fisheries - this is not optional. Further, Section 25 also lays out that social, economic and environmental criteria must be followed in allocating opportunities. This should be the primary method of deciding upon and distributing AQ.” [Organisation, anonymous response]

More equivocal responses communicated a need to see more detail of how this would work in practice before forming an opinion. There was discomfort with the concept of incentivising selectivity above the legally mandated standards and notes of caution were sounded that beyond a certain point, selectivity ceases to be economically viable and going too far could seriously harm sections of the fleet. As raised in other responses, doubt that the Scottish Government could effectively monitor any such scheme was mentioned.

“Our fishery (mobile demersal) is already very selective and mesh size has increased lots in recent years, as well as the use of assistive camera technology such as CatchCam to help maximise the efficiency of gear. Again, if the government thinks that its own existing regulations around selectivity are lacking, then it should explain and evidence this before changing existing regulations – rather than using quota unfairly as a means to that end.” [Individual – anonymous response]

“The majority of our members echo the views of [Organisation]:

The Fisheries Act requires fisheries authorities to incentivise the use of selective fishing gear (not to increase selectivity). The Fisheries Act also requires the allocation of quota to be based on “transparent and objective” criteria.

We are concerned by the repeated references in the consultation to “increasing selectivity” without any context, without any definition of what is meant by ‘selectivity’, without any evidence that increases in selectivity are necessary (or practicable), without any clear statement of an overall objective, and without any transparent and objective criteria for measuring selectivity or increases in selectivity….” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Several respondents felt it was too early to be drawn on potential costs and benefits, stating either that this would depend on the detail of any scheme, or saying that it is for the Scottish Government to determine the costs and benefits of incentivising selectivity in this way. One respondent noted that the cost or benefit was likely to be highly regional, reflecting the regional variation in the location and target species of the Scottish fishing fleet.

Of those who identified costs, these were associated with administration of such a scheme, either for the Scottish Government or for fishing vessels contributing to costs of gathering scientific data. The complexity and vulnerability to misuse of such schemes was also identified as a cost to this approach. Other respondents stated that the cost would be too much to bear for some sections of the fleet, or that all that would happen is reductions in catches of marketable fish.

“As outlined above (Q.24), we have significant concerns and reservations about the potential benefits and costs of any such scheme, given the lack of any transparent criteria or clear objectives for the scheme.

‘Increasing selectivity’ essentially makes fishing less efficient, since it reduces the amount of fish that are caught for a given amount of time and effort. Given that previous increases in selectivity have largely eliminated unwanted catches of undersized fish in most Scottish fisheries, further increases in selectivity will primarily reduce catches of marketable fish. That will have a direct financial impact on hard-working Scottish fishermen by reducing their incomes and increasing their operating costs.

Reducing the efficiency of Scottish fisheries (making it more difficult to catch fish) is also inconsistent with initiatives to reduce Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero, since fishermen will have to spend more time fishing - and therefore burn more fuel – in order to catch the same quantity of fish with less efficient (‘more selective’) fishing gear.

We would also point out that effectively implementing, monitoring and managing any scheme such as that proposed would come at considerable cost to the Scottish Government. The absence of effective monitoring and control was a major weakness of the previous Conservation Credits Scheme, and it would be essential to ensure that such failures were not repeated in any future scheme.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Scottish Government Summary Response to Enhanced Selectivity

Where responses indicated support for this proposal it was on the basis that it was incumbent on the Scottish Government to introduce regulations to increase selectivity/reduce the environmental impact of fishing activity when allocating fish quota specifically and in the management of fishing activity generally.

Many responses indicated opposition to the proposal with a number of reasons given. There was a belief that the allocation of quota should not be bound to selectivity – that it should be viewed as a separate issue. However, the requirements of the Fisheries Act 2020 to seek to incentivise enhanced selectivity must be noted.

Some set out that FMAC/FCP were not suited to the development of this work and various reasons given. While others highlighted the strides made by the fishing industry to improve selectivity in recent years.

Having considered responses, the Scottish Government does agree that AQ could be utilised as part of the FCP process and/or that FMAC could be a forum by which initiatives are developed to award AQ based on vessels utilising fishing gear/operations with a reduced environmental impact.

Call for Evidence - Community Quota Schemes

In this call for evidence, we asked for views on using AQ to establish community quota schemes (CQS), where fishing opportunities would be managed locally in line with the particular social, environmental and economic priorities of a community.

Benefits arising

Respondents gave a wide variety of views, both in support and opposition to the idea. Regarding social and economic factors, some with connections to island authorities referenced the existing CQS arrangements and the benefits they felt were proven as a result. Benefits were identified both at the local scale, providing jobs in remote areas, and sector-wide in marketing potential.

“…Distribution to community quota schemes would then generate revenue for the local regions and allow fair access for the entirety of the fleet in these areas. It would continue to do so and allow fleets to diversify - and if distributed this way would also allow coastal communities to develop markets on a local basis, rather than the catch being landed to foreign ports and have no economic benefit to the local regions where the fish was caught.

This should be the blueprint as to how all quota is distributed, i.e. local authorities with devolved powers over the allocation of the fishing quotas in their own waters. The various well establish Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups could manage these waters on a local or regional bases and many of the current issues with quotas would be resolved. It would give many coastal areas a much-needed boost and the revenue generated could be reinvested in infrastructure and processing capability for the fleet instead of being lost to a small number of multi-million-pound fishing businesses…

…Given the overwhelming benefits such schemes could have, this is a very disappointing position to take on such a rare opportunity. This may be a once-in-a--lifetime opportunity to redistribute (particularly) pelagic quota in a more equitable manner. In 1973, 97.5% of landings by volume into Stornoway comprised pelagic and whitefish species. Since then, this volume has been steadily eroded to the point where the local fishing industry is extremely reliant on shellfish stocks. Should these stocks suffer a collapse then the entire industry would disappear in Stornoway.” [Comhairle nan Eilean Siar]

“[Organisation] strongly supports Community Quotas which we believe would:

- Provide the framework and policy infrastructure necessary for the diversification and rejuvenation of the inshore fleet

- Support new entrants to the fishing sector (bringing socio-economic benefits)

- Provide diversification opportunities to existing fishers (socio-economic and enviornmental benefits)

-Bring additional value to rural and island communities through economic upstream and down effects

-Provide environmental benefits by allowing vessels to diversify and reducing pressure on stocks such as crab and lobster

- Making the fleet more resistant to market shocks due to diversification” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Within these groups there was disagreement on the role of sectoral groups – it was felt by some that receiving AQ free instead of paying to lease from a sectoral group would unlock a great deal of potential, and could be managed wholly through non-sector means, while others viewed sectoral groups as having an important supporting role to play for example in helping with setup costs and facilitating access to shore based services. CQS was noted as a means to improve industry-community relations. International examples of successful CQS were highlighted as models to emulate.

“We are supportive of Community Quota Schemes, as through our work with Orkney PO already manage quotas on behalf of the CQS set up by Orkney Islands and Western Isles Councils and can see the benefits of using such schemes where they are properly set up and managed. Therefore, we would welcome further discussion on these. However, as we have stated previously, we believe these groups should be integrated within the current sectoral management groups which we believe would deliver a better outcome rather than creating new stand-alone groups. We do question the demand for such groups and whether simply setting up a scheme is enough. Already we see issues in remote areas around dealing with the fish once landed including logistics, ice and market provision which would all need to be addressed in any proposal.” [West Coast of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation and Orkney Fish Producers Organisation]

“…Community quota schemes can be an effective tool for increasingly stable incomes and infrastructure developments within local communities. For example, the number of employees engaged in the Community Development Quota Programme associated with the Alaskan Pollock Fishery started with only 317 in 1993, but reached 5,600 in 2010.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Supportive respondents said that accessing AQ through a CQS would be a good way to recognise the cultural importance of fishing, giving small fishing vessels a collective voice that it was felt they currently lack. The potential for this as a route into fishing for prospective new businesses was noted, though this was both in a positive and negative light – responses received highlighted the complexity of setting up new CQS and the viability of relying only on AQ as an incentive.

“Probably needs more thought, but on the matter of potentially using AQ for new entrants- AQ alone would never be enough to keep a new entrant going, even if it was, its still a small cost compared to the cost of a ship to catch it. Also open to abuse by larger fishing companies to create companies to look like a new start.” [Individual – anonymous response]

Considering environmental factors, the establishment of CQS was raised as a framework to enable resilience and diversification, taking fishing pressure away from shellfish stocks by providing a route for shellfish boats to target whitefish, and could be an example of Just Transition.

" Community quota schemes could help empower small fishing businesses and coastal communities who are often marginalised from fisheries management decisions. These schemes have the potential to be quite complex and should be delivered in a way which supports a just transition to more sustainable and selective fishing which will increase fisheries reliliance and benefit coastal communities in the long term.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Costs arising

Some opposing responses disputed a perceived implication that allocations to sectoral groups did not already benefit communities, or that there were sufficient barriers to new entrants that CQS was needed to break these down. Landing fish into Scotland by any vessel was identified as a way in which all fishing activity benefits communities. Several responses highlighted that inshore vessels already receive some special allocations and do not fully utilise it, so questioned why new CQS would be any different. The idea that a CQS could ultimately lease unfished quota back to sectoral groups, or hold it and not fish it at all, were raised as undesirable outcomes. Some respondents recommended mechanisms such as returning unfished quota to a pool for reallocation, or only allocating underutilised stocks. Reference was made to previous occasions when the Scottish Government has looked into this issue and that the identified issues remained the same.

“Unless there is a specific case that articulates the need for setting up a community quota scheme, there is always the potential that such schemes reappropriate fishing opportunities from those already using them, unless focused on stocks that are chronically under utilised.” [Eastern England Fish Producers Organisation]

Responses that were neutral to the concept but focused on practical considerations mentioned the need to be specific in classifying what an eligible community is, the need for up-front finance as well as fishing opportunities from AQ, that not all AQ species could realistically be fished, and that appropriate governance with the same management criteria as other fishing interests was essential.

“We would support the development of community quota schemes that met the requirement under the Fisheries Act. For these to be successful better regional governance options and arrangements are necessary. Open, well-resourced and inclusive governance bodies and procedures are necessary to make this successful, and truly benefit local communities.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Scottish Government Summary Response to Community Quota Schemes

There were many responses strongly in favour of enabling community quota schemes. It was seen as a way of empowering local communities, bringing economic benefit, resilience and retaining this culturally important industry.

However, opponents, and some supportive responses, set out the need for the correct infrastructure and transparent decision-making processes.

Though there was discussion of successful initiatives in place domestically and abroad, there was no real vision of how this could be achieved in this instance.

The Scottish Government agrees that the allocation of fish quota to community initiatives could bring strong local benefits. However, the correct infrastructure needs to be in place so that the required management systems are in place. The recent establishment of the QMG initiative has demonstrated that this requires considerable development. There would also need to be consideration of appropriate fish stocks for allocation.

To this end, we will explore the capacity of allocating quota to local groups to allow them to allocate fish quota in their communities in line with government objectives and obligations.

Call for Evidence – Diversification Opportunities

In this call for evidence we asked for views on retaining AQ as a means to broaden diversification opportunities. In option 2, the proposed methodology primarily allowed for the diversification of 10 metre and under non-sector vessels given their heavy focus on shellfish stocks. Here we sought views on using AQ for the same purpose but focused rather on larger vessels. Views received tended not to recognise this distinction, and discussed the matter as it might relate to vessels of any class. Indeed some respondents focused their comments again on benefits to the 10 metre and under non-sector group of vessels.

Considering the social and economic aspects of this, positive outcomes from diversification were discussed in terms of the wider benefits to the sector and the associated value chain, however several respondents stressed that AQ alone was unlikely to be an adequate motivating factor for diversification, and that a broader package of measures including up-front financial support would be necessary.

“In general terms, we would be supportive of realistic proposals to use additional quota to facilitate and support the diversification of existing fishing operations. However, we would stress that any such diversifications are likely to be complex to bring about, and would likely require a broader-based and greater Government commitment than simply handing out some additional quota. We would strongly caution against simplistic or naïve assumptions about what might realistically be achievable in the short term.

An important priority should be to ensure the long-term (economic) sustainability of such diversified fisheries. That will require long-term planning and commitment by all parties involved, including the Scottish Government.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

Supportive comment on social benefits of diversification identified this as a route to restore the fishing industry to its historic status and as a way to secure new entrants into the fleet.

“Given the small scale fleet & non sectors (the vast majority of Scotland's fishers) historic marginalisation from accessing demersal and pelagic fin-fish fisheries, there is a substantial opportunity here to begin to right a historic wrong!

The vast majority of Scotland's fishers are operating in the small scale under 12meter sector and utilising static gears. This fleet segment is suffering from the phenomenon of 'spatial squeeze' to the greatest extent of all of Scotland's fishers. Facilitating diversification opportunities for this fleet segment that does not cause additional 'gear conflict' would be a welcome opportunity and it would to some extent alleviate the extent of the current and anticipated levels of spatial squeeze.

It should not require stating the obvious but there is likely going to be some period of time and a substantial requirement for additional investment from within and without industry to build, capacities, knowledge, experience, markets and infrastructure prior to being able to fully realise this opportunity, as such interim solutions and an element of government assistance will be required.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

“This option could have positive effects on the fishing fleet to provide for them opportunities to fish for stocks they have not previously targeted for example pelagic species. Allowing vessels that have had no previous pelagic quota to diversify and access pelagic stock it could be instrumental to the longevity of the inshore fleet.” [Comhairle nan Eilean Siar]

“I think an increase in the pelagic qouta for under 10m boats could be beneficial,not only mackerel but a small herring qouta for under 10m could be hugely beneficial to establish markets in the summer months before the pelagic boats start fishing.

Supply restraunts and fish shops etc with fresh herring.” [Individual – anonymous response]

The importance of location and geography was raised in a number of different ways. Enabling local uptake of fishing opportunities to build resilience in the mix of species targeted was identified as an economic benefit by some respondents, while others cautioned that it was counterproductive allocating quota without recognition of where fish stocks are located.

“Geography determines opportunities for this sector and simply giving additional cod quota to a vessel in the Hebrides for instance would be a waste of quota.” [Individual – anonymous response]

Concern was expressed that taking some AQ in this way would reduce opportunity to other fleet segments who had built a historic track record, and there were suggestions to focus on species that are not fully utilised rather than removing opportunities that would otherwise be fished. Some representatives of pelagic fishing interests felt the reputation for the highest quality fish could be compromised by reserving some AQ for diversification.

“Like CQS, this concept effectively involves allocating an AQ windfall to groups that lack an HTR of stocks that they would now wish to harvest. We would have concerns around a lack of equity amongst industry actors resulting from this kind of approach. We would also have concerns around over-capitalisation resulting from this kind of windfall allocation which, without sufficient market access, could lead to business failure.” [Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation]

Other respondents focused on the need to attract new workers into the industry, though opinion was split on whether AQ was the correct lever to bring about positive change in this area. Some suggested that encouraging new entrants with AQ may actually cause other vessels to exit fishing altogether

“This is great as it helps remove the barrier for new entrants into an industry which faces a chronic labour shortage and seen by many as an unattractive, low paid career. when in fact with the right help and guidance it can be the complete opposite. The industry can thrive with new blood through increased opportunities and support.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

“As per our initial comments we again re-iterate the need to manage expectations with the volume of additional quota available, and that offering opportunities for others particularly with fully utilised stocks will limit those available to those already using them therefore any wider economic gain will be negligible. However, as we have stated opportunity for many vessels particularly on the West Coast is limited and that by allowing vessels access to AQ beyond their HTR could be beneficial. We as with most others agree that some form of scheme to allow new entrants into the sector is a must, although we are able to offer opportunities for those wishing to access the nephrop sector, to move beyond this without further support is nigh on impossible. The industry badly needs new blood both to crew vessels and provide our skippers of the future, therefore we would support further investigation on this point.

Environmentally the sector will evolve naturally over the next few years, MPA’s, PMFs along with further work around emissions and carbon footprint will all evolve over the coming years and it is our opinion that by forcing these issues by attempting to link them unnecessarily to quota allocation will only force people away from the sector negating any benefit arising from AQ.” [West of Scotland Fish Producer’s Organisation and Orkney Fish Producer’s Organisation]

Supportive comment relating to environmental factors centred on the potential for diversification of vessels enabling greater adoption of fishing techniques such as hook and line and adding variety to the composition of the fleet targeting different species, as well as reducing the emissions associated with fishing if it could be landed locally. Supportive respondents made various suggestions for introducing new vessel types into the Scottish fleet that could target particular AQ species.

“…Support for such diversification could extend to supporting the construction (or import), plus trial and demonstration of novel types of fishing boats - or boats using fishing gears that are less familiar to Scottish fishermen. Potential examples might include:

  • ‘auto-liners’ like those used in the Norwegian long-line fishery for ling in Scottish waters.
  • multi-purpose whitefish/pelagic fishing boats like those that form part of the Irish fleet (for example: [link to Irish fleet vessels])
  • small pelagic fishing boats like some of the Norwegian boats that fish regularly in Scottish waters (for example: [link to Norwegian vessels]).

However, we would stress that achieving meaningful diversification will require more than just short-term hand-outs of additional quota. For example, diversification of the Scottish pelagic fleet would require additional pelagic licences to be granted.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

“Several of smaller inshore vessel did invest in automated jigging machines and were successful in catching mackerel and haddock. However, the monthly allocations were too small to enable them to develop their opportunities to catch sufficient volumes to justify transportation costs and being able to guarantee steady supplies over a long period. Sufficient quantities of AQ for some species would enable those vessels to develop their business and gain support from local processors if regular long term supplies could be guaranteed to provide steady volumes to customers.” [Western Isles Fishermens’ Association]

However there was also opposition on environmental grounds: there was concern that retaining some AQ for this purpose was unfairly removing opportunities from whitefish and pelagic businesses to address issues existing in the shellfish fishery. There was also concern that diversification could be used to unsustainably fish other species.

“Using AQ as a diversification incentive “away from shellfish stocks” is a poor solution to what is ultimately a management issue relating to the shellfish stocks. This issue should be resolved at source by better managing catches, effort and establishing a spatial plan, not by creating a distraction via this approach.

Using AQ to resolve overfishing and poor management would not meet the duties of Section 25 of UK Fisheries Act.” – [Open Seas]

Scottish Government Summary Response to Diversification Opportunities

While there was support for this proposal, many questioned whether quota alone would allow for business diversification and set out that broader infrastructure requirements were often necessary. Some objected to the premise that there should be diversification of opportunity through AQ.

What was noticeable, was a perception in responses that this offered a route for new entrants to the fishing industry – and many highlighted the barriers to entering the industry that currently exist.

Having considered responses, the Scottish Government will not develop this proposal further at this time.

We note however, that many of the issues identified could be addressed through other AQ delivery mechanisms. In particular if community quota schemes are developed these could deliver on some of the issues identified in responses – such as diversification of fishing opportunity and allowing for new entrants.

Call For Evidence – History of Compliance with Regulatory Requirements Relating to Fishing

Section 25 of the Fisheries Act 2020 sets out that the history of compliance with regulatory requirements related to fishing is a possible basis for the allocation of quota and this was considered as an option for possible further exploration.

Benefits arising

Those supportive of this proposal set out their views that the existing compliance regime was not sufficiently dissuasive, and there were social and environmental benefits to exploring additional measures to change behaviour. The idea of removing AQ from vessels with repeated or serious compliance breaches, paired with redistributing resulting AQ, was offered as a way to incentivise greater compliance.

“The existing penalties and traffic light system do not sufficiently de-incentivise illegal fishing, this is evidenced by some companies being repeatedly issued with FPNs or prosecuted - several such examples exist including individual boats repeatedly offending. Additional penalty would be helpful and would also act as a mechanism to reward compliance.” [Open Seas]

“Vessels in continuous breach of regulations should be penalised, and losing access to additional quota or excluding them from sea areas where they damage fishing gear or such similar breaches should be considered. Losing access to AQ would be considered a fair and proportionate penalty for fishing related breaches.” [Western Isles Fishermen’s Association]

Costs Arising

Respondents who did not favour considering this principally said this was because the existing penalties issued through administrative action or the courts were the appropriate punishment, and they felt withdrawing quota was penalising a vessel twice for the same offence. Rather than adding a new method of incentivising compliance, some suggested that the existing regulations (and their enforcement) should be reviewed instead.

“In our view it would be wrong to explore this option as in withholding of quota may result in a vessel being penalised twice for infringements that are not quota management related.” [North East of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation]

“[Organisation] feels that actively fostering sustainable/low-impact operations is more effective than a repressive approach to non-compliance (carrot rather than stick). Realistically there are several ways around withheld access (changing vessel, changing owner company, etc). For us, the additional work implied for the Marine Directorate would not seem to carry any significant payback. At the same time and more generally, penalties relating to legislative and regulatory non-compliance should be more stringently applied and monitoring should be stepped up.” [Organisation – anonymous response]

The specific offenses suggested that might attract withdrawal of AQ were varied, and covered economic, social and environmental concerns. Over-quota landings, undeclared landings, landing undersized fish, using mesh below minimum, fishing in closed areas or seasons, damage to static gear, labour abuses, safety violations, poor welfare towards catch, poor record keeping, technical conservation or gear offences and non-compliance with the landing obligation were all suggested. As well as specific offences, another theme that emerged from comments was that this should be considered differently according to the seriousness of the breach, for example a longer period of ineligibility for AQ following a court conviction compared to an offense attracting an administrative penalty.

Scottish Government Summary Response to History of Compliance with Regulatory Requirements Relating to Fishing

There were split views on utilising history of compliance with regulatory regimes as a basis for allocating AQ. In general, it was strongly advocated from eNGOs, some individual respondents and fishing associations; where it was seen as a way to bring about behavioural change and encouraging compliance with regulatory requirements.

It was broadly opposed by those representing sectoral vessels, on the basis that if a vessel had already been punished for an offence, then this was sufficient. Again the additional administrative burden that this would place on the Scottish Government was highlighted.

Having considered, the Scottish Government does see merit in exploring withholding the allocation of AQ on the basis of non-compliance with regulatory requirements. We see this body of work tying in with the review of the penalties system which is to be undertaken as part of the Future Fisheries Strategy body of work.[6]

General comments and further suggestions for allocation not in this consultation

Finally, we asked if there were other suggestions for the allocation of AQ that were not captured in the seven options presented, or if there were any general comments that they wished to make. Comments received were diverse with several suggestions for alternative allocation methodologies.

Some stated that none of the options presented placed sufficient weight on environmental criteria and there was a view that giving a greater/entire share of AQ to the inshore fleet was the best way to achieve this. Others stated that the existing methodology can be considered to meet environmental criteria in allocating quota from TAC set with scientific advice. The former group set out a variety of possible scoring and weighting schemes, for example, allocating quota based on a points-scoring system. Analogy was made to systems in place to access agricultural subsidies.

Another possibility, highlighted among responses, was auctioning or otherwise levying a charge for access to AQ, where this has previously been given to fishing interests by the Scottish Government for free.

The concept of linking access to AQ to some other benefit came through in many responses. For example, retaining AQ to fund apprenticeships, to fund the establishment of new classes of vessel or otherwise retain some for new entrants, giving to vessels that do not hold any HTR or giving to the non-sector in its entirety.

General comments received underlined that the fishing industry had made investments into the millions of pounds, founded in part upon assumptions about continued access to AQ and care should be exercised not to unduly disrupt this system. There was also some frustration with the timing of this consultation, in terms of being able to react to changes mid-year, and in light of the short time until the next Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU.

Scottish Government Summary Response to Additional Suggestions Received

Considerable thought and effort had gone into describing some of the alternative allocation methods and there is merit in exploring some aspects in future. Officials are open to dialogue on this.

Having considered the practicality of implementing the suggested alternative allocation methods we will be adopting some of the proposals set out by a number of respondents in relation to applications for quota (see outcome for Option 7 above). Aspects of this alternative option that will be taken forward are:

  • The process will apply to the majority of a particular stock. In the first instance west of Scotland cod only, but depending on the success of the initiative, it may be extended to others.
  • We will seek to open up allocations to groups other than Sectoral Groups, so that other organisations/entities can apply on behalf of sectoral vessels.

We may seek to introduce other criteria – such as social/economic factors – in addition to purely environmental ones, however to the extent that these factors can be considered separately, this is intended to give the most weight to environmental factors.



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