Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 This chapter explains what this consultation is about and why the Government is having a consultation.
What the consultation is about
1.2 This consultation is about how the Scottish Government should allocate the fish quota that is made available to Scotland, either as an independent country or as part of the UK.
Chapter 1 is the introduction. It explains what the consultation is about and why the Government is having a consultation;
Chapter 2 explains the Scottish Government's policy objectives in relation to the allocation of fish quotas;
Chapter 3 describes the system of allocating fish quotas that exists now and asks whether it should be retained;
Chapter 4 describes changes that could be made to the existing system that have potential to pursue the Government's objectives more effectively;
Chapter 5 describes alternative methods by which fish quotas could be allocated, and invites views about whether establishing a new basis or system for the allocation of fish quotas might pursue the Government's objectives more effectively than either the status quo or an improved version of it;
Chapter 6 is about how the Scottish Government would propose to manage the transition to new systems of fish quota allocation, including with respect to periods of notice that might be offered to licensees and persons that hold fixed quota allocation ( FQA) units under the present arrangements; and,
Chapter 7 is about quota allocation and management for inshore (10 metres and under) fishing.
1.3 Decisions about the allocation of fish quota to Scottish fishing vessels are already devolved to the Scottish Government through the operation of the 2012 Concordat on Management Arrangements for Fishing Opportunities and Fishing Vessel Licensing in the United Kingdom (hereinafter "the Concordat"), which is an agreement between the Fisheries Administrations of the four UK countries. You can read the Concordat here:
1.4 The Concordat provides for a new system by which the UK Government would allocate fish quota to each of the Fisheries Administrations rather than, as had been the case before, allocating it directly to UK fishermen and fishing organisations. The Concordat also allows the Fisheries Administrations to decide the way in which quotas made available to them by the UK Government are allocated to the fishermen that each Administration licenses.
1.5 The Scottish Government is now considering, through this consultation, whether to change the way in which fish quotas are allocated to Scottish fishermen, either by establishing a new system or by modifying the present system. It should be noted that none of the options for allocation systems that the Scottish Government might consider through this consultation are contingent upon the outcome of the referendum on independence.
1.6 The scope of the consultation includes the allocation of quota in respect of Scottish vessels in the membership of a Fish Producer Organisation ( PO) (collectively known as "the sector") and allocations to vessels of 10 metres and under (10mu) that are not members of a PO.
1.7 We do not consider at this point quota allocations for vessels over 10 metres that are not members of a PO (known as the "non-sector"). These vessels can have FQA units attached to their licences, but may not "fish against them". Rather, quota for the non-sector fleet, like the 10mu system, is managed through a national pool system, with periodic catch limits established in vessel licences, and they may not lease quota. But these vessels tend in the first place to target non-quota species, including crabs and Scallops, and so access to quota is not at present a primary consideration in the development of their businesses. We will consider, with representatives of the vessels concerned, whether there are any implications for the non-sector in any changes considered following this consultation.
1.8 We expect that this consultation will be of interest to a range of persons and organisations with an interest in the fishing industry and the onshore enterprises associated with it, including (but not limited to):
- Fishermen and their representative bodies;
- Inshore Fisheries Groups;
- Fish Producer Organisations;
- Processors and retailers of fish;
- Fishing vessel agents and owners;
- Harbour and port authorities;
- Providers of ancillary services to fishing vessels;
- Local Authorities;
- Banks and other financial institutions with an interest in fishing businesses; and,
- Environmental Non-Governmental organisations.
Why is the Government having a consultation?
1.9 The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP, wrote to all Scottish fishermen and to other interested persons on 21 February 2014 to explain why the Scottish Government planned to hold a public consultation about fish quotas. In this letter, the Cabinet Secretary highlighted discussions about quota that took place during 2013, including at the 18 "Quayside Conversations" that the Government held to discuss issues of interest and concern affecting the fishing industry.
1.10 At these meetings one of the issues that fishermen were most concerned about was how it might be possible to better allocate and manage fish quotas. Some fishermen were concerned about the way in which the present system of allocating and managing quota allows for the leasing of quota allocations and reported that, because of high cost of such leasing, their financial viability was at risk. There were also concerns voiced that it is becoming increasingly difficult for fishermen to gain access to quota, because of the cost of acquiring FQA units. Without such access it is difficult for fishermen to get a start in the fishing industry and to develop their own businesses. These two concerns were voiced primarily in relation to whitefish quotas.
A report of the Quayside Conversations is available here:
1.11 Of course, there were also other issues of concern raised by fishermen, including the overall amount of quota available to the UK and Scotland, which in some cases is considered to be insufficient. But quota allocation and the cost of leasing quota have been a subject of keen debate among fishermen for a number of years. Certain aspects were also the subject of a previous consultation by the Scottish Government in 2008.
1.12 The Government wants now to consider whether it should respond to representations by changing elements of the quota allocation system. We wish to consider whether it is possible to improve the ways in which quota allocation works so that the Government's objectives can be pursued more effectively and, in particular, to consider whether changes can be made that offer active fishermen better, more affordable, access to quota.
1.13 The Government recognises that quota allocation is a complex and sometimes technical issue which does not lend itself to quick fixes or simplistic solutions. We also recognise that it is an issue of great importance to people and businesses. Many will have made significant investments in quota, not all of which will have been recouped, and any reform to the system would have to take these interests into account in a carefully considered manner.
1.14 The issues under consideration are made all the more challenging because the consultation, of itself, cannot increase the total amount of fish quota made available to Scotland. This total will continue to be informed by scientific advice about options for sustainable harvesting of fish stocks and determined by the outcome of international and EU negotiations. The Government believes however that the fact that fish quotas are a finite national resource makes it even more important to ensure that those available are allocated and managed to maximum effect, in the national interest. In a way similar to our land, sea bed and minerals, fish quotas must be protected and managed effectively now so that people and communities in Scotland can benefit from their sustainable exploitation for generations to come.
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