Publication - Minutes

Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC) minutes: August 2019

Published: 11 May 2021
Date of meeting: 12 Aug 2019
Date of next meeting: 11 Nov 2019
Location: Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 12 August 2019.

Published:
11 May 2021
Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC) minutes: August 2019

Attendees and apologies

Attendees;

  • Fiona Matheson, Orkney PO
  • Alan Coghill, Orkney PO
  • Helen McLachlan, WWF
  • Robert Stevenson, Lunar FPO
  • Leslie Tait, Shetland
  • Ruby Temple-Long, Scottish Wildlife Trust
  • Kara Brydson, Fisheries Innovation Scotland
  • Chris Pirie, DEFRA
  • Iain Glasgow, DEFRA
  • Anne Birnie, NESFO
  • Mark Dougal, PJJ Peterhead
  • Elaine Whyte, Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance
  • Kenny MacNab, Clyde Fisherman’s Association 
  • Mike Park, SWFPA
  • Kenny Coull, SWFPA
  • Elena Balestri, SFF
  • Elspeth McDonald, SFF
  • John Anderson, SFO
  • Paul Macdonald, SFO
  • Kevin McDonell, WSFPO
  • Ian Gatt, Scottish Pelagic
  • Debbie Crockard, MSC
  • Brian Isbister,  Shetland 
  • Kevin Coull, SWFPA

Marine Scotland staff:

  • Allan Gibb (Chair), Deputy Director of Sea Fisheries
  • Jane MacPherson, Future Fisheries Management Team Leader
  • Ben Dipper, Head of International Fisheries: Demersal
  • Warren Devine, Senior Policy Officer, Sea Fisheries
  • Richard Holburn, Policy Officer, Sea Fisheries
  • Tom Robertson, Marine Scotland Compliance/Policy
  • Coby Needle, Chief Fisheries Advisor, Marine Scotland Science
  • Paul McCarthy, Policy Manager, Sea Fisheries

Apologies:

  • Lisa McGuiness, Head of Marine Scotland Compliance
  • David Anderson, AFPO    
  • Bertie Armstrong, SFF

Items and actions

Welcome, minutes of previous meeting and agenda        

The Chair welcomed and thanked everyone for attending.

Two AOB items were added: Rockall and Gear Conflict. Slight adjustments were made to the running of the agenda. 

Minutes of the previous meeting had been circulated and were accepted.  

Actions from previous meeting 

Marine Scotland to issue guidance comparing the old Regulations affecting the Scottish Fleet with the Tech Con Regulations and the new regulations. Outcome – The regulation was published on 22nd July and we are currently updating the guidance to reflect the changes since the last meeting. This will be available shortly. 

Marine Scotland to compile a list of all the HS and DM exemptions once approved and issue to all Stakeholders. Outcome – The regional groups have found agreeing this year’s JR submissions with the Commission difficult, particularly in the NWW. Once agreement is reached and the Acts published Marine Scotland will issue guidance for each area detailing the HS and DM exemptions. 

Marine Scotland to propose changes to the power and text for the recommendation at the North Western Waters High Level Group Meeting. Outcome – Marine Scotland presented these to the Regional High Level Group and after discussion they were accepted and adopted into the latest discard plan. 

The Chair outlined that the focus of this meeting would be upon a number of proposed mitigation measures Marine Scotland were considering following the publication of the very challenging scientific advice for the North Sea Cod stock. 

The Chair informed the group that it was Marine Scotland’s intention, with agreement from the rest of the UK, and in partnership with FMAC  to develop possible a suite of possible mitigation measures in response to the challenging advice. 

This measures would be used in the first instance at the next North Sea Technical Group on 12/13 September. It is the view of Marine Scotland that it is better for us to come forward with solutions rather than leave this to the Commission.  

Marine Scotland is working on the basis of three possible scenarios, and these will influence the direction we take. These are: 

  • leave EU on 31 October or shortly after and commence as an independent Coastal State for 1 Jan 2020 onwards 
  • withdrawal agreement, followed by an implementation period as a consultee 
  • remain in the EU

Having laid out the position the Chair ran through various mitigation options:

Suite of possible mitigation measures/actions

10% Banking 

The Chair asked would the industry be prepared to bank 10% of this year’s quota in order to provide more opportunities in 2020? 

The group felt that agreement across all parties, PO’s and Devolved Administrations (DAs) would be needed in order for this to work. However, the group did recognised that for 2019 it would be difficult to meet this target as the bigger west coast boats had yet to join the North Sea fleet. It was queried as to whether it would be possible to fish to 95% and then swap/transfer in the additional quota needed. 

The Chair highlighted that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal at the end of October then swaps/transfers would not be possible. The Chair also questioned the validity of fishing to 95% of the TAC and relaying on swaps. 

The group raised their concerns as to how the banked quota would be allocated. Both the group and the Chair agreed that the devil would be in the detail and that further discussions were needed with all affected parties to achieve an agreement. 

It was agreed by all that this was a possible option and should be explored further. 

Action:

  • Marine Scotland and SAFPO consider further, with an option to work across all UK POs to develop a framework that would allow the banking of up to 10%, allowing fair allocation across the fleets

Economic impact analysis 

The Chair informed the group that in 2018 the Commission had used information on social-economic impacts for the first time as part of end year negotiations. Marine Scotland has started work to model the impact of various levels of cuts in the cod quota for next year. This will include assessing the effect on jobs/livelihoods across rural areas and how long it would take the region/s to recover from that reduction in catch limits.

The group asked if the analysis would consider the socio-economic impacts of the recovery of the stock resulting from different scenarios taken in 2020 and if the projected recovery and associated environmental benefits were included?

The Chair replied that the analysis would be looking from this point forward. 

The group then queried if any analysis had been undertaken or was planned to assess the maximum biomass capacity of the basin and what other environmental factors could affect cod stocks such as the increase on the numbers of hake and plaice seen. With both eating cod at different stages of its life cycle.  

Marine Scotland Science replied that such analysis would need to be done on a longer timeframe, but that it would be something they would like to explore further in the future as an understanding of what the environment can carry would be useful especially going forward into negotiations as a coastal state. 

The Chair informed the group that Marine Scotland would be happy to share the results of the analysis.

Action:

  • Marine Scotland to conclude analysis of the effects different percentage reductions would have upon the industry and rural economy and share with the group

Multi-national approach 

The chair described to the group that Marine Scotland had begun to investigate and develop an interactive map that would be able to show fishing activity over the past five years per ICES rectangle and how this might have changed, particularly in relation to foreign vessels. The idea is that this map could then be overlaid with different information, including spawning areas and areas of potential closure.  

The Chair laid out Marine Scotland’s plan to have a demonstration model available for the North Sea Technical Group meeting in September. This will help to demonstrate to Other member States and the Commission that a multi-national approach is needed to respond to the challenging cod advice and that mitigation measures will need to be applied more widely to other countries. This is Marine Scotland’s starting point in terms of equivalence. 

Some of the group came forward stating that their own sectors had recorded data such as the number of Anglo-Spanish and Anglo-French vessels that were operating in UK waters and they had now begun recording Anglo-Spanish-French vessels. They also stated that dialogue had begun with their European counterparts with the aim to openly share data. 

The group asked if the map would be able to show the types of gear used and if vessels had changed from targeting one stock to another? 

The chair replied that the plan is to include such data with the aim that, if we become a coastal state then we could utilise this data during negotiations and if we remained with the EU then it could be used to assist with securing equivalence. However, including full details of selectivity would be a struggle. 

Action:

  • Marine Scotland to develop and share the interactive map with all group members and devolved administrations before the NS Technical Group meeting in September. Industry can then help sense check the map and add in their expertise

Seasonal closures 

The chair described how this option overlaps with the interactive map and how best practice would be to avoid targeting spawning fish. Marine Scotland Science has an idea of the locations of spawning cod, but they need industry to come forward with more accurate information. 

Marine Scotland Science informed the group that they have historical knowledge of the areas; however, the data are limited. Hence the request for assistance from the industry otherwise the closed areas could be much larger than necessary. This could be historical knowledge, but real-time information on spawning fish from the fleet would be invaluable.

There was agreement from the group that closures might be sensible, but that work was needed to consider what and when, and also that equivalence was absolutely key. Some felt that the measures might go too far and that Real Time Closures might be preferable.  

The Group highlighted that it would be useful to have data on Norwegian activity as they specifically target cod. 

The Chair then asked the group if they could engage with their members and gather the data, sending it to the FMAC secretariat who will forward to Science. 

The Chair reiterated that it was Marine Scotland’s aim with the assistance of the FMAC group and others to develop a package of measures that is acceptable to all that could be used to limit cod mortality yet still keep activity viable, that was why this meeting was taking place. 

Action:

  • industry representatives to approach their members requesting their knowledge of when and where the spawning grounds for cod and other key stocks are. Then submit data to the FMAC Secretariat

Marine Scotland Science to explore where closures would have been this year (or recent years) had the relevant regulation been in place, using survey data and past experience. Then draw together a proposal and then circulate for a sense check.

Real time closures/real time reporting 

The Chair sought views on real time closures and reporting as well as move on obligations when stock abundance is evident regardless of size. The Chair emphasised that equivalence is very important within the UK and depending upon the UK departure from the EU, with other Member states.  

The Chair informed the group that a real time reporting project was about to begin in the west coast regarding avoidance of unwanted stock that are in abundance, this may be transferable to North Sea? The reporting operation is automated and the skipper records hauls and if a proportion of the catch is an unwanted species it notifies the servers and a message is sent to all skippers to avoid that area. 

The Chair highlighted that the closures could be flexible with some durations longer than others depending upon the scenario. 

The group queried as to whether the real time closures could be amalgamated with real time reporting and if reporting would be different if the stock was a by-catch rather than a targeted species; as cod on the west coast was a bycatch rather than targeted in the North Sea. The group pointed out that the SWFPA had conducted a study in 2014 into real time reporting and moving on practices, this may be a useful reference. 

The Chair asked the group if they would be happy for Marine Scotland to develop proposals for all three measures and once complete seek the opinion of the group? The Chair went on to state that it may come down to factors like how big, how many and  how long for as well as the need for precautionary areas? The group were happy for Marine Scotland to proceed.

Action:

  • Marine Scotland to develop a paper for FMAC consideration on these issues. Marine Scotland Science to bring forward the previous evidence that was used to decide the size and duration of RTCs under Conservation Credits

Selectivity options 

The Chair stated that there was not time to begin new gear trails and a lot had been learned from the trails conducted during the previous cod recovery period. Then going on to say that there are a number of gears from these trials that we know avoid cod and reduce catches. These could be used in certain areas, times, or Marine Scotland could dictate the use full stop. 

The group replied that the success of this option would depend upon the incentives used to encourage a certain gears use. 

The Chair queried as to whether the ability to continue fishing, rather than not, was incentive enough with the possibility of targeting other species. “Do you need to fish in cod areas for your haddock and whiting, if you haven’t got quota why are you in those areas? 

Members of the group highlighted that was the case around Shetland. Others queried if there were times of the year when different gears could be more effective than others. For example: square mesh panels used on nephrops trawls. Was it possible to analyse who was using what gear and when? 

The group agreed that it would be helpful to have a list of the gears already in use so that an assessment could be carried out and improvements made where needed. 

The group also recognised that this was not solely restricted to the whitefish sector and that assessment into the mortality rates imposed by other fleet segments was needed. 

Action:

  • Marine Scotland to compile a paper on selectivity options for further consideration by the FMAC group

Prohibition on targeting cod

The group discussed what was targeting? Some considered 30% nephrops was targeting nephrops whilst others considered 50.1% a more accurate method.

The group felt that the narrative was really important and that with the size of cut proposed to the TAC there would be very few vessels targeting cod in 2020. 

The group agreed that micro managing the situation and planned failure should be avoided and that the group should aim to develop a suite of measures that restrict the possibility of targeting cod. However, the group cautioned that not all of the measures proposed would be needed otherwise it would be difficult to catch what quota was available in 2020. 

Members of the industry were wary of micro-management.

Separate effort and TAC Areas 

The Chair began by asking, in terms of management should we look to introduce something where we ask - why are you there if you don’t have quota for it? 

The chair clarified that of course if you had quota then you would be able to catch though vessels should ask themselves if they should be operating during periods of spawning.

The group thought that a proportion of quota was being held on dummy licences making it difficult to investigate individual vessels via the FQA route. 

The group recognised that this would be putting a lot of onus on the POs and that they would need additional management options. 

The group were concerned that this would going too far into individual vessels/businesses decision making process and that few would venture into areas where no quota was held. 

The Chair pointed that out that this was not what analysis had shown especially for the small mesh offshore sector. 

The group queried if the narrative could prohibit access to areas if no quota was held unless they were using specific selective gears. Similar to that of Norway’s ‘precautionary areas’ where you are allowed to fish there if using particular gears.

Marine Scotland Science added that this aim could be achieved via other measures such as Real Time Closures which would stop all vessels fishing in an area abundant with cod.

TAC Setting – Historical Biomass and Alternative Options

The Chair laid out that the EU is bound by its MSY 2020 targets and that it is not yet clear how they will approach this in relation to the North Sea cod stock. Complementary management measures may offset a lesser cut or could lead to a lesser effective cut.

The group queried if the UK departure from the EU would mean that Scotland would cease to follow MSY 2020? 

The Chair replied that regardless of the deal we will go forward and be responsible fisheries managers and that Marine Scotland preferred language closer to UNCLOS and that MSY would continue to be used because that is our international legislation. 

Our case this year will have to be really strong as the Commission will look closely at the measures suggested. Ideally we want to have measures agreed well in advance of December Council. 

The Chair clarified that any agreed package would need to be agreed at ministerial level as well national as we may start as an EU member and then move to a coastal state. However, a higher level of evidence maybe required to justify any reduced cut in the TAC 

Long term management strategy

The Chair outlined that all of the already discussed measures could contribute to the long term management strategy of fish stocks. 

Fully documented fisheries

The Chair clarified that fully documented fisheries did not necessarily mean cameras. 

The group expressed their concerns that cameras would not work under the current catching regime and that they thought confidence could be increased by encouraging the fleet to document everything they catch.

It was highlighted to the group that there was little confidence that the landing obligation was being adhered to and there was growing pressure from the public and the eNGOs for further action to be taken. This was very apparent with the Commission who pushed back very strongly on the Bycatch Reduction Plan and insisted on the introduction of REM as a measure during the joint recommendation process. 

The Chair emphasised that there were examples around the world where REM has resulted in full accountability as well as a sustainable and profitable fishery.

The group queried as to the possibility of incentives to encourage vessels to take REM equipment onboard. 

The Chair replied that there were no resources available to provide incentives for the fleet. The group highlighted that the English FDF fleet top slices the quota and rewards those with FDF with the top sliced quota. 

The Chair highlighted that the English fleet could do this because they had surplus quota. The group did not fully agree with the Chair on this point. John Anderson suggested further discussion with the SFO/POs may be useful on the availability of quota to incentivise. 

The group then queried how Norway had achieved such high market confidence when they do not have FDFs. An answer was not forthcoming with the majority of the group unable to reply. 

The group agreed that we should explore reference fleet options alongside POs and not rule out REM as off yet, but that there should be a focus on building confidence in our accountability and providing additional accountability measures, not just cameras.

UK quota distribution 

The chair outlined that the analysis of any redistribution of quota would have to involve the PO’s. 

Coastal state – inward transfers

The Chair informed the group that analysis of the various reduction scenarios would assess what would be needed in return for access. 

Negotiating strategy      

The chair detailed that Marine Scotland would develop a paper detailing the strategy, highlighting that the paper would be for internal Marine Scotland use only. 

Items brought forward 

Windsock

The group queried if there was any plan to protect the Windsock area between the new technical conservation regulations coming into force (14 Aug) opening the area to activity and the instatement of the Windsock MPA. It was felt that it would be a shame if all the good that had been done during the protected period was now lost. 

The group went on to query what did Marine Scotland perceive as the quickest way to secure the protection of the windsock area? Is there an appetite by the Scottish fleet to maintain the measures and will the industry respect the protection of the area until the MPA is in place? 

The Chair clarified that there had been a delay in agreeing the Windsock MPA as a result of the CFP process. As a result domestic legislation will have to be used which could take up to a year but at the moment their environmental advisors (SNH) did not have major concerns for the area. 

Local industry have met to discuss how best to manage the area while it is open and agreement has been made with regards to static and mobile gear areas.

Rockall 

Members of the group highlighted and informed the rest of the group that an abundance of cod was being seen by skippers and one skipper in Rockall last week had queried the number of Irish vessels in the area and the validity of their presence. Also the science for Rockall was called into question as there is plenty of cod being seen. 

The Chair highlighted that as a member state there was little that could be done. However, once the UK had become a coastal state then we would have the flexibility to manage the area as ministers saw fit. If we remain a member state then it would be prioritised.  

The Chair highlighted that this was the reason he was leaving the meeting early to meet with the Cabinet Secretary. It is very sensitive issue, with both governments trying to avoid  legal action. It had been hoped that the Irish vessels activity would drop away but unfortunately the squid fishery has begun.  

The group queried if there was anything that could be done to address the issue with the incorrect science for the area, stating that it was inappropriate that a Cat. 6 stock (cod) could choke a Cat 1 (Had) species. 

The Chair replied that this would be something that would be considered in the future and thanked everyone for their contributions stating that he had found the discussion very useful and felt that an array of measures could be agreed and taken forward. 

With that the Chair was handed to Jane Macpherson. 

Joint fisheries statement

Paul McCarthy introduced this item and noted that since the last meeting of FMAC Marine Scotland has brought together a small group of stakeholders (Mike Park, Ian Gatt, Elaine Whyte, Simon Collins, Helen McLachlan, Alex Kinninmonth and Callum Duncan) as a sounding board in order to provide help and advice on the development of the Joint Fisheries Statements.  This Group has met once on the 27 June and there have been a number of email exchanges.  Additionally, there has been a meeting of UK stakeholders on 17 July in London which considered the principles of the fisheries statements.  At that meeting Scotland was represented by Simon Collins, Elaine Whyte and Rhona Kent.  

Paul noted that these meetings identified some key concerns for Scotland including the unambitious nature of the objectives, which mainly repeat what was agreed in the basic reg of the CFP and the potential threat posed to devolution through DEFRA’s plans to have a Secretary of State Fisheries Statement which would address different objectives from the Joint Fisheries Statement.

At the UK stakeholder meeting these points were made and as a result we understand that DEFRA are now actively looking to merge the Secretary of State Fisheries Statement into the Joint Fisheries Statement. In due course this will necessitate a reconsideration of the objectives of the JFS which should allow for a more modern and ambitious set of objectives which properly reflects UK Fisheries policy post-Brexit to be drafted. Additionally, the UK stakeholder meeting helped reinforce the point that distinct differences exist between the different parts of the UK on priorities and that officials should always be wary of drawing too broad conclusions from statements made by any individual stakeholder.

Additional mitigation measures/other ideas

The group questioned whether there were plans to examine the trophic interactions between hake, plaice and cod – as both hake and plaice preyed on cod eggs and given that their numbers were rising, this could be a factor in the cod decline.

Coby Needle replied that this is something that could be looked into in the future. 

Action:

  • science to find out if work has been done on the potential trophic interactions between cod and species such as hake, plaice, etc

Conclusions and next steps 

The Chair emphasised the importance of agreeing measurers within a very short timescale and the FMAC secretariat would issue the minutes by the end of the week. 

The next  North Sea technical group meeting is on 12/13 Sept and the measures put forward at the meeting by the UK will be sought for all. 

Regional groups and joint recommendation feedback from Commission/STECF

The Chair updated the group regarding the status of the landing obligation Joint Recommendations and the Bycatch Reduction Plans. There has been a lot of communication between Regional Groups,  STECF and the Commission, with the Commission pushing back strongly on a number of proposed exemptions, and also reacting negatively to the Bycatch Reduction Plan. There had been a lot of work behind the scenes and there have been intense political negotiations taking place. 

In the North Sea, the Nephrops High Survivability exemption has been secured for another year providing that we submit additional data. Marine Scotland are currently waiting for the results from Stirling University and we will make a judgement as to whether or not this is likely to meet the evidence requirement. If it doesn’t, there will be a decision for FMAC at some point soon as to whether or not further high survival trials are possible. 

The NWW cod and whiting de minimis requests were dropped as the Commission were insisting on the use of REM for the fleet to go alongside the requests. This was deemed unacceptable by Marine Scotland. The Commission accepted a 3% Haddock de minimis and they are looking for higher selectivity options within the by catch reduction plan. 

The group queried as too why the Commission had rejected the cod and whiting de minimis which was based on disproportionate costs. 

The Chair replied that the Commission had already come under heavy criticism for some of last year’s exemptions and the STECF had decided that “The justification for the exemption is largely based on an analysis of disproportionate cost of handling unwanted catches ashore which is estimated to equate to a net cost of approximately £100 per tonne. The costs seem reasonable, but there is no objective means to assess whether they are realistic or can be considered disproportionate”. 

The Commission returned that they could not approve the requests without additional high selectivity measures being included and vessels being fitted with REM before 1st July 2020.

The group expressed their strong disappointment in the Commission on this matter.

Action:

  • Marine Scotland to update and issue guidance of all the HS and DM exemptions once approved to all stakeholders 

Future disheries discussion paper and next steps 

The Chair updated the group, informing them that the submission deadline had now passed and invited anyone who would like to make a submission to do so. Jane highlighted that the Cabinet Secretary was keen to keep momentum going and thanked everyone for taking the time to be involved. 

The group queried whether there would be consultation to follow?.

The Chair replied that Marine Scotland will base the consultation upon the submissions received during the discussion period and that this will be done as quickly as possible as it would be of the upmost importance to have a strategy in place especially with Brexit. 

AOB 

Gear conflict 

Members raised their concerns on two issues a) the number of anglo-spanish gillnetters operating around Shetland and the tensions this was causing and b) creel on creel gear conflict. 

On gillnetters, the Chair replied that currently as a member state EU vessels were permitted within our waters. If we are a coastal state then we would be able to do something. 

The group suggested that the number of licences issued could be limited within specified areas. The group quoted figures regarding the number of vessels currently off the Scottish coast, there were 126 non UK vessels and only 86 Scottish vessels.

West coast members highlighted that the conflict with creels had been a problem for a number of years now and there were examples of where lochs were now closed off to mobile gears due to the number of creels present and that the mobile vessels were staying out of these areas in order to avoid conflict. It was also reported that in some areas creelers were fighting amongst themselves due the level of competition for space.  

The chair stated that this information would be passed onto the right section. Members said they had told their members they should mark their gear and prepare for something to happen to their gear eventually. The Chair also stated that the issue would be picked up at as part of the Future Fisheries Management consultation. 

Date and time of next meeting TBC.