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

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 31 January 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Allan Gibb, Marine Scotland Sea Fisheries Division (Chair)
  • Malcolm MacLeod, Marine Scotland, Sea Fisheries Division
  • Ben Dipper, Marine Scotland, Sea Fisheries Division
  • Paul McCarthy, Marine Scotland, Sea Fisheries Division
  • Robert Stevenson, Lunar Fishing Co Ltd 
  • Mark Dougal, P&J Johnstone
  • Kenny MacNab, Clyde Fishermen’s Association
  • Brian Isbister,  Shetland Fish Producers Organisation
  • Rhona Kent, WWF
  • Fiona Matheson, Orkney Fisheries
  • David Anderson, Aberdeen Fish Producers Organisation
  • Jim Watson, Marine Scotland Sea Fisheries Division
  • Ross Parker, Marine Scotland, Sea Fisheries Division
  • Jane MacPherson, Marine Scotland, Sea Fisheries Division
  • Tom Robertson, Marine Scotland Compliance
  • John Anderson, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Elaine Whyte, Clyde Fishermen’s Association
  • Leslie Tait, Shetland Fishermen’s Association
  • Kara Brydson, Fisheries Innovation Scotland
  • Debbie Crockard, Marine Conservation Society
  • Allan Coghill, Orkney FPO


  • Kevin McDonell, West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation
  • Mike Park, Scottish whitefish Producers Association
  • Anne Birnie, North East of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

Allan Gibb welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted the apologies which had been received. The Group agreed the agenda and the note of conclusions from the previous meeting, held on 13 November 2018.

December Council 

Ben Dipper reminded the group of what was agreed at  the December Council negotiations. Ben noted that the TAC and Quota regulation published by the Commission had  a number of incorrect figures in it due to errors in the calculations for de minimis deductions. In response to a question, Ben informed the Group that Marine Scotland expect a UK TAC of 10,012t for North Sea cod and 11,464t for North Sea whiting after all the corrections have been made. Ben also indicated that the west of Scotland cod TAC appeared to be ~200t too high.

Management of West of Scotland cod and whiting

Allan Gibb opened this agenda item by recalling the discussion in FMAC on 13 November and Ben Dipper’s update on December Council outcomes.  

The UK TAC secured at December Council for WoS cod in particular was less than FMAC had previously indicated was necessary for the Scottish fleet. To help manage this, discussions have been ongoing with SAFPO on how to manage the TAC. Immediately after December Council it had been agreed that vessels should continue to work on a 1.5% bycatch and that SAFPO would communicate this to their members. Marine Scotland had also undertaken some further analysis on what the level of bycatch allowance should be and indicated at the meeting that they hoped to increase the bycatch for WoS cod to 3% in the near future, with whiting remaining at 1.5%. If we are able to swap in more quota then this percentage could potentially rise further still in future and the level will be kept under review. Marine Scotland will wait for advice from SAFPO before doing this and SAFPO should seek to make a collectively agreed request as necessary. 

On the point about the Scottish TAC being insufficient to cover our catches, Allan also confirmed that he had approached DEFRA requesting that neither west of Scotland cod or whiting be allocated according to FQAs – that discussion was ongoing, but Allan was hopeful both quotas could be managed directly by Marine Scotland.  Allan also noted that a lot of the west of Scotland cod and haddock FQAs in English POs was controlled by Scottish companies. If supportive, those companies could request Defra/MMO to apportion their FQA share to Marine Scotland thereby increasing our quota share at no cost. Allan agreed to write to FQA holders on this point. 

Allan also informed the Group that there had been a clear commitment from Member States at December Council that there would be no targeting of WoS cod and whiting and no changes in behaviour. Clearly we will want to monitor the situation and take action if this doesn’t happen in practice. SAFPO will also be monitoring the behaviour of the Scottish fishing fleet. Some of the measures to be discussed under the Discard Reduction Plan will help ensure that we limit additional pressures on the two stocks. 

Further to the discussion on swaps, John Anderson spoke of his conversations with French and Irish POs, with the Irish unable to act until the end of January and the French not currently responding.  Allan requested that he be kept informed of developments noting that a failure to respond could be raised at the North Western Waters High Level Group.  

Discard Reduction Plan

Jane MacPherson introduced this agenda item by recapping what had been agreed at December Council – Member States would produce Discard Reduction Plans for North Western Waters (NWW) by 30 April and produce a further report on control measures by 1 July.  

The first meeting of the NWW Technical Group would be on 20 February and Marine Scotland would be expected to give its initial thoughts on the Discard Reduction Plans. However, following the discussion in FMAC on 13 November 2018, Jane believed Scotland had a firm starting point.  

In particular, FMAC had previously considered larger Square Mesh Panels (SMP) for 80mm-99mm and 120mm+ gears. GITAG were investigating the impact of a larger Square Mesh Panel (SMP) on lower powered vessels towing a 80mm-99mm mesh. There was also the work the SFO were taking forward on real time mapping and avoidance. Additionally, there was the potential to restrict access to the west coast to those vessels which only had a track record there. It was noted that a right of appeal e.g. for new vessels, would be needed as part of this. 

In discussion the Group expressed concern about the potential impact of an increase in SMP to 200mm for vessels using 120mm+ gear and there was discussion on how a 300mm SMP would affect vessels fishing with 80mm-99mm gear. The Group also expressed interest in the SFO’s work with other POs on real time mapping of catches and how this information could be used to encourage vessels to move on from areas of cod abundance – noting the relatively limited fishing area in the west of Scotland.

The Group also expressed interest in restricting access to the west coast to vessels using 120mm+ with an existing track record. Additionally, the Group expressed concern that a number of vessels had already started fishing west of Scotland for the first time in many years, possibly encouraged to do so by the lower quota levels in the North Sea this year and the potential to mis-report. Allan stressed that he expected the industry to act responsibly and, if required, Marine Scotland could consider introducing single area licensing provisions.

There was also discussion about the potential for industry to fund increased observer coverage on the west of Scotland for the control measures report in July.  

Marine Scotland agreed to send out information on SMPs and two, three or five year track records.

Marine Scotland agreed to share results from trials that have previously been undertaken on 120mm/160mm/200mm SMPs.

Marine Scotland agreed to consider the results of the GITAG work on the placement of SMP on low powered vessels.

Marine Scotland agreed to inform the Group of the measures it would raise at the NWW TG.

Creation of quota pools for below MCRS fish

Allan Gibb opened the discussion by noting that previously skippers had said they did not want to land below MCRS catches as it would come off their quotas for little to no return. One possible response would be for Marine Scotland to create a ‘quota pool’ against which catches of below MCRS species could be counted. Allan asked the Group if there was support for this idea and noted that, if supported, operational questions around what species should be placed in a pool and how the pool should be funded would be for SAFPO.

In discussion Allan confirmed that the landing obligation would still apply, even if the pool was exhausted and that any applicable de minimis exemptions were separate to the pool. The Group also explored the potential to fund the pools by swapping out under-utilised quota rather than simply top-slicing existing quota allocations. The Group concluded that there was support for the idea and asked Marine Scotland to enter discussions with SAFPO on the creation, management and funding of the quota pool.

Allan Gibb then noted the issue that the main beneficiary of the pool would be vessels towing smaller mesh gear (80mm-119mm) who caught a greater proportion of the below MCRS catch. Given that those vessels held smaller proportions of the quotas likely to be in the pool, on a point of fairness, should those vessels towing smaller mesh take additional steps to increase selectivity?

In particular it was noted that the 100-119mm fleet in the North Sea only have to have a 120mm SMP. It was thought that there was room for additional selectivity here, although comments submitted by Mike Park prior to the meeting indicated that, as fish is an economically important part of that fleets catch, the 200mm SMP might be economically challenging to introduce. It was agreed that there may be scope to look at alternatives e.g. a 160mm SMP to review the impact this might have. The Group was of the opinion that some additional selectivity was needed and that there was an equivalence point. 

It was noted that the main representatives for the vessels who use 80mm-119mm had, despite their plans, been unable to attend today. However, the Group agreed that Marine Scotland should raise this issue with that sector of the industry and, in particular, should suggest the need for parity and/or equivalence in gear selectivity requirements between all sectors of the fleet.

Any other business

No specific item was raised under this agenda point, but the Group did discuss the decline in fish stocks and what could be done to reverse this trend. It was noted that the conclusion of the Cod Recovery Plan had also, unexpectedly, marked the end of significant industry attempts to improve selectivity and avoidance. The Group made no formal conclusions, but did agree there was a wider issue to address in the future in regards to stock sustainability. 

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