Introduction and Background
The Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group ( IFMAC) established a short-life working group to discuss the issue of hobby/unlicensed fishermen and report back with possible actions to reduce the incidence of unlicensed fishing.
Fishing vessels that fish commercially and land their catch for profit in the UK must firstly hold a valid Certificate of Registry and be registered with the Register of Shipping and Seamen at Cardiff. In addition they must also hold a valid UK fishing vessel licence issued by a UK Fisheries Administration.
The licence specifies conditions which must be adhered to by vessel owners when fishing activity is being pursued. It authorises the sea areas in which a vessel can fish and the species of fish that can be targeted, and is the mechanism of control that enables UK Fisheries Administrations to regulate fishing under the quotas ( TACs) set and allocated annually to the UK under the EU Common Fisheries Policy.
No licence is required by ordinary members of the public who intend to catch a small number of seafish for their own consumption. They are not permitted to sell for profit anything they catch.
By its very nature, the illegal selling of catch for profit by hobby/unlicensed fishermen is difficult to measure; however, there is evidence to suggest this is a significant issue around the Scottish coast in particular hotspots. The problem also increases during spring/summer months.
There is also evidence to suggest that the problem exists in relation to fishing for crabs and lobsters with creels and also in relation to diving for scallops - which can be harder to monitor as this activity can be undertaken from beaches etc.
Current legislation allows fishing for personal consumption but does not define what this means. Reports have been received of unlicensed creelers using hundreds of pots and scallop divers collecting several large sacks of scallops in one day's fishing.
EU legislative provisions require that all fisheries products (subject to the exception noted below), are first marketed or registered at a registered auction centre or to registered buyers or to producer organisations. Registration is free. However, a buyer acquiring fisheries products of an amount up to 30 kg which are not placed on the market but are used only for private consumption are exempted from this requirement.
There are safety issues in relation to hobby/unlicensed fishermen as they may not have the relevant safety certificates etc or be complying with best practice. There are also public safety and health concerns due to the untraceability of produce and the possibility of shellfish being sourced from areas affected by toxins, particularly if harvested from unclassified waters.
Over fishing and non-compliance with regulations on landing sizes may impact on the long term sustainability of stocks. When licensed fishermen see unlicensed fishermen selling their catch for profit without any apparent hindrance to their efforts they see that there is not a level playing field. As a result, it can be difficult to persuade commercial fishermen to engage in voluntary activities such as data gathering and other measures that will have a long term benefit for fisheries management.
1. The working group identified a number of possible actions to reduce the incidence of unlicensed fishermen selling their catch for profit which can be broadly split into two distinct areas:
- Educational / Awareness raising, including:
- Trade press articles
- Notices reminding fisheries of legislation at particular hotspots
- Notifications of sub-standard water classification to be posted at those sites
- Liaising with trade bodies and local organisations to highlight issues
- Liaison with local authorities regarding their food safety policies to include importance of sourcing
- Liaison with Environmental Health officers regarding importance of reputable sourcing
- Legislative, including consideration of;
- Permits for unlicensed/hobby fishermen
- Creel limits and/or tagging
- Landing limits for different species
- Personal Consumption Definitions/changes to the exemption from RBS Regulations.
It is the legislative options that Marine Scotland is seeking views on in this consultation.