FISHING communities struggling to survive could benefit from a new cooperative scheme to keep England’s inshore fishing fleet afloat. Fishermen are being asked to join forces and take control over how they manage their fishing quotas and market their catches.
Launching the pilots Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “The inshore fishing fleet helps to support local communities with both money and jobs. But the industry is being stifled by an outdated system and this has to be fixed.
“To survive fishermen must become more profitable and we think the answer is giving them greater control over how they fish and market their catches. They’ve asked us to test options, and that’s what these pilot projects are all about.”
For the first time pilot groups mainly made up of small boats under 10 metres long will be able to manage a separate quota of fish. This will be based on the fish they’ve landed collectively over recent years.
Some extra quota will also be available if organisations representing England’s larger boats volunteer part of their allocation. Where this is not the case, the pilot groups will get extra quota for specific species where quotas increase next year because stocks are healthier.
Fishermen who don’t wish to take part in the pilots will continue to access quota through a central pool. This pool will be topped up by quota that has been consistently under exploited by other parts of the fleet.
Mr Benyon added: “There are still some difficult decisions ahead for the industry, both in terms of the overall fleet size and structure, and how quota is allocated across the entire fishing fleet.
“It will take compromise and I call on all sides to work together to make this happen and make this a success.”
The pilots are part of the Government’s response to a consultation on reforming the inshore fleet’s management. They will be supported by Coastal Liaison Officers, funded through the European Fisheries Fund, who will help them market catches to maximise profit.
Defra will also work with the New Under Ten Fishermens Association (NUFTA) to explore its idea for an inshore producer organisation to manage the inshore fleet’s quota.