Further cuts in quota set at a European level are strongly expected in future years and this will only increase the chance of future closures, unless different ways of fisheries management are explored.
As an example, UK quota for skates and rays in the North Sea has reduced by over 50 per cent since 2006 and almost 80 per cent since 2000.
High levels of fishing in Spring/Summer 2014 has meant quotas are in even shorter supply toward the end of this year, especially after a harsh winter drove higher than normal activity in later months.
The MMO has the difficult balancing act of maximising the quota available to fishermen while ensuring that quota limits are not exceeded, subjecting the UK to penalties that would impact next year’s quotas even further.
Fisheries Minister, George Eustice negotiates quotas for the UK at the annual European meeting in December. Prior to major reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy coming into force in 2015, the MMO has already been considering a range of solutions to help fishermen continue fishing throughout the year wherever possible.
Andy Beattie, MMO Acting Chief Executive, said: ‘We want to have a frank conversation with the fishing industry, and will be consulting with them on a range of options that could be used to manage future quota.
‘We are in the process of establishing a Have Your Say panel in January 2015 where fishermen will join Defra and the MMO to find solutions to quota management together.
‘We absolutely recognise that the traditional methods of quota management won’t be sufficient to cope with reductions in allocations at a European level, and need to be creative and collaborative to make it work.‘
The European Commission does allow some flexibility in rules for re-allocation of quota, so options will be drawn up for the industry to consider.
As a starting point, we will be setting out the MMO’s decision making process for management of the English non-sector and 10m and under pool allocations of quota.
This will include setting out more details for those stocks where closures have recently become necessary, such as:
· availability of quota for these pools of vessels in 2014 and how they developed during the year
· demands for fishing opportunities in the relevant fisheries
· trends in quota at UK and EU level
· risks managed by the MMO
· how the level of landings developed through the year
· background to catch limits put in place
· how quota uptake and licence variations are communicated to the industry.
In addition, MMO is seeking industry views on helping the English fishing fleet to maximise its uptake of quota for cod in the eastern English Channel (VIId).
It has published a consultation document, in which it sets out a number of questions and options including the in-year reallocation of quota within the English fishing fleet.
The document also explains work to seek extra quota for the UK from other EU member states.