Fishing quota: Big producers lose reallocation battle

Trawler bringing in its catch Small-scale fishing around the UK has suffered because of access to the quota

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The High Court has ruled in favour of redistributing some fishing rights from big producers to small-scale fishermen.

The UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations had challenged a decision to reallocate unused quota, essentially a licence to fish, worth more than £1m.

It argued the move was unlawful under both EU and domestic law, but the judge ruled there was no discrimination.

Jerry Percy, who represents some of the small-scale producers, said the decision had "historic implications".

Fishing quotas, allocated by the EU, provide a permit for those making a living from the seas. Without them, it is not possible to legally catch and sell fish.


Members of the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations (UKAFPO), mainly large-scale fishermen, currently control more than 90% of the overall fishing quota for England and Wales.

Start Quote

While we are three-quarters of the commercial fleet in the UK, we have access to only 4% of the quota”

End Quote Jerry Percy New Under Ten Fishermen's Association Ltd (Nutfa)

Small-scale inshore fishing around the UK's traditional ports has suffered because crews have been unable to negotiate control of enough of the quota to stay in business.

But large fleets have left about 800 tonnes of their quota untouched for years, so the government decided to confiscate that amount of the quota to share out among small operators.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants to redistribute "fixed quota allocations" from those who own vessels greater than 33ft (10m) to boats that are 33ft or under.

Mr Percy, chief executive of the New Under Ten Fishermen's Association Ltd (Nutfa), told the BBC the decision was good news for the long-term survival of small-scale fishermen, who could now catch more fish.

The redistribution would involve "constantly unused quota", he said.


The court victory for small fishermen will have an economic and cultural impact on the UK's coastal towns.

The chances of being able to go to the seaside on holiday and eat locally caught fish just increased.

In many places the number of boats has halved since small fishermen got caught in the quota system in 2006.

They're hugely resentful because they often don't have enough quota to make a reasonable living.

They said it wasn't fair that the UK government had granted fishing rights to big boat owners in perpetuity.

The judge's ruling that the government may re-allocate some of the quotas - even a small amount - gives them hope for further re-allocation in future. This is why the big boat owners are resisting so strongly.

It comes in a momentous year which has seen radical reform of Europe's Common Fisheries Policy, with a phasing out of fish discards and a commitment that fishermen should only take from the sea what the sea can replace.

"We have had an ongoing imbalance in quota allocation for decades which has resulted in the fact that while we are three-quarters of the commercial fleet in the UK, we have access to only 4% of the quota," he added.

Nutfa and environmental campaign group Greenpeace have argued that fish stocks are not "a private commodity but a public resource, held by the Crown for the benefit of the public".

'Romanticised fishermen'

Jim Portus, UKAFPO chairman, said his organisation was very disappointed by the decision, but said he was pleased the judge had recognised the fixed quota allocations held by each boat were "possessions" as far as the Human Rights Act was concerned.

He added: "We have considered an appeal and we may be returning to the High Court in the autumn."

Tom de la Mare QC, for UKAFPO, told the court the entire fishing industry had operated for more than 13 years on the strength of government assurances that were now being broken, stressing that it was not for Defra to cancel certain fixed quota allocations and not others.

One assurance had been that there would be no adverse consequences for any producer who under-fished a yearly quota, he said.

Mr de la Mare added that the under-10m owners had almost been "romanticised as a community of fishermen - Peter Grimes-type operators".

But on the evidence, well over half of the boats were "souped-up vessels adjusted to come in just under the 10-metre limit", he said.

Fisheries minister Richard Benyon: "We thought there was an unfairness to the inshore fleet"

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said the court had "vindicated" his decision to reallocate underused quota, and said "putting fishermen at the heart of the decision is good news".

He added: "I will continue to take action to maximise the value of the UK's fishing quotas and I look forward to working with all parts of the industry to determine the best way we can do this."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Love to get a fish and walk around slapping all EMP's round the face...something spikey preferably...mind you already a few slimey scaley buggers there already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    129.essiritussantos So Churchill was cut from the same bureaucratic red taped non-common sense,greedy cloth as the EU.
    What planet are you living on. Churchill was from an entirely different era with an entirely different politics. How on Earth you can compare the politics of Churchill with todays EU is beyond me. Gawd help us...and you probably have the vote as well to cap it all off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    The monopolists who bought up the boats and the quotas and are the main reason why the price of fish is so high they have a stranglehold on the market and by not fulfilling their quotas are effectively rigging the market by underfishing if they are under quota by 10% then in simple terms the price of fish is 10% more than it should be in a free market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    127 Paul
    So Churchill was cut from the same bureaucratic red taped non-common sense,greedy cloth as the EU
    God ! mind you ? ,no more unbelievable ignorance

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    125, 121. I have clearly missed something. It is absolutely disgraceful that a now deported Hate Cleric is given a fishing quota. We will be eating radicalised Haddock and Jihadist Cod next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    119.Peter_Sym You call them 'special interest groups' I'd call them 'lawyers' however my point remains that the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.
    That maybe so Peter...but the ECHR is cut from the same bureaucratic, red taped, non-common sense, greedy cloth as the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The bigger boats which mine the sea having to give way to the smaller boats which harvest the sea? Seems a good idea to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.


    How many times do people like you have to be told that the Europe Human Rights Court (where Qatada appeals heard) is NOTHING to do with the EU........????????

    How many times will you gob off your knee jerk, reactionary, little Englander (or what the Tory Chair [allegedly] calls Swivel Eyed Loon) nonsense without checking your facts first..........??????????!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    121 Kelt
    Can you explain your ignorant post,this is about how Britain stops under fishing which cost British jobs both at sea & on land of it's quota by British companies who wished to interpret UK & EU laws in a way that allowed that to continue,obviously because it benefited them to under fish
    123 but i do not think under fishing of their quotas was a preservation measure unfortunately

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Since the fish in the North Sea are still being fished/polluted to extinction for short term profit, it makes the news of this redistribution of quotas something of a mute point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The big question is how / why the bigger producers were able to obtain larger quotas in the first place?

    I may be wrong but I seem to recall that smaller producers were able to sell-on their licences to anyone i.e. the big producers (somewhat akin to businesses trading Carbon Credits?)

    As always these days there's probably a bigger picture that's not being reported here....

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Yet another example where the UK does not benefit from EU policy.

    This is in line with not being able to deport a terrorist like Abu Qatada!

    The local people need to be in control of local decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Let's hope the small-scale fisherman now has a brighter future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    #116 You call them 'special interest groups' I'd call them 'lawyers' however my point remains that the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Agree with a lot of comments here about quotas / price manipulation / quotas not used - loose quota.

    However it all seems a bit FISHY to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    More of the inevitable too little too late. Don't apply common sense wait until the obvious consequence becomes a crisis, then fudge up a response. The UK inshore fleet has been right royally shafted by industrial scale fishing. The farmers are currently receiving the same in similar measure!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @103, the original ECHR was set up for that purpose, however its evolved and been highjacked by various interest groups, such that it now covers a much wider remit, and as such is it is no longer the beast it was originally when it was set up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I pressume this was done with the consultation of the Whales, dolphins and other sea mammals....should be finding ways to ensure the survival of plankton because if the trend conitinues will not be anyything left in the sea except algae and plastic bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    103 Peter Sym
    Quite correct that is why today's Nazi's would like us to abolish it
    All people of good moral compass,realise The human rights stands in the way of any tyrants,without it the world becomes a bullies charter

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    To those complaining about the EU common fisheries policy and praising UKIP:

    Nigel Farage - leader of UKIP - sits on the EU fisheries committee, yet has only ever attended once. The reason UK interests don't get represented is because the man responsible for advocating them doesn't do his job.

    He still takes the salary though - that is your money he's getting for not doing any work!


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