Memorandum submitted by Aberdeen Fish
Producers' Organisation Limited (J52)|
The Aberdeen Fish Producers' Organisation Limited
was the first in Scotland to be recognised on 18 July 1974 (the
third in the UK) whose Members are owners of fishing vessels,
either as individuals, partnerships or companies.
The two most important functions carried out
are marketing and managing fish quotas. In terms of the former
the PO is responsible for grading its Members' fish according
to EU standards and carrying out check weighing. There is also
a responsibility to ensure that supply and demand are in balance
and to administer the EU Official Withdrawal Prices Scheme.
Under this arrangement the PO is given an annual
option of adopting OWPs for each grade of species established
by the EU and has to ensure that fish is not sold for human consumption
at less than these prices. When it is left unsold it is removed
to the Fish Meal Factory and converted into animal feed. In these
circumstances the PO pays compensation to the owners of the vessel
and reclaims part thereof from the Intervention Board.
As far as the latter is concerned, the PO is
given an annual option by the Scottish Office to accept a share
of the UK quotas and to manage them ourselves on the basis that
our Members will be prevented from catching any more of a particular
species if we reach our allocation for it before the end of the
calendar year. We have always exercised that option on the basis
that it gives us more control over our own quotas.
There are 56 member vessels ranging from 40
ft to 110 ft and the PO's total landings of the main species in
1998 were as follows:
|North Sea||West Coast
The total landings by PO Members during the year were about
30,000 tonnes and Haddock catches constituted just under 50 per
2. PRESENT POSITION
The share of the UK TAC which the PO receives under the sectoral
allocation arrangements is determined by taking into account the
track records of its member vessels. Each vessel's track record
is its actual catch and until 1998 was based on a rolling principle
based on the most recent three years' catches. In 1998 the catches
for 1994, 1995 and 1996 were used as the industry moved to a fixed
quota allocation system from 1 January 1999 whereby no account
is taken of recent catches but only those in 1994-96.
The track record is used to establish each vessel's share
of the UK catch during the same three year period and the resultant
percentage is then applied to each year's TAC. Each PO member
vessel's share is added to produce the PO's sectoral allocation
and under this system the PO's share of UK TACs in 1998 for the
main species were as follows:
Until 1994 the track record was attached to the vessel so
that if a vessel was sold the track record accompanied it. From
1995, however, the track record became attached to the licence
and this led to the practice of vessels being sold with the licence
being retained by the seller for track record purposes.
The foregoing change, plus the move to an FQA system, has
had the effect of focusing attention on the permanent track record
and has led to an increase in the trade of licences and quota
entitlement. There is an ever increasing practice whereby owners
of vessels buy additional licences and/or quota entitlement for
their own use.
The Aberdeen PO operates a system of quota management whereby
all track records (except those purchased privately) are grouped
in a common pool and the Board issues monthly, or two monthly,
quotas taking account of the uptake of catches against our allocation
and bearing in mind the need to match supply with demand.
Those Members with additonal entitlement, however, receive
the PO quota and are allowed to catch their own purchased fish
when they want. This in turn has led to the recent suggestion
that those Members who wish to do so should be granted their own
individual track record entitlement to catch as and when they
wish during the year.
3. RESPONSE TO
Successive Governments have allowed this trade in licences
and quotas to develop and, in fact, it has been actively encouraged
by the last decommissioning scheme when those doing so were allowed
to retain and sell their track records. In effect this conveyed
property rights but yet Governments have consistently said that
owners have no legal entitlement to their quotas. The majority
of Fishermen probably wish that trading in licences and quotas
had never started but having done so they had to follow suit to
protect their own interests. It is now a recognised and accepted
practice which cannot be stopped because of the amount of money
which has changed hands.
In these circumstances there is a case for granting legal
entitlement but great care has to be taken otherwise it will allow
speculators and non-fishing interests to gain control over the
Industry. It is vitally important that this is not done until
careful consideration is given to the future of the Industry and
to the important significance it has to various communities in
the UK, particularly in the North East of Scotland. If care is
not taken the financial wellbeing of whole communities could be
endangered. It is, therefore, necessary to make arrangements to
ensure that the Industry remains within the control of those taking
the risks of going to sea.
A non-interventionist approach to the Fishing Industry will
not work as it is so closely controlled in many aspects, ie with
it being determined by the EU annually just how much fish of each
species can be caught from the different fishing areas.
In many instances the value of the licence/quota entitlement
now exceeds the value of the fishing vessel and in these circumstances
there must be concern about the future of young Fishermen who
previously would have worked their way up in the Industry. It
is now much more difficult for them to find the necessary finance
to obtain quota entitlement. If this continues the Industry will
become controlled by smaller groups or those with access to funds.
These might not be Fishermen, or Fishing Industry interests or
even UK citizens. The effect on the Fishing Industry, and in particular
on coastal communities, in the future could be devastating.
The present practice can also lead to a situation where those
with quota entitlement can lease out their track records and make
more money than those who actually go to sea. This surely cannot
be regarded as providing the right circumstances for the future
of the Industry.
Most of our Members are also in membership of the constituent
bodies of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and since its inception
it has always been the policy of this PO to leave all political
matters affecting our Members to be dealt with by that body. In
accordance with that policy we have confined our response to that
part of the terms of reference which deal with the trade in buying
and selling of fishing licences and quota.
6 April 1999