Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation Ltd (T10)

  Further to your recent letter, dated 5 April 2001. I am writing to highlight a number of important issues which the CFPO would like to be raised with the Fisheries Minister, Elliott Morley at the session on 9 May.


  It is clear that a number of the fish stocks taken by UK commercial fishermen are close to being fully exploited and in some cases in danger of collapse. Therefore, now more than ever the Industry is looking to MAFF to formulate a strategic "masterplan" to engineer the Industry's future over the next ten years. The CFPO of course do not underestimate the size of the task. In fact, we are sure that we would not agree with all the decisions, which would be taken; but tough decisions cannot be deferred any longer. The Industry cannot be allowed to continue to wither and die, it needs assistance during these tough times. This assistance should take the form of a sensible financial provision for those fisherman that wish to scrap their vessels and leave the industry. It should also provide "tie-up" aid for those that wish to remain in the industry, either to keep their vessels in port during spawning seasons or to support earning for vessels displaced form closed areas. This is not only the plan of the fishing industry but is also the policy of environmental organisations, such as WWF, which produced the credible "Choose or Lose" campaign at the end of last year. We believe that only with this "joined-up" approach will the Industry's future be safeguarded in the longer term. It will cost the Government money (perhaps £100 million) over the next three to five years but in the long term this investment will be cheaper than doing nothing and will be repaid several times over through tax recovery from a sustainable fishing industry for many years in the future.


  In agreement with many of the Committee's recommendations the CFPO believes that far more resources need to be directed towards fisheries research, so that management plans can be underpinned by credible scientific information rather than anecdotal evidence. This is even more important now than it was when the Committee's report was published, as a result of a North Sea Cod recovery plan and the Western Hake recovery plan. MAFF must also recognise that it must tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience held by fisherman. The CFPO has submitted ideas to MAFF policy makers on restructuring a research / observer programme around commercial fishing trips to collate data more cost effectively and reflect more accurately the state of stocks on the ground. This would not replace existing research but merely complement it. The idea of co-operative research is not a new one; countries with a good track record in fisheries management, such as New Zealand or America have well established "partnership" research frameworks. To date such proposals have been rejected by MAFF.


  While the CFPO has been heartened by the Minister's statements in support of Regional/Zonal Management, the Industry has still yet to see any firm Government assistance or action to progress zonal management ideas into becoming reality. We believe that it is now vitally important that the Government pays more than lip service to the Industry's ideas and provides an easy-to-access source of funding to assist Industry bodies in forming Regional Fisheries Councils which, we believe, will be the building blocks of future fisheries policies. The CFPO has had first hand experience of the Government's abstinence over assisting Industry with such matters when the CFPO approached a very Senior MAFF official to assist in the provision of a meeting room in London with interpretation facilities. At the time we were informed that it could not be done; however, within months a meeting between English and Spanish fishermen, organised by MAFF, took place within MAFF headquarters (Nobel House) with full interpretation provided.


  This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of MAFF's "short-termist" policies. The NFFO, CFPO and many other POs within the England were bitterly disappointed by MAFF's decision to split quota entitlements from vessels under the terms of the last decommissioning scheme in 1997. Since then the Industry's concerns have been proven correct: first, MAFF did not achieve any better value for money from its decommissioning scheme and secondly, significant amounts of quota were sold outside of the regions to which they were originally intended to be used. Cornwall, for example, has lost £3 million worth of quota to other regions over the last five years and the announcement of further decommissioning, where quota will also be sold, will only serve to accelerate this trend. The CFPO is deeply concerned by the continuation of this policy as it is likely that in 15 years' time no quota will be owned by Cornish fishermen, unless action is taken to prevent this drift of quotas.

  The CFPO recognised that it is highly unlikely that MAFF or the Treasury would support a scheme of redistributing quota units from de-commissioned vessels; therefore, with the help of SW PESCA and Cornwall County Council it has formed a non-profit making quota-holding company. Although in its infancy the company, known as the Duchy Fish Quota Company, will operate in a similar fashion to the Shetland "SLAP" scheme. However, once again MAFF are obstructive to such ventures, as MAFF SFI District Inspectors give guidance to local RDAs that fish quota is not eligible for public/European funding and should not be funded. Furthermore, we believe MAFF could assist the establishment of such companies by making a coherent case to the European Commission regarding state aid rules so that such companies could use public funding to support the purchase/retention of regional quota.

30 April 2001

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