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Fish Producer Organisations Regulation

Small scale fishermen are casting doubt in England. It concerns a new fish producer organisation to help access to fishing quotas.

FISHY BUSINESS: The producer organisation (PO) got registered in the country in March 2015.

The sole aim was helping small scale fishermen catch better access to fishing quotas.

The organisation in question is the Coastal Producer Organisation. It has well over 240 members.

Despite having one of the smallest fishing quotas it is the biggest producer organisation in England.

One project leader of one co-operative development body disclosed that the producer organisation was set up after realising that many co-ops and fish producer organisations were not acting in the best interest of their member fishermen.

Co-operative Development Body

This batch of POs were set up under EU fruit and vegetable regimes to help strengthen the market position of the producers. Their function in the industry gets based on rules originating from 1975. Even so, the rules got replaced in 1990 and amended again since then.

The restrictive rules force its members to market all their catch through the PO. Failure in doing so could see a fine of £5,000 for the breach of regulation.

One of the biggest gripes about the setup is having to give a written notice of three years if a member wishes to leave the PO.

They got designed to help small-scale fishermen gain access to the market and reduce their costs. But, research shows that a very small minority of producer organisation members, sometimes only one member, have been able to gain majority control of their producer organisation’s fishing quota in England.

Association of Fish Producer Organisations

The UKAFPO contested a High Court decision in 2013. It was in favour of the government at the time. They decided to reallocate a small percentage of unused quota from large operators to smaller vessels.

UKAFPO had already lost its status of registered society a few years before. That was for failing to submit an annual return for 10 years. The new Coastal Producer Organisation was set up to change the system from inside.

Since 1985 the percentage of the UK’s total allowance of catch managed by POs increased. In 2015, 96% of quota was under POs’ control. It was also reported that:

“The idea of shifting the emphasis of regulation from government to industry is a recipe for disaster. With the help of Greenpeace in the run up to last election we got commitment in every manifesto to reallocate quotas.

Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the European Parliament got more power. Decision-making got brought into Parliament from the European Commission.”

“Parliament put 2,500 amendments to the Common Fishery Policy. That made a huge difference. The amendments looked at integration with environmental policies, regionalisation and landings obligations, among others. We need to get regulators to do what they need to do. Regulation is already there, but regulators are not doing what they should.”

Plymouth Trawler Agents

Plymouth trawlers agency operates an electronic auction system for Plymouth Fisheries at Sutton Harbour. They had reported sales around £17m in 2014.

Most of the reasons for growth got attributed to the auction system. The fact that fishermen trusted the Plymouth agents also helped.

Some delegates suggested attending outside conferences and interacting with business representatives that are serving on government committees.

Deregulation, cutting red tape is good. But, cutting regulation against health and safety and employment rights is not. It appears that we take two rules out for every one we put in.

Changing the narrative could be the biggest challenge. The thrust of the argument seems that we go through our elected members, whilst elected members write themselves manifestos.

It should not matter – because you end up with one in, two out and the Committee filled with big businesses. There is a need to stop giving power for these regulations to the big businesses because Politicians have no power there either.


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