UK Association of Fish Producers want to own all fish

defraAre fish a private commodity or a ‘public good’ held in trust by the government on behalf of all citizens.?

A landmark case which could answer that question is about to get underway.

Commercial fishermen, represented by the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations (UKAFPO), have taken Defra to court arguing that reallocating part of their share of fishing quota is tantamount to ‘deprivation of possessions ’ – implying that they regard quota as a private asset.

In an unusual coalition, Greenpeace and the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), will be arguing against that.

The consequences are quite simple, if the UKAFPO win we will see the largest privatisation by stealth of a public good in centuries and any form of management of fish stocks will effectively be lost

Fishing quotas were introduced for the first time three decades ago by the then new EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in an attempt to regulate the exploitation of fish stocks. Each year, after EU fisheries ministers have negotiated the overall amount of fish their fleets are allowed to catch (Total Allowable Catch), member states parcel it out to their respective fleets in the form of fishing quotas.

Officially, fishing quotas have always been no more than temporary concessions to utilise a public resource, reallocated to fishermen every year.

In practice, vessel owners have ended up treating quota as a private asset – buying it, selling it, renting it out to other fishermen, and even using it as collateral for bank loans; it has even ended up in the portfolio of football clubs.

Defra has been under pressure to publish a register of quota holders, and so far has avoided doing so, but has now indicated it intends to do so by the end of the year perhaps feeling pressured by a Greenpeace investigation published earlier this year which revealed that a large amount of fishing quota held by members of the UK’s most influential lobby body for the fishing sector – the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) – is in the hands of Spanish, Dutch, and Icelandic interests, which contribute little or nothing to the UK economy.

Category: Commercial

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