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UK fishing fleets fail to deliver best value to society

New research from independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) reveals how fleets with greatest access to fish stocks deliver less value to society than those with smaller quotas.

Allocating fish quota and funds across the fleet without any social and environmental criteria is costing the UK economy, environment and society, according to a new report from leading independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation), published today, Saturday 8th October 2011.

Current allocation of fish quota and funds across the fleet fails to deliver “best value to society” with some cases delivering negative value. The report, Value slipping through the net, reveals the inefficiency of a system which rewards those who underperform in social, economic and environmental terms and punishes those that generate more societal benefits.  

The report compares two types of fishing – gillnets and trawlers – in terms of value created for society in terms of net revenues, employment, subsidies, discards, and GHG emissions. The results found that over the 2006–2008 period:

  • For every tonne of cod landed, trawlers delivered negative value ranging from -£116 for the smallest trawlers to almost -£2,000 for the largest.
  • Gillnets, on the other hand, generated a net +£865 of value.
  • Trawlers landed almost 6,000 tonnes of cod, while gillnets landed less than 3 per cent of this – just 163 tonnes.
  • The largest trawlers received direct subsidies of £219/tonne of cod landed while gillnets received £38.

“The results illustrate that some types of fishing harm society while others benefit it. Fisheries management must take this into account if it wants to ensure that the public benefits from the exploitation of a resource it owns“said Rupert Crilly lead author of the report from nef (new economics foundation).

“Current allocation of fish quota and funds within the UK and across EU states clearly fails ‘the public interest first’ test" said Aniol Esteban from nef and co-author of report. "The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy gives the UK an opportunity to ensure access to fish is granted to those that deliver positive returns to society"

The reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy: an opportunity for change

The reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) provides a unique opportunity to turn this situation around and instigate a policy framework that will ensure that publicly owned resources are managed in the best interest of society by ensuring that:

  • Public funds are targeted to those sectors that deliver best value to society.
  • Action to reduce the fleet favors high-societal-value sectors vs. low-value ones.
  • Access to fish resources is granted to those that fish in the most sustainable manner.

The CFP proposal presented by the European Commission presenting mandatory Transferable Fishing Concessions (TFCs) as an answer to fleet capacity does not take into account social and environmental criteria and is likely to put at risk those sectors that create most value to society. Nor does it specify any targets for the reduction of the fleet. It is crude instrument that clumsily seeks to alter quantity while overlooking quality. 

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