Consultation on U10 e-catch reporting
Start in England and Wales by summer 2019
Mandatory electronic catch recording for the under-10m sector has moved a step closer with the launch of a consultation on the scheme by DEFRA/MMO and the Welsh government, reports Tim Oliver
They say that existing under-10m catch recording restricts the ability of fisheries administrations to make informed, real-time decisions on fisheries management of the sector. Better catch recording will mean improved data gathering and a greater understanding of the activities of under-10m vessels. It will also enable catch traceability, which should lead to improved sales and marketing opportunities.
NUTFA leader Jerry Percy slammed the proposals, saying they were taking under-10m fishermen from no catch reporting to a ‘gold-plated’ impractical system that would ‘set them up to fail’, while the catches of big vessels fishing in the Channel were unmonitored and uncontrolled (see below).
The measures will also apply to Channel Islands and Isle of Man vessels when they are operating in English or Welsh waters, but not to EU or third-country vessels.
Scotland is not included because it has its own arrangements for recording under-10m catches, and Northern Ireland will be consulting at a later date.
Plans to introduce e-catch recording were announced at the end of 2018 (Fishing News, 13 December, 2018, ‘E-Catch recording for U10s’). Fishing administrations in England and Wales are planning to introduce the new system from summer 2019.
Consultations have also been held on introducing inshore vessel monitoring systems (iVMS) for under-12m vessels. DEFRA says that the two initiatives combined – iVMS and catch recording – will provide a more complete picture of fishing activity, and will help to inform future policy.
The majority of under-10s currently do not have to submit catch records. There are about 3,000 under-10s in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – 82% of the entire UK fleet. In 2017, they landed at least 30,497t of fish worth £67m.
“It is vital that policy-makers, regulators, and the industry have access to up-to-date, accurate and comprehensive information on catches taken by this fleet, especially for those species which have quotas or catch limits,” says the consultation.
DEFRA and the Welsh government are proposing that under-10s catching quota species or species subject to catch limits or effort restrictions would record their catch via a mobile device – a smartphone or tablet – before the fish leaves the vessel. Those catching only non-quota species would have 24 hours to record their catch, via either a mobile device, a personal computer or a laptop.
For all catches – quota and non-quota – fishermen will have to submit a declaration of accurate weights of all species landed within 48 hours of fish leaving the vessel, using either a mobile device, a computer or a laptop.
The consultation says the costs will be ‘relatively low’ for those who already own relevant digital equipment, but there will be higher costs for those who need to buy a phone/tablet/laptop/PC and data package.
The consultation says that ‘simple, digital solutions are being developed, which will minimise the impact on fishermen and vessel owners’.
These are being tested by fishermen who have volunteered to help ensure that they meet industry requirements. A programme is planned to provide education and support to fishermen to ensure that everyone is able to use the system.
The consultation asks skippers/owners for their views on the proposals, and what challenges they will face. It closes on Tuesday, 2 April, 2019. A summary of the responses will be published on: gov.uk within six weeks of the closing date.
Responses to the consultation can be sent by email to: email@example.com or by post to: Marine Management Organisation, Lancaster House, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7YH. Responses must be sent by 5pm on Tuesday, 2 April, 2019.
NUTFA slams impractical ‘gold-plated’ catch reporting
NUTFA is calling on all affected under-10m fishermen and owners to respond to the consultation to highlight the practical difficulties they will face in implementing the measures, and to suggest practical alternatives.
NUTFA leader Jerry Percy said the e-catch recording plans take small-scale fishermen from the current simple system of receiving a sales note within 24 hours of landing showing exact weights of landings, to a ‘gold-plated’ reporting system that will require them to notify their catches electronically before the fish leaves the vessel, and make landing declarations within 48 hours of landing.
“The truth is that we (under-10s) are low-hanging fruit for enforcement effort. There are huge foreign trawlers in the Channel and elsewhere dumping hundreds of tonnes of fish on a regular basis. I’ve complained about the lack of monitoring and enforcement of these vessels to the MMO, but nothing appears to have been done – it’s completely unacceptable,” he told Fishing News.
“Yet they continually harass the under-10s – one under-10 skipper told me the other day that they had even searched his small engineroom looking for over-quota catch.
“By demanding that we report before landing, they are setting up tired fishermen on small boats, required to fill in an electronic report via a small screen, with small buttons, to fail. I have absolutely no problem with the enforcement of fisheries rules, but that enforcement needs to be both fair and proportionate. The current proposals appear to be neither.”
He said that the MMO claims in a video that the catch app can be filled in in three minutes, but a small-scale fisherman in Cornwall, catching a number of different species, quota and non-quota, using a number of different gears in different areas, and landing to a variety of different people, took the best part of an hour to fill it in.
He said that the under-10m sector had argued years ago for some sort of logbook system, so that they had a record of landings. But then the buyers’ and sellers’ regulation was introduced in 2005, which put the responsibility on the first-time buyers, some of whom had subsequently been prosecuted for non-reporting or misreporting, with obvious knock-on effects on the individual track records of under-10m skippers.
“The sector has had its landing records taken out of its hands for years, so they have no accurate track record. But now they want to move to a complicated electronic system that goes to the other extreme, of fishermen, tired after a day’s work, having to fill in a complicated app before they can land and haul their catches off a beach maybe – and then get up next day and do it all again.
“Where is the benefit of having to report your catch before it leaves the boat? It’s gold-plating, and unnecessary.”
Jerry Percy was due to meet MMO chief executive John Tuckett on Monday this week (4 March), and said he would take up all the issues involved forcibly, to highlight the problems under-10m fishermen will face.
Benefits of catch reporting
DEFRA says that information collected under ‘an enhanced system’ will help to verify catch traceability and ensure that fish has been caught in compliance with regulations. “These are vital requirements for the sale, export and marketing of UK fish, at home and abroad.”
The consultation says that catch recording will:
- Help to maximise fishing opportunities, such as zoned management within MPAs, creating a more responsive management system. This means that greater access may be allowed to certain types of fishing in areas where it was previously prohibited, as information on catches in those areas becomes clearer
- Provide consumers with comprehensive and accurate information on catch locations, which can improve consumer confidence when purchasing locally sourced fish and seafood
- Assist with the recovery of gear lost at sea and swifter settlement of insurance claims
- Demonstrate to the public and the wider food chain industry that the fishing industry is taking positive steps to fish more sustainably
- Enable the data captured to be used by fishermen to make better and more well-informed business decisions and develop their business plans
- Allow fishermen to demonstrate more easily that they have a track record in catching a certain species of fish
- Help fishermen to keep accurate records of their catches to ensure that they can fish to the catch limits set by fisheries administrations, adjust fishing patterns to accommodate uptake, and reduce regulatory interventions
- Provide fishermen with data, which can be used to engage in consultations on other uses of the UK marine area, such as offshore wind farms, MPAs and marine infrastructure developments.