A high court in the UK this week ruled that unused fishing quotas can be redistributed by the government from large scale vessels to smaller ones. Small scale inshore fishermen and fisheries minister Richard Benyon celebrated the decision as bringing added value to coastal communities in the UK.
The judgment affirmed the Ministry’s authority to re-distribute unused quota from the larger fleet to the in-shore, smaller vessels in order to maximize the UK’s share of EU fishery resources. But the case has broader implications, illustrating the importance of transparent and equitable management of the fishing quota system – not only ensuring that allocations are fair, but that the nature and security of those fishing privileges are understood by everyone involved.
The process followed by the Ministry before making the re-allocation – a detailed assessment of quota usage (and non-usage) and extensive public consultation – was cited by the Court and central to the finding that a quota re-alignment was foreseeable by the large-scale fleet, permissible under the law, and in the public’s interest. Yet, the Court also took note of the investments that the previous quota holders and their bankers made in expectation of future fishing activities.
The ruling underscores the need to design allocation privileges in a careful, inclusive manner, including input from all fishery stakeholders, while factoring in social, economic and environmental concerns. The UK's Defra would be wise to start a transparent stakeholder process for the reallocation of the quota as EDF advocates in our Catch Share Design Manual.