In a recent position paper the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) have rejected Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) as a primary method of quota allocation because of the disproportionately negative impact they have on small scale coastal fishers and fishing communities.
During the previous CFP reform, the European Commission raised the prospect of mandatory transferable quotas. This was rejected by Member States. However, the staggered introduction of the discard ban has seen the debate rekindled by certain segments of the industry and associated vested interests, which have identified the choke species issue as an opportunity to lobby for privatisation to be extended.
The paper outlined by LIFE provides a clear assessment of different forms of Rights-Based Management and outlines the purported benefits and hidden costs. These should be carefully analysed by decision-makers before such a programme is implemented or extended.
Of particular concern is the idea that these are temporary rights. According to the UN Law of the Sea, fish are a public property. However, ITQs provide rights to quota holders. These can then be traded or used as collateral with a bank. In Denmark, the “loan period” from the government has recently been extended from 8 years to 16 years. Any attempt by the Member State to re-establish public ownership would likely require large amounts of compensation to those who may have made investments on the basis of their quota holdings.
The paper highlights that the risks associated with ITQs are often underplayed. However, what is most important is LIFE’s emphasis on sound fishing limits and quotas that are based on scientific advice. Moreover, that the small-scale coastal fleet provides many benefits beyond a narrow economic definition.
As a starting point to reforming quota allocation, LIFE argues that Article 17 of the CFP should be implemented. Thereby quota is distributed according to transparent criteria that promotes and rewards fishing with a lower environmental impact and also provides social and economic benefits to local communities.
Given that the small-scale sector makes up over 80% of the European fleet but has a much smaller quota holding, LIFE argue that it is pertinent to ensure that measures which disproportionately affect this segment are not implemented and failing that they are mitigated to ensure that the small-scale fleet is excluded from such measures.
In order to provide options to policy and decision makers, Annex 3 of the position paper provides a system of alternative measures to those provided by the ITQ system. These provide a list of options which bring the purported benefits of ITQs but do not adversely affect the small-scale fleet.