Small-scale fishermen across England have met with the MMO over struggles with the iVMS roll-out amid concerns and anxieties Morrisons is transferring an Apprenticeship Levy fund of over £100,000 to Supplytrain to help train ten new sea fishers for the SWFPO nffo two-stage response pollack

The NFFO has called for a two-stage response to the crisis engulfing the inshore fleets. Photo: Tony Fitzsimmons

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has raised concerns over the crisis facing inshore fleets, highlighting the recent decision to slash the total allowable catch (TAC) for pollack to an impractical 832 tonnes. The UK has been allocated a meager quota of 203 tonnes for 2023, prompting the NFFO to call for a two-stage response to address the pressing issues.

The drastic reduction in the pollack quota follows a significant shift in the perception of the stock by scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) during their benchmark meeting. While ICES benchmark exercises are vital for evolving scientific understanding, the NFFO questions the sustainability of such extreme swings in stock assessments and emphasises the need for a mechanism to moderate these fluctuations.

The NFFO proposes a two-stage response to the crisis. Firstly, the organisation advocates for the application of TAC constraints to minimise the extent of fluctuations in TAC recommendations. Such constraints have proven effective in the past but seem to have fallen out of favor. The NFFO calls for an urgent mid-year review of the TAC decision, emphasizing the importance of a retrospective application of TAC constraints to prevent undue socio-economic damage to fleets.

In the longer term, the NFFO suggests that ICES reevaluate the form in which it provides advice to fisheries managers. The organization encourages a more pragmatic approach to avoid catastrophic mistakes, especially when there are doubts about the reliability of scientific opinions.

The NFFO underscores the immediate concern for fleets targeting pollack, many of which are small inshore vessels with limited alternative opportunities. The potential diversion of effort into other fisheries could have destabilising consequences in adjacent fisheries, impeding progress in rebuilding stocks such as bass. Urgent intervention by fisheries managers, including the UK and the EU, is deemed necessary to avert the immediate crisis and reassess the TAC decision.

In conclusion, the NFFO emphasises the need for pragmatism and urgent intervention to address the immediate crisis, followed by a comprehensive evaluation of measures to sustain pollack stocks through more intelligent management strategies. The organisation advocates for better data, targeted measures, and real-time information from the fishing industry to be considered in developing long-term solutions.

The priority is to revisit the TAC decision immediately to mitigate the potential negative impacts on the fishing industry.

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