The NFFO has declined to become involved in a judicial review aimed at overturning the MMO's CatchApp for recording under-10m boats catches Two-thirds of Under-10m boats have registered for the CatchApp

The NFFO has declined an invitation to support a judicial review aimed at overturning the MMO’s CatchApp for recording under-10m fishing boats catches

The Executive Committee of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), at a recent meeting, declined to become involved in a judicial review aimed at overturning the Marine Management Organisation’s CatchApp for recording under-10m vessels catch, but has urged the MMO to open discussions to address the outstanding issues.

In an article today, they say, the NFFO Executive was unanimous that an adversarial, legal challenge would drive the parties into their respective corners, without finding solutions to the issues that some vessel operators face. Given the challenges ahead (including management measures in marine protected areas, the expansion of offshore wind and the development of fisheries management plans to replace the CFP) there is an urgent need for all parts of the fleet to be in a position to document where they fish and what they catch. Modern information technology like I-VMS and the CatchApp definitely have a role to play.

“That is not to say that this version of the catch app is the definitive version or that improvements can’t be made. There are serious concerns regarding the implications of the accuracy of catch estimates prior to landing and, in some places, there are remaining technical issues. There is also a case to be made for exemptions for very small vessels and for a generation who have had limited experience of smart phones. All of these are valid points for mature discussion rather than being lost in courtroom manoeuvring where the outcome is always a gamble,” write the NFFO.

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“The fact that 80%-90% of the under-10m fleet are now using the catch-app doesn’t mean that we should stop addressing the outstanding issues,” says the NFFO

Against this background, the NFFO has said that it will call on the MMO to open fresh discussions on a new generation catch app and the rules surrounding its use.

Areas for further work

NFFO member from Shoreham, Charlie Brock, has outlined many of the outstanding issues along with positive ideas for improvement in an email recently sent to the MMO.

The email reads:

“In advance of the Catch App event that is being held in Shoreham tomorrow, please see below some of our experiences (both good and bad) of using the system over the last 2 years.

 Positives:

  •  The App remembers certain details like vessel PLN (as the user chooses the vessel) and most frequently used gear types and species as these can be set to a favourites list
  • The system can be easily amended if the skipper has made a mistake
  • Users have reported that the device shows a green status indicating that the record has been submitted successfully – a good step in the process However, on occasion this submission entry (even though green) is not seen on the PC desktop site until the user of the app submits it again for a second time.   This invariably is a few days after the day/trip until the user has the knowledge that that particular day/trip is not showing on the desktop site as submitted. This is quite commonplace, and I am unsure whether this is a device phone reception issue or a MMO server issue, as the status bar is telling the user that they have submitted successfully when they haven’t. Perhaps a secondary confirmation from the App by text message would assist here?  I am happy to talk to the software developers and explain and/or develop this further if required.
  • The user interface from a PC (office based) is easy and quick to view once logged in.
  • It is compatible with multiple portable device makes and models
  • It is free (to those who already have the internet or a tablet or smart phone) – so only costs the fisher time.
  • There are older generations of fishers that do not have the internet, email, or a smart phone.  These typically phone in their record manually which I am told by the few works well but is a slow process.
  • Leach Fishing’s skippers (of under-10’s) have embraced the change and are trying very hard to be accurate and fastidious in its use (since November 2019). 

 Issues to Address:

  • When adding new species, particularly in a mixed fishery where up to 25+ different species are caught, there are a few issues to address:
  • If you try to add a new species to the list but have already inputted weights for other species, then the weights already inputted jump down the list as the new specie is added. This makes all the previous work of inputting now invalid, as the weights for each specific specie are now wrong.  It seems like a simple formatting software upgrade would solve this. This is not such an issue in single species fisheries like Whelks or crab/lobster
  • Pots are not defined for whelk or crab lobster, so the MMO don’t know which type of pot is being used.  Crab/Lobster pots are very different to a whelk pot.
  • When netting, under 10s use a multitude of mesh sizes to optimise catch returns for the day.  There are issues when choosing or deciphering what catch came out of what size fleet.  With the abolition of the catch composition rules now due to the Landing Obligation, is it not more sensible to simply ask the skipper to determine the size rangeof the type of nets he is using (e.g. trammels, gill nets etc – 90-120mm ) and then input the catch once (i.e. not each species multiplied by each net type and size) – this will create mistakes to ask a skipper to enter weights down to that minute detail.
  • The ICES rectangle is split down further into 9 smaller sub areas.  This is not the case on paper logsheets or E-logs, so why is this different for the catch App users? This causes difficulty and inaccuracy when gear is spread across multiple rectangles. Which does the fisher choose?
  • Inability to access the app (either on potable device) or on a desktop PC – see screen shot attached taken today at 05:27 – stating that the MMO server is down so users cannot access the site.  This has happened more than once.

 The regulation behind the CatchApp and further suggestions:

  • In practical terms in a mixed fishery where quota species are caught as part of the catch, the skipper must complete his catch record before landing.
  • Whereas those fishing purely non-quota stocks, have 24 hours to complete their catch record.  This creates disparity – different rules for different fishers and I would think makes MMO enforcement more difficult.
  • 10% tolerance for accuracy is too tight on an “estimated” weight of catch. If the fisher is out with the 10% he is exposed to possible prosecution. Paper log and E-log have the 50kg rule to help manage this for the fisher, thereby creating disparity across fleet sectors.
  • However, there is no such 50kg rule for the catch app. A person is more likely to get the estimate of smaller weights wrong and therefore fall outside the 10% tolerance. Again this exposes the vessel to possible prosecution. This is because the fisher is now required to input everything he catches, down to fish in single numbers. It is near impossible for fisheries managers to estimate within the tight 10% tolerance, let alone a fisherman rolling around at sea.
  • Scales on the quayside do not offer a solution either, as the weights on a resulting sales note will often be different (e.g. the fisher has sold 25kg for cash as per his allowance, drainage loss, gut factor conversion differences etc etc)
  • More accuracy would be obtained if the under-10 sector had to complete a landing declaration as the over-10s do.
  • Duplication – in the Sussex IFCA area the IFCA require those catching shellfish to complete shellfish returns in line with their Shellfish Permit byelaw.  It seems nonsensical that the fisher is providing this information to MMO on the catch record daily, and then again to the IFCA on a shellfish return once a quarter – why can’t the IFCA simply have access to the Catch record data or request it quarterly from MMO? Especially now with iVMS imminent.

Way Forward

My suggestion would be to reform the catch app into a more streamline version of itself, keeping the good bits, outing the bad, and incorporating new elements to put it in line with other fleet segments and lessen the probability of mistake and following prosecution.

This will take more than contained in this email, but I’m happy to discuss in further detail if there is the political will in Defra/MMO to talk about its reform.

The main concern was that the catch app would create disparity and differing standards across fleet sectors.  This could lead to confusion in understanding which ultimately will lead to more prosecutions.  The message was to “keep it simple”.

To some extent this has been achieved from MMO’s point of view, however there is still some way to go from an industry point of view to avoid any unnecessary prosecutions due to an overly complex process creating a lack of understanding.”

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NFFO declines invitation to support Judicial Review but says time to review CatchApp

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