Defra has addressed issues raised by UK fishermen regarding new regulations on the ‘economic link’ licence' due to take effect on 1 April 2022. Photo: Tony Fitzsimmons

Defra clarifies issues raised by UK fishermen regarding new regulations on the economic link licence conditions due to take effect 1 April 2022. Photo: Tony Fitzsimmons

Defra has addressed issues raised by UK fishermen regarding new regulations on the ‘economic link’ licence which will come into effect as of 01 April 2022.

The UK Government has introduced the new regulations that will mean some UK-registered fishing vessels will be compelled to land 70% of their annual catch into the UK if they want to keep their current crewing arrangements.

The regulations should not cause major issues for UK-owned and registered vessels who land the majority of their catches into home ports, but the new rules will mean that UK-registered foreign-owned vessels will have to stop landing their catches into Ireland or neighbouring countries if they are to keep their foreign crews onboard.

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If UK-registered fishing vessel want to continue to land their catches into ports outside of the UK, then they will be forced to employ British nationals as 70 percent of their crew.

The other alternative for such boats will be to transfer a percentage of their fishing quota to the English pool, or use a combination of all of the above.

A press release by Defra on 27 December led to some confusion regarding the rules as it seemed to indicate that UK-registered fishing boats had to have a least 70 percent crew onboard and land 70 percent of their catch into UK ports, under the new regulations of the economic link.

Many felt that the onus to employ a crew of over 70 percent UK nationals would put a huge strain on their ability to carry on their operation as most whitefish and nephrops trawlers are relying on foreign crews.

Speaking to The Fishing Daily, a Defra spokesperson said that they would like to clarify what is being asked of boat owners and skippers:

“There are the ways a vessel owner can meet the economic link criteria:

  • through landing a greater share of their quota into the UK
  • meeting the increased crewing requirement
  • or by transferring more quota that can be used by the English pool

“A vessel owner could meet this by demonstrating one of the above or by a combination of the three.”

Defra led a consultation on the economic link licence condition in a bid to evaluate where its benefits for the economy could be increased. Part of the proposal for strengthening the economic link was:

  • increase the landing criterion to 70% of quota catch (by volume)
  • increase the quota donation criterion from 16.5% of a vessel’s shortfall (by value (£)) to 30% and consider how it is used to help improve uptake
  • increase the overall catch landed or quota donated (transferred) by removing the crewing and financial expenditure criteria.

In their report on the outcome of the consultation, Defra says:

The landing requirement

We will be implementing the proposed increase in landings from 50% to 70% from 1 April 2022 as an ambitious but achievable threshold to deliver further benefits to coastal communities.

The quota transfer requirement

A judgement had to be made on what increase would result in demonstrable economic gains without creating a target that could make businesses unviable. As a result, we intend to increase the current threshold over time. We recognise that there are shortcomings in the current system and are keen to work with MMO and industry during the next phase of reform in order to improve how transfers are managed. Therefore, we will increase the quota transfer requirement from 16.5% to 20% from 1 April 2022. In the next phase of reform, we intend to consider additional ways this quota could be used. The consultation document suggested several ways for doing this.

The crewing requirement

Having consulted on removing the crewing requirement and considered the responses, we now intend to retain this criterion and strengthen it by increasing the percentage from 50% to 70% from 1 April 2022 based on the responses we received and further consideration of available evidence. We also intend to work with MMO to improve the efficiency of how the crewing requirement can be monitored and enforced.

We will carry out a review on how the strengthened arrangements provide additional benefits to the UK economy in the next phase of reform. Any further changes to this, or any other, economic link criteria would be subject to consultation.

The expenditure requirement

We will remove this criterion from 1 April 2022. There may be merit in considering ways that the condition could be met through specific types of expenditure and a number of suggestions for doing so, such as investment in science, were made in the consultation responses. The detail of any such proposals would need to be worked through, and require further consultation, before being introduced. This will not be possible in time for the changes being introduced from April 2022, but it is something we will consider in the next phase of reform.

To read the full consultation, click here.

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Defra clarifies issues on new regulations for ‘economic link’ licence conditions

by editor time to read: 7 min