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P.J. Derham
Chief Inspector of Fisheries Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Great Westminster House
Horseferry Road
London SWlP 2AE, UK


Concern that the marine resources of the North-East Atlantic area should be protected from over-exploitation and conserved to ensure their continued and sensible utilization in the future has been voiced for many years. Indeed, the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission was established with this purpose in mind. Initially it recommended certain non-quantitative conservation measures such as limiting mesh sizes of nets and these were adopted on a unilateral basis by Contracting States. It then introduced total allowable catches for those stocks which were considered to be at risk, on the scientific advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, and again these were put into effect on a national basis. However, there was little if any, attempt by the NEAFC to restrict expansion of fishing potential and, in the event, the results of the consentient approach were disappointing. At the present time most of the commercially attractive stocks of North-East Atlantic fish are over-exploited. It can be seen that far too many fishing vessels are seeking too little fish, with the result that their owners are finding it increasingly difficult to operate profitably and to prosper. The European Community seeks to redress this situation with the adoption of a Common Fisheries Policy which, in general terms, continues to vest hope for the future in the TAC concept supported by traditional non-quantitative controls, but also appreciates the problems of excess fishing potential.


This paper seeks, against this background, to review the range of seemingly insuperable problems encountered in attempting to put TAC policies into operational effect. It also considers the practicalities of quota management but does not deal with methods of quota assessment or national allocation, nor the pros and cons of the TAC concept as an effective conservation tool. While the considerations and difficulties described are related to the North Atlantic experience in general and the European theatre in particular, they are nevertheless considered to be equally applicable in principle and practice in any other area where TACs might be employed.


In the European Community situation, TACs cover stocks which are not only shared by the nine fishing Member States but also by neighbouring countries such as Norway, Sweden and the Faroes which are not Community members. They are shared in the form of quotas negotiated within the Community against an agreed percentage allocation based on their historical fishing performances. This is also the general basis for apportioning shared stocks with Third Countries, although consideration of mutual access and fishing opportunities in each others' waters is taken into account in negotiating these. European Community residual stocks are allocated only to Spain, but access to the grounds is limited in terms of catch and effort. The overall scenario is complex, particularly when overlaid with unilateral measures. It is therefore a useful area of study.


While all Community vessels are subject to common conservation measures, these are not enforced by any centralized Community agency. Each coastal Member State is required to establish an Inspectorate and retain sovereignty over its waters within the Community “fish pond”. It bears the responsibility for enforcing all non-quantitative measures upon all vessels of whatever nationality which fish within its waters, while monitoring and control of national quotas remains the responsibility of each Coastal State wherever its vessels may be operating. To overcome inevitable doubts in the minds of fishermen, that nations other than their own may not be operating this arrangement conscientiously, a statutory common reporting procedure has been imposed. This requires the maintenance of fishing logs and/or declarations of landings by all Community vessels over 10 m in length. Each Coastal State is required to monitor its quota uptake effectively and to report results at monthly intervals to a central monitoring unit which informs all Coastal States when a national quota has been filled and that country's vessels should have stopped fishing for it. It also reports in this way when the overall “Community” quota for any particular species has been filled. Then all Community vessels must stop fishing forthwith, regardless of any individual country shortfall. Clearly, if this situation should occur, the community monitoring system will have failed to detect that one or more Coastal States had exceeded their national quota. So far this contingency has not been contemplated nor agreement reached as to any disciplinary sanction which might be imposed on the Coastal State concerned. This might include, for example, imposing a comparable reduction in that State's next years' quota.

Prohibition of any continued fishing for species for which the quota has been filled returns to the responsibility of the coastal State in whose waters such illegal activities are seen to take place. A Community Inspectorate of Inspectorates has been formed to oversee effective and harmonized national enforcement of Community Conservation Regulations. It is hoped that this will contribute substantially to the success of the Community's conservation policy. However, experience in the past does suggest that even this approach will fail to overcome the totality of the practical problems inherent in a TAC quota system. Indeed the extent and complexity of these does question their viability as an effective management tool in favour of what in the first instance may erroneously seem to be less complicated non-quantitative measures.


Clearly the primary objective of any Flag State must be to systematically monitor its vessels' uptake of each species subject to quota and ensure that directed fishing is stopped as soon as any quota has been reached. The universal application of these aims should then ensure reasonable adherence to the guidelines suggested by the previously negotiated total allowable catch figure.

There are, also, extremely important unilateral aims which have to be met by each Flag State within the context of their national quota allocations. These often carry severe political implications and they generally lead to extremely complex procedures which are difficult and costly to implement. First, there is a responsibility to ensure that the quota allocated to the Flag State is utilized sensibly and to best economic effect. Next, the national authority may feel it should also cater for the needs of the processing and distribution sides of its fishing industry, possibly endeavouring to do this by tuning fishing to avoid market glut and trough conditions. Finally, the national authority will have to ensure that opportunity to catch the quota species is shared equitably throughout all the appropriate sections of its national fleet.


The degree with which these objectives are achieved and indeed the success of the quota regime imposed will largely depend upon the effectiveness with which the fishing operation can be monitored. Indeed in essence quota management is a data acquisition excercise and clearly the establishment of an efficient data-processing system is a pre-requisite of any quota management and control policy. Quotas are established on TACs which are calculated on the basis of live weight and set on a stock basis. The base data elements required are therefore what fish was caught where or, in other words, what are the details of the catches of each individual vessel, in terms of the quantity of each species taken from the sea related to the position in which each vessel was operating. Ostensibely this is a simple accounting exercise but in reality is far more complex, because of the inherent difficulties which militate against the effectiveness of monitoring these base data elements to any acceptable degree of accuracy. This applies not only to achieving the first objective of quota management but also particularly in meeting the secondary ones which overlay it. When formulating any quota management policy, it is necessary to create conditions which not only facilitiate the acquisition of the necessary data but above all also go as far as possible to ensure a reasonable probability of accuracy. Inevitably this will create a demand for the enforcement of reporting procedures and surveillance, which in itself creates its own range of problems.


7.1 General

Ostensibely the most sensible and convenient point at which catches may be monitored is at the port of landing. But the overall effectiveness of doing so will be inversely proportional to the number of stations to be covered, because of the manpower implications involved. Clearly the fewer there are the better will be the results. It suggests that a fundamental requirement of any quota regime is the limitation of the number of permitted discharge ports and this indeed is so. Conversely, if the number of designated ports is reduced, all remaining and undesignated ports must be checked to prevent unauthorized and undisclosed landings. Solving this question in itself calls for a difficult administrative decision as to the degree to be drawn between determination to enforce quotas and the costs involved in what could become a fairly labour-intensive exercise, and incidentally is a good illustration of a dilemma which emerges frequently in quota-management situations.

7.2 Foreign Landings

Landings abroad create especial difficulties but foreign ports may sometimes have to be included in any authorised list if market opportunities elsewhere are sparse. It is a situation which calls for bilateral arrangements to be made with the foreign authorities concerned, in which they undertake to report details of any landings, whether legal or not, which have been made, as quickly as possible to the Flag State concerned. Hopefully, they will also be prepared to provide evidence in the Courts of the Flag State, should legal proceedings prove necessary. Landings at undesignated ports can also be countered by imposing conditions on skippers to seek prior permission to land anywhere and to declare the intended quantity of fish to be discharged. This requirement may then be effectively coupled with spot checks of the vessels' catch on board, immediately prior to landing or transhipment, but raises the problems of assessing quantities of fish in a fishing vessel.

7.3 Objection to Designated Ports

Objections to the limitation of landing points may arise from catchers, on grounds of unreasonableness. Owners of small fishing vessels may, for example, complain of their inability to get to and work from designated ports by virtue of their size. Other skippers may lament the alleged wastage of fuel involved in steaming to and from the fishing ground or the lack of market outlets afforded at the designated ports. All of these charges will have to be considered carefully and reasonable derogations granted as necessary, taking into account as always the possibility in such cases of alleged favouritism and political implications.

7.4 Small Ports

In some circumstances it may be completely impracticable and even politically unacceptable to designate a specific number of landing ports. This may well be the case where a quota fishery is prosecuted wholly or in part by a large number of small craft plying from a myriad number of small fishing stations. Generally the effort required to collect data on a census basis in such circumstances will exceed available resources and it will be necessary to adopt compromise solutions such as sampling the catch at selected typical ports and rounding this up in accordance with the number of boats known to be operating in the area.

7.5 Linking Catch to Area

As already suggested, the best quota-management condition probably occurs where all vessels land at one or two ports where their catches are weighed accurately. But even in these circumstances two particular problems arise. First of all, there is no certainty of the position where the fish was caught and reliance for this information will have to be placed upon statements of the fishermen concerned, supported by the Inspectors' knowledge of local seasonal fishing patterns. An out-turned catch could consist of catches from several grounds or separate quota areas but it will be practically impossible to say with any certainty from which area any particular quantity may have come. It is a difficult question and indeed represents one of the over-riding dilemmas of quota enforcement. A fishermen can always claim that he caught his fish outside a quota area. It is a major loophole which unfortunately gives considerable weight to the argument that quotas are unenforceable. Certainly it is very difficult to close this opening even with good surveillance and on board inspection. For example, it is difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a vessel was actually fishing from aerial observation and of course it is impossible to show what she was fishing for when observed. Even if full of quota fish when inspected on board, her skipper can claim with considerable if not complete imunity that he caught it in some other area. Further he can, and understandably will, claim that any illegal fish in his last haul was caught unavoidably and that he intends to dump it. The range of plausible defences put forward by fishermen in exploiting this loophole is proverbial. Few are easy to refute and, in some despair, Inspector sometimes claim that perhaps the only effective way of stopping it is to invoke a legal assumption that any fish on board a vessel was caught in the vessel's present position unless proof is provided to show otherwise. This is of course not possible in many legal systems and does not in any case solve the problem of discerning at a port of landing where the fish was caught.

7.6 Establishing Live Weight

The second problem in attempting to monitor quotas at the landing point arises from the fact that quotas are established in terms of live weight caught. The weight of the catch when it is landed will be less than that when it was caught for a variety of reasons. These include the fact that there will have been a rejection of small or otherwise unwanted fish at the point of capture. Also, depending upon species and the custom of the landing port, the fish will be landed in a variety of presentations. It may, for example, have been filleted on board, frozen in consumer packs or reduced to fishmeal and will inevitably have leached some of its natural juices. Any of these factors may have contributed significantly to the difference between the weight of the fish caught and that when it was landed, so that appropriate conversion factors have to be applied to each particular presentation in order to obtain an assessment of live weight. Conversion factors will vary according to species, the biological state of the fish, the particular season and the grounds on which the fish was caught. They are a matter of some contention and should be established and applied only by general agreement.

7.7 Volumetric Measure

Returning to the quantity landed, it should be recalled that not all landings are necessarily weighed. Thus it is often difficult to establish even the apparent weight of the fish that was landed. Traditionally, fishermen tend to describe their catches in terms of some convenient container such as a basket or box and they consider them in volumetric rather than weight terms. The difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that catches may be discharged in what are described as, say “50 kilogramme boxes”, but, as these may be filled with a mixture of fish and ice of varying proportions, they are likely to have a wide variation in quantity of the fish they contain. Further it is often the custom of the fish trade everywhere to provide a “baker's dozen of thirteen loaves” by overfilling containers in order to please regular buyers and to compensate for eventual drainage and other losses. It is also not unknown for skippers to attribute a variety of weights to their boxes for different purposes such as the payment of harbour dues and the claiming of subsidy. Given the range of such circumstances, it is obviously advisable to build into any quota scheme a definite requirement that all fish landed should be weighed, notwithstanding the possibility that universally traditionalist and conservative fishermen will resist.


With the present exception of objective observers embarked in each fishing vessel, fishing logs probably afford the most practical means of recording the basic data elements required in quota monitoring. The value of the log book will obviously depend upon the accuracy with which it is kept. Conscientiously maintained, it should provide in one form or another the date, time and position of the vessel at each haul (preferably in terms of a convenient grid covering the quota area) and, most importantly, the skippers best estimate of what each haul contained. When the total catch is discharged its weight can be accurately ascertained and corrected to live weight and in turn apportioned to the appropriate quota area in accordance with the skippers' estimates. It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that a skipper can generally provide only estimates of this catch which will be based on his experience of the weight discharged on previous landings. Weighing on board is impractical on most fishing vessels because of the inertial effects on weighing machines which are caused by the movement of a vessel in a seaway.


Ensuring conscientious and truthful maintenance of fishing logs is an obvious problem for any enforcement agency. One might reasonably expect that fishermen would be inclined to under-report their catches, especially if they are on a tight or even uneconomic individual vessel quota. This being the case, there is an obvious need to establish some form of deterrent which will discourage such malpractice. The ultimate of all threats to a fisherman - that he may lose his fishing licence or even that it may be temporarily suspended if information is not properly provided - may be sufficient. However, to effect such a threat in reasonableness will require fairly firm evidence of wilful negligence, even if invoked as an administrative punitive measure. In practice the deterrent will most likely be best created by an effective aerial survaillance and on-board inspection programme linked with spot-check examinations of landings.


Inspections at sea should be undertaken only by experienced and well-trained officers who are skilled in assessing catch on board. Their principal inspection function will be to check comparability of the details recorded in the log book with the catch actually on board. They will face the same problems as the skipper in making assessments but will not have the benefit of his experience. It is a task which is perhaps the most difficult and onerous of any which are encountered in fishery enforcement. There will always be room for argument as to the real quantity on board and ultimately this can only be resolved by landing the catch and weighing it. Ideally the skipper will himself elect to do this, but ordering a vessel to leave the fishing grounds to do so can have serious consequences which an Inspector is advised to consider carefully before doing so. If in the event the weighing shows no discrepancy, the Inspector may well find himself open to civil and even criminal proceedings for failing to exercise his powers with reasonable skill and care despite any immunity he may be afforded in law. There may well also be claims for compensation for alleged spoilage of the catch through unnecessary handling. On the other hand, it is not unknown for fishermen to over-estimate their catches. This can happen where there is very rigorous and even unreasonable enforcement. Skippers do not want trouble and have a deep-rooted concern over hazarding their livelihood and ability to meet financial commitments. Incidentally they may also over-report when hoping to establish a prescriptive historic background for some future quota-allocation negotiations.


It is perhaps interesting to consider some of the problems faced in seeking to assess the catch on board. Factory vessels usually carton and weigh their product, which does facilitate assessment, but the examination can be very time-consuming. It has to be undertaken in conditions of very low fishroom temperatures and poor light. It also involves awkward measurement of high-rise stowage, for comparison with hold capacities shown on the ship's general arrangement plans, and sample checks on the individual carton weights and species content. In fresher trawlers the problems are eased by boxing, especially with regard to appraising catch composition. But, as noted earlier, estimation of weight is complicated by the ice content of boxes and the lack of weighing, although attempts are often made to weigh on a sample basis. More severe problems are encountered when the fish is bulk stowed in fish pounds, which are rarely cuboid in shape and vary in form according to the moulding of the hull. Even with an idea of relevant stowage factors the calculation of volume of each pound is complicated and in fact rather impractical.

Estimation must in the end depend greatly on the expertise of the Inspector. Identification of species composition is also a problem, since there is little if any room to turn over the fish to see if illegal species have been overstowed. Industrial fishers, which is to say those vessels fishing for species destined for reduction to meal or oil, are almost impossible to examine. Fish is carried in tanks. It is often chemically treated and rapidly becomes a soup of indefinable recipe. It is also virtually impossible to obtain a meaningful sample which might be used for assessment. There is, incidentally, a distinct danger from noxious gases to any Inspector entering partly filled tanks in these vessels. Bulk catches in viviers or refrigerated sea-water tanks are also almost impossible to assess with accuracy. Here again the advantage will lie with the skipper, with his knowledge of his vessel, and it is often considered necessary to require that these vessels when fishing for quota species should carry tables showing the calibration of their tanks. A technique has been evolved whereby these can be used in conjunction with tank dipping to ascertain the level of fish in the hold. Again the results are difficult to prove without weighing and are open to question. There are, for example, a number of ways in which a skipper can confuse an Inspector in these vessels. These include using his circulating machinery to stir up the tank contents and make dipping useless.


European Community vessels under 17 metres but over 10 metres in length are required to declare the weight of fish landed and the position of capture within 48 hours of landing. These must be supported by documentary evidence such as sales notes. Log books have not been prescribed for these vessels since it was argued that such would be largely impractical and an imposition on such craft which are often open to the elements. The difficulties of this arrangement are that, apart from the difficulties which will be shared with those vessels required to keep log books, there will be a reduced opportunity for spot checking procedures. Landings will have to be checked at the time they are made, the data recorded and then compared with the declared figures submitted not less than 48 hours later. Earlier experience of landing declarations, coupled with pilot studies of this particular scheme, have shown that a major enforcement problem is presented. Fishermen will be reluctant or forgetful in making the returns and it is anticipated that the effort and resources required, to enforce the requirements that they should make the return on time and in accurate form, will be disproportionately high. In the EC programme vessels under 10 metres will not be required to make returns. Catches from this group will be covered by sampling techniques as described earlier. It is perhaps interesting to note that the EC programme is geared entirely to quota-control requirements. It will not generate details of non-quota species catch and will therefore deny fisheries scientists the data they need to assess the time when other species may be at risk and in need of control. The system will also fail to provide essential economic information that is based on first-hand sale prices.


It is known that a large measure of success in combating the basic problems of quota control has been claimed from the use of observers embarked in vessels fishing in north-western Atlantic waters. These are not seen as practical in the European Community context because, in the first place, the size of the accommodation in the vessels concerned is so small and trip lengths so short that the cost-effectiveness of such a system would be in question despite the laudibility of its objectives. The problems of recruiting sufficient staff of the essentially high calibre and expertise who would be prepared to accept the expected hard living and dietary conditions, coupled with the logistical problems involved, are likely to be almost insuperable in the particular circumstances which obtain in the area. However, their use in the quota-controlled pelagic fishery, which takes place in the UK and which involves transhipping extremely large quantities of fish directly from fishing boat to anchored factory vessel or klondykers, is considered likely to be a very useful and cost-effective option.


It will be appreciated that, for illustrative purposes, the foregoing discussion has really been in the context of a single quota species. In most cases, of course, catches generally consist of a number of quota control, species caught at the same time. This presents few additional problems in itself, when the quotas for all the species concerned remain open, but considerable difficulties arise when the quota for one species normally caught with several others is closed while the others remain open. This occurs particularly in regard to demersal species where, although it is sometimes possible to adjust fishing gear or move to other fishing grounds to reduce the possibility of catching a closed species, it is obviously impossible to avoid catching at least some. This situation leads to a number of administrative dilemmas. For example, should fishing for an open and profitable species be stopped because the unavoidable by-catch of protected species is too high and contributing significantly to the continuing decline of its stock. All present difficult problems which have to be dealt with in the light of local circumstances. Should retention of a by-catch of the closed species be permitted while fishing for the species which are still open continues, or should the retention of any by-catch of closed species fish even taken incidentally while fishing for other species be prohibited and required to be immediately returned to the sea - an option which was in fact adopted recently by the European Community - despite the complaints of fishermen that the fish is dead on return to sea and therefore that the practice contributes nothing to the conservation cause.

It is an interesting problem, which lends further force to arguments which allege the unenforce-ability of quotas. Seen purely from an enforcement point of view, returning to the sea is the only sure practical solution to this problem in the circumstances of individual-stock TACs. It will be overcome finally only in the unlikely event of a TAC being set for each group of species rather than by a particular stock. Permitted by-catches are extremely difficult to enforce because of the insuperable problems of quantifying the by-catch in terms of the total catch on board. Whatever level of permitted by-catch is set, it is quite possible early in the trip that only the quota species have been caught and therefore constitute 100 percent of the total catch on board. Only further fishing will reduce the percentage further and the question arises as to when it is reasonable to consider that infringement has occurred.

The difficulty of assessing the by-catch does differ from species to species and regulations can be drafted prescribing that the by-catch can be determined by sample. However, unless the size and method of taking it is specifically described in legislation, it is very difficult to produce a sample which is always accepted by the Courts as being representative of the whole catch. Reliance may also be placed on assessment of the composition of the whole catch and the difficulties of this have already been discussed. Nevertheless, it is prudent to draft rules that allow this as an alternative because, in cases where, for example, the catch is boxed by species, it is quite possible to take samples which will show that the catch is both legal and illegal.


Problems of by-catches are made even more difficult when, as in the case of one EC quota region, different quotas are applied to small adjacent stock allocations. In that particular case, some five different stocks are variously disposed through some eight different areas. This is overlaid with the unilateral quota management regime which seeks to spread the various quotas on a quarterly seasonal basis, allowing a further 10 percent by-catch carryover from season to season. Such an arrangement can be seen as unenforceable in practice terms.


It will be appreciated from this discussion that the need for careful drafting of enabling legislation is paramount, if successful quota management and the enforcement of controls is to be achieved. It is a useful axiom that all regulations should be religiously scrutinized as to their enforceability before their final adoption. This applies throughout the total spectrum of fisheries legislation but, in the context of quotas, it is illustrated in the problems which can arise from the simple use of the phrase “fishing for”. Taking the hypothetical case where, say, the quota for mackerel has been closed, it is logical to set-out a regulation which simply prohibits “fishing for mackerel”. But mackerel is often likely to be caught jointly with sprats or horse mackerel or pilchards, all of which are not protected. Thus, if mackerel is found on board a vessel by an Inspector, a fisherman can claim that he was in fact fishing for sprat and that he had no intention of fishing for mackerel. It is impossible to prove in a Court that this was not true, and again the requirement to return the closed species fish to the sea would seem to be the only logical answer. However, following the pattern that whatever is done to solve one quota enforcement problem another is created, such a policy in a pelagic fishery can lead to large-scale dumping which will evoke complaints of wasted protein and also complaints from trawlermen and shellfishermen that their grounds and gear have been irretrievably fouled.


It will be recalled that, while the primary objective of quota management is seen as ensuring that the national quota is not exceeded, secondary aims exist in respect of market supply and sensible quota utilization. More particularly, it attempts to ensure equitable sharing of fishing opportunities to the appropriate sectors of the domestic fleet. Experience has shown that the achievement of these particular aims can severely complicate the already complex problems surrounding the monitoring of the national allocation, especially when a number of quotas are involved. As will be described it can consume a disproportionate amount of manpower and resources normally assigned to fisheries enforcement and is conducted very largely at the expense of other equally important commitments.

The over-riding problem to be faced is that of formulating a satisfactory base on which to place the allocation. This is because the variability in performance between individual fishing vessels even of the same class is such that it cannot be adequately described by reference to single parameters such as length or tonnage. In reality this catching ability depends upon an amalgram of factors which include the vessel's available power, hold capacity, towing ability, engine power/weight ratio, the overall level of running costs and above all the calibre and expertise of the vessel's skipper. A number of attempts have been made to evolve mathematical models and formulae which seek to take all these relevant points into account and produce a quota coefficient for each vessel which could be applied to the proposed quota. These were originally undertaken in considering the implications of introducing effort control as a measure which would complement quota control. Regrettably, the idea was never fully developed and it has been necessary to depend on less sophisticated means of allocation evolved in consultation with the fishing industry. Seen from the point of view of the Administration, it is immaterial how the quota is shared in principle, but it must weigh carefully the costs which will be incurred by its involvement in what might well be considered to be a purely industrial matter. Ideally, such sharing should be undertaken by the fishing industry itself, but government involvement is often politically difficult to avoid. Indeed, if an Administration decides to involve itself in adjusting the flow of fish to the market place, it must lose any remoteness from the detailed affairs of the industry it may have enjoyed. However, it must be borne in mind that in the long run the enforcement agency must monitor the uptake of each vessel in order to contain the national quota. Experience suggests that it is not normally acceptable to delegate this responsibility to the different sectors of the industry, each of which may suspect the creditability of the others. Inevitably this approach has led to compromise solutions which may be far from ideal, because of the diversity of views among the fish catching interests. For instance, the needs of fish-vessel owning companies are often different from those of the vast majority of boats which are skipper-owned or operated on a traditional share basis. The Administration must balance these views with those of other sectors of the industry, such as buyers and processors who might entertain suspicions that quotas might be manipulated to their disadvantage by the fish-producing side.


The South-west of England Mackerel Fishery serves as a good example against which the problems of domestic quota management can be illustrated. It is chosen because, as a single species fishery operating close inshore, it appears on first acquaintance as possibly the simplest of all cases to control. It is an extremely intensive seasonal fishery involving about 100 freezer trawlers, purse seiners, pelagic pair trawlers and up to a further 200 small hand-line vessels under 40 ft in length. The main effort is directed by sophisticated purse seiners and very effective pair trawlers operating mainly inside the 12-mile limit off the Devon and Cornish coastline stretching along some 300 miles. Vessels over 60 ft in length may not fish for mackerel within three miles of this coastline, since this is reserved for the local inshore line fishermen who object to the exploitation of “their” stocks by British visiting vessels they regard as foreigners. There are three main landing ports through the area. At one of these, namely Falmouth, up to 45 or 50 factory vessels, variously registered in USSR, Poland, GDR, Italy and Egypt, are situated to accept transhipment of mackerel from the catching vessels.

With the exception of the small inshore handliner fleet, all vessels wishing to participate in this fishery must be licensed to fish for mackerel. There is no restriction on the number of licences issued except in regard to freezer trawlers and purse seiners, whose numbers are confined to those which participated in the 1980 fishery, which incidentally may be seen as one of the earliest attempts to restrict effort in fisheries management. Licences are issued gratis under the enabling powers of the Fish Conservation Act. These provide a flexible means of affecting control over the fishery through conditions which variously carry penalties for infringement, which on summary conviction can range from US$80,000 for fishing, say, inside the 3-mile limit, through to $3,000 for exceeding a weekly quota to US$15,000 for failing to report as required. The licence also serves as a convenient legal means of stopping the fishery at the appropriate time by simply suspending it.

The quota is allocated in two ways. First company-owned freezer trawlers which operate under tightly disciplined internal federation control are granted a Sectoral Quota. This represents a negotiated percentage of the national quota which is based by and large on the past performance of these vessels over past years. It is a very flexible arrangement, which enables this group to fully utilize their fleet cost-effectively and extract the greatest economic benefit from the fishing opportunities afforded. They may take this quota at whatever rate or time in the quota period they prefer, using one or all their ships to do so as they might find convenient. The administration's task is then simply to ensure that the sectoral quota is not exceeded and, to this end, requires that vessels report their catches weekly by radio and confirm these in writing. These data are verified by rigid checks, which are made on these vessels when they discharge their cargos to shore-side cold stores or refrigerated cargo ships, and they are subject to routine surveillance throughout. When not utilized for fishing, these vessels can operate as receiving ships, although their freezing capacity is rather less adequate than ideal for this role.

All other sectors of the catching fleet are given an equal choice of whatever system of allocation they prefer. Sectoral quotas have been considered by these groups but discarded through lack of mutual agreement on the allocation each should receive. Finally they suggested a weekly vessel quota, ostensibely on crew numbers, which in effect gave quotas of varying sizes to a number of vessel length groups which again differentiate between pursers and trawlers. This was in fact adopted by the government which accepted responsibility for the administration of the system. In the event this proved an extremely expensive exercise and entailed considerable expenditure of enforcement effort before it was finally brought under really effective control. Initially skippers were required to declare details of quantities landed or transhipped by the Friday of the week following that when the discharge occurred. This was seen at first, and in retrospect naively, as the basis for monitoring quota uptake. Skippers were lax in their reporting and chasing them became a tedious and frustrating task, given their mobility. Gross checks of reports with agents' and salesmen ledgers revealed some discrepancies at first but inevitably these checked exactly with vessels weekly allocation. Clearly more draconian enforcement was required.

The fishery has two distinct aspects, each of which create their own problems. The fish is either landed ashore to refrigerated road-transport or transhipped to the aforementioned Klondykers or freezer trawlers. The fishery is operated on a 24-hour basis with a peak occurring between 2200 hours and 0400 hours. Catches might land or tranship up to three times a week and on each occasion might perhaps tranship part of their catch to two or three recovery ships and the final balance ashore. Clearly each of these activities have to be monitored to discover the week's total for each vessel. Spot checks were instituted and, for landings, involved constant surveillance of the discharge operation. Inspection of transhipment was more time consuming and difficult because more of the ships were moored in an exposed anchorage clear of the shore, at the insistence of local complainants about the noise, smell and pollution these vessels are alleged to create. Boarding these vessels was therefore dependent upon the weather. A further but fundamental problem was encountered in that fish was discharged in netting brails, the capacity of which approached a cubic metre or 0.8 tonnes, often only partially filled and only rarely checked and weighed. There were other minor problems too numerous to mention.

In order to overcome the difficulties, the fishery was placed under the supervision of a Control Officer embarked in a Fishery Protection Vessel stationed to seaward of the transhipping anchorage. He had full discretionary powers and the Control Ship provided him with a 24-hour communication and boarding vessel facility. Each catcher was required to seek permission from control to land/tranship a declared quantity and permission could be withheld until the quantity on board had been verified/agreed with the skipper. The carriage of more than the catcher's weekly entitlement was also prohibited.

A number of such measures were employed but all failed ultimately to curtail skippers landing over their weekly quotas and making false declarations. It was an interesting but frustrating situation because, ostensibly, on the basis of the data provided, the fishery was adequately under control. In fact this was far from the case. Fishermen had soon appreciated that, notwithstanding the frequent checks of their catches on board and the uncomfortable accuracy with which these were being assessed, there was no way in which these could be accurately computed. Further, they saw that there would be difficulty in relating the results of any particular check with any made earlier. They were correct, for it was indeed found impossible to build a suitable case for prosecution on the standard of evidence gleaned from these checks. As more and more fishermen appreciated the virtual impotence of the enforcement authorities, the real control over this fishery faltered almost to extinction. A new approach was clearly necessary to restore the situation.

This was made by switching the enforcement effort away from the catches and directing it towards the recovery vessels. These ships were then required to record accurately the quantity of fish received from each catcher under pain of swift prosecution should they fail to do so. The vessels were subject to regular and spasmodic stringent examination by a vigorous specialist team. The results were dramatic, since the fishermen had now lost their own control of the situation and the fishery was brought under very firm control indeed.

While in the event the operation was a qualified success, it is useful to reflect on what might have been done with the benefit of hindsight to avoid the experience endured. It is also interesting to consider how control was lost, given acceptable levels of compliance, when the fishery was first brought under quota control. Then it is worth looking at the costs involved to see if in fact the eventually successful end really justified the very expensive means.

In retrospect, given ideal conditions, the fishery might have been more effectively and quickly controlled if observers had been placed on each recovery vessel, in order to tally and weigh each brail of fish as it came aboard from the catchers. This could have been financed perhaps from licence fees. In fact these procedures would have been impossible at the time because, unfortunately, national legislation made no provision for licensing the recovery vessels or to reserve fees for licences, etc. It is a matter which has of course now been remedied.

As to the reasons why control was lost, these arise from a lack of appreciation of the basic tenet of law enforcement, that reasonable compliance with any law must depend upon the tendency of most people to wish to obey the law, knowing that, if caught not doing so, they would expect to be punished. Essential to this philosophy is a belief that the law is reasonable and just. In the case illustrated here the justness of the piece was brought into doubt when prosecutions were brought, “pour encourager les autres”, on the basis of declarations over quota. In other words, fishermen were prosecuted for telling the truth. Declarations soon showed exactly the quota amount, as did the salesmen's ledgers with which they were checked. The reasonableness of the situation was questioned when a combination of vessel quota allocations were reduced and market prices fell to a level where the economic returns to vessels failed to meet their costs. Further, fishermen saw that even blatent transgressions of the controls, particularly in respect of foreign landings, were not being apprehended. They reasoned that “what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander” and soon embarked on a slippery slope of compounding falsehood upon falsehood. It was a trend which could only be stopped by urgent and positive action and, strangely, was very strongly welcomed by the fishermen when eventually applied.

The costs of such a control is very high indeed. It can exceed 25 percent of the first-hand sale value of the total weight landed, and it is not unknown for up to 80 percent of available resources to be directed towards quota-management contingencies. Notwithstanding the other problems involved, such costs must be a major consideration in assessing the viability of quotas as an effective conservation tool.


In essence, quota management is an exercise in data acquisition. It depends on reliable information about what quantities of quota fish is caught where. Considerable problems are inherent in this requirement and these lend force to arguments that quotas are in fact unenforceable. Certainly they are extremely costly in manpower and resource but, requirements in the event, can be enforced to some degree, dependent upon circumstances.

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