Revealing the NFFO’s members – opening Pandora’s Box?

Posted by Ariana Densham - 15 March 2013 at 12:43pm - Comments

How would you feel if you were betrayed by the very people who are meant to be protecting your interests? This is what we discovered about the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) last month. It turns out that instead of standing up for small scale fishermen, they have actually been trying to deny them the wider representation in Europe that they so desperately need.

Our findings were shocking for an organisation that claims to represent the interests of English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishermen. We revealed that the NFFO is dominated by foreign controlled fishing interests. The numbers show that while only 42 out of 263  member vessels (which together form the bulk of their membership), are foreign, those 42 vessels are by far the largest and most powerful. In fact a staggering 57% of gross tonnage (meaning fishing capacity) of the NFFO’s fleet is controlled by companies or individuals overseas. This means that the UK fishing quota used by these vessels and the profits from this fishing fill the coffers of foreign companies and individuals.

The good news is, the fisheries minister has finally taken notice that something is not quite right in the way fishing quota is given over to foreign vessels, and has just announced a review of the conditions under which foreign-controlled boats can access UK fishing rights. This move could lead to more quota being allocated to sustainable fishermen with closer ties to their coastal communities. But this solves just part of the problem, as fishing quota barons are still keeping their cards close to their chest.

The NFFO doesn’t want anyone to see its membership list, and has refused to reveal it. So we have decided to do part of their job for them, by publishing details about some vessel members. We have uncovered information about 263 of their members, and we are releasing it to you. This is no doubt the most controversial part of the list – because it contains the foreign controlled boats. It’s what the NFFO doesn’t want you to see. View the raw data here.

Revealing this is important because the NFFO is the UK government’s top fishing industry advisory body and has a huge influence on the development of fishing policies in the UK and at an EU level, such as the Common Fisheries Policy. With great influence comes great responsibility. But the NFFO clearly does not abide by this principle because they continue to prefer secrecy about their members over transparency. This begs the question: what are they hiding? And what interests are they protecting?

 So what does this list show?

  1. Two out of the 8 NFFO affiliated producer organisations are 100% dominated by Dutch fishing interests with a further 3 being dominated 76% or more by Dutch, Icelandic or Spanish interests – see our neat infographic for more details.
  2. There are 42 vessels in the NFFOs fleet that are foreign controlled and these happen to count for the majority of their largest and most powerful vessels, such as the Cornelis Vrolijk and the Marbella
  3. These foreign vessels are often massive, with enormous catch capacity. The average gross tonnage of vessels in the 5 POs with foreign controlled members is much higher than the 3 that mainly represent UK controlled vessels. For example, average gross tonnage in the FPO is 1878GT whilst in the Anglo-North Irish PO its 149GT.
  4. The NFFO gets much more money, on average, from its foreign controlled members than its UK controlled members. Dutch boats in the North Atlantic PO for example pay on average £4,000 per year per vessel to have the NFFO represent them, whilst the UK vessels pay on average less than £435 per year.

These foreign controlled vessels are clearly a dominating force within the NFFO and it is shocking that it refuses to be transparent about the interests it represents.

So what now?

Ultimately, we need a fishing industry and representative organisations that believe in transparency, rather than making profits in secrecy. This is the NFFO’s chance to come clean about its dirty secret, and publish the rest of its member vessels, especially as we’ve now done a big part of it for them!

It is up to the UK government and our fisheries minister Richard Benyon to make sure they are clear about who lobbies them, and what interests they are representing. This list should help.

It is transparency we all want, from who our representative bodies represent right through to who holds fishing quota. Before we can move forwards towards a more sustainable fishing industry Pandora’s Box must be opened.

Someone cannot count properly. For a factual break down of NFFO subscriptions,Go to NFFO website and click on news.. Greenpeace accounting is the only thing that is dodgy.

Your Credibility is now -Zero, Just keep digging a deep Hole for yourselves. Fishermen are loving this. The average subscription for under 10mtr vessels in the NFFO is under £50. Do your number crunching on that one.

Pandoras Box is going nowhere again. Bettter luck next time.

Ned Clark, Inshore fishermen . Member NFFO

well Mr Clark

i completely disagree with you and i'm more willing to listen to what greenpeace says (even though it might not be 100% accurate) rather than listen to greedy and bought politicians. at least in this way Greenpeace is highlighting important problems in the industry which should be amended to save the life of the oceans. TRANSPARENCY is the MOST IMPORTANT thing organizations like NFFO should abide to! what are they hiding, anyway? if they really work for the people interests they should show us what they do!

Please see below official response from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations.

Disappointing these false claims about the organisation were published without you verifying the assumptions especially after you turned down our offer of a meeting to discuss your questions in person. This misinformation could have been clarified in five minutes...

Greenpeace Gets its Sums Wrong

We anticipated that having spent a significant amount of money on a media attack on the NFFO which then fell flat, Greenpeace would try to recoup their losses.

This week, true to expectations, a new series of accusations have appeared on the Greenpeace blog, centring again on the assertion that the NFFO is dominated by foreign fishing interests. By cross-referencing MMO statistics with a number of dodgy assumptions, Greenpeace came to the conclusion that the Federation is financially dependent on subscriptions from non-UK interests, leading to the conclusion that NFFO policy is dominated by those same interests.


Greenpeace made an elementary error. They assumed that bigger vessels pay more and therefore assume a dominant position. In fact although a sliding scale, which starts from as little as £20, does exist (to encourage membership of small scale vessels) we also apply a subscription cap of £500 to larger vessels, many of which operate outside EU waters. This means that in terms of subscription a very different picture emerges from that painted by Greenpeace.

Member PO                           % subscription contribution to NFFO

Anglo-North Irish FPO                              11.88%
Cornish FPO                                              26.18%
East of England                                           9.84%
Fleetwood FPO                                            5.22%
The FPO                                                        5.22%
Lowestoft FPO                                              5.61%
North Atlantic FPO                                       1.98%
North Sea Fishermen’s Org                      7.60%

When the additional subscription from NFFO member vessels which are not in POs is added in, it is obvious that the Greenpeace assertion of domination of any group, never mind non-UK interests, is nonsense, no matter how good a scare story it sounds.


But in any event, the way that policy decisions are made within the Federation - through discussion and dialogue within a context of mutual respect – who pays the biggest or smallest subscription is of singular unimportance. Our Executive Committee works hard to develop policy on the basis of consensus and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, whether the fish from an under-10metre vessel, a large trawler, are in a producer organisation or not.

Talking of Money

But now that money has been brought up, the two articles on the Oak Foundation and on the Fishermen’s friend campaign, which appeared on the NFFO website in 2012 may well explain why Greenpeace launched this slightly bizarre attack in the first place.

  Dear Greenpeace,

   I think that without government policies to protect the fishing industry by international agreement, there won't be a fishing industry in 50 years. Also that by protecting  a sustainable fishing industry you are also protecting the other endangered marine animals, by developing a 'reformed' fishing industry that uses new technology from research that protects endangered species, and doesn't over exploit fish stocks and so protects jobs. By protecting the marine environment, with its ecologies and ecosystems, you are protecting life on Earth through the interconnectedness of all life, and in that way hopefully the future of life on Earth is protected. I feel proud to have become a member of Greenpeace, I also hope that you bring whaling to an end by international agreement, as well as the Canadian annual seal cull. Protecting endangered animals is part of our responsibility as human beings, I wish you every success in your work to protect Earth,

Owen Sayers

I also hope that you bring whaling to an end by international
agreement, as well as the Canadian annual seal cull. Protecting
endangered animals is part of our responsibility as human beings, I wish
you every success in your work to protect Earth

<a rel="nofollow" href="">Yepi</a>|<a rel="nofollow" href="">Juegos-yepi</a>

endangered animals is part of our responsibility as human beings, I wish
you every success in your work to protect Earth


I have read the post and links by National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations - 18 March 2013 at 1:34pm. Interesting and I can see that Greenpeace did in fact receive a lot offunding from Oak Foundation which is relevant. 

I agree with both Greenpeace and NFFO on various issues. NFFO state that they pay attention to Fishery Managers and Fishery Scientists and this is where the best and most reliable information could be obtained on many counts. Greenpeace state that NFFO are influenced by their reliance on financial contributions for membership by fishing corporations and that the NFFO need to be more transparent.

It is easy for each to choose specifics and to misrepresent the facts or to propaganda or manipulate that evidence. At the end of the day this is a financial issue and many people, while saying they ' care for the environment ' actually remain buying the cheapest goods - fish included, There is, as NFFO, point out no such thing as an ' Eco Friendfly Fisherman ' because all fishermen by their very trade deplete fish stocks. However, wast edoes need to be taken into account and many massive trawlers do hoover-up fish and then dump much of it to stay under their quotas, or to avoid fines for bringing in small fish that do not meet regulation. In time, hopefully technology will be made legal that over-arches the dilemma.

As for transparency, where are Greepeaces accounts and reports on here? I am looking for transparency on that one and cannot find it! Any ideas?  


Here's our annual report for 2011 -


@Ned Clark

We agree that credibility is very important, which is exactly why we’ve been asking over and over for the NFFO to stop hiding its membership list and breakdown of allocation of foreign held quota. We hope that the organisation will improve their transparency and credibility by coming clean about these. Although you have not stated it here, we know that you are also a director at the NFFO – perhaps you can let everyone here know why it is that the NFFO refuses to do so.

@National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations

What you call ‘dodgy assumptions’ we call ‘peer reviewed investigation into NFFO membership and finances based on information available on the NFFO website or publically available databases like Companies House’.  Or is the information available on your site at that states “The 2012 annual rate is £1.05 per Vessel Capacity Unit + VAT.” not true?  Your members and the public might be interested to know if in fact you do offer a discount to larger vessels which is not made public.

The finance information you’ve posted is simply a different way of looking at the same information, yet avoids our central point. Do you deny that 57% of your membership by gross tonnage is foreign controlled?

The assertion that size doesn’t matter in the decision making process in your organisation is compromised somewhat by the majority of your Executive Committee being made up of  PO representatives, which predominantly represent over 10 metre boats.


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