In the strongest acknowledgement so far of the imbalance at the heart of the quota system, Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon told Channel 4 News: 'I do think there is a disparity between the sectors and I do think there is a job that needs to be done’ .
This is the third statement within the space of a few days issued by the minister in support of small-scale fishermen, many of whom are facing increasing hardship because of restricted access to quota. At present over 95 per cent of Britain’s fishing rights are in the hands of Fish Producer Organisations, which overwhelmingly represent larger vessels, while small fishing boats have access to just 4 per cent of the overall quota despite accounting for three quarters of the UK fishing fleet and for over two thirds of jobs at sea in England.
Talking to the Sunday Times earlier this month, Benyon pledged to “do everything I can to help the under-10-metre fleet, who are vital to the future of our fishing industry”  – a commitment confirmed in his statement to the House of Commons on Monday where he also added that the inshore fisheries sector is engaged in “very sustainable management of our fisheries” .
The statements come as producer organisations are fighting a historic court battle to overturn the government’s decision to reallocate some of their unused quota to under-10 fishermen. The High Court ruling on this case is expected within weeks.
Welcoming the minister’s support for small-scale fishermen, Greenpeace oceans campaigner Ariana Densham said:
“The fisheries minister’s bold display of support for small-scale fishermen will certainly be a morale booster to a sector of the fleet that is suffering growing hardship while being marginalised by the industry lobby. Now Benyon’s fine words must be turned into decisive action so that low-impact fishermen are given a fair catch.”
In stark contrast with the display of support from the government, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, who claim to represent under-10 boats, sought to play down the quota issue for small boats in a statement released this week, in which it also warned that a transfer of quota from the industrial fleet to the small-scale fleet would be ‘a serious own goal’.
“After sitting on the fence for quite some time, the NFFO has finally broken cover on the issue of quota to the under-10s, revealing where they really stand on this: on the side of the powerful producer organisations who make up the bulk of their membership,” commented Ariana Densham, adding: “Rather than tackling the inequality at the root of the problem, the NFFO is helping its producer organisation members profit from it by encouraging small-scale fishermen to go to them cap in hand asking for more quota to be leased. I doubt any fishermen worth their salt will listen to this kind of self-serving advice.”
Notes to editors
 Richard Benyon’s statement to the House of Commons on the Common Fisheries Policy on Monday 17 June 2013. http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13242
Contact: Stefano Gelmini, Greenpeace UK press officer, mob 07506 512 442