Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has urged the government to come clean on who actually owns the rights to catch britain’s fish stocks.
Each EU member distributes the rights to fish certain types of fish to their domestic fishing industries. But since the original allocation of UK quota was made, it is believed that quotas – worth millions of pounds to whoever “owns” it – have been resold many times. The government undertook to publish a full list of quota holdres earlier this year but nothing has been published.
Harris told a debate in Westminster Hall in the House of Commons: “It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota. To his credit the Minister has attempted to reallocate, albeit a very small amount, of constantly underutilised quota to the under-tens. It is regrettable that the Producer Organisations have decided to take this decision to judicial review. If the Government’s decision is overturned, would the Minister agree that this would mean that a vital national resource has been redefined as no more than a commodity, effectively privatising the seas and the fish stocks that reside there?
“There is a real and genuine fear that, as in other countries where a rights-based system has been introduced, quota will end up in fewer and fewer hands. Our fisheries are a national resource, not a private one; it is the government’s job to ensure they remain that way.
“With this in mind, can I press the Minister on when the Government will publish an up-to-date list of who currently owns the quota, essentially the right to fish, in the UK? I fully accept that this comes under the headline ‘Stuff Labour should have done when we were in government’, but that does not let the current government off the hook (so to speak).
“The whole country has the right to know how much quota is owned and exploited by working fishermen, and how much, if any, is owned by non-fishing interests.”