Original publication: March 2015
Authors: Blomeyer & Sanz S.L.: Roland BLOMEYER, Fernando NIETO, Antonio SANZ, Kim STOBBERUP
Centre of Marine Sciences, University of Algarve: Karim ERZINI
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2HJfbvj

The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) requires Member States to use transparent and objective criteria including environmental, social and economic criteria when allocating fishing opportunities available to them. Against this background, the European Parliament (EP) has commissioned this study on ‘Criteria for allocating access to fishing in the EU’, which was awarded to Blomeyer & Sanz and prepared in the period October 2014 to January 2015.


This study explores different options for allocating fishing opportunities among the operators of a single European Union (EU) Member State (MS) in order to fulfil the CFP’s objectives. It provides an overview of how different countries in the EU and worldwide have tackled this question, namely, how they allocate fishing opportunities and, in the case of Member States, to what extent those systems respond to the new challenges of the CFP. Another objective was to propose a system, i.e. a set of criteria, indicators, and measurement techniques, to support MS in the allocation process.

A web-based survey was carried out directed at competent Fisheries Management Authorities in EU MS, certain non-EU countries, and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). This was complemented with stakeholder consultations and deskbased research.

Following the definition of the system, i.e. criteria and indicators, two case studies were carried out in order to assess and validate the proposed system. The case studies focused on the allocation of fishing opportunities in the Spanish Bluefin tuna fishery and the Danish coastal fisheries. Various stakeholders were interviewed concerning the specifics for each case study and assessment/validation of the proposed system; i.e. the relevance of the proposed criteria and indicators; the feasibility of measuring and obtaining the data for each criterion; possible indicator target values; alternative criteria and/or indicators; etc.

A general finding is that the most common feature of allocation systems in the EU and worldwide is the historic record of catches, when this involves the distribution of catch shares amongst eligible participants in the fishery. This normally forms the basis for allocation and it may be weighted in different ways. Of crucial importance is the reference period; i.e. its length -or duration- and whether it is a fixed or rolling reference period.

Member States indicated a varied set of systems in place for the allocation or access to fishing opportunities, not necessarily involving catch share systems. Most affirmed that social, economic and environmental criteria are taken into account, which is in conformity with the CFP objectives. However, the allocation of fishing opportunities in pelagic and industrial fisheries appears to be driven by economic criteria primarily. Environmental criteria appear to be prioritised in demersal fisheries.

An important part of the development of the system involved an in-depth review of the CFP; its objectives, proposed criteria and guidelines, identifying operational management objectives -i.e. focused, manageable, and consensual- in order to define appropriate criteria. This was complemented with stakeholder consultation and extensive desk-based research.
The proposed criteria and indicators are:

Social allocation criteria: support fishing communities
Indicator 1: Fisheries dependency – employment measured in relative terms
Indicator 2: Revenue contribution to local economy – at the NUTS 3 level

Social allocation criteria: social corporative responsibility
Indicator 1: History of fisheries compliance – using CFP Point System for the last five years
Indicator 2: History of compliance – combines fisheries compliance with other behaviour (e.g. tax duties; alignment to ILO standards on crew security and enrolment, etc.) (last five years)

Economic allocation criteria: catch dependency
Indicator 1: Catch records – catches of the targeted stock during the last three years
Indicator 2: Footprint – trips where catches of the targeted stock took place (last three years)

Economic allocation criteria: improve economic performance
Indicator 1: Gross Value Added (GVA) – net output of an individual/metier/sector after deducting intermediate inputs from all outputs
Indicator 2: Fuel efficiency – litres of fuel per kg of live fish and shellfish landed

Environmental allocation criteria: implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management
Indicator 1: Large Fish – the proportion of the catch larger than length at maturity (Lm50)
Indicator 2: Protected Species Index (PSI) – volumes of by-catch of protected, endangered or vulnerable species
Indicator 3: Marine Seabed Impact – extension of the bottom surface where relevant fishing activity occurred with respect to key habitats location

The case studies indicated general agreement with the proposed social and environmental criteria and indicators. It is however important to state that the application of proposed social criteria in a system of transferable fishing rights is not considered sufficient, if the management objective is to protect coastal and/or small-scale fisheries. This is because transferable rights are designed in such a way that market forces are the primary drivers, leading to improved economic performance, however, the weaker players tend to struggle in such a system. Other complementary measures are necessary such as those proposed in the Danish case study, which are not directly linked to allocation.

Another perceived shortcoming concerns the available data and whether these are sufficiently detailed and reliable, particularly in relation to the socio-economic impacts of specific fisheries. For example, it may not be feasible to measure at the level of a particular fishery and even less so at the metier level -i.e. confounding effects of various fisheries.

In relation to using economic performance as a criterion, there appears to be less agreement. Some consider this of prime importance,  bringing about environmental and societal benefits by reducing fishing capacity and its negative effects as well as maximising resource rent. Others consider this criterion inappropriate in the context of protecting and promoting coastal and small-scale fisheries. This illustrates the problem of conflicting management objectives.

Irrespective of the indicator chosen to measure economic performance – GVA, return on investments (ROI), and/or catch value, the latter is generally considered the best candidate indicator to inform allocation process, when considering economic criteria.

A relevant finding from both case studies is that these provide support to the proposal of introducing differentiated management regimes, one for large-scale fleets and another for small-scale fleets. The rationale behind this is that that large-scale industrial fisheries could be managed according to the objectives of capacity adjustment and economic efficiency, taking into account environmental sustainability. On the other hand, the management of small-scale fleets in coastal communities should rather focus on socio-economic objectives. This implies that a specific allocation system has to be modified according to the context.

Another important finding is that it is almost impossible to backtrack once a system of transferable fishing rights has been introduced, even if these are not permanent rights. It is thus of crucial importance to design rights-based management on the basis of a careful analysis of management objectives, as these are often conflicting, and extensive all-inclusive stakeholder consultation.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/540-357

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