FIS005: Relative stability quota shares re. - A

NOTE: This project has a 2016/17 follow-on, FIS005 B

Start Date: Jan 2015

End Date: Sep 2015 (Jul 2016 for FIS005 B)

Main Contractor(s): Marine Scotland Science

Other Sponsor(s): European Fisheries Fund

Extended Title: Reconsideration of European Relative Stability Quota Shares and Implications for the Landings Obligation

Main Research Category: Discard Reduction - Quota

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Project Objectives

For several years, the Scottish demersal fishing industry have reported an increasing discrepancy between their perceptions of the abundance of key stocks (particularly cod, hake and saithe) and the overall stock estimates produced by ICES.  The stock estimates generally refer to the entire North Sea, while the Scottish demersal fleet operates principally in only the northern part of the North Sea, and it is hypothesised that changes in the spatial distribution of stocks may have contributed to these discrepancies. More generally, we hypothesise that the relative distributions of fish and effort that were in place when the EU relative stability quota shares were specified (during the 1980s) may no longer be extant, and that the shares may therefore no longer be relevant.  If this is the case, then it may prove impossible to allocate national quotas in such a way as to permit the landings obligation to be successfully implemented .

In this project, we will collate information on stock distribution (from inter alia research-vessel survey data) and national fishing effort distribution (from inter alia the STECF effort database). We will use these data to generate an index of the likelihood of the fishing fleets of each country encountering different stocks by considering the extent of overlap between effort and stock distributions.  We will then repeat this process for each available year (from 1983 onwards) to generate time-series of the resource-allocation share, and compare these with the currently-applied relative stability shares to determine if these remain valid. Finally, we will consider the implications for fisheries managers of our findings, if appropriate, and suggest potential courses of action.  This project will address the following element of the call: “Assessing the effect of changes in the distribution of stocks and their relationship to allocations through relative stability keys to underpin decisions related to fleet capacity and geographic areas of operation.”


Specific Objectives:

  1. Collate fishery effort data and stock distribution data from the relevant public databases.
  2. Develop relative share indices for each year, country and stock, based on the extent of overlap between effort and stock distributions.
  3. Generate reports, presentations and papers based on the outcomes of the analysis, disseminate and organise stakeholder event to seek feedback.
  4. Following stakeholder feedback, revisit and revise data and methodology as appropriate.

NOTE: This project has a follow-on, FIS005 B, for which the objectives are simply an extension of the work undertaken in FIS005 A.


Summary of Project (FIS005 A) Outcomes

The aim of project FIS05 was to determine whether the existing EU relative-stability quota allocations between different countries in the North Sea could be considered to be representative of the likely catches of national fishing fleets. The advent of the EU Landings Obligation in 2016 meant that this was a highly relevant study.

Most North Sea fishing vessels operate in a mixed fishery in which they will be granted quota for a number of different species. Previously, if the proportions of different species caught did not match the species quota proportions allocated to a vessel, the skipper would be legally obliged to discard over-quota fish but could continue to land species for which quota remained. The Landings Obligation removes the discard option, and if the allocated quota mix is not representative of the encountered species mix, vessels may be forced to stop fishing as soon as their smallest quota is exhausted. Quota allocations were specified in 1983, based on species and fishing effort distribution at the time, and have not changed to reflect changes in stock and effort distribution.

This study used data on fishing effort (from EU databases) and fish distribution (from survey data) to generate indices of the likely catch (called the implied catch) of each country fishing in the North Sea, accounting for the possibility of gear catchability differences (although we emphasise that data on gear catchability parameters have not yet been collated, and the results currently assume that all gear catch all species equally well). The national implied catch was then expressed as a proportion of the total international implied catch. Finally, we compared implied catch with the national proportions of catches and landings, along with the fixed relative-stability quota allocation proportion used by the EU since 1983. Our conclusions were:

In the time available, we were unable to locate suitable gear catchability parameters, and the results presented assume that all species are equally vulnerable to all gears. This is clearly a poor approximation, and future work (e.g. FIS005 B) must include the development of representative parameters to allow for more realistic estimates of implied catch.