Aquaculture for all

NFFO Under Pressure to Reveal Quota Held by Foreign Boats

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UK - Pressure is mounting on the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisation (NFFO) to disclose the amount of fishing quota held by its foreign-controlled members after Greenpeace released more evidence of large-scale quota exploitation by Spanish-controlled vessels affiliated to a fishing consortium represented by the federation.

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Research by the environmental group has revealed that a Spanish-controlled 'phantom fishing fleet', affiliated to the Fleetwood Fish Producer Organisation (FFPO) but not seen by local people for over a decade, has been carting off to Spain millions of pounds worth of fish caught using quota allocated to Lancashire fishermen.

Previously unpublished landings figures obtained by Greenpeace show that seven of the 14 Spanish-controlled vessels registered with the FFPO landed £7.5m worth of fish destined for the Spanish market in just one year, between April 2011 and March 2012. According to local industry sources in Scotland, where the fish is landed, catches are immediately trucked off to Spain, having been pre-sold there before even touching the ground.

The details have emerged just days after the fisheries minister announced a clampdown on foreign fishing interests profiting from UK quota amid fears that vessels owned by overseas operators are contributing little or nothing to the British economy. The latest government estimates suggested that foreign-controlled vessels like those in Fleetwood are likely to add no value to the British economy, instead exploiting UK fishing quota to trouser what should be UK profits.

The Fleetwood Spanish fleet includes the O Genita, a vessel owned by the Vidal family, who were convicted for their role in one of the most egregious cases of illegal fishing in British maritime history, which resulted in total penalties of £1.62m being handed down to two companies they own.

Five of the eight producer organisations making up the backbone of the NFFO’s membership, including the FFPO, were found by a Greenpeace investigation to have between 75 and 100 per cent of their fishing capacity controlled by foreign interests. In a report entitled ‘A Wolf in Shrimp's Clothing’ published in February the environmental group revealed that over half of the fishing capacity represented by the NFFO is controlled by overseas operators – a shocking figure that the federation has not refuted, or even directly addressed, since.

"It’s deeply concerning that foreign boats in the crosshairs of a government clampdown on fish quota ‘abuse’ are represented by the industry’s most influential lobby group,” said Ariana Densham, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. “The NFFO has been sticking its head in the sand on the issue of its foreign-dominated fleet, but reality is catching up with their denial.”

Densham added: “Last year the federation came out in favour of a public register of quota holders arguing that it would stop 'hysterical speculation'. Now that the speculation has turned into troubling evidence, it’s time for the NFFO to put its money where its mouth is and be transparent about how much fishing quota is held by its foreign-controlled members.”

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