Fishing quotas: it’s not just the size of the pie
Due to years of delay in which fishing ministers set fishing quota – quantity limits on the amount of fish that can be caught – above scientific advice, dramatic cuts to fishing quotas are now inevitable. The opportunity for early action has been lost, but the power is in the hands of fishing ministers and their national governments to secure good livelihoods for fishers despite the necessary reductions. Indeed, there are lessons here for setting ambitious policy deadlines – and sticking to them – in delivering a just transition.
For decades, ministers have been trapped by the logic that higher limits mean more fishing – although often for one year only. The result is a cycle of scientific advice for quota reductions, fishing limits set too high, continued overfishing, fish populations in poor condition, and the annual cycle repeats with a loss of jobs in each rotation. As fishing ministers change posts over time this short-termist logic may be ‘rational’ for their own political calculus but it is the health of fish and fishing communities that bear the consequences in the long run.