Trade in UK fishing quotas remains secret, says MP

On his website Shadow Fisheries Minister, Tom Harris MP, reports 5th March 2013: “The government agency responsible for managing Britain’s fishing stocks has publicly contradicted its own minister over the vexed question of who owns the nation’s fishing quota.

Trade in UK fishing“Shadow fisheries minister Tom Harris today blasted confusion at the very heart of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) after a promise of transparency from the fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, was overturned by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

“Benyon has, on a number of occasions, recommitted the government to publishing a comprehensive list of the private owners of the UK’s fishing quota – a commitment which the Labour Party welcomes.

However, on 23rd January 2013 Tom submitted a Freedom of Information request for “‘a comprehensive list of those individuals and organisations currently in possession of UK fishing fixed quota allocation units, and how many units each individual or organisation possesses”. His request was passed on to the MMO, which responded on 22nd February.

“The MMO’s response is deeply worrying,” said Tom. “It is withholding the information I requested on the basis that disclosure would adversely affect the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information. The MMO also placed my request within Regulation 12(3) of the EIRs, which states there is an exception to the disclosure of personal data related to third parties, where disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). “The MMO also concluded that ‘the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs that in disclosing the withheld information’, adding: “…there is a strong and countervailing public interest in withholding this information as to release this information effectively details the ownership of a commercial (or personal) asset and is regarded by the fishing industry as sensitive. FQA units, have been treated, used and are regarded as assets by industry.

“Clearly there are contradictions here between Richard Benyon’s own (welcome) stated position on publication of quota owners and that of the MMO, which makes no reference to his own view or to any prospect of a change of policy in the near future.

“So what is the government’s position? Is it as stated in the MMO’s response? Or should we trust in Richard Benyon’s repeated statements to parliament?

“This is a complete shambles. The very least we might expect would be for Defra and the MMO to be following the same policy. Sadly for the industry and for consumers, this is not the case.”

Read the MMO’s response to Tom Harris’ Freedom of Information request 

Source: Website of Tom Harris MP, 5th March 2013


Marinet observes: Fishing quotas are allocated annually to EU countries based on stock levels. In Britain they are handed out by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to fish producer organisations (FPOs) which are trade associations, often dominated by the owners of the large fishing vessels. It is alleged that a secretive and lucrative quota-trading market has developed, with owners of the vessels selling their quota rights on to other interests. This in turn has led to speculation that these “other interests” include investment funds, football clubs and even celebrities who hold them as part of their personal investment portfolios.

Figures that are published suggest that the value of fish caught in UK seas annually is more than £750 million, and that the leasing on a one tonne quota for cod can have a value of up to £2,500 . It has also been suggested that many of the fish producer organisations are dominated by foreign interests and that they land the fish caught in UK seas in foreign ports, thus denying any economic benefit to the UK.

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