A central feature of the CFP is that overall limits (TACs) on catches of individual stocks are shared out amongst Member States. These are decided annually by the European Council of Ministers each year, based on scientific advice from national and international organisations - particularly ICES, with consideration for targets to increase particular spawning stocks.
Within the overall TAC for each species every member state or third country with a track record or historic rights is allocated a proportion. This is then shared amongst a country's fleet in accordance with national rules. In Scotland, this quota allocation is mainly based on historical fishing patterns.
Quota management enables the UK and other Member States of the EU to meet their obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It enables the fishing industry to make full use of the fishing opportunities received every year from the EU, whilst ensuring that the UK's quotas are not exceeded.
Quotas are shared out in a way which relates to a vessel's previous fishing activity or track record. This allows fish Producers Organisations (POs) to manage their allocations of fish quota according to the needs of their members and to take appropriate action to ensure that quotas are not overfished.
Quotas are allocated between groups according to a methodology agreed annually by the four UK Fisheries Administrations, after consultation with industry. The groups include:
Once allocations are made, POs may adopt whatever method of management best suits their members. Fisheries Administrations monitor uptake and close PO fisheries when their allocation has been taken. Such closures are normally enforced through license variations, prohibiting vessels from catching or landing the stock.
Management arrangements for allocations in these groups are decided upon by Fisheries Administrations in consultation with industry. In practice, vessels fish against catch limits on the basis of monthly or quarterly management periods. These are enforced through license variations.
Further details, explanation and FAQs can be found in the Scottish Government's leaflet Fisheries quota management (pdf)
The management of fisheries is a devolved matter, but UK Fisheries Administrations have agreed to the continuation of joint management arrangements at present.
Following elections in May 2007, the Scottish Government proposed a moratorium on the Quota Management Change Programme (QMCP ). After a period of reflection over the summer, the Scottish Government decided that there are clear structural and policy differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It believes that the current management arrangements need to change, and that Scotland would be best served by separate quota management and licensing arrangements, tailored to meet the particular needs of the Scottish fishing industry and coastal communities.
Details about how a Scottish quota management system would work and how it would interact with arrangements elsewhere in the UK, will be the subject of detailed discussions between Fisheries Administrations and industry stakeholders. The Government hopes to be in a position to issue a formal consultation paper in early 2008.