Foreign businesses use nearly half of England’s fishing quota

Last edited 4 November 2014 at 11:12am
4 November, 2014

The scale of foreign dominance in fishing quota is revealed today by a Greenpeace investigation which shows that 43% of England’s fishing quota is held by foreign controlled fishing businesses.[i]

It exposes the high concentration of quota in the hands of a few industrial fishing companies, many of them foreign controlled:

- Five largest foreign controlled vessels hold 32 per cent of the English quota
One Dutch-controlled vessel holds 23 per cent of the English quota
- Five vessels hold 20 per cent of the UK quota
- The small scale fleet make up four fifths of the entire UK fishing fleet [ii] and has just 4 per cent of the UK’s quota [iii]

The analysis shows the government gives just five industrial fishing vessels five times more quota than the small scale fishing fleet, which make up nearly 80 per cent of the UK's fleet.

Greenpeace carried out the investigation into the UK’s quota as part of its new campaign, ‘Our Net Gain’, launched today urging the government to reclaim fishing quota for local, low impact fishermen in the UK, which would benefit coastal economies and marine life.

Local, small-scale fishermen make up four fifths (79 per cent) of the UK’s fishing fleet, but only have access to four per cent of the quota. Many blamed their lack of quota and struggle for survival on the European legislation, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). However, the CFP was reformed last year, and now requires national governments to prioritise giving quota to fishing businesses which contribute most to coastal economies and fish using low impact methods, which better protect marine life.

Greenpeace and low impact fishermen are today calling on the UK government to urgently implement the reformed legislation. This would lead to a re-prioritisation of quota in favour of the smaller scale fishermen who fish off the coastline of the UK.

Kirk Stribling, a small scale fisherman and business owner from Aldeburgh in Suffolk,

“The government is not giving a fair share of quota to local fishermen who look after the sea and our communities. We fish sustainably and seasonally and we benefit our communities by selling our catch to local fish mongers and restaurants; we bring business to local net makers, boat builders and engineering companies and we keep tourism going. But instead of giving us the quota we, and our communities, need to survive, the government is choosing to give huge quantities of quota to industrial fishing businesses. That costs us jobs here but the government can put it right by implementing the Common Fisheries Policy.”

Greenpeace say that by properly implementing the legislation, the government could reclaim some quota from industrial fishing vessels because they do not fish as selectively or contribute as directly to local coastal economies, as the local, low impact fleet.

The campaigners cite the example of the Cornelis Vrolijk, a single vessel that the new analysis reveals holds nearly a quarter (23%) of the English quota and fishes in UK waters. The vessel is owned by a UK subsidiary of a Dutch company[iv] and lands all of the fish it catches in Holland. Although at least half of its 63 crew are said to be British residents[v]; the campaigners argue that given the huge amount of quota it holds, the economic benefits to the UK and marine protection would be greater if more quota were instead allocated to the 5000 strong small scale fleet which fish in the UK inshore waters.[vi]

Sarah North, Head of Oceans campaign at Greenpeace said:

“The government must reclaim our quota from the vice like grip of big business and give more of it to local low impact fishers to rebuild fish stocks and revitalise our crumbling coastal communities. Because of government inaction, the benefits of the UK’s fishing quota are not coming to coastal regions and home grown businesses. Instead profits are going to industrial fishing companies, including foreign controlled businesses, which are killing jobs, the local fishing industry and tourism in coastal regions. By implementing the European law, there would be a net gain to the UK’s economy: jobs would be created; the marine environment would be better protected and the UK’s sustainable fishing sector would have a future.”

Small scale fishing provides 65 per cent of the jobs at sea in England and Wales, and there is significant evidence from the New Economics Foundation that suggests that if fish stocks were restored, the UK would gain Euro 469.8 million in revenue, and increase the number of jobs in fishing by 3000.[vii]


For more information, please call Kate Blagojevic, on 07801 212 959 or the Greenpeace Press Office on 020 7865 8255.

Notes to Editors

[i] Methodology for the Greenpeace investigation

- Greenpeace analysed the quota by using data which is publicly available from the UK’s quota register which lists the registered owner of vessels, and the quota units called Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA)  attached to the vessels. FQA units are the main means by which fishing quota are apportioned and allocated amongst the UK industry and is what is available publicly after a prolonged campaign to increase transparency in the quota system.

- The vessels listed on the register were separated into those owned by companies, individuals or data not available.

- We used the FQA register and Companies House  to analyse the raw data to determine the levels of foreign control and consolidation of quota units by fishing companies. For more information on the methodology, please contact Kate Blagojevic on the numbers above.

[ii] Marine Management Organisation ‘UK Fisheries Statistics 2013’, Published September 2014

[iii]  The 4% figure is quoted in a Westminster debate by Richard Benyon in Feb 2012 -

[iv] According to the accounts available from Companies House, the Cornelis Vrolijk is owned by North Atlantic (holdings) Ltd, of which the Dutch company, Cornelis Vrolijk Holding BV, is owns 100 per cent of the shares.


[vi] Marine management Organisation Annual Statistics 2013.


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