I mentioned in our introduction that current legislation permits unpowered (i.e. propelled by sail and/or oar only) vessels under 10m in length to fish without a licence, and therefore without a quota. However, having both spent the last few months talking to people and researching the regulations, it seems that there is a fair amount of dissent and confusion about the situation. I’m going to try to work out why, and to get a definitive answer and explanation of the situation. If anyone has any more information we would love to hear from you.
As far as I understand it, ordinarily a new fishing boat has to go through the following process before it can legally be used to catch and land fish commercially:
1. Register the vessel
2. Obtain a licence entitlement
3. License the vessel
4. Adhere to the conditions of the licence by fishing under relevant quota
5. Register as a seller of first sale fish
6. Sell fish to registered buyers
Firstly, the MMO clearly states here that Step 1 is unnecessary for unpowered sub 10 metre boats:
“Before obtaining a fishing vessel licence, your vessel must be registered with the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS). This applies unless the vessel:
• is a salmon coble;
• has an overall length of 10 metres and under and is not propelled by an engine (for example the vessel only has oars or a sail);
• has an overall length of 10 metres and under and will only be used to fish for common eels.”
The MMO’s guidance leaflet “Fishing Vessel Licensing – An Introduction” clearly states that Steps 2, 3 and therefore 4 are also unnecessary, as shown in this flowchart: Fishing Vessel Licensing – An introduction flowchart
So far so good. No registration, no licence, no quota. But can you legally sell the fish you catch? According to the 2005 Registration of Fish Buyers and Sellers and Designation of Fish Auction Sites legislation, you need to register as a seller only if you operate as a trader at a designated auction site. We won’t be doing that, so this means Step 5 is no problem.
Finally, Step 6. The MMO explains in its guidance notes that buyers do not need to be registered if the fish is for private consumption and under a daily maximum of 25kg. So, restaurants and pubs would need to be registered buyers to legally buy from us, but this is standard for their industry in any case.
Finding all this was a mission of research and frustration if ever there was one. Many government bodies, countless advisory websites, representative groups and several quangos later, I managed to dredge up the necessary information. I will say this. The government websites are rubbish; hard to navigate, often hard to find in the first place and full of frequently out of date information. It’s like someone’s taken the laws of fishing, shredded them into bits and then distributed those bits to a number of close friends with whom they have since lost touch. Parliament, if I tell six of my mates that I am doing a sponsored silence, ask them to put up posters and spread the word, then spend the next months and years changing the date, making small get-out clauses and rescheduling at the last minute, it is not the same as actually doing it. I am still talking.
Now to get all of the above (possibly not the last paragraph) on a piece of paper, acknowledged and signed by somebody in authority to do so. Should be easy…..