LETTER: Fishing for a licence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (19 March) rightly identifies the scale of the fishing capacity of modern fleets as a key factor in the problem of overfishing.

However, you say that the size of national fleets is not restricted. Since the beginning of 1995 all member states have been required to operate a licensing system for fishing vessels. In the case of the UK, restrictive licensing was introduced in 1983..

There is indeed an active market in fishing licences (which has allowed nationals of other member states to buy into the UK fleet). It is arguable that the problem lies with the lack of an associated market in quota rights, which could enable fishing firms to adjust their effort to the catches available. The alternative is that governments must attempt to control fleet capacity by means of licensing and decommissioning schemes, which requires them continually to "second guess" improvements in efficiency (for example through technological progress).

Aaron Hatcher

University of Portsmouth