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Under the CFP fish stocks are classified as quota or non-quota species. EU quotas cover over 50 commercial species with 200 different stocks distributed across the various fishing areas with Members States 200nm Exclusive Economic Areas (EEZ). According to Defra the UK received quota for 140 stocks in 2018. Members States have equal access to fishing grounds, beyond 12 nautical miles (nm), with some allowed access within the 6-12 nm based on historical fishing rights.

Non-quota species are regulated nationally, do not have limits set at EU level, and include most commercial shellfish species. Nephrops fishery is the main shellfish exception that is covered by EU quotas.

The aim of the CFP, as set out by the EU Commission, is to ensure that fishing is “environmentally, economically and socially sustainable” and to allow fair competition between fishers. This includes that by 2015, or 2020 at the latest, catch limits should be set within maximum sustainable yields for quota species so as to maintain fish stocks in the long term. Under the CFP Member States negotiate Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for each fishing area every tear. These are divided between Member States according to their historical fishing activity in that area (the relative stability principle). The CFP also manages fishing activity through technical measures, such as minimum landing sizes; provides funding to support fishing communities through the European Economic Fisheries Fund; and sets market rules for all fisheries products sold within the EU.

Annual quotas for each fishing vessel is allocated at national level. Fisheries management is devolved as is quota allocation, since a 2012 concordat agreed by devolved administrations and the UK Government. Inshore fisheries are managed separately from quota fisheries. Management is also devolved. In England they are managed by the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs). In the rest of the devolved administrations they are managed by the nation fisheries authority.

In the UK vessels which hold a fishing licence with an attached Fishing Quota Allocation (FQA) receive a fixed percentage of the available quota every year. These FQAs are treatable between licence holders. Vessels are classified according to type and size and their quota managed accordingly either by a Producer Organisation or by the devolved fishing authority. The majority of UK quota is held by over 10m vessels, but the majority of UK vessels are 10m and under.

Commons Library Briefing Papers on The Fisheries Bill 2017-19 ; Fisheries: Brexit Negotiations and UK Sea Fisheries Statistics provide further detail, particularly in the context of the UK leaving the Commons Fisheries Policy and becoming an independent coastal state after Brexit. Further information is also available in the PostNote on UK Fisheries Management.

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