A new era for the Falkland Islands Fisheries

Assembled guests at the Malvina House Hotel

25 year term of ITQB launched

Over 100 guests were gathered at a reception at the Malvina House Hotel on Friday 24th February 2023, to celebrate the commencement of what has become known as ITQB, a new era for the Falkland Islands Fishing Industry. Hosted by the Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association,(FIFCA), invited guests enjoyed a finger/tapas style menu prepared by the staff at the Malvina.

It won’t have gone unnoticed that the Harbour and Port William had been busy with fishing vessels in recent days because amongst the guests were Spanish partners who had flown in for the event, the vessel Captains and officers as well as members of FIFCA, HE the Governor, MLAs, FIG officials, NGO’s and other members of the community who had helped with the development of ITQB over the last few years.

FIFCA Executive Secretary James Bates said that it had been a long journey involving a lot of hard work from many people to get to where we are today and not only was this our way of saying thank you to all involved, but it was also a way of demonstrating the strength of the enduring and lasting relationships between FIFCA and our Spanish counterparts.

He added that whilst the new system had come at great financial costs to the companies, the new 25 year term, (until the end of 2047) had provided the necessary confidence to the Association membership that will allow them continue to invest in their extensive vessel replacement programmes, (€35m each) as well as other business investments such as warehousing and infrastructure, which means we will all continue to benefit from the fishing industry which remains as one of the biggest success stories in the Islands’ history.

Chair of the Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association; Cheryl Roberts addressed the audience and after welcoming all to the event, she praised the strength of the enduring Joint Venture relationships between the industry in the Falklands and partners in Spain that began in earnest in 1987.

Cheryl added that the introduction of The Fisheries (Management & Conservation) Ordinance 2005 had enabled ITQ system to be established and that in 2006, it was allocated to those companies already operating in the Falklands fisheries.

She said that although the initial allocation was valid for a period of 25 years, over time, industry became concerned about what would happen after the expiry of that period,(2030). So, talks began earnest between the Falkland Islands Government and FIFCA began to consider options for how ITQ could be continued into the future, rather than, “falling off a cliff in 2030”. Cheryl said that whilst these discussions took longer to achieve than we had all anticipated, a conclusion was reached which saw a new Fisheries accord agreed between FIFCA and FIG, setting out how we would work together over the life of the new ITQ system as well as a number of legislative amendments to facilitate the changes agreed.

Cheryl added that It was worth reflecting on that this journey had and continues to contribute significantly to the economy of our Islands such that fisheries represent 64% of our GDP, a figure that increases from one year to the next. She said that “this has not happened by chance and is down to the hard work and the huge risks taken by many of us in this room. All here tonight can be immensely proud of how our industry has grown and developed”.

She praised the relationships between local companies and Spanish partners and said that we were more secure and much stronger than previously. She also said that the importance and significance of the partnership with Vigo/Marin can never be underestimated. This is not immediately visible to those in our Islands and people can easily be forgiven for not being aware. However, the work is immense, ranging from marketing to repairs and maintenance on vessels, gearing and provisioning to ensure a life at sea for months on end runs like clockwork. All of this comes at huge financial cost.

Commenting on investments made by the sector, she said that during the last decade, the fishing Industry had begun replacing the fleet and that to date, 5 vessels have been replaced at a cost of around €75m. Currently, there are 3 vessels under construction at a cost of around €100m. The increased costs caused by global events are of course impacting this significant investment programme that our industry have embarked on. There remain another 9 vessels in the loligo fleet alone which will require replacement during the life of ITQB, and another 14 finfish vessels. Replacement is not a choice for our Industry, it is a necessity and the commitment by local JV companies cannot and should never be underestimated. If we take the increased costs for construction, ignoring loan interest payments we are already facing, then we can say with some certainty that the replacement for a further 23 vessels will perhaps reach around €1billion which was an eye watering amount of money.

Finishing off her speech, Cheryl said that vessels were just one part of the giant jigsaw of the fishing business and that there were there are many other investments and operations that had to be considered such as harvesting the resource, processing and the marketing, and myriad of other support services, which are all extremely costly. None of this could be achieved without our captains, crews and both teams in the Falklands and in Spain. It is a true collaboration for our JV’s and one that again, we should all be immensely proud of.

Before handing over to MLA Teslyn Barkman, Cheryl thanked and raised a toast to those that provided the services required and were supplied here in the Islands and said that they also played a vital part in ensuring the smooth operation of the fleet. These included anyone that was involved with the provision of medical services, customs, fisheries, agencies, launch crews, veterinary, maritime, seafarers’ mission, stevedoring, shipping, berthing and services, accommodation and transport

MLA Barkman rounded off the speeches by saying that as a child and growing up in the Falklands in the late 80s, that she was aware prosperity in the Islands was made possible through fisheries as it started to take us into the future. But even as a young adult in the community, she had no idea of the scale of world class act we truly have and the efforts and value within it. She said that Cheryl had outlined it perfectly, and that as a layperson, even in the fisheries export economy of the Falklands, you aren’t aware of the efforts and pressures present in the Industry. MLA Barkman said that the disproportionate reliance we have upon this sector is something that is also not fully known by all and that only through her job for the past 6 years, involving developing and scrutinizing fisheries, EU Trade, and ITQB, had she learnt more about the unique command it has upon her country and our people’s future.

MLA Barkman added that the value of our oceans was immense and that as custodians of it, we are all both gifted and burdened. She said that translating this duty to opportunity, inspiring collaboration with industry, sustainability for our future and a reliable income to the people are challenges we don’t take lightly and that it would have been easier, though less beneficial to have rolled over the model we had. So instead, they set a task to FIG to review ITQ and think of new solutions to reach our expectations in a time frame that offered a reward option of early renewal. It was a process that to quote the Director of Natural Resources came with, “a few grenades thrown in along the way”, but was essential for a government, industry and people counting on a smooth transition to the new improved terms. MLA Barkman felt this was undoubtedly the most significant Bill for the future that we passed in our term and thanked the drive of the civil service and the fisheries sector to be able to get it there.

MLA Barkman noted of the FIG/FIFCA accord that it was a revolutionary agreement and that its design gave a framework to measure combined goals that can’t all be easily quantified and a road map for a mutually beneficial and supportive future.

Concluding her speech MLA Barkman added that in the past 6 years we have been thrown many challenges and one worth mentioning where FIFCA, FIG and politicians have waded into together had been the impacts of Brexit. She said that we all knew the value of our fisheries was immense, and as we continue down our ITQB journey to evidence standards for regulation and sustainability we are also raising the profile of our country and its exports. She said that we have a product, a story and a consistency that is of value to the EU and elsewhere. She noted that the partnerships she saw in the Malvina were another valued part of the journey and that we could lean on each other to work for our mutually beneficial future.

MLA Barkman then thanked and raised a toast to FIFCA, our esteemed Joint Venture partners, Falklands Fisheries Department, the Attorney General’s Office and her current and past colleagues for getting us to this momentous occasion in our history and in our future.

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