Small Boats First and the "who, what, where, and how"
of fishing

Fishing is complicated.  We’ve learnt not to generalise.  It’s a bit like a detective story – you need to go into the detail.  Yes, there are general rules, tell-tale guidelines or signposts but in the ends it’s a question of asking the right questions.  Our approach is like detective work: we go into the nitty gritty, we ask who, what, where and how.   We have an internal fishery approval traffic light systems which acts as our decision making tree with over 40 questions broken into environment, social, political and quality criteria.   We do give a number score but this is not significant as the traffic light system which will flag up red lines as well as potential dangers to watch out.  Our rule is no red lights and no more than 4 orange lights.   Our criteria are supposed to be as objective or as neutrally as possible.   

To ensure our choices are as good possible we are extremely strict on fishing methods, only allowing highly targeted and selective fishing gear.  That means we are automatically pre-selecting for very low by-catch with low discard rates, no negative impact on endangered species and the sea bottom and a negligible impact on the wider eco-system.   We also specify that boats must be owned by companies or individuals that are local to the fishing ground that is been exploited to ensure our fishing is socially responsible and approved by the political systems in place of the coastal communities that are adjacent to the fishing.

It’s not always the case that small boats are better than big boats.  And NOT all industrial boats are fishing unsustainably. 
Larger boats can provide better accommodation for their crews and are more sea- worthy in rough seas or for more distant fishing.   There are also a number of cases where larger boats are not fishing in conflict with smaller local boats.  In each case we need to look at the detail: who, what, where and how.

Azores Fishers with hand net

What our system does is de-emphasises the health of the total fish stock.  By ensuring our fishing is socially responsible, well controlled legally and using targeted methods, we can’t be upended either by the fact that other boats have or are overfishing a specific stock or that certain indicators are pointing to a state of overfishing.  Through our traceability system and elsewhere we are completely honest on the state of the stock and why we’ve made a particular decision.