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Brussels allows UK higher fish quota….How very nice of them!!

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Should the UK say thank you to the European Union for increasing it fishing quota or is it a case of “thanks for nothing”?

Maybe we in the UK have a very short memory when it comes to remembering the strength of our fishing industry before getting involved in the European Union.

One of the hardest hit was Scotland who were once the backbone of the fishing industry and other ports in England such as Grimsby and Hull thrived on what was then a very lucrative industry.

Fishing had been the mainstay of the UK dating back many centuries and believe it or not managed to balance the harvesting of the seas whilst maintaining healthy fish stocks in balance with the rate of exploitation.

In 1970 this was to change rather dramatically when we allowed our sovereign waters to be controlled from Brussels and our fishing industry was decimated once and for all.

For Scotland this move resulted in an economic, environmental, ecological, social and cultural disaster.  The direct results for Scotland have included almost 100,000 job losses and an annual loss of wealth creation of the order of ₤1,500 million. 

The European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), dating from 1970, basically consists of an agreement between the then six members of the European Economic Community (EEC) that fishing vessels belonging to member states would have free and equal access to the waters of all other members (Directive 2141/70, later replaced by 101/76). The clear purpose was to gain unrestricted access to the rich (being strictly conserved) fish stocks of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway, which together with Denmark had just applied to join the EEC.

It had nothing to do with fish management or conservation but rather the opposite when it opened up a floodgate of foreign trawler who began the exploitation of our once lucrative and well managed waters. It basically gave our fish stocks to other powerful commercial interests in other member states and thus started the decline in the well conserved Norwegian, UK and especially Scottish waters. It was only then a matter of time when the EU global ambitions expanded and took control of the surrounding seas which then became the last nail in the coffin.

In 1973, apart from open access, there was no EU fisheries “policy” as such.  However, after it became obvious that free access to the fishing grounds for all was going to have disastrous ecological and economic effects, an enormous complex of rules and quotas was drawn up in a futile attempt to correct the damage – but without addressing the root cause of the damage. The Common Fishing Policy that was then implemented only made matters worse.

We were later to find the EU, yet again, wishing to expand its authority when it abolished the three mile limit and allowed European fleets into our national Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and depleted inshore fish stock.

The owners of larger Scots pair trawlers and pursers felt they should harvest the coastal stocks before Continental vessels caught them. The British government completely failed to institute local fishery management schemes as it had in effect conceded fishery management authority to Europe.  What became evident next was that all the smaller fishing entities around the coast lost their access to what was once well stocked inshore waters and collapsed along with the rest of the UK fishing industry.

I guess what we are seeing now is a British Government that appears to be praising itself for its latest round of achievement in Brussels and yet it was a Conservative Government under the control of Edward Heath who took us into the EEC. We must also give some credit years later to the work of the “Iron Lady” herself, Maggie Thatcher, who arrived on the scene with her ex US Neoliberalism Policy to destroy what was left of what were once very proud stand alone industries that had placed Britain in the forefront of technology.

Let´s now look as to what our illustrious politicians have achieved during their diplomatic wrangling over in the EU……….the headlines said it all:   

“UK fishing fleets get higher fish quotas but less time at sea.”

The British government says it achieved victory for the UK fishing industry in the annual Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) negotiations……you will note that was the formation of the original CFP that killed off our fishing industry back in the 1970´s.

Fortunately we had our usual partners in crime France and Germany on our side who helped twist the arm of the EU regulators but maybe there was some hidden trade off that is yet to surface!!

Maybe you have not been following this “very fishy deal” but at one stage it was intended to cut the cod fisherman’s time at sea to just four day a fortnight.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) – which represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – claims there are 12,000 fishermen employed on around 7,000 boats in the UK. It´s CEO stated that “The casual observer would never guess that the stocks advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas for this year paints the most positive picture for more than a decade.”

It became clear that the existing CFP was overstepping its authority with harsh and outdated policies and once again the Scottish Fishing Industry was the hardest hit, especially in cod fishing.

Scotland has always had great respect for a balanced fish stock and had in place a programme based on article 13 of the Cod Recovery Plan that allows boats to fish if they are practising “cod avoidance measures”, such as eliminator trawls, which allow effective fishing for haddock and whiting while eliminating cod from the catch.

It is clear that boats will be confined to ports for longer making it harder to cash in on rises in fish quotas and Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead said big challenges remain. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, criticised the cuts in days at sea, which is estimated to be between 15% and 25%. “This is a bitter blow for our fishing fleet, which is now going to struggle to maintain economic viability under the impact of these totally unwarranted cuts.”

The UK government’s fisheries minister Richard Benyon said allowable catches for a number of species would go up next year. Fishermen in the north-east of England, for example, will be able to double their quota of herring. The amount of haddock that can be caught off the west coast of Scotland will treble.

Mr Benyon said: “After two days of tense and frustrating negotiations, I am delighted to have secured the best deal possible for the UK fishing industry and ensure the future sustainability of our fish stocks.

I guess we come back to the question and ask ourselves what benefit have we gained from joining the original EEC and the current EU?

We have proven that before the existence of the EU we had a very lucrative and well managed fishing industry with an equally well balanced fishing stock. Had we retained our own sovereignty of the high seas and a strict Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) we would be in a far better position than this current dictorial EU CFP.

Had we stayed out of the EU we would still have some very famous companies still thriving in their Research and Development (R&D) and High Tech Industries with a string of orders……..what we now see is that tenders now go into the EU and are undercut or through some under the table wheeling and dealings find these once very proud companies going under………if one take the City of Derby as an example one can see that a city that once thrived at the heart of the industrial revolution is now almost dead in the water and only Rolls Royce Aero engine Division and the Marine Nuclear Division remain.


Peter Eyre – Middle East Consultant – 17/12/2011





Written by Peter Eyre

December 18, 2011 at 02:23

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