Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Apologies and some news items

Firstly, a huge apology to all our readers for the unheralded and far too long break in this blog. There were good reasons for it, to do with health, both human and computer. However, the FAL blog is once again operations and we start with a few news items to whet everybody's appetite.

The Western Morning News reports that there will be CCTV cameras fitted to fishing boats to ensure that no discards are perpetrated. We should welcome the ban but it ought to be pointed out that the whole problem of discards was a symptom not the cause - the cause remains the Common Fisheries Policy, which remains a centralized structure where decisions are taken for political reasons at the heart of the EU. Maybe George Eustice does not realize this. FAL is ready to provide him with the necessary information.

This could be of interest to fishing organizations and individual fishermen who have something to contribute to the discussion. On March 31, a package of consultations was launched concerning the implementation of reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Here, incidentally, is the consultation letter that may well have gone out to some of this blog's readers but can be asked for if not. And here is the Consultation Document that requires responses from fishermen and their representatives.

Finally, some news that might not be directly relevant to many readers but is of interest because of what it implies in political terms. Undercurrent News reports that

The European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands have agreed to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) of Northeast Atlantic blue whiting by 86% for 2014.

It will not escape our readers' attention that Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands do their own negotiating, which the UK does not and neither will an "independent" Scotland within the EU, should such an entity come about.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

John Ashworth decides to retire

Another quote from the latest FAL Newsletter is a typically well-argued comment from John Ashworth, who used to run Save Britain's Fish, made in October 2013:

“It never ceases to amaze me how cunning the EU system is in hiding their real intentions. Ever since 1982 when the first derogation from the CFP expired, the system has always portrayed the temporary management arrangement as the CFP, and the present “Regional CFP” is no exception.

By using this clever wordage, the Fisheries acquis communautaire of equal access to a common resource without discrimination, which is the real CFP, is concealed as the EU Fisheries Directorate grappled over many years, complicated by a steady continual increase of nations joining the EU, to bring about the acquis through various management means by stealth.

The fishing issue has always been an excellent example of EU manipulation. As we approach the European, followed by the General election, and in turn pressure for an in/out EU referendum, watch the number of times the word “Reform” is used. The question is what is being reformed, and how, because as in Fisheries, reforming the temporary management arrangement of 1983, which most people are being led to believe is the CFP, is no solution, because whatever is devised, and what you think you have reformed, the direction is still to accomplish the acquis.

The decimation of the British Fishing Industry has, and is, taking place solely because of the acquis communautaire. After all these years it is still not fully understood, which is why the EU system gets away with the continual advancement to full political union, and those following a "reformist agenda", without tackling the question of the acquis are furthering that advancement.

Readers of this blog will know that we agree wholeheartedly with John's assessment though we need to add something: the EU may be cunning in the way it presents certain aspects of its structure but, on the whole, it does not hide the truth about competences going to it and about the acquis. The EU happens to approve all that. The problem is with our own politicians, analysts, journalists and media personalities as well as some organizations that speak for the fishing industry: they determinedly do not want to know the truth.

The news is that John Ashworth has decided to retire from after 51 years. The following appeared in last week's Fishing News:

After 51 years in the Industry, John Ashworth, the Bison Trawl door designer has decided to call it a day and hand the business over to two members of staff, Andrew Appleby and Yusuf Mohamed.

Said John, who has been treated for Parkinsons over the last 7 years, “the Bison door is a very good product, but during the past year I have let to many customers down mainly through my terrible memory and side effects of the medication, so it is time to step down and let the Bison door progress, but still be on hand to help with any problems Skippers might have. The change over will take place at the end of March“.

It was January 1963 that John started in the industry by placing hides on board the Grimsby and Hull vessels to protect the cod ends. These weighed 10 stone each (64kg.) and if the vessel was stem on, had to be carried up a ladder. At that time one was assured of a job for life within the deep sea Industry and yet within 10 years that industry was in terminal decline.

Within those 10 years in addition to hides, John produced rubber discs and developed the laminated bobbin from old conveyor belting. He had a small factory in Stonehaven producing plastic bobbins and spacers, using scrap plastic heated by industrial microwave ovens and moulded in a manner built and designed by John.

It was while in Scotland that the influence of the Marine Laboratory Aberdeen made a huge impact, in conservation and research, of which John for some time wrote a regular column in Fishing News. It was the underwater filming by the Marine Lab that was crucial in the development in the early 80’s of the Bison door.

It was while selling hides in France that John met Mr. Morgere and took on the agency for Polyvalent Trawl doors, which had a degree of success in the declining deep sea industry, but turning to the inshore sector, problems arose, and in due course the agency was given up.

The first Skipper to take John to sea with Polyvalent doors was Colin Newby of the Kariandra from Bridlington, but it was Bill Messruther from Scarborough that persuaded John to design and manufacture his own Trawl doors and helped in all the testing. From there on it became international with help from Greencastle - Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the USA and later Norway.

For over 20 years John was on board fishing vessels in many parts of the world (with some hair raising stories to tell) either learning fishermen’s requirements or teaching how to use the Bison door. It is this expertise he will carry on providing after March.

Three years ago John’s son Angus, who ran the Bison door production, started an auctioneering business, with the intention of operating both, but the auction side became full time, hence the reason now to hand over to Andrew, who has been with the Company 20 years, and Yusuf to whom John is guardian.

John is extremely proud of the Bison door, which he states is a different concept to any other design, and in many ways ahead of its time. It will do everything it was designed for, and that there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the Bison door change the fortune of a vessel around. The downside for John is having witnessed the unnecessary demise of the Industry he has worked in for half a century, for what had the enormous potential to being one of Britain’s and Ireland’s greatest Industries.

Existing contact numbers will remain in use of March.

From the point of view of this blog, of course, John's political activity is even more important.

Up to 2002 John was heavily involved with politics and the Save Britain’s Fish campaign, as he knew from studying the Accession Treaties of joining the then EEC, the conservation damage that would be caused by the CFP and in due course the destruction of the British fishing Industry. He was admirably partnered in this project from the fisherman’s side by Tom Hay from Peterhead, another Bison Trawl door customer, and many others, but sadly never the whole industry, and today the Industry and Nation pays the price for that lack of support.

One day he believes Britain and Ireland will leave the CFP and restore the Exclusive Fishing Zones back to their rightful ownership, maybe not so far away as most think, then the restoration can begin.

The author of this posting (and many others) is all too well aware of John's work, having spent many hours in the past on the phone to him or sitting across a table discussing these matters. Sometimes those discussions were conducted via fax machines (remember those) or answerphones. But there was not a single question on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy and its effect on fishing in the UK that one could not ask John with a reasonable certainty that there would be a useful answer. On the other hand, the said author is also proud of having been instrumental in providing John with some of the material that he needed to put together the real picture. In fact, though we on this blog and in FAL wish John a long and peaceful retirement we do hope that he will use some of it to put together all the many different papers about the CFP and .... well, who knows, a publication?

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Balance of Competences Review

The government (that's the one in the UK not the real one in Brussels) has been conducting a balance of competences review on various subjects, as this blog mentioned some time ago. FAL has submitted its statement on the subject of fisheries and there is a summary in the latest Newsletter:

There is being undertaken by the UK coalition Government a Balance of Competences review between the powers of the UK and the EU and how this affects the UK national interest. Part of this review calls for evidence on fisheries policy and is part of a wider cross Whitehall initiative considering 32 policy areas “designed to provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider EU debate about how to modernise, reform and improve the EU.”

However some might consider it to be window dressing to appease the Conservative Eurosceptic MPs. Be that as it may let’s consider the following:

David Cameron has talked about a new settlement, a new relationship with Europe or more correctly with the EU.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is stuff and nonsense.

The reason is the existence in EU law of the “acquis communautaire” - the entire body of EU laws, including all the Treaties, Regulations and Directives passed by the Institutions, as well as judgements laid down by the Court of Justice.

The “acquis” for fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states' fleets (access to resources being based on the principle of relative stability for regulated species and unrestricted for non-regulated species).

1. In 1981 the European Court of Justice ruled that the EEC had exclusive competence to adopt fisheries conservation measures in Member States waters

2. EU exclusive prescriptive competence implies that Member States are precluded from any law-making.

3. Member States may not act validly unless treaties or secondary provisions say so.

FAL has just submitted its response to the above Review. It highlights a number of facts and opinions that demonstrate that exclusive competence is the chokepoint for a successful UK fishing industry; that it has resulted in the destruction of businesses and communities and that unless such competence is returned to the UK, further reduction of the British fleet and the communities it supports is inevitable.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of this submission by email please contact me at

It is worth remembering that any organization or, even individuals with specialist knowledge can submit a response to the Review.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Well, somebody mentioned fishing

It was the UKIP peer, Lord Willoughby de Broke who referred to fishing as one of the competences this country has lost to the EU over the years, during the Second Reading of the EU Referendum Bill in the House of Lords on January 10.

Many of the powers were given away, as I will tell noble Lords in a minute, without the British people ever being asked whether that was what they wanted. Treaty after treaty—Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon—drained ever more power away from the British Parliament at Westminster and from the people of this country and channelled it to the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Very little that matters is now left to the Westminster Parliament, which has nothing at all to say about the economy, immigration, energy, trade, agriculture, fisheries and social policy.

That happens to be the truth. All else is moonshine. That is the position from which we must move forward.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Up to a point, Mr Collins

There is an interesting article in The Scotsman by Simon Collins, the Executive Officer of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, entitled Scots fishermen face tidal wave of red tape. We cannot really argue with the essence of that title only with the implication that somehow they did not face that tidal wave before. But then Mr Collins, while capable of seeing some of the effects, seems unable to understand the main cause of the problem, being rather a supporter of the European Union and of the Common  Fisheries Policy or so it would appear from this article.

Mr Collins starts by giving a lyrical description of the Shetlands and its fishing industry but soon switches to the problems, which are well known: too much regulation, no attention paid to what fishermen want or know, decisions taken centrally regardless of what happens in reality. Yes, yes, yes. We have been saying the same thing and blaming on the Common Fisheries Policy, which is dedicated to all those ideas.

Not so Mr Collins. He thinks the EU is a splendid institution, really, but the Commission is a bit of a problem.

The Commission is an unelected body of career bureaucrats dedicated to the implementation of European law and the enforcement of what it regards as EU policy. It has long outgrown its original role as an administrative arm at the service of elected European leaders, and is now firmly convinced of its right to frame policy as well as implement it. In many areas of life, this might not matter too much. Brussels’ tentacles do not extend absolutely everywhere. Unfortunately for the fishing industry, and especially so for island communities like Shetland that depend so heavily on it, fisheries conservation is one of the few areas of “exclusive competence” reserved to the European Union.

Well, up to a point, Mr Collins. The Commission is certainly "an unelected body of career bureaucrats" but it was never envisaged as "an administrative arm at the service of elected European leaders", whoever they might be. As it happens, the EU has no elected leaders.

The Commission is seen as the guardian of the treaties, which are in their consolidated form, effectively the constitution of the European Union and of its member states. That includes the United Kingdom and will include, should things turn out that way, an "independent" Scotland within the EU (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one).

Furthermore, the Commission is, according to the rules laid down by successive treaties, the sole originator of legislation in the EU. Proposals mostly go to the Council and the European Parliament but if there is disagreement between those two bodies, the Commission, also according to the rules laid down by the treaties acts as the co-ordinator of the legislation.

In other words, it has always been far more than just an administrator that carries out politicians' instructions (incidentally, Commissioners tend to be politicians) and that is because the creators and supporters of the EU or those of the latter who understand the structure do not believe in governance by politics: they consider that it should be done by management as politicians tend to be short-sighted, governed by party loyalties, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Thus, the idea, expressed by Mr Collins that if politicians in the EU just get a grip on the Commission, clip its wings and contain its powers all will be well comes from that well known volume: Tales of Porcine Aviation. It is the Council, who are, indeed elected politicians (at least nominally) who make the decisions on fisheries, which, as Mr Collins rightly points out, is and has been since 1970 wholly EEC/EC/EU competence.

What good does it do us that they are elected? They are not elected by us. There are 28 members in each Council of Ministers and they are not going to pay too much attention to the Shetland Islands, Scotland or the UK if they can do a deal for their own benefit. As this blog has mentioned before, the UK does not take part in discussions about fishing in the North Atlantic and neither will an "independent" Scotland within the EU. Iceland, Norway and Russia do plus Greenland through Denmark. The EU will negotiate on our behalf as it sees fit and much of that negotiation, as we have pointed out over and over again, will not be based on knowledge and information supplied by fishermen or their organizations and not even on scientific evidence but on political calculation. That is how it will be as long as we remain in the Common Fisheries Policy.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Response from DEFRA

DEFRA has responded to the points made by FAL as enumerated in this posting. They seem to agree with us.

Dear Mr McColl,

Independent Scotland & Fisheries

Thank you for your email of 29 November providing your views on the fisheries content within the white paper ‘Scotland’s future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’. I have been asked to reply.

The Government agrees that the analysis in the guide underestimates the challenges for an independent Scotland negotiating in the EU as a small member state. It is the UK Government’s view that Scotland’s interests are best represented by being an integral part of the UK.

I would also encourage you to respond to the Fisheries Balance of Competence Review Call for Evidence that is open until the 13 January. The review is looking to gather evidence from stakeholders such as you, with experience and understanding of what EU membership means for UK fisheries. The review will provide an informed and objective analysis of the impact of the EU’s power to act and aims to deepen public and parliamentary understanding of the nature of our EU membership. We are keen to hear your views and ensure the report reflects the range of views held by stakeholders on these important issues. Further details on the review can be found at:

FAL will be submitting evidence. May we encourage other organizations and individuals to do so as well.

Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Fisheries in an "independent" Scotland

As the SNP's intention is to have an "independent Scotland within the EU", we cannot do anything but put that word in quotation marks. Whether you want to be in the EU or not (and we do not), that is not independence, merely membership.

On Wednesday the White Paper, Scotland's Future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland (not forgetting our proviso) was launched. Also to be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Chapter 8 deals with Environment, Rural Scotland, Energy and Resources, the first two of which entirely and the last very largely are EU competences, so the role of the "independent" Scottish government and parliament will be to implement those directives, regulations and decisions.

Fisheries comes under that heading, too. (See p. 282 in the pdf document or you can download it as an e-book but you will still have to find p. 282.)

In 2012, Scotland accounted for 87 per cent of the total value of UK landings of key stocks, representing 37 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of these stocks available to the EU. However, Scotland receives just 41 per cent of the European Fisheries Fund allocation to the UK, despite having a far higher share of both the UK sea fishery and aquaculture sectors. As a result of being a low priority for the UK in EU negotiations, Scotland receives just 1.1 per cent of European fisheries funding despite landing 7 per cent of the European Union’s wildcaught fish310 and accounting for more than 12 per cent of EU aquaculture production. Scotland is the world’s third largest salmon producer with 83 per cent of UK aquaculture production by volume.

Our fishermen need a voice at the top table in Europe. Despite two thirds of the UK industry being based in Scotland, Scottish Ministers have not been allowed to speak on behalf of the UK in Europe, even on occasions where the interest is almost exclusively Scottish. This means that Scotland’s representatives – who are closest to the needs of the Scottish fishing sector – are not able to ensure that their voice is properly heard.

Which is all very well but a couple of things seem to have been neglected: Scotland's voice is not going to be particularly strong as it will be a small member of the European Union with very few votes in the Council; and, secondly, many of those problems go beyond the EU and Scotland as a member state will not be taking part in negotiations with Norway or Iceland as the EU will be doing it on the country's behalf.

There is a great deal more of the same but those two problems are not even mentioned, let alone responded to. Just how will an "independent" Scotland ensure that it gets anything at all out of the negotiations within the EU where decisions are taken by 28 countries and how will it ensure that its interests are adequately represented in international negotiations? After all, it is not going to be like Norway.

Here is the list of priorities for action:

Our priorities for action

If in power after the 2016 election we will:

■■ prioritise the needs of the Scottish fishing industry and aquaculture in European negotiations

■■ protect Scotland’s fishing quotas, preventing fishing quota being permanently transferred outside Scotland and safeguarding Scotland’s fishing rights for future generations

■■ use Scotland’s fishing levies to promote Scottish seafood. In an independent Scotland the industry’s levies will remain in Scotland to support the Scottish industry’s objectives and priorities for our catching, onshore and wider seafood sectors,

We are sorry to have to point out that whoever wrote those words does not even begin to understand how the Common Fisheries Policy functions, let alone what its purpose is.