Monday, 24 August 2015

This should have been done long ago

One immediate outcome of the so-called CFP reforms has been an increase in the discards, something that most fishermen and consumers would like to reduce to an absolute minimum. Of course, it is very difficult to do this if decisions are taken centrally for political reasons.

From the beginning of the year, boats had to start landing unwanted fish which were caught in their nets.

Incidents of throwing dead fish back into the sea had increased due to strict EU quotas on which fish could be landed in a bid to conserve stocks.

Not quite what the supporters of the CFP have been boasting about.

For quite a long time now (by that we mean some years of not decades) fishermen have been talking about the need to change fishing net designs to ensure that the fish caught was not the kind that had to be discarded. Had the UK been in charge of her own fishing industry with genuine devolution of decisions to regions, such changes could have been carried out a long time ago. As it is we had to wait for the EU and the 28 members of the common fisheries policy (some of whom carry out no sea fishing at all) to decide on this matter.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) has now received funding for trials of design modifications.

The money is from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Marine Scotland.

The first phase will run from now until the end of the year and aims to have sea-trials of new designs of nets.

No doubt this slow and belated attempt will also be promoted as a great achievement of the CFP and of the so-called reforms.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Austin Mitchell speaks again

The 80 year old former MP for Grimsby does not seem to have lost his feistiness. In an interview with the Grimsby Telegraph he lambasted the Labour Party for keeping silent on the subject of Britain's membership of the EU. (In parenthesis we can note that perhaps we ought to be pleased the Labour Party has finally accepted the desirability of a referendum on the subject.)

The 80-year-old also says Labour needs to "formulate our own demands, give Britain some backbone and be prepared to campaign to come out unless we get the real concessions Britain needs but that soft soap salesman the Prime Minister daren't ask (for)."

In particular he added:

"The British people may on balance be frightened into voting to stay in the EU but they have strong lingering resentments which Labour should feel too. The Common Fisheries policy robs us of jobs, fish and seafood production , the Common Agricultural policy provides protection to French farmers but means food prices are still too high," he said.

It would be nice if some of the present day Labour MPs had something to say on the subject.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Not bad, surprisingly

Bertie Armstrong chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has a surprisingly good article in The Scotsman in which he sums up how the question of fisheries should affect the way we think about the forthcoming EU Referendum. The summary of the advantages if Britain regains control of her fisheries is good as is his point that renegotiations should include the subject as well.

Alas, so far there is no sign that the Prime Minister and his team have any interest in discussing repatriation of fisheries as part of the new deal for Britain in the EU (should we decide to stay in).

The UK government (though, as we know, decisions to do with fisheries is not taken by that particular entity no matter how DEFRA preens itself) has banned Guernsey fishermen from UK and EU waters (in fact, EU waters since there really  is no such thing as UK waters under the equal access of the CFP).

There appears to be some disagreement about events leading up to the ban. HMG says they have been negotiating since March and the ban is being used, they hope temporarily, as a last resort.

When the ruling was announced this morning though, Commerce and Employment Minister Deputy Kevin Stewart said the decision had come completely “out of the blue”.

The details seem a little complicated, though the BBC gives a good summary here.

The Fisheries Management Agreement means all commercial fishing within the Bailiwick's 12 nautical miles (nm) has to be licensed.

It also means Bailiwick vessels need licences to fish in EU and UK waters.

However, the lack of a quota policy has led to the UK suspending licences held by Bailiwick vessels from Saturday.

This decision does not prevent any Bailiwick fishermen from continuing to fish in local waters in accordance with their licences, but does prevent Bailiwick vessels from fishing in EU waters, which includes those of the UK. Guernsey's Commerce and Employment Department said it was "surprised and shocked at the short notice and lack of consultation".

It said George Eustice MP, UK Fisheries Minister, explained the move was in response to the States of Guernsey's policy of not applying UK quota controls to Bailiwick vessels in Bailiwick waters in accordance with the FMA. The BBC has approached the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for comment.

The Commerce and Employment department said not applying the UK quotas had been agreed in the Fisheries Management Agreement. It warned the imposition of the quotas could make many island fishing businesses "unviable".

Watch this space for updates on the story.

As we have mentioned on this blog, Sheryl Murray MP for South East Cornwall is now the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fisheries and we do expect great things from her.

She has written a piece for Conservative Way Forward about EU renegotiations and the fishing industry, which is good enough as a starting point but we do hope she will go further. Actually, we fully expect her to do so.

Most of the piece is a useful summary of the history of the fishing industry since the seventies and the unhelpfulness of the Common Fisheries Policy with which we agree entirely though we would have preferred greater emphasis on the fact that this is a political structure with decisions being made at the centre with close regard to the essence of the policy that Ms Murray does mention:

Enshrined in every Basic Regulation after that time is the Principle of, “Equal Access to a Common Resource”.

This is enshrined because it is the basis of that agreement and has actually been in the treaties since the Maastricht one of evil fame.

The much touted reforms have not altered that by a whisker or a fishbone. Equal access and common resource are still the guiding principles.

Sheryll Murray ends the piece with the following words:

As David Cameron pushes for better terms for the British people in his renegotiation talks with the EU, we all have a unique opportunity to finally put fishing at the heart of discussions. Now is the time for the Prime Minister to rectify the dreadful mistakes of the past and include restoration of national control over the UK 200 mile median line limit so we can operate freely just like our neighbours in Iceland and Norway.

Indeed, we would like to be in the same position as Iceland and Norway: we would like to control our own fishing waters and negotiate on our own behalf. There is, as it happens, only one way of achieving that state of affairs: by leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and repatriating powers over the fishing industry to this country. So far, the Prime Minister has shown no sign of negotiating that exit.

There is an organization in Parliament called Better Off Out. It consists of a number of MPs and Peers who believe not only that we should have a referendum on whether we want to stay in the European Union - that battle seems to have been won with only the SNP, rather bizarrely, opposing it - but also that we should eventually get out. The group also includes other organizations and individuals who share that view and, already, the discussion on how best to win that referendum has begun.

FAL's representative contributed an obvious idea: the Common Fisheries Policy is an economic and ecological disaster and those so-called reforms have changed nothing seriously. (There will be some more blogs on that subject in the near future.) Withdrawal from it would be greeted on all sides of the political spectrum though possibly not by the SNP, whose thinking about the EU remains erratic.

There are two ways of using this. One is to keep insisting that David Cameron, in his negotiations, put repatriation of the fisheries policy on the table. Some preliminary work has been done by Lord Stoddart of Swindon on that as this blog has pointed out but HMG continues to prevaricate and side-step the issue. Could our readers not lobby their MPs on the subject? After all, the Prime Minister wants to bring back the best deal for the country and what could be better for it if the management of fisheries as well as negotiations with other fishing countries such as Norway and Iceland were back in our hands?

Secondly, we can start trying to persuade people that if we cannot get control of the fisheries back (or control of anything else) we should leave the EU through legitimate means and think about how we would run affairs in the business ourselves.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Yet more avoidance of the subject

As this blog reported Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked HMG whether they intended to discuss repatriation of agriculture and fisheries (the last a potentially very popular move in this country) in their negotiations about EU reform and got a very evasive answer.

Not satisfied with that he went back into the fray and asked HMG:

further to the Written Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 11 June, whether the Prime Minister has yet discussed with other European Union leaders the repatriation of agriculture and fisheries policies to member states, and what position he has taken in those discussions.

Um, no, is the answer though phrased somewhat differently by Lord Gardiner of Kimble or, to be quite precise, his minions:

Discussions are at an early stage. My reply of 11 June referred to some of the areas where the Government believes the EU needs to change.

It did not mention fisheries. Does that mean that it might be raised as a subject at some later stage?