Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

A very happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. The fight will continue after the festivities.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Let us begin

We shall have much to say about the agreement reached at the end of the Fishing Council on Saturday, but let us begin by linking to an article by Patrick Sawer in the Daily Telegraph.

The title is: Fishermen angry at European Union decision to reduce number of days at sea. It is perfectly understandable that fishermen should be angry at this decision:

Although the British fishing fleet will be allowed to catch bigger quotas, it faces an estimated 15 to 25 per cent cut in the number of days at sea following marathon talks which ended at dawn on Saturday in Brussels. As a result of the deal the UK’s fleet will be confined to port for longer than ever. That will make it hard for trawlers to take advantage of some big rises in fish catch quotas agreed following the success of conservation measures in some regions. Britain fended off moves to cut fishermen’s days at sea to just four a fortnight next year, in exchange for greater national fish conservation efforts. But boats will still be confined to ports for longer than before.
On the other hand, the various organizations cannot be surprised. This was on the cards all along: there would be cuts in days at sea to accommodate the demands for the elimination of discards and, at the same time, to make it possible for all the CFP fleets to go on fishing in what is designated as Community waters. This is, after all, a common policy. Nor shall the problems be solved until we are out of it and are in a position to make our own decisions to suit our own fishing industry.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Moroccans can, we can't

The European Voice reports that the EU-Moroccan fisheries pact is off.

More than 100 Spanish boats will no longer be able to fish in waters off Morocco after the European Parliament rejected the extension of a deal under which the EU paid Morocco €36 million for fishing licences every year.

MEPs yesterday (14 December) narrowly rejected a proposal by the European Commission for a one-year extension of the agreement. The agreement had expired in February but continued provisionally to apply.

MEPs rejected a recommendation by Parliament's fisheries committee to approve the extension with 326 votes against, 296 in favour and 58 abstentions. The vote terminates the provisional application of the proposed extension with immediate effect.

Carl Haglund, a Finnish Liberal MEP, found in his report on the extension that the existing agreement created disproportionate costs to the EU, led to excessive exploitation of fish stocks and failed to provide benefits to the population of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco, in whose waters most of the fishing takes place.

There is a reason for these agreements - they are a way of relieving the pressure off the dwindling stock of fish in EU waters by directing the large and always growing Spanish fleet into the waters of developing countries. Unsurprisingly, the better equipped Spanish (mostly) fishing fleet drives the remaining local fishermen out of business. In return the EU hands over aid to the governments in question, aid that, on all available evidence, stays with the governments and officials, never reaching the supposed target, that is the fishing communities that are being destroyed.

Morocco has a chance of escaping from that trap. The UK, of course, cannot do so, as we are actually part of the CFP not simply someone who signs a bilateral agreement with the EU. The same will go for Scotland, should it ever have a presence in the EU that is separate from the UK, as the SNP would like.

Incidentally, the Spanish are not giving up easily:

RaĆ¼l Romeva i Rueda, a Spanish Green MEP who is his group's spokesman on fisheries, welcomed the vote. “Any future EU-Morocco fisheries agreement must exclude Western Saharan waters, over which the Moroccan government has no rights,” he said. “This agreement is a shameful stain on EU foreign policy and it is time it was consigned to the past.”

Does this mean Spanish Green MEPs have seen the light and will now oppose the CFP on environmental grounds?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Just so you know

Repatriation of powers or withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy is off the agenda. These things can be done only through the negotiating and writing of a new treaty. David Cameron has not insisted on a full IGC and a new treaty as he had every right to do under the EU's own rules. Therefore, there will be no repatriation of powers, no new treaty, no full Parliamentary debate and no referendum on the new treaty. We thought our readers would like to know what the outcome of that European Council was really.

On this blog we shall continue to argue the case against the CFP and to highlight its many problems (to put it mildly).

Here is a posting about David Cameron's promises with regards of what will happen after the negotiations this week-end. As our readers can see, the famous referendum lock will not brought into action. Its utter uselessness was predicted at the time of the passing of the European Union Act.

Downing Street is promising, however, that a new Treaty will have to go through Parliament. As the posting says, big deal. All the treaties went through Parliament as they require primary legislation.

Mr Clarke is sounding off, as usual, but he is probably right in his assertions that there will be no renegotiations though his usual placebos about the need to play a positive and constructive role have become tiresome. We know where all that has got us.

So far, there has not been a single mention of the Common Fisheries Policy. But then we do know that Mr Cameron is not in favour of a sensible fisheries policy, as discarding it was his first action as Conservative Party leader.

There is some discussion as to whether the planned tightening of fiscal rules or, in effect, a creation of fiscal integration will be a new treaty or not. If it is then, according to the EU's own rules, it needs a unanimous agreement and implementation in all the member states. If not, as the President of the European Council appears to think, then far-reaching changes will be introduced by just a few of the members agreeing.

More here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Happy St Nicholas' Day

Patron saint of, among others, fishermen. The others: children, sailors, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, prostitutes, repentant thieves, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers. And, no doubt, sweet makers. Someone asked me what his opinion would have been of fishing quotas though a more pertinent question would be what his opinion would have been of the destructive CFP.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Do they know something we don't?

This report by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organization about the first round of negotiations between the EU and Norway about fisheries appeared in the November 21 issue of Fishing News.

Subsequently there was another analysis, also, one must presume, by someone from the NFFO. The last sentence reads:

But it was possible to see underneath those inevitable elements in any negotiations that these are sovereign countries engaged, as partners, in managing joint stocks in sometimes difficult circumstances of a biological, scientific, economic and political nature.

Naturally, one hopes that the Norwegians will take one look at the biological, scientific, economic and political mess that is the Common Fisheries Policy and bear that in mind as they negotiate.

However, what is interesting is the reference to "sovereign countries". Norway is, indeed, a sovereign country, not least because it has wisely stayed out of the EU; but since when has the European Union been a sovereign country? That is not what our politicians tell us.

Friday, 25 November 2011

From FAL's Autumn/Winter 2011 Newsletter

This is to be found on page 10 of the Newsletter:

Extracts from Presentations by Chairman and Honorary Chairman to Richard Lochhead 26 October 2011

Sandy Patience, Chairman

All political parties agree and admit that the CFP has been a disaster for the conservation of fish stocks and the communities which depend on their livelihoods.

When are you and your officials ever going to realise that the CFP has nothing whatever to do with conservation but all to do with the principle of equal access to the common resource?

Get rid of the UK fleet to the advantage of other member States.

The magnitude of further proposed cuts in TACs will jeopardize many businesses especially those of the west of Scotland. FAL has been subjected to all kinds of accusations over the years bordering on questioning the sanity of our views. But as we rightly predicted many years ago the fleet is being slowly but surely reduced. Is it too much to ask for an apology not only from the Scottish Government but the UK

Government and those fishing industry bodies that actively supported policies that have led to the demise of so many family businesses? He who soweth the wind, reapeth the whirlwind.

It is fair to say that all of us who have told the truth all these years about the CFP have been accused of all sorts of unpleasant things, including lunacy. Even now, as all sorts of celebrities talk ignorantly about what they see as the main problem, discards (not that is not a problem but it is the effect not the cause) the reality of the situation seems to be beyond the average politician and political commentator.

Tom Hay, Honorary Chairman

No aspect of the United Kingdom’s suicidal involvement with the European Union is more flagrant than the downright treachery, lies and distortions from the truth, which has brought about the deliberate and almost total destruction of the British White Fish fleet.

The Fishing Debates recorded in Hansard in 1972, and the subsequent revelations within the Public Record Office after the end of the 30 year secrecy rule, make it absolutely clear that the CFP has nothing whatever to do with conservation, but would have catastrophic consequences for British fishermen when the derogations terminate.

And yet successive Fisheries Ministers have been going to Brussels for years, and have been subjected to a dreamed up delusion that the system introduced in 1983 of National Quotas and all their attachments, is the Common Fisheries Policy, they have been forced to negotiate with the Commission supposedly for the benefit of our fishermen on the basis of that pernicious lie.

Cod recovery plans, Conservation credit schemes, Real time closures, on board observers, on board cameras, never ending reductions in fishing effort and quota are all allegedly intended to protect our marine environment, and conserve our fish stocks.

In reality the calculated well planned intention behind all this, is to regulate the Scottish and British fishing industries out of existence altogether. This whole programme is cleverly pre-arranged to distract our fishermen away from the actual, secretive, well concealed demands of the EU treaties, that they have to be driven out of their own fishing grounds, to make way for the fishermen of the other member states on the principle of non-discrimination, and without increasing fishing effort.

Richard, to allow this vital renewable National asset to remain within the control of an un-elected foreign power in Brussels, is a crime against the British people, and an undeniable violation of their legitimate constitutional rights. Surely no MP, or MSP who says he is determined to put Scotland’s interests first would allow such a serious scenario to continue. But not even to mention to the Scottish people that such a critical situation exists is beyond the bounds of credibility.

There is only one way of escape, and we need your help to get it Richard. We must be disentangled from the shackles of this horrendous Common Fisheries Policy, so that we can regain control of our potentially rich fishing grounds which are rightfully ours according to international law. There is not one moment to lose. Let us direct all our energies towards it, so that we may find it before it is finally too late.

It might be that it is already too late but it certainly will be if we do not face up to the truth of what the CFP is all about and what will happen when the real CFP is in place.

Monday, 21 November 2011

When will they ever learn? - Part 1

The following article appeared in the Aberdeen Press and Journal about a debate in the House of Commons about there will be a report just as soon as we manage to get through the turgid and irrelevant speeches. Frank Doran, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, who initiated the debate and who is clearly very pleased with himself about it, has to our certain knowledge, been told the truth about the Common Fisheries Policy by FAL on numerous occasions. He has never listened and, probably, never will. As a consequence he has no idea about the structure of the European Union and where the CFP might fit in.

All talk about the British Minister going to Brussels and bringing about "radical reform" whether he is backed by the Parliament or not, is moonshine. A radical overhaul of the policy, now that it has been written into the treaty, thanks to those who negotiated the Maastricht Treaty, would require unanimity among all the member states. Other, lesser reforms would come under the Qualified Majority Voting rule that has now become so complicated as to be incomprehensible to anyone who is not actually an employee of the European Commission (and even then, one wonders).

The British government is in no position to reform the Common Fisheries Policy. It is an EU policy; it is a political construct that has no economic validation and will be decided along political lines; it is, let us face it, part of the integration process that has been the prime purpose of the European project. And, of course, the notion of devolving to regions is part of that process in that it cuts across national interests. Mr Doran is clearly unaware of this problem.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Commissioner speaks

Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries presented her views on that famed reform at a European Policy Centre Event in Brussels that was held under the catchy title: “Fishy business -Time to reform EU fisheries policy?”. Funny, no?

There is a reasonably accurate assessment of the present situation except for one thing: there is no mention of the fact that the CFP, which is responsible for the dire state of affairs outlined in the speech, is a political construct and decisions are taken by ALL the EU members under QMV, whether they have any interest in the subject or not.

Please pay attention to the plan to regionalize the industry; the aim is undoubtedly to destroy any idea of national fishing industries, even if the national authorities and fishing organizations are required to give their support for the plans that will, somehow, bring about sustainability and many other good things, not detailed in the speech. But they will, eventually, be very good things and the discards will be stopped.
Via regionalization industry, stakeholder and Member States can set all the necessary measures to avoid catching unwanted fish in the first place. With my proposal what is hauled up in the nets has to be landed. If it is undersized fish then it goes into fishmeal production. If it is oversize fish then the fishermen can sell it for human consumption and they will keep the profits from this sale.

With the ban over time we put less pressure on the stocks and the fish will become bigger and fetch better market prices bringing more profits to fishermen.

This will also help us to achieve social sustainability.

Maybe some among you are now thinking: “What are we going to do in the meantime until we reach this social sustainability?”

Let me outline to you how I want to finance the transition. With the two instruments of the Market Organisation and the new Maritime and Fisheries Funds I will support innovation, sustainability and smart growth in coastal areas.

Fishermen should receive storage aid to implement the discard ban. They should also get financial support for participating in trials on more selective gears and for collecting data. I will financially support training and professional qualifications.

I will fund diversification so that small scale fishermen have a second leg to stand on. I will financially support social dialogue meetings for small scale fishermen, so that they can network and exchange best practises. I will also fund marketing initiatives.

I will also fund associations of fishermen to give them a stronger role vis a vis wholesalers and to help them get better prices for their fish. And let me tell you that for all these measures the small scale fishermen will receive a higher co funding. Finally I want to give aquaculture a financial boost for growth in both inland waters and in coastal areas.

This is what I want to do to help fishermen through the transition to social sustainability.
There is no mention of the looming real CFP, that is equal access becoming the rule. Will they simply forget about it? The Spanish, for one, will remind them.

Monday, 14 November 2011

No it isn't

An interesting short piece, just a posting really, by Drew Scott, Professor of European Union Studies at the University of Edinburgh (we can guess what his views are even before we read what he has to say).

He is mainly reassuring his readers that an "independent" Scotland will not be forced to join the eurozone. At the end, however, he raises the question of that famed policy of "repatriating" powers:

Finally, on the matter of opt-outs, the UK government seems intent on seeking repatriation of powers from Brussels. What opinion has it had from its lawyers on the legality, not to mention likely success, of this? If successful, this may open up an entirely new landscape of possibilities confronting Scotland in the EU. I wonder if opting out of the Common Fisheries Policy is on Mr Cameron’s list.

We know the answer to that. No it is not.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council met today at 10 am.
The points on the agenda are:


External dimensions of the reform of Common Fisheries Policy
Ministers will discuss the Commission’s Communication on the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This was part of the package of proposals for a reform of the CFP, adopted on 13 July (IP/11/873).

The reform foresees an active role of EU within international bodies and in its relations with third countries. Almost 85% of the world fish stocks for which information is available are reported as being either fully exploited or overexploited, according to the FAO. So, the EU has to act abroad as it does at home and promote good governance and a sound management of the sea in the rest of the world, ensuring at the same time human rights for workers in fishing industries and sustainability in sea basins and oceans around the world. These principles will guide the EU’s involvement in international and regional organisations as well as in bilateral fisheries agreements with non-EU countries.

Sustainable Fisheries Agreements (SFAs) will replace the existing Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) and they will ensure that the exploitation of fishery resources takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice only targeting surplus resources that the partner country cannot or does not want to fish itself. Under SFAs, partner countries shall be compensated for granting access to their fishing resources and financial assistance shall be provided to the partner countries for the implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy.

There will, undoubtedly, be a statement later. The small print will be interesting to read.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Kingfisher Fortnightly Bulletin is out

You have to scroll down.

We predicted a very nasty civil war in the Scottish Conservative Party and it is coming to pass. The BBC and others report that a "high-profile QC has left the Scottish Conservatives following the election of the party's new leader". Mr McBride may be high-profile but he has been in the Conservative Party only since 2009, so his departure will not leave much of a gap. On the other hand, the Conservatives in Scotland have lost their way and any in-fighting is bad news.

It seems that Mr McBride is particularly upset at the Scottish Conservatives opposing legislation that would tackle sectarianism, a tricky proposition at best. Mr McBride did not mince his words:

Mr McBride later released a statement which added: "The Scottish Tories are no friends of the people of Scotland.

"The MSP group is divided and dysfunctional. Their only policy is to oppose everything and contribute nothing. Half the membership wants the party abolished and 87% of the electorate despise them.

"Their naked opportunism regarding the minimum pricing bill and the offensive behaviour bill demonstrates why they will remain unelectable."

As far as this blog is concerned the main question is, naturally, what will the Scottish Conservative Party's policy be on fisheries and, in particular, will the new leader, Ruth Davidson, understand what the Common Fisheries Policy is all about.

The omens are not very good. Ms Davidson defeated Murdo Fraser, whose platform was the formation of a completely now party with new policies, not least of which would have been withdrawal from the CFP, though we never found out how he was going to achieve that.

Ms Davidson's pronouncements seem more in line with the familiar Conservative mush:

Pledging to overhaul the party machinery in Scotland, she promised to launch two new policy commissions to look at support for the Scottish business and fishing communities, both of which she said she would listen to.

It is just possible that the commission that will be asked about support for the fishing community will tell Ms Davidson that it is an unattainable goal while the country is in the CFP. Just possible.

Friday, 28 October 2011

What goes around comes around

Let us look back to 2003. The then Chairman of FAL, Tom Hay, gave the following presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group:

Presentation To The All Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group
Tuesday 3 June 2003


In "Fishing News" 8th November last year, the Chairman of the Fisheries Committee in the EU Parliament, Struan Stevenson, stated categorically that the draconian proposals, which are now a reality, had nothing to do with conservation.

They were he said part of a European "Federalist " agenda to hand over the bulk of European fishing to Spain. The Commission will exploit scientific recommendations, he continued, to close down the British white fish sector as a golden opportunity to help them meet their target capacity cuts in one fell swoop, and thus enable Spain, with the largest fleet to dominate the fishing industry.

Ten years previous to this, on 11th June 1992 the Commission sent across to the Scalloway College in Shetland a lady called Ruth Albuquerque, one of their senior Cabinet Members responsible for Fisheries Policy, who warned the industry that the way forward as envisaged by the Commission for the re-structure of the industry would involve thousands of fishermen losing their jobs.

At that time fish of all species were plentiful on most if not all of the fishing grounds, in the North Sea and West Coast waters around the UK. Sadly however through clever manipulation by MAAF, and the Scottish Office, and in collaboration with certain persons within the industry this ominous threat was quickly downplayed, and finally forgotten altogether.

The Spanish Treaty of Accession makes it absolutely clear that from 1st January 2003, Spanish fishermen as well as Portuguese have the right of "Equal Access" without discrimination to a "Common Resource" in all "European Waters" beyond the 12 mile zone, including the North Sea. This is confirmed by the legal experts of the Council Working Party, and in reference to the exclusion of Spanish and Portuguese fleets for 16 years, Fisheries Minister Miguel Arias Canete said that the European Commission had finally put an end to discrimination against the Spanish fleet in Community waters.

Let us not be deceived again. Political assurances to the contrary are only temporary partial deliverances from the exacting legal demands of the Treaties. The Treaties are brutally clear. All fish within the waters of EU maritime nations are a common resource to which all EU states have an "Equal Right of Access". Everything else is a cruel deception, intended to soften, temporarily, the force of the real disaster for British fishermen, until they are judged to be so weakened that they will be unable to resist the continuing treachery of those disloyal politicians who are eager to sacrifice British fishermen on the altar of their fantasies of a "United Europe".

The savagery of the cuts in Quota over recent years, and now the limited amount of days per month our fishermen are allowed to go to sea, have been camouflaged by Franz Fischler and the British government, in a skilful and cynical manner to justify their fictitious claims of a desperate conservation crisis in cod stocks. They have assumed that this unscrupulous attempt to conceal their disgraceful and ruinous plans to destroy the British fleet, and thus make room for the Spanish, the Portuguese, and new entrants such as Poland and the Baltic States in 2004, would be readily accepted by fishermen, just as some of their leaders, who have fallen for this clever trick for years, have been conned into believing. Franz Fischler and New Labour are wrong! They are fooling no one but themselves.

Those who seek to justify the disgraceful surrender of one of our greatest National assets, have found no expedient too contemptible, and no deceit too mean, in their desperate efforts to conceal the grim reality of what has been done to our fishermen, and to our people, to whom those vast stocks of fish within our legally held Exclusive Fishing Zone rightly belong.

British fishing grounds, British fishing rights, and British fish stocks are the indisputable possession of the British people according to British, and International Law. No politician had the right to surrender their property without their consent. But they did, and the stark reality which now faces our fishermen as a result is, that they have to be driven out of what should be their own fishing grounds, to let the others in.

Looking back through Hansard, I find a proud role of honour of Labour M.P's who warned from the very beginning in the early seventies, of the disastrous consequences, which are now upon us, of accepting the bizarre, ruinous, anti-British doctrine that all fish under the jurisdiction of Member States were to become a "Common Resource" to which all Common Market fishermen had an "Equal Right of Access". A doctrine which is being laughed at outside the European Empire of waste and corruption. Tony Blair would call these honourable, and loyal servants of the British people, unpatriotic xenophobic propagandists. He is again deluding nobody but himself.

FAL has researched this matter exhaustively in conjunction with "Save Britain's Fish", and on the basis of the most authoritative legal testimony. We are thoroughly convinced that the only possible way of rescuing the British Fishing industry from certain disaster, is through the restoration of National control by a United Kingdom Act of Parliament, over these waters legally under our jurisdiction, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.

There is no other way!

That Tom Hay should speak those fighting words should surprise no-one. The problem we face concerns Struan Stevenson who also seemed to be using fighting words in 2002. He is now the Senior Vice President of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee (how many Vice Presidents does one committee need?) and Rapporteur for the Report for the Common Organization of the Market. Does he still hold the views he expressed nine years ago? We await an answer from the long-standing member of the European Parliament with interest.

The various organizations that represent Spanish "the fishing, aquaculture, seafood product canning and processing sectors from Spain, along with unions" are not happy. It seems that there has been an international campaign to discredit them. This blog joined that campaign when it published certain financial facts on the subject. But, sadly, we received no money from those evil foundations, "Oak Foundation (Switzerland), The Waterloo Foundation (Wales, United Kingdom) and Adessium Foundation (Netherlands)" that are supposed to be funding this campaign. How does one go about getting some of their evil money?

Stephen Phillips MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham put the following Question to HMG:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proposals she has made to the European Commission on amending the common fisheries policy.

It was Richard Benyon who replied, not the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman but, really, what does that matter? The meaningless response was clearly written by the minions in DEFRA:

The UK Government are committed to achieving genuine and radical reform of the common fisheries policy (CFP). The European Commission's proposals for reform are a welcome start but we need to work with others—including member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission—to agree the changes necessary to deliver real reform. In particular, UK proposals are aimed at eliminating discards, decentralisation of decision-making, a more economically rational fisheries management system, greater integration of fisheries and environmental management, and also applying the principles of sustainable use both outside EU waters and within.

I wonder how HMG feels about motherhood and apple-pie?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What is happening in the House of Commons?

There has been a great deal of misleading information about the debate that is due to take place on Monday, October 24 [scroll down past the Questions to Main Business]. It will not be an EU debate and it will not be a debate to have a referendum. It will be a Backbench Motion, put down by Conservative MP David Nuttall and signed by a number of other MPs of various parties:

That this House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should

(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;

(b) leave the European Union; or

(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.

The Motion, if passed, will signify to the Government that the House wants legislation in the next session of Parliament, which will not be opened till the spring as the Coalition Government decided not to have the traditional autumn State Opening, for the country to have a referendum. It is the only way there can be a referendum in the UK - through Parliamentary legislation.

From the above we can see that what is being proposed is not an IN/OUT referendum but a three-option one with the possibility (and, given what the campaign is likely to be, the probability) of people voting for the rather pointless but sensible sounding third option.

It is pointless because the terms of the UK's membership cannot be renegotiated without a major change in the treaties and that cannot happen except at an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) with the unanimous agreement of all the Member States both through their representatives at it and back home when the new treaty has to be ratified. If Britain wants to renegotiate the terms of her membership while staying in the EU the other Member States will want various conditions in return for agreeing to the new terms.

There will be an extra complication. A number of amendments have been put down [listed below the main Motion] which aim to water down an already weak proposal. The debate is likely to take the whole afternoon and evening with, presumably, a division at around 10.

At present, all three main parties are supposed to issue a three-line whip to their MPs for them to vote against the Motion (though, possibly, in favour of some of the amendments). It is not clear how many MPs will defy that whip.

The Motion, even if it passes, is not binding and the Coalition Government can ignore it. That would probably be unwise: governments are not supposed to ignore the clearly expressed view of the House. But, as pointed out above, even if the House expresses that view, there will be no relevant legislation until well into next year with a possible referendum in a year's time.

How does this affect fishing and the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy? The hope is that even if details of all that is wrong with our membership of the EU are not aired in Monday's debate, they will be when and if the process of passing an EU Referendum Bill will take place. There will then be plenty of opportunity to point out that the CFP has been an absolute disaster and we need to come out of that. It will, undoubtedly be argued that we should negotiate the terms of our membership in order to reclaim control of our fishing waters. This blog has discussed the matter here and here.

It is even possible that the subject will be raised on Monday.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Technical problems have now been solved (we hope) and it is possible to see whether comments have been posted and how many on the actual blog. We hope this will encourage discussion on the subjects dear to the heart of our readers.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


There has been a technical hitch with comments. People do leave them and they can be read but, for some reason, their existence does not show up on the blog. Thus subsequent readers are unaware of the fact that a conversation has been started. Given that we want conversation on this blog, this is a serious problem and the technical department has been alerted. Unfortunately the alerting happened on Friday evening and so there will be no solution till Monday.

In the meantime, we shall publish the two recent comments here so readers should be able to see them.

There was a comment on the posting entitled Christopher Booker comes out fighting from PeterD:

Interesting - but not new news! The SNP knew this long before they came to power, after all there were close ties to Norway for many years and the Norwegians will certainly have explained the best use of Europe to our now government.
Fishermen have known this too and have pressed the point well home but nothing changes. It never will while we have a government who insist that a Fisheries Secretary can also double up as an Environmental Secretary.

There really is little to add to those cogent points except to say that the comment could just as easily have been made on another posting: Scottish Parliament debates the CFP. It would be no less true.

A comment from Roddy on These people suffer from amnesia says:

It is a pity Mr Major didn't pronounce his current thoughts on the EU when he had the political power to do something about it. The Foreign Office is still pro-EU, despite everything, for political reasons, not economic ones.

The unbelievable confusion and disorder in today’s British Fishing Industry is a direct result of the British Parliament transferring exclusive legal competence to “Brussels” for the conservation and management of all living marine resources within British waters, and accepting by Treaty that the principle of equal access to those waters and their resources should prevail.

Today we are confronted with the consequent catastrophe which now overwhelms our fishermen, as “Brussels” forces them out of their own fishing grounds in favour of an increasingly predatory armada of Spanish and other E.U. fishing vessels.

Never has the British fishing industry faced such dire peril, and there is only one clear unobstructed way of escape --- to permanently remove the principle of equal access to a common resource, by re-establishing our own 200 mile to median line Exclusive Fishing Zone, which rightly belongs to the British people according to International Law, and to control these waters from Westminster instead of Brussels. There is no other way of escape!

To say that this cannot be done is either a wilful fabrication of the truth, or total ignorance of British Constitutional Law.

To a great extent this confirms what the posting said about Mr Major's (or Sir John Major's) amnesia about his own record on matters to do with fishing. Two points need to be added. The principle of national waters extending to 200 miles or the median line was established in 1976 in the aftermath of the Cod Wars when The Fishery Limits Act was passed. This states categorically in the first Article:

(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, British fishery limits extend to 200 miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea adjacent to the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is measured.

(2) Her Majesty may by Order in Council, for the purpose of implementing any international agreement or the arbitral award of an international body, or otherwise, declare that British fishery limits extend to such other line as may be specified in the Order.

(3) Where the median line defined below is less than 200 miles from the baselines referred to in subsection (1), and no other line is for the time being specified by Order in Council under subsection (2), British fishery limits extend to the median line.

(4) The median line is a line every point of which is equi-distant from the nearest points of, on the one hand, the baselines referred to in subsection (1) and, on the other hand, the corresponding baselines of other countries.

(5) Subject to section 10(2)(b) below, references to British fishery limits in any enactment for the time being in force relating to sea fishing or whaling are to the limits set by or under this section.

The Act was passed several years after the UK's accession to the EEC and the imposition without any Treaty basis of the Common Fisheries Policy, which is, in its original intention, equal access to what is termed a "common resource". It would appear that the new legislation trumped the CFP and would keep other fishing fleets out unless there was a specific agreement.

To get round this problem and to adhere to the principle of equal access the government passed a series of Orders in Council, as specified in Point (2), which allowed each of the other member states access to what was supposedly by legislation British territorial waters. [As soon as possible we shall post links to some of them.]

Another point that we need to add is that, sadly, British Constitutional Law has been changed out of all recognition through a series of treaties, which were passed into British legislation through Amendments to the European Communities Act of 1972. We are now locked into those treaties and to change any arrangement need to negotiate our way out, which can certainly be done, despite what politicians tell us. Or we can run up the equivalent of the South Carolina flag and announce that we no longer wish to accept certain parts of those treaties, specifically those to do with our fisheries. One way or another we need to restore our own Parliament's legislative supremacy. Nothing else will suffice.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

These people suffer from amnesia

Politicians' amnesia is a wonderful thing to behold. They say things with a straight face having, apparently, forgotten their own past history.

Take Sir John Major, for instance. He is everywhere, pronouncing on subjects to do with the European Union and all the things that are going wrong with it as well as all the problems it is causing for the UK. Yet, what is it that we mostly remember about Sir John's own premiership, when he was a plain Mr Major? The disastrous ERM, which he would not leave until this country's economy nearly collapsed and, luckily for us, we were effectively thrown out of it; and the Maastricht Treaty, which he forced through Parliament though after the first Danish referendum there was a golden opportunity to stop the whole integrating process that the treaty was speeding up.

Conservative Home quotes Sir John's "wide-ranging" interview with Andrew Marr:

He predicted that the EU had "fundamentally changed" because of member states' flouting of the Maastricht criteria and because of the movement to an "unsafe" Eurozone. We would now see, the former Prime Minister predicted, what he and Douglas Hurd had advocated in the 1990s. Europe would follow a model of "variable geometry" with different member states working at different levels. He predicted that Eurozone members would seek their own Treaty and gradually forge fiscal union characterised by tax harmonisation and budgetary control. This, he said, was an opportunity for a looser union and for the UK to repatriate control over parts of employment law, notably the Working Time Directive; financial services regulation; and control of Britain's fishing industry. EU leaders had to realise, he continued, that 27 member states could not operate in the same unified way as when there were much fewer members.

It appears that Sir John has forgotten that the Common Fisheries Policy was written into the treaties only in 1992, that is the Treaty of Maastricht, his particular treaty [as discussed here]. Nor do we remember Mr Major's government being in the forefront of the battle for the control of Britain's fishing industry. Not so, but far from it. Does he really not remember any of it?

While we all debate the various ways the so-called reform of the Common Fisheries Policy might affect various fishing fleets and fishing ports, it might be a good idea to have a look at what is happening with the largest of the EU fishing fleets, the Spanish one.

An article on EUObserver, published in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an organization that has been spending time on investigating the operation of the Common Fisheries Policy with regards to Spanish practices, gives us some interesting though not surprising information.

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

A look at the industry’s biggest player - Spain - shows what officials are up against. Billions of euros in subsidies built its bloated fleet and propped up a money-losing industry. All the while, companies systematically flout the rules while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

Well, dear me. So those officials are up against the problems of Spain claiming and getting huge subsidies and flouting the rules? And exactly who created the system in which this situation became possible? Not the officials, perchance, with politicians nodding everything through in order to be seen communautaire and, maybe, getting a deal somewhere else?

So let's have a look at those figures:
The Spanish fishing industry has received more than €5.8 billion (more than $8 billion and just over £5 billion) in subsidies since 2000 for everything from building new vessels and breaking down old ships to payments for retiring fishermen and training for the next generation, an fresh analysis by ICIJ shows.

Subsidies account for almost a third of the value of the industry. Simply put, nearly one in three fish caught on a Spanish hook or raised in a Spanish farm is paid for with public money.

And that is not all.

ICIJ’s analysis is the first in-depth look at just how much public aid Spain has received for fishing - primarily from EU taxpayers, but also from Madrid and regional governments. The country has cornered a third of all the EU’s fishing aid since 2000, far more than any other member state. The central government doles out even more for things such as low interest loans and funding for its largest industry associations, which in turn lobby the EU for more industry subsidies, records show. Since 2000, the sector has avoided paying €2 billion in taxes on fuel to the Spanish Treasury.

Public monies also fund a surprising range of services. More than €82 million ($114 million) has been spent to promote the fishing sector through advertising and at trade shows. After fishing vessels were hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, Spain in 2009 changed its law to allow vessels to hire private security forces onboard, and then it helped foot the bill to the tune of €2.8 million.

The root of the problem, regulators say, is that out-of-control subsidies encourage countries to build up already oversized fleets that are rapidly depleting the seas.

Well, some countries, anyway, and as mentioned above, the regulators created this system.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

DEFRA launches another discussion

DEFRA has launched a discussion on the future of seafish.

Today, a discussion with the industry on the future of Seafish is launched by Defra and the Devolved Fisheries Administrations (Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Northern Ireland)), supported by the Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish). This discussion seeks views on key themes identified in the Cleasby Review and will help frame the Government’s response to the review.

All the information is available on the link above as well as instructions on how to submit opinions.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The haggling starts

The Fisheries Council meets in December and a good deal of horse-trading (make that fish-trading) will be going on in the next few month. reports of the first round:

The European Commission today called for a halt to cod fishing for the whole of next year off the West of Scotland and in the Irish Sea in a bid to boost conservation.

The crackdown is part of proposed EU catch allowances unveiled today which signal the start of intense haggling over quotas for fishing fleets in the run-up to a final deal in December.

More news of horse-trading fish-trading as it comes in.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Scottish Parliament debates the CFP

On the one hand, it is entirely praiseworthy of the Scottish Assembly to have a debate about the Common Fisheries Policy. On the other hand, it must remain a frustrating exercise, though the Assembly Members seem unaware of that, because there is very little they can do about it, beyond hoping that the so-called reforms will somehow benefit Scotland. Then there is the problem, which we face with most of our politicians, whether they are in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast: there seems to be a remarkable lack of knowledge about the subject.

Take this exchange, for instance:

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead) says during his introductory comments:

Ever since the Tories deemed our fishing industry expendable, took us into the common fisheries policy, and gave away our fishing rights into the bargain, Scotland’s fishing communities and our fish stocks have paid a heavy price.

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con) intervenes:

Will the member check his history? He will then realise that although we became party to the common fisheries policy under the Thatcher Government in 1983, it was as part of an agreement that was signed in 1978 by the preceding Labour Government.

Sigh. They are both wrong. This country (all of it, not just Scotland) had the CFP foisted on it during the negotiations for the entry into the EEC (or Common Market as some people prefer to call it), using completely illegitimate references to Articles that allowed for a common market in trade not a common area for fishing. [Even the European Movement kind of acknowledges that in the summary linked to above.]

Do these people not know about Regulation 101/76, the one that lays down "a common structural policy for the fishing industry"?

No, I suppose they do not. Clearly they also do not know that it was not till 1992 that the CFP became part of the treaties, specifically, the Maastricht Treaty, where Article 38 in title II that deals with Agriculture stated:

The common market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. "Agricultural products means the products of the soil, of stockfarming and of fisheries and products of first-stage processing directly related to these products.

Hey presto, the Common Fisheries Policy was now part of the treaty and not to be removed except by unanimity.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Christopher Booker comes out fighting

As a headline that comes under the same heading as "Dog bites man" or "Gardener digs soil". Nevertheless, it is always good fun as well as instructive to read Christopher Booker's take on developments among the so-called "eurosceptics" in the Conservative Party.

We have already noted one group of these benighted MPs and wondered whether they would ever get to grips with important details of the European project. There is now, as Booker points out, another group, clearly worried that if they do not polish up their eurosceptic credentials they might lose a few thousand votes in the next election.

Some 120 “Eurosceptic” Tory MPs, we are told, are calling for a “redrawing of our relationship with Europe”. We must “repatriate powers”. William Hague says “Britain could benefit from loosening its ties with Europe”.

This is, as we have pointed out in previous postings, a ridiculous stand: Britain cannot loosen its ties with Europe because Britain is a member of the European Union and the only way of loosening those ties is by coming out, not of Europe, which is a ridiculous idea, but of a specific political construct. Then we can renegotiate our various trade and other agreements with individual states and, if that survives, the European Union.

Meanwhile, as Christopher Booker so rightly says about one of the instances of mea culpa, in this case that of the high and mighty Sir Max Hastings,

Sir Max has never grasped the real nature of this mighty project or the vision behind it, which is finally colliding with reality.

For 50 years, building itself up step by step into a form of supra-national government, the “European project” has only ever had one aim – to take away ever more powers of member states to govern their own affairs. It has had no more sacred principle than the acquis commmunautaire, which lays down that once powers have been handed to the centre they can never be given back.

No sentence in Hastings’s piece was more poignant than his observation that “in its early decades the Common Market was a benign institution, set up to liberalise trade”. He still cannot grasp that the Common Market was only ever intended as a first step towards the ultimate goal, the embryo of everything the EU has since become, – a vast overblown system of government reaching into almost every area of our lives, and symbolised above all by its hubristic desire for its own single currency.

That being so,

the response of President Hermann Van Rompuy –possessed by precisely the same hubris that has built up the EU into all it is today - is to say that the only remedy is that we must have “more Europe”.

From our point of view, the matter is clear. The Common Fisheries Policy was one of the first experiments (and what a disaster it has been!) in the process of integration and creation of a supranational government.

Many people who are aware of the general wrongness of the CFP from social, economic and environmental points of view seem unable to grasp this. They call for reforms here and there while the EU maintains, rightly from their point of view, that the only answer to the problems is the tightening up of the policy, which should kick in with all its real consequences, centrally, and an ever less likelihood of national control being restored.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Latest Kingfisher Bulletin is out

Follow the link and scroll down.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Will they talk about the fisheries?

A new eurosceptic group of Tory MPs gathered today for their inaugural meeting. 120 attended, among them a number of new(ish) boys and girls, which indicates rather strongly that they do not think their careers will suffer if they join this lot.

So far they sound vague but optimistic with little detail about their plans or intentions.

Backbencher George Eustice, one of its conveners, said there is a strong desire to see "a clear plan" for how to pull the UK back from Brussels.

"The euro crisis could arrive on our doorstep at any time. We need to have a very clear British foreign policy for how we can take powers back," he said.

He added there are many recently elected MPs as well as long-time campaigners at the meeting, which was attended by a number of frontbenchers.

But he said that while the meeting agreed urgent work was needed, nobody wanted to return to the days when Europe dominated.

There are no plans to announce any initiatives at next month's party conference though there will undoubtedly be fierce debate on the fringes.

He also talked of the likelihood of there being a new treaty before the end of the year (leaving that a little late) and that could be an opportunity for Britain to repatriate powers. He did not say what the government might have to offer to the other member states as a sweetener for them to accept whatever new plans the group might come up with and get accepted by the leadership.

The big question from our point of view remains whether the new group will look at the most obvious place to start and the most obvious policy to repatriate: the fisheries. Until they mention that word we beg leave to doubt their intentions.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Some might think this is irrelevant

But we do not think so. What happened ten years ago remains of supreme relevance to us all. So let us take a little time off immediate problems and remember.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Part of the problem we all face

This story in yesterday's Daily Telegraph about the holiday-maker at Ilfracombe complaining about the sight of dead fish unloaded by a trawler and describing his children as being traumatized by it all may seem very funny. Well, it is funny and one can only respect the Harbour Master for being so courteous to a man who clearly has no understanding of the most basic facts of life.

This does, however, point to one of the serious problems all food producers, particularly fishermen and meat producers at various stages, face. Though there is a vague good feeling towards the "fishermen of England" (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland) the reality of what is involved is often ignored and pushed out of people's minds. It often clashes with the slightly rosy view of the sea, first developed with the growth of sea-side holidays in the nineteenth century, and disturbs the notion of food just appearing without any unpleasantness. This leads to deliberate ignorance and that, in turn, leads to a paucity of support for the fishing industry in its battle for survival and genuinely sustainable fishing.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Latest Kingfisher Bulletin is out

It can be found on the website but you need to scroll down for the links to individual bulletins and subjects.

This blog is not about to become involved in what looks like a very nasty civil war in the Scottish Conservative Party over the question of whether it should disband itself and re-form itself as a new party that happens to be just like the old one. What is interesting about the proposals put forward by the favourite to succeed to the leadership, Murdo Fraser, is the following:

Fraser believes that the party should have different policies from the UK Conservative Party, particularly on fishing (he advocates withdrawal from the European Common Fisheries Policy) and on defence (he supports the retention of Scottish air bases). But crucially, he believes the new party has to be really positive about devolution and embrace the Scottish Parliament in a way that the Scottish Conservative Party has often had trouble doing.

This confirms, if confirmation were needed that the Conservative Party in general believes in membership of the ruinous Common Fisheries Policy - something we should all remember the next time the Tories try to put themselves forward as the true eurosceptics.

ConHome has the video that explains Mr Fraser's rather convoluted reasoning and emphasises his attitude to the CFP>

Thursday, 25 August 2011

More and better fish landed in 2010

It seems that there was a 4 per cent increase in quantity and 7 per cent increase in value of fish landed in 2010 by UK fishing fleet landed at home and abroad.

The statistics reveal that during 2010 the UK fleet landed 606,000 tonnes of sea fish (including shellfish) into the UK and abroad with a value of GBP 719 million (EUR 820.3 million). Compared with 2009, this represents a 4 per cent increase in quantity and a 7 per cent increase in value.

More detailed information is available in the linked piece on Fish Information and Services.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

International support for ROSA

ROSA, I hear you ask. Who is Rosa. It is, in fact, an acronym: Reclaim Our Seas Alliance and it has a significant presence on one of those social networks, to wit, Facebook. This piece also comes from the FAL Newsletter:

ROSA’s Facebook page — ROSA Tri — is seeing a steady increase in support from Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Dutch and Belgian fishermen.

A lot of those fishermen are telling ROSA’s Facebook co-ordinator that it is only through ROSA that we can do something together.

Its an old adage “In unity is strength.” BUT to go forward as a united cohesive and effective organisation requires funding and a formal properly constituted alliance of like minded people and organisations.

We are currently working on a membership structure with a joining fee through an online system.

Meantime there is a great deal of anger bubbling under the surface. Here are some of the comments:

“Our future has become so bleak from the CFP. It seems to be that it is better to be a seal or a drug dealer than a fisherman!

Fishermen are losing their boats and homes. Families are ruined, left with debts, bringing on illness and in some case suicide.

What have we done to deserve such a sentence?

We must stop this attack on our way of life. We are sick and tired of the EU dictatorship which is destroying us all one by one!

It is time to reclaim our future from those who are making detrimental regulations not only to the resource but to those who make a living from it and who protect it for their children.

Decision making powers must be repatriated to the Member States as a basis for a series of regional fisheries management arrangements between the relevant Member States.

When are we going to protect ourselves? Despair has crept into an industry where once hope attracted young people into it. We all agree in the sustainability of the stocks but rightly question the science used in the confirmation of those self same stocks.

The Council of Europe has been the champion of human rights, yet year on year fishermen of all states are being denied their basic right to earn a living from the sea. Twenty five years of cut after cut, limitation of days at sea, fleet reductions on a massive scale; once thriving communities have been completely eroded. WHEN WILL IT END OR WILL IT EVER END.

If the Commission continues with its objectives under the reformed CFP the resentment that is developing could flare up with actions in every EU port.”

It is worth joining Facebook just to sign up to this page and participate in its discussions.

Naturally, we on this blog agree that the way forward is for fishermen of different member states and their organizations to pull together. But the curious aspect of this fight, as at least one commenter has noted, is that we must pull together to destroy the common fisheries policy and to go back to member states running their own policies. That is the only way forward if we want to scramble out of this economic, social and environmental catastrophe.

FAL's Summer Newsletter has the following excerpt from its November 2000 Memorandum to the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries:

The present EC Common Fisheries Policy is – and from its very inauguration has always been - about exploitation, not conservation or management. It has certainly worked to the advantage of one or two member states, but its overall effect otherwise has been negative and destructive. Not the least pernicious aspect is the extent to which a pseudo-ethical Euro-idealism has been used as a camouflage for naked national advantage.

The proposed "reforms" are not going to change that, as we have pointed out before and shall, no doubt point out again.

We assume that many of this blog's readers follow the fortnighly Kingfisher Bulletins. However, there is no harm in a reminder. The latest is out now and it can be read together with the previous five on the Kingfisher website. [Scroll down.]

Monday, 15 August 2011

Not everyone likes Hugh

Publicity-loving celebrities who try to use their status to fight some battle or another, enhancing their own status in the process, are usually popular with politicians of every stripe and layer as well as other celebrities. Sadly, they are not always popular with people who actually know something about the battle they are fighting. So it is with celebrity cook Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who launched himself into the fight against discards without a great deal of understanding about the causes or details.

According to yesterday's article on the Callander McDowell site, it is not clear what the outcome of Hugh's Fish Fight might be with regards to fish consumption. Here is the whole piece:

Hugh too: Celebrity cook and campaigner Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall presented the second instalment of his Fish Fight TV campaign on British TV this week and it turned out to be something of a turn off. We not sure whether it is acceptable to criticise Hugh or his programme especially as some of the leading fish companies and organisations have been actively applauding his efforts and are keen to associate themselves with the campaign. However, the reality is that the Fish Fight has become just one big yawn since whilst he has raised public awareness of over quota discards, Hugh still has been unable to offer a viable solution. If anything, some observers suggest that he is making the problem worse.

Hugh’s remedy to the problems of discards is to encourage consumers to eat a wider variety of fish, rather than the Big Five of cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and prawns. The trouble is, as we have pointed out before, the big five that we buy are largely sustainable species and therefore it is not really necessary to push for a change in consumption habits. This is because the cod we eat is sourced from sustainable fisheries and not from the threatened EU stocks. We know these fish are sustainable because much of it is certified by the MSC as being so.

By comparison, many of the species that Hugh would have us eat are not certified as sustainable, but even more significantly, we don’t even know if the stocks are healthy or whether increased demand would cause them to crash. However, we at Callander McDowell don’t think that Hugh can create a significant and continuous demand for these alternative fish.

Some UK supermarkets are however claiming that sales of these fish have soared. Waitrose, for example, have said that sales of Cornish pollock have increased by 205%, Cornish brill by 64%, Icelandic whiting by 35% and mackerel, the focus of Hugh’s attention, has increased by 105% since January. Yet, according to the Guardian newspaper, Waitrose also say that they are selling just 3 tonnes of alternative fish fillets compared with between 45 and 50 tonnes of cod a week. In addition, cod sales have remained steady rather than showing any decline.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s have sold 46 tonnes of alternative species since the start of their Switch the Fish campaign. Coley has increased by 11%, whilst the stores have sold 8 tonnes of megrim. The greatest increase has been sales of rainbow trout which have increased by 42%. We wonder why the Sainsbury’s have given a tonnage figure for megrim and a percent increase for others. Is this because the actual figures are so low? Of course, other supermarkets are just of guilty of reporting in this way.
Also writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot says that Hugh’s attempt to broaden our taste has failed. He refers to a study by Maria McLean of Surrey University that suggests there has been no significant or lasting impact on any species. Consumers have largely stuck with the big five. Even Sainsbury’s have found that sales of the popular fish have not gone down as the others increased. The small drop in consumption of 2% can probably be explained by the increased price of salmon which has suppressed demand for that one species.

At the same time, the increase in demand for these so called sustainable alternatives has been fuelled by price discounting and by giving the fish away for free. Whether the same momentum can be maintained if consumers have to pay the full price is unlikely. The Guardian newspaper reported that Tesco have said that sales of pouting had reached the level of 50% of the stores cod sales. Yet, as regular observers of supermarket activity, we, at Callander McDowell, cannot say that pouting continues to feature significantly on Tesco counters. It is possible that sales were high during a particular promotion, but we do not think that counters have displayed sufficient pouting to claim that sales are half that of cod. The same is true of fish counters in other supermarkets in that there has not really been a major change in their offering since Hugh’s original programmes were aired.

Morrison’s said they saw a three fold increase in sales of dabs and a 33% increase in sales of coley since January but that whilst consumers had initially switched away from cod, haddock and salmon, sales of those species quickly recovered.

Asda told the Guardian that whilst sales of mackerel have increased by 69%, sardines by 32% and whole trout by 72%, sales of cod and haddock have also increased.

Such observations seem to endorse the view of Aniol Esteban of the New Economics Foundation who suggests that Hugh’s campaign could be counter-productive by increasing demand. He says that it is only necessary to look at countries such as Spain and Japan that have a very varied fish demand to see that they are not the best examples of fisheries management.

When the director and producer of Hugh’s Fish Fight programme, Will Anderson, was asked about the possibility that total fish sales might increase, as Mr Esteban suggests, he said that they were concerned that it may happen but not worried about it yet because no-one really knows if it is happening. He said that as a nation, we are told to eat three portions of fish a week but he does not advocate that Britons should rush to meet this target. He said that really the programme was aimed at making people more aware, something of which he should also take note, for clearly he isn’t aware that the recommendation to eat fish is for two portions of fish a week, not three. Could this be more of an indication that the real facts are irrelevant to Hugh and his team and it is the publicity he gets for himself that is more important? Certainly, the overriding image from the latest Fish Fight programme was of Members of the European Parliament lining up to have their photo taken with Hugh to validate their own caring credentials. The fact that sequence was included by Hugh shows that he is not much better than them.

This blog does not necessarily agree with everything in that piece. For example, we have rarely found reliable data in any New Economic Foundation report. But the arguments are worth reading and discussing. In the end, the solution will not come from TV programmes or minor changes in fish consumption but from a complete alteration of the structure of fisheries, which will have to start with us (and other countries, perhaps) abandoning the Common Fisheries Policy.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Another stitch up?

This [and in French] does not exactly side-step the procedures but it certainly leaves a worse stink than rotting fish.

As the Commission has now presented their proposal on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the reform package will go to the European Parliament (EP) and Council.

In the EP, each legal proposal from the Commission is appointed to a member of the Parliament (MEP), who becomes the rapporteur who drafts a report with amendments to the Commission’s proposal. Being the rapporteur for a report gives a lot of influence over the legislative process.

This Wednesday afternoon, coordinators (one MEP from each political group) in the EP’s fisheries committee met to distribute the reports in the CFP reform package presented today by the European Commission.

As the result of an unannounced move, all six reports in the CFP package will be given to three groups: EPP, ECR and ALDE.

The other groups are not happy, as well they might not be. Not just the Greens but UKIP and their groupings have been left out of this little carve-up.

Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisations and well known to readers of this blog, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the so-called CFP reforms. It is unfortunate that the article's headline is somewhat misleading. Banning fish discard policy would be 'catastrophic' is likely to annoy people who are unhappy at the economic and ecological results of the fish discard policy that is the inevitable outcome of the present derogation from the full CFP (which, when in place, will be even worse).

In fact, Jim Portus said:

"Fishermen should be redesigning their gear to make sure they are not catching some of these fish in the first instance — that they are released by the nets on the seabed.

"That to us is the way to go about doing it sensibly.

"But if we had a ban on discards and we had to bring everything back in, and we could not acquire a quota for the fish you did not have authority to land, that's where you would get into difficulty because some of these quotas available to the UK are very small indeed.

"We would be at the mercy of countries like France in particular that have large quotas for cod, whiting, haddock, pollack and coley.

"The majority of quota for these five fish are held by France and we would have to be doing deals with the French to enable our fishermen to carry on at sea under a zero discard policy.

"It might ultimately be more sensible to just quit the business.

"We have already lost 70 of our fleet in the UK under the last fisheries policy.

"This proposal to ban discards could potentially threaten the livelihoods of the Brixham fishermen.

Well, indeed, we should use existing technology to conserve fish while making sure that the British fishing industry does not simply die out. But that would involve plans and decisions made at local and regional as well as national levels - the exact opposite of the centralized Common Fisheries Policy.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From the last FAL Newsletter

A number of Scottish Fishing Industry Associations have been approached to fund the setting up of a


This idea must not be dismissed. After all since seals are so well protected why not do the same for the stressed out fishermen who, having saved 1200 tonnes of cod in 2010, only saw that wiped out by an extra 42,000 grey seal pups.

While Scottish fishermen are expected to sacrifice their very livelihood on conservation measures and allow a seal population to explode the National Trust for Scotland working alongside Scottish Natural Heritage to introduce a Caledonian pine forest on Mar Lodge estate have shot 6,000 red deer reducing their number to 40 animals.

Clearly a case of double standards.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Nobody seems to like it

News reaches us that the Andalusian government (no, it is not another EU Member State but regional governments are very powerful in Spain) has also decided to oppose the proposed CFP reform though the argument against it is not exactly coherent.

By early September it is expected to have another meeting of the parties to join forces so as to defend the fishing interests of Andalusia.

"We will not accept this situation and we will struggle," assured the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The EC's plan is "unacceptable" and so Aguilera asked the president of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to adopt a leading role in the struggle with the aim of rejecting the proposed reform of the CFP.

The official stressed the need for the policy reform to include measures to ensure the social and economic sustainability of the sector and the struggle to safeguard fish stocks.

In this regard, the Ministry of Fisheries expressed support for artisanal fishing gear and reservations about the introduction of tradable concessions, which the EC wants to carry out.

According to the regional government, the creation of a 'quota market' will harm the smaller vessels, the agency Europa Press reported.

Aguilera admitted the need to safeguard fish stocks but called for measures to ensure the social and economic sustainability of fisheries.

In the same way as the central government, the regional government of Andalusia believes that achieving the regeneration of fish stocks by 2015 is not feasible.

In the end, the problem remains the same: how can each country's or region's fishing interests be protected by one centralized policy?

In August there will be an Andalusian response to the proposed reforms and as soon as it is possible, this blog will link to it. However, it is worth remembering that Prime Minister Zapatero has just called an election for November 20 and, as things stand, by November 21 there will be another Spanish Prime Minister. What with that and the imminent threat of Spain being downgraded by Moody, Andalusian or any other fishing is probably not a priority with him.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Unable to understand it

Julie Girling, Conservative British MEP (though she, in true EU fashion describes herself as "a British MEP and a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group", the European Parliament labouring mightily to abolish national parties) has written about the proposed fisheries reforms in Public Service Europe, a "website [that] aims to be the online knowledge hub for those wanting the inside track on European politics, public administration, management issues and key developments in the business world".

Ms Girling asks

New plans to reform Europe's Common Fisheries Policy created a wave of discussion, but will they actually produce any changes worth waiting for?

The answer is no, but Ms Girling cannot admit that completely as she is committed to the idea of a common fisheries policy, though she thinks that within it various reforms can be introduced that would allow for different local conditions, the fishing of different species and the incentivising [sic] of fishermen.
My Don't Ditch the Fish campaign aims to approach the issue of discards by incentivising fishermen. It strives to halt the process of micro-decision making in Brussels and return control of fishing policy to smaller regions based on fishing basins.

Fishermen will be allocated an annual credit allowance. Credits can be bought and sold between fishermen but only within a specific sea basin. Fisherman can catch whatever they like as long as they do not exceed their annual credits allowance. Everything caught would have to be landed and recorded – including most by catch species.

This system will ensure fishermen do not need to discard fish or worry about exceeding their quota as vulnerable fish – including those in recovery programmes, like North Sea cod – will have a higher credits rating than resilient fish from healthy stocks, such as North Sea mackerel. So fishermen will be incentivised to target mackerel and avoid cod to maintain a healthy credits balance. The values of credits can be periodically reset in response to local and scientific data.

Can this really be done within the parameters of the Common Fisheries Policy, particularly when it reverts to its true conditions of equal access? It seems to us very unlikely. So why is Ms Girling wasting her own and everybody else's time?

Scotland on Sunday had a piece by Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Minister, under this curious title: CFP overhaul not radical enough for Scotland's damaged industry. As we seem to recall, one of the SNP's arguments was that a Scottish Parliament was better at looking after Scotland's fish than Westminster. It seems that Mr Lochhead does not think that the Scottish Assembly has achieved that state of affairs. Scotland, in his opinion, has been badly served by the European Commission but, as the commenters point out, his huffing and puffing does not really get to grips with the problem that is at the heart of all his complaints: the CFP itself.

We particularly like the comment by Dr James Wilkie:

The European Union represents half of Europe, and some of the most important fishing states are not even members of it. It has no mandate to speak for Europe, and certainly not to impose the will of the national and multinational corporations whose interests it represents on member states without a shred of genuine democratic legitimation. Its so-called parliament is just window-dressing - a total sham - and in any case what do its members know about fishing in the North Atlantic? What do its Scottish members know about fishing in the North Atlantic?

No amount of tinkering will improve the disastrous EU Common Fisheries Policy. The only remedy is abolition and a fresh start. Since that is automatically blocked by four EU treaties, the only way to save Scotland's fishing industry is to get out.

He also refers readers to the Scottish Democratic Alliance website, which has a fisheries policy that envisages a Scotland, independent both of the UK and the EU, running its own fishing affairs. Well, at least, they are logical.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Second Coastguard consultation

We received the following communication and think our readers will be interested:

Good Afternoon,

As you are aware, we published our initial proposals to modernise Her Majesty’s Coastguard on 16th December 2010. We received over 1,800 responses to this consultation and an independent team carefully reviewed these responses. We were very grateful for the constructive contributions from all our stakeholders. The review team’s report can be found at (

In addition, the Transport Select Committee conducted its own inquiry, reporting its findings last month.

We continue to believe that the proposals we set out on 16 December 2010 would deliver the benefits of a fully networked national, resilient coordination service with appropriate resourcing and efficient, effective command and control. Nevertheless this was a genuine consultation, and it is only right that we should adjust our proposals to take account of the responses received from our own Coastguards, the general public, and important stakeholders.

Ministers have therefore today announced revised proposals. The main changes are:

• We are retaining more Coordination Centres and operating all of them 24/7. This will help overcome the perceived risks of diluting local knowledge, maintain 24-hour connectivity with other local rescue providers and our own Coastguard volunteers, reduce the need for incident handovers, and allow us to upgrade IT systems at a more measured pace and provide more opportunities for robust and rigorous user testing.

• The MOC will be supported by one 24-hour sub-centre at Dover with 28 operational Coastguards and eight further 24 hour sub centres with 23 staff each based at Aberdeen, Shetland, Stornoway, Belfast, Holyhead, Milford Haven, Falmouth and Humber. The London coordination centre will continue to be co-located with the Port of London Authority. Dover will be equipped to serve as the standby MOC, taking advantage of its slightly higher manpower complement: it will be manned up to MOC levels only when required.

• The stations now proposed for closure are Yarmouth, Thames, Solent, Portland, Brixham, Swansea, Liverpool, Forth and Clyde.

This consultation will last for 12 weeks (closing on 6 October, 2011) and will be subject to the Code of Practice on Consultation. You can find the consultation document on the front page of our website As with last time there is a response form for you to fill in with a return address, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you very much for your continuing support at a turbulent time. We are sure we are taking HM Coastguard in the right direction, and are equally determined to take full account of your views as colleagues, peers and partners in maritime and coastal safety.

Kind regards

Consultation Team

FAL has issued a press release in response to the so-called Common Fisheries Policy reform, calling it, appropriately enough, The Sinking Titanic.

Press Release

Common Fisheries Policy reform
The sinking Titanic

The present EC Common Fisheries Policy is – and from its very inauguration has always been - about exploitation, not conservation or management. It has certainly worked to the advantage of one or two member states, but its overall effect otherwise has been negative and destructive.

Not the least pernicious aspect is the extent to which a pseudo-ethical Euro-idealism has been used as a camouflage for naked national advantage.

Extract from FAL’s November 2000 Memorandum to the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries

The current reform proposals have nothing whatever to do with conservation, but with upholding, certainly as far as fishing is concerned, what the Commission believes to be the legally binding, unbreakable demands of the EU treaties --- that all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations are a common resource, to which all EU member states have an equal right of access.

FAL does not believe for one moment that the Commission will allow any decentralisation of power, which is in the vice-like grip of the Brussels bureaucracy, to the member states.

This is a con-trick of colossal proportions, because the Commission’s so called reform of the CFP is in reality another stepping stone to achieve the EU’s strategic aim of creating a European Union fleet and the elimination of those of the maritime Nation States

Richard Benyon has stated that the publication of the Commission’s proposals is the start of 18 month’s negotiations with Commissioner Damanaki.

He needs to understand that however intense these negotiations may be they will not change one word of the EU treaties which are all directed against the survival of the UK fleet.

Roddy McColl
15 July 2011

Thursday, 14 July 2011

House of Lords debate on CFP reform

Baroness Parminter's Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to achieve reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

was scheduled for yesterday, conveniently for Lord Henley, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at DEFRA, who was answering on HMG's behalf. This way he could point to the newly produced Commission proposals, agree sorrowfully with those peers who pointed out that the CFP has been a disaster even by EU standards, swat away Lord Pearson's comment about the need to run one's own fisheries policy with the words "we are where we are" and, above all, promise that Britain will fight for a radical reform of this catastrophic policy, will start to do so on Tuesday and will go on as long as it takes. Curiously enough, Lord Henley did not mention the many other times HMG's Ministers had promised to fight for that reform only to find that it was not actually possible to change the CFP in any radical fashion or to introduce sensible measures while it was in place.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Ministerial Statement

Statement made both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the last Agriculture and Fisheries Council on June 28, attended Richard Benyon and Richard Lochhead MSP.

The Statement deals with the proposed Commission plan to change various regulations in the CFP in order to turn the policy into a sustainable one.

Commissioner Damanaki spoke about the Commission's proposed framework for setting catch levels for 2012 and beyond via the total allowable catch (TAC) and quota regulation (TQR). Against a backdrop of the poor state of many EU fish stocks and the continued issue of overfishing, the Commission announced its aim to ensure that all fish stocks should be fished within the threshold of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015 and where there was insufficient scientific advice or data the precautionary approach should be adopted and a cut of 25 per cent should be applied to the TAC. Commissioner Damanaki also explained that she intended to split the TQR into two parts this year in order to improve the process: internal stocks to be decided at the November council and external (those subject to international negotiations, principally joint EU-Norway stocks) in December.

There was near universal opposition to the idea of the 25 per cent cut for data-poor stocks with 19 of the 22 fishing member states (and Austria) explicitly opposing this. There was concern that this approach would merely increase levels of discarded fish in many cases and that a more targeted approach, using all available data or advice, even incomplete, would be preferable.

There was widespread concern among all fishing member states about aspects of the MSY principle. Nearly all noted that 2015 was the target for all fisheries and that this should be achieved on a gradual basis. The UK, along with Ireland, Spain, Belgium and coastal state in the Baltic expressed concern about how individual species MSY targets could be identified correctly in a multi-species environment.

The UK, Spain, Denmark, France, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Austria also expressed concern about the idea of splitting the TQR decision-making across two councils, creating administrative inefficiency.

Other discussions were about Ireland complaining about mackerel fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands as well as a report back from the Netherlands on the high-level conference on Common Fisheries Policy reform that took place in Noordwijk in March 2011.

As usual there are several various documents, all dry as dust and hard to digest but they are out. Here is the link. We shall be analyzing them and picking up other comments as time goes on.

... for the Commission's plan, it is interesting to find this on the BBC site

Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said that the EU had to admit that the policy so far had been a failure.

"There is overfishing; we have 75% overfishing of our stocks and comparing ourselves to other countries we cannot be happy," Ms Damanaki told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"So we have to change. Let me put it straight - we cannot afford business as usual any more because the stocks are really collapsing."

How many times have we said in the past that the CFP was completely unsustainable in its very existence?