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?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Commission's White Paper

What is billed as "the most radical reform of the CFP in its history" is due to be proposed tomorrow by the European Commission. This blog prefers to wait for the document and to analyze the details, wherein the devil will lie. After all, we have heard about radical reforms before and it seems to us that it is a little premature to start rejoicing about a purported victory over fish discards, particularly if that victory will mean more fishing jobs lost in the United Kingdom.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Fish to Landfill

We have received the following information and comment from Callander MCDowell:

Fish to Landfill: This week, UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon spoke at a press meeting in advance of EU proposals to reform the Common Fisheries policy. According to Seafood Source, Mr Benyon is an ardent supporter of Mrs Damanaki’s reforms which he hopes will bring about an end to discards. However, he said any ban on discards must be practical. Mr Benyon also said that a discard ban would satisfy most of the 650,000 people who signed the Fish Fight petition (although we suspect that this is an issue that most of the 650,000 have already long forgotten having being persuaded by others to sign) but that he doesn’t want to achieve a system whereby we’ll be putting good fish in landfill because we can’t throw them overboard at sea.

Mr Benyon’s suggestion that any fish might be consigned to landfill is astonishing, especially as his department has just spent £330.000 looking at ways in which discards could be utilised. Unfortunately, as we have previously discussed, the Fishing for the Markets project appears to have failed to come up with anything new. One of their suggestions was to use the fish for fishmeal production which is probably what would happen if fishermen were prevented from throwing the fish back into the sea. There is absolutely no reason to even consider landfill as a possible solution and it is hard to understand why such an idea would even be considered. The problem with fishmeal production is that those who are against discards also seem to be against the idea of feeding fish to fish and so fishmeal production would probably bring about even more objections than discards.

Thus the only realistic solution emanating from the Fishing from the Markets project is to get chefs to promote greater consumption of under utilised species. This coming week, Mr Benyon’s department are sponsoring a day at Billingsgate Seafood Training School in which chefs will be shown how to prepare and cook these fish. We’ve yet to be convinced that the public can be converted to eating more of these species by this route. Just this Friday, Sainsbury’s continued to promote their Switch the Fish campaign with the appearance of their Switch the Fish van in central Manchester. The weather was not in their favour but even though there were many people on the streets during the lunch time rush, we didn’t see that much interest in Sainsbury’s promotion. There seemed to be more staff than visitors.

Mr Benyon has remained surprisingly quiet about what to do about discards despite being very vocal at its launch of his project. Perhaps we will need to wait to hear directly from Mr Benyon as to whether it is the fish or the Fishing for the Markets project which are most likely to end up in landfill.

He has also remained quiet about FALs Open Letter to him and is perpetrating the myth in today’s’ Scotsman newspaper that the CFP can be radically reformed calling for” serious reform of the fundamentally broken EU fisheries policy”. You cannot reform equal access to the common resource and that, after all, is what the CFP is all about.

Reuters reports that they had seen the Commission's draft proposals for a supposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, due to be unveiled next week.

The Commission has warned that three-quarters of EU fish stocks are currently exploited at unsustainable levels, and between 30 and 40 percent of the EU's fishing fleet is not making enough money to remain in business in the long-term.

A reduction in fishing for a few years would allow stocks to recover to a level where fishermen can catch and earn more than today, without depleting the resource in the long-term -- a level known as "maximum sustainable yield," the Commission says.

To achieve this, the Commission will propose an end to the annual horse-trading between EU governments over fishing quotas, which in the past has resulted in catch limits being set above the maximum levels recommended by scientists.

Instead, EU governments should jointly agree "multi-annual" plans based on expert advice that fix quotas for one or more fish stocks for several years at a time to avoid overfishing, the draft proposal says.

But those pesky governments might not go along with some of the proposals as the fishing sector "wields considerable political power in some EU countries". There, on the other hand, other countries, not mentioned by Reuters, who have no fishing sectors to speak of, and yet they, too, will have a say in the matter.

We shall, of course, follow the shenanigans around the adoption of the various proposals but two points need to be made. One is that the notion of a single fisheries policy for such a wide area and one, furthermore, that involves the agreement of countries who have nothing at stake, is not a viable proposition.

Secondly, we are still waiting to see whether the real CFP of equal access will kick in in 2012 or whether there will be yet more derogations.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A reminder

In response to an earlier posting about "a new trawling system" we were reminded (as if any reminder were needed) that this possibility has been discussed in the past, though considerably later than the technology had actually been invented.

This posting on EUReferendum details discussions on the subject as long ago as 2007 and the inadequate response and analysis that was produced by the media.

But what is also welcome is that, as Clover puts it, "fisherman for the first time will be able to boost their livelihoods by avoiding dumping dead fish over the side." Fishing vessels are to be allowed to "earn" around 12 more days at sea by adopting voluntary measures such as "real time closures" where juvenile fish congregate and separator trawls which allow the catching of haddock but allow cod to escape.

This latter "innovation" is apparently a British proposal and, while it is indeed welcome, its introduction now illustrates quite how derelict are the decision-making processes in the European Union.

The issue of selective fishing we were writing about last October and even the World Wildlife Fund was calling for it that December. But the techniques themselves have been available commercially for well over a decade which, together with other techniques could have been introduced many years ago.

The problem is, of course, that the CFP is a political structure and decisions are taken centrally for the whole enormous and varied area through political negotiations between member states.