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.