A very merry Christmas to all our readers from FAL and this blog.
As we await the outcome of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting it is worth remembering that one of the arguments is going to be about cod.
As Monday's story makes it clear, there is likely to be some disagreement over cod and what we are to do about it.
EU ministers meet on Tuesday for annual fishing quota talks. Richard Benyon said he would argue against cuts of 20% in catches and 25% in the number of fishing days.
He said scientists had told the government they were unnecessary. But UK marine expert Callum Roberts said cod levels were still too low.
Cod stocks are going up and it is questionable whether the scientifically unproven idea of ever more cuts in catches is the best way forward. This is what Mr Benyon told the BBC:
"We're not absolutely perfectly at the trajectory laid out in the cod recovery plan but cod stocks are rising," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"The problem with the cod recovery plan is that it is a bad plan - there's no flexibility in it at all."
He added: "We've got good scientific advice which says the proposed cuts to the quota will have a negative effect - it will actually result in more mortality."
He said that if the cuts - which would be implemented in February - came in, "fishermen, for example, will have less time to fish so they will fish closer to port, possibly where the fish are spawning, rather than where there are bigger fish so they won't be discarding."
He would go into the talks "abiding by science" and "working towards fishing to sustainable levels", he said.
Other scientists say that the only way to increase cod stocks further is to go on lowering the fishing effort. The unfortunate aspect to all this is that the decisions, such as they are, will be taken far away from the fishing areas by people who have no interest in it at all.
The BBC's Kevin Keane, meanwhile, said a "power struggle" was threatening to derail negotiations before they began.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had been given a greater say since the Lisbon Treaty became law in 2009, he said.
And he said some legal experts had warned that, if the EU ministers decided to impose cuts, it could face a legal challenge by the European Parliament.
Thus, what we are likely to get is some sort of mish-mash of a political compromise that will satisfy no-one. That is how it will go on while we remain in the Common Fisheries Policy.
It looks as if HMG is going ahead with the Balance of Competences Review and is, possibly, taking it all more seriously than many of us believed. Of course, the devil will, as ever, be in the detail and one can hardly trust the ministries and departments who are working on the reports.
In a Written Statement on October 23, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, explained the purpose and gave a timetable:
I wish to inform the House that, further to my oral statement at the launch of the balance of competences review on 12 July 2012, Official Repo rt, column 468, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is today publishing the timetable for the review including departmental responsibility for the reports into each individual area of competence.
The review will complete its work during 2014 and will look at the scope of the EU’s competences (the power to act in particular areas conferred on it by the EU Treaties) as they affect the UK, how they are used, and what that means for Britain and our national interests.
The review will be divided into four semesters, each containing six to 10 reports. This will allow reports on related topics to be grouped together. The reports from each semester will be published at the end of that semester. If necessary, changes to this timetable will be made in order to take account of any events which could impact upon the timing of a report.
Fisheries is some way down the list. It will be Report 22 in Semester 3 that will be put together from autumn 2013 to spring 2014. According to Mr Hague's statement that must mean that the actual report will be published in the spring of 2014. Before that we need to ensure that information about the real situation with fisheries is widely spread and ideas alternative to the CFP are propounded.
The December meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (scheduled to take place in Brussels on December 18 and 19 this year) is the big one as that is the one on which various decisions are taken that will affect fishing efforts and catches in the following year. Of course, as these decisions are taken centrally (in Brussels) for a large area that includes many different kinds of fish and fishing they are likely to be extremely unsatisfactory.
In the meantime, here is the official agenda of items to be discussed.
Here are some more recruits to the "look what the CFP has done to us" club: the fishermen of Lithuania.
Are the European Commission and its fisheries watchdog, Department of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, more caring about Atlantic mackerel and fish-abundant Mauritania, or small European fisheries like JSC Baltlanta from Lithuania?
They are definitely not concerned about the interests of small European fisheries, like that of Lithuania, maintain the heads of Baltlanta, once the largest oceanic fishing industry company in the Baltics.
I have news for the fishermen of Lithuania. The European Commission is not that concerned with the interests of large European fisheries. Well, not with the British and Irish ones, anyway. But then, what exactly did the Lithuanians expect? Before they joined the EU they were warned by a number of people that the move would not be beneficial and one of the examples of the EU's malevolence pointed out to them was the Common Fisheries Policy.
Thriving until the European Union’s involvement into its business, now the company has fallen victim to the adverse EU fishing policies as its vessels have been grounded from last September. Blaming in particular the EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, for their misfortunes, some at Baltlanta call her, sneeringly, “ a duffer” who has perhaps no clue in her Brussels office how crippling the policies have been to Baltlanta off the African coast after she signed the new Protocol to the EC and Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement, a big time game-changer for the Lithuanian company.
“According to the Protocol, the fish quotas have been redistributed among the EU member states. Now they favor big fleets that only large European countries can boast of. The permissible fishing zone has been pulled back beyond the 20 nautical miles, 10 miles deeper into the ocean from the previous zone. That has reduced our catch 10 times; the Commission has nodded to Mauritania’s demand to recruit 60 percent of the workforce in the country. Besides, the EC negotiators have agreed to give 2 percent of the fish catch for local charities, which translates into thousands of tons at the end of the day. Among other common sense-defying concessions to Mauritania is the obligation to buy ship fuel from local vendors and offload the catch only in Mauritanian seaports, both of which is also nonsense,” said Alfonsas Bargaila, chairman of Lithuania’s Fishing Enterprise Association (LFEA).
Read the whole piece. It is not long. Always good to see people awakening to reality.
Iceland's president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said in an interview with CNN that not only he considered that letting the country's banks fail to have been the right move, which has put the country in a better economic position than most EU members and particularly those of the eurozone are in, but he also would not hesitate to veto a parliamentary decision to seek EU membership (an unlikely event, given the way opinion is shifting in that country, as documented in this blog), "a promise he told CNN he had based five successful presidential runs on".
In particular, needless to say, Iceland is worried about the fisheries policy, having, no doubt, watched the destructive nature of the CFP in the UK, Ireland and other countries. The arguments about quotas have already started.
Ireland has called for the EU to impose sanctions against Iceland for over-fishing, and talks in September between Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the EU were inconclusive.
The Minister of Fishing and Agriculture, Steingrimur Sigfusson, said the dispute has called into question whether Iceland wants to become an EU member.
"These negotiations have been delayed, partly because of disputes like the mackerel," he said. "It's becoming increasingly difficult to continue, and needless to say, sanctions or things like that, would be very detrimental to the atmosphere."
On the whole, it is beginning to look like Iceland does not want to become an EU member. What would they gain?
Here is the Press Release that gives a summary of decisions reached at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council at the end of last week. First come matters to do with CAP. Decisions to do with fisheries are on page 10 and following. Mostly they are to do with deep sea fishing and an agreement with Norway.
There will, one assumes be statements in both Houses either later today or tomorrow.
As the official statement said (in this case in the House of Lords but it is the same statement), the Agriculture and Fisheries Council met yesterday and today.
The second day [i.e. today, November 29] will be dedicated to fisheries issues. The Council will discuss a proposal on the fixing for 2013 and 2014 fishing opportunities for EU vessels for certain deep sea stocks, and the EU/Norway 2013 negotiations. There is an any other business point about the fixing of the total allowable catch (TAC) for Norway pout.
We await the official statement though not exactly with bated breath.
It has become a sad necessity to keep referring to the elephant in the room whenever journalists of any description write long and often emotional articles about something political, economic and social without mentioning the really important aspect of the subject: the role of the European Union and its various policies.
The Common Fisheries Policy is such an elephant with numerous analyses and woeful lamentations about the fishing industry and the presence or absence of fish in the seas around these islands published or broadcast without a single thought given to the noxious and destructive policy.
These awesome pictures in the Daily Mail of fishing trawlers from Peterhead among other places are accompanied by an article that describes fairly the dangers and difficulties of fishermen's lives and looks at the gradual (or not so gradual) decline of fishing ports like Peterhead and Grimsby. Nowhere do we see any references to the most important cause of that decline: that dratted policy.
We cannot help agreeing with the anger expressed by Michael Fry in The Scotsman about the Common Fisheries Policy. It has been a disaster, he argues, throughout its history and Scotland with its fishermen has suffered. (As have England and Northern Ireland but The Scotsman is unlikely to mention that.) All Scottish politicians agree on this, no matter what party they are in but nothing much seems to happen, despite all the tough words.
So what is the answer? Raise the subject of reform once Scotland has voted for independence and has to rethink its position in relation to EU membership. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. The course of action that has produced no result so far needs to be tried again and made really tough. Good luck with that. How about reconsidering the need for a Common Fisheries Policy altogether?
EU Business, that is completely pro-EU in all its vagaries, reports that there will be not cut-backs on the subsidies handed out to France, Portugal and, especially, Spain for the "modernization" of their fishing fleet. These subsidies have been handed out for several decades. One would think that by now all the fleets have been "modernized". Apparently not. Apparently, while quotas are being cut back and fishermen of other countries are encouraged to sell off their boats, these fleets will grow and grow at the European Union taxpayers' expense. What would we do without the Common Fisheries Policy?
There seems to be some strange consensus being built up among Conservative and Conservative-leaning commentators that the UK is effectively out of the European Union for reasons that are rather hard to define.
Andrew Lilico wrote on Conservative Home
There will be a referendum on our EU Membership even if Ed Miliband wins the next General Election. And even if there weren't, we would still be out of the EU regardless of whether we still officially held an EU membership card. Our EU membership, in the terms we have understood it up to now, is over.
Get-out-ers seem to have been even slower to grasp that and its implications than have the Cameroons (who are still pitifully behind the play). We are leaving the EU, one way or another. That isn't in doubt; it isn't the issue; and it's barely worth debating. Given that I didn't want us to leave, I might occasionally indulge in some recriminations over whose fault it is that we're leaving, but that's not the interesting question.
Whether we are leaving the EU is highly questionable as no particular plan has been proposed or even discussed officially. Even more questionable is the assertion that our membership "in the terms we have understood it up to now, is over".
Exactly, what has changed? Are we not still legally bound to obey the legislation in all its forms that emanates from Brussels? Do we not still pay over large amounts of money with more being demanded in the budget under discussion? Are we not part of the CAP, the CFP, the European Arrest Warrant (EWA) and many other alphabet institutions?
Today we get the same tune from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Daily Telegraph, whose headline says: Britain has left the European Union in all but name. All the above questions need to be asked and all the implied objections apply.
Mr Evans-Pritchard is assuring us that we are preparing to withdraw from vast amounts of legislation to do with the Third Pillar, that is law and justice. Well, no, not as such. So far, we have had a great deal of talk about not opting into some of the legislation from which opt-outs have been negotiated though this government has already opted in unnecessarily in a few cases. There is no sign whatsoever that the country will pull out of anything like the European Arrest Warrant or the European Investigation Order, which the government quietly and without telling anybody much opted in.
Periodically we get noises from Ministers who suddenly "discover" after a good many years that yes, indeed, EU rules do apply, have applied and will apply until we come out and negotiate a completely different agreement. We also get noises about how much this particular government has managed to save from the EU or, much more frequently, how much it will save any minute now. Been there, done that, ever since John Major's "game, set and match" over Maastricht.
There is a litmus test that needs to be applied whenever a government, a political party or its acolytes in the media start making statements of that kind: what are they saying about the fisheries policy? As long as this country's fisheries are run by the EU through the CFP we are not out of the EU nor are we heading out.
... that the risible award of the Nobel Peace Prize to one of the most corrupt, inefficient, undemocratic organizations, the European Union, had nothing to do with its self-appointed stewardship of the environment, particularly the seas and the fish therein.
It is interesting to note that among the various countries and organizations that are disconcerted by this decision (though, really, what can one expect from that committee?) is Norwary itself. Its people voted twice to stay out of the European Union but the dubious politician and President of the Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, is known to favour Norwegian membership of the EU (despite or, perhaps, because the country is doing rather well outside it) and, in its true democratic style would like either to have another referendum and ensure that this time the Norwegians vote the right way or to start negotiations without asking the people.
Needless to say, one reason why the Norwegians want to stay outside the EU is that they prefer to control their own fisheries.
There are at present three open consultations at the Food Standards Agency to do with fish labelling and we thought some of our readers might be interested. They are the same consultation really but separate documents need to be issued for all the devolved legislatures, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The one for England will probably follow tomorrow.
The Scottish one will do as well as the others. As ever it explains who the consultation is for and what the purpose is:
These Regulations will introduce new consumer information and traceability requirements as set out in the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Control Regulations (EC) No 1224/2009 and (EU) No 404/2011, and will continue to provide for the consumer information and traceability requirements of the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products (CMO) Regulations (EC) No 104/2000 and (EC) No 2065/2001 (as currently provided for in the Fish Labelling (Scotland) Regulations 2010 which will be revoked).
Readers with interest in the subject may as well go to the real legislation: Council Regulation (EC) No. 1224/2009 that establishes "establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy" or Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011 of 8 April 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. After all, the consultation is merely about the best way of implementing these regulations.
The days of packed fringe meetings at party conferences about the CFP are in the past but will, we hope, be revived. In the meantime, some people who are either going to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham (the only one at which there are any discussions of the EU and Britain's membership at all) or just happen to be in that city or its vicinity next week might be interested in the following.
There will be, as in the last couple of years, a Freedom Zone, outside the security one, at which people can meet and discuss matters outside the officially sanctioned programme. Two particular events seem interesting. At 4 pm on Tuesday, October 9 there will be a debate between Conservatives and UKIP about who the real eurosceptics are. Most of us know the Conservative record on, say, matters to do with fishing. Nevertheless, the debate should be very interesting.
On the preceding day at 5.15pm there is a drinks reception at which Brian Binley MP and the economist Ruth Lea will discuss Britain and Europe - a new relationship. It might be worth noting ahead of this discussion, should any of our readers would want to attend and contribute that Europe is not a political phenomenon. The European Union is and we do not have a relationship with it any more than Cornwall has a relationship with the UK. We are part of it and that is that for the time being.
The answer to that might be proffered at another fringe meeting, that of the Bruges Group, at 2pm on Monday, October 8. The title is How Britain Can Exit the EU and it will be interesting to hear what two MPs of two parties who are committed to staying in will have to say on the matter. The third speaker is Tim Congdon, the distinguished economist and member of UKIP.
The myth: An article in The Sunday Times claimed that ‘fewer than 100 mature cod are left in the North Sea’.
The truth: This is completely wrong, in fact we know there to be around 21 million mature cod in the north sea. Cod start to mature from a year old and are fully mature at age six. There are a small number of cod over the age of 12 years old which has always been the case in the North Sea even when fished at lower levels in the 1950s and 1960s. Cod older than 15 have rarely been recorded in the North Sea.
Scottish Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead has also joined the
Initiatives by Scottish fishermen have meant that cod discard rates have fallen from 62 per cent in 2007 to 24 per cent in 2011. Schemes such as the use of selective fishing gear, to help avoid catching undersized and unwanted fish, help to conserve the species, he said.
The government says scientific advice from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) shows that there are 21 million mature cod (65,000 tonnes) in the North Sea with fish reproducing at a younger age. Some 60 per cent of four-year-old cod are mature rising to 100 per cent by age six.
This blog would like to open up the discussion even further. We have now heard from the media, the government and an official organization. Any fishermen would like to add their voice?
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organization has sent a rather stiff letter to the Sunday Times about the story covered by this blog about there being an ever decreasing number of cod in the North Sea. They are accusing the journalists of being dishonest with their reporting and of ignoring the long and detailed briefing they had from officials of the NFFO.
While we find it odd that the NFFO finds it necessary to insert an irrelevant reference to Martin Luther King, we do think it would be useful for our readers to go through the entire article as published by Fishupdate. com.
The NFFO’s chief executive Barrie Deas has now sent its response to Jonathan Leak, which says: “When Chris Darby from Cefas and I spoke to you for hours on Friday afternoon, it was in the perhaps naive hope that this week’s edition of the Sunday Times would turn away from its relentlessly one-sided and negative campaign on fishing. We were of course disappointed. The whole of the front page article failed to mention the most salient points about the North Sea cod stock: that it is rebuilding steadily; that here has been a dramatic reduction in the fishing rate for cod; and even with lower than average recruitment, the spawning stock biomass has increased annually for six years.
Then comes the really important paragraph.
Chris and I spoke to you about the high levels of cooperation between the fishing industry and fisheries scientists through fisheries science partnerships and the ICES benchmark process; we spoke to you about the many different initiatives underway to rebuild the cod stocks, including real time closures and the catch quota trials; we told you about the failure of blunt measures such as restricting time at sea and quota reductions and the subsequent moves towards more intelligent ways of fishing; we told you of the stupidity of scaring consumers from eating cod in the UK when some 80% of cod comes from the buoyant stocks at Iceland and North Norway – and always has done; we also told you about the media’s negative role in pushing the European Commission and Council into two ill-considered and consequently inadequate cod recovery plans.
Just think how much better it would all develop if all fisheries decisions could be taken by those concerned rather than the European Commission and Council for political reasons and under pressure from an ignorant media.
To be fair, the Sunday Telegraph sub-editors do not. The article about a report on cod in the North Sea has a shock horror title: Just 100 cod left in the North Sea. Did they count everyone, is the obvious question to ask.
Towards the end of the piece we find out that
None of the catches recorded at North Sea ports around Europe showed any fish aged 13 or over. Analysis of that data suggests there are fewer than 100 such fish in the whole North Sea.
Possibly so, though even that remains problematic as evidence. The problem as recorded of cod not growing to the size it ought to grow is one that has been repeated over and over again at meetings of Save Britain's Fish, back in the days it seemed like having meetings at party conferences was a good idea because people might listen. (To be fair, people did listen but the party leaders did not and nothing and no-one could explain matters to them. That remains true.)
With each quota agreement over the years the minimum size of fish was reduced thus enabling the fishing of juveniles. It is, surely, inevitable that if you fish out the juveniles, there will be fewer big fish; it is also inevitable that if you have a system that is centralized across many countries and decisions about fishing are made for political reasons, you are going to have agreements to pacify the fishermen of countries who shout loudest for small fish.
For the time being the solution as called for by "scientists" and, apparently, the NFFO is to take more ships out of commission and pay fishermen compensation. The problem is that this solution has been put forward and implemented over and over again and the results have not been what we might have wanted if the recent report is accurate. Is it not time to start thinking of some other way of solving the problem of North Sea fish. Of course, nothing much can be done while we stay in the CFP.
This paper was published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington DC but, for all of that, its arguments are of enormous interest to fishermen and all who are interested in fisheries policy here as well. We have only just received a copy of Give a Man a Fish and have not been able to analyze it properly. That shall be done but in the meantime our readers might like to read it and form their own conclusions. The notion that the best way forward is greater regard for property rights instead of yet more government regulation is one that needs to be discussed properly. Of course, whether we agree with the conclusions or not, we can do nothing about it while we are in the EU and its monstrous creation, the CFP.
On the whole the much-touted Cabinet reshuffle has been a damp squib. None of the senior positions were touched though Ken Clarke has finally been shuffled out of any position of responsibility and the egregious Baroness Warsi has lost the chairmanship of the party, something that the Prime Minister ought to have put into effect a while ago.
Most of the predicted moves did come about: Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Mitchell, Justine Greening and one or two others are no longer in the position they were last week.
There was some rejoicing and gnashing of teeth about the government, allegedly, becoming more right-wing but that has been countered by the fact that the Lib-Dems, the party that raised its share of votes in the last election by all of 1 per cent, lost several seats and whose vote has now collapsed, have been given another place in the Cabinet. There seems no point to it. David Laws, he of the expenses scandal in the new government, has been given a junior post in the Department of Education. He will, however, "attend Cabinet and have a roving brief across Government", whatever that might mean.
Of the new Ministers two might affect the question of fisheries: Justine Greening, now at International Development (the ministry that would be the first to be abolished if there were any justice in the world) where she might get involved in some of the fisheries negotiations with third countries. It is hard to predict how Ms Greening will behave. So far, she has not been a success in any of her positions. This might change but then again it might not.
So we go on to the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson. This is an interesting choice as Mr Paterson has shown himself to be somewhat rebellious at various times. He is a man who actually knows and cares about the environment and who is, unlike some of the others who have been promoted, on the right of the party. This is what James Delingpole wrote about him in the Daily Telegraph:
Paterson is a man of principle and a fighter and may prove much more reluctant to be trampled on than was his chocolate fireguard of a predecessor, Caroline Spelman. He is pro fox hunting; pro shale gas; pro free markets; he is anti wind farms; anti gay marriage. The kind of sound Tory MP you almost feared they didn't make any more.
FAL has no opinions on gay marriage but, on the whole, supports the other points made by Mr Delingpole, who, incidentally, has decided to stand in he forthcoming Corby by-election as an independent anti-windfarm candidate.
Above all, let us not forget that it was Owen Paterson who, as Conservative spokesman on fisheries came up with the first sensible policy on the subject for decades. It probably needs some updating and that is one thing this blog is preparing to take on but, just in case there are readers who have not seen it, here is a link to it.
Of course, there is a very big fly in the ointment. Sometimes it is called the elephant in the room. It is the European Union. Environment is a wholly EU competence (as is fishing) and any UK Minister is going to find it difficult to achieve anything. We do, however, wish Mr Paterson well and hope that he will do the difficult thing. We are ready to help and advise. In fact, FAL has requested a meeting in November by which time, it is to be hoped, Mr Paterson has acclimatized himself to the new position.
Here is some interesting information and comment from FAL Newsletter (not it isn't just a collection of recipes though there is much to be said for that).
The European Commission is proposing a ban on deep sea trawling and gillnetting in NE Atlantic. Let us not forget that while the Common Fisheries Policy is in place and the UK is part of it, the Commission's proposals need to be taken very seriously, since they are likely to become part of the CFP's structure and the so-called reforms are not going to change that. The policy will still be centralized.
On 26 July the European Commission published a legislative proposal to regulate deep sea fishing in the North East Atlantic over the next 10 years. One measure has stood out from the rest: a phasing out of licences for deep sea trawling and bottom gillnetting over the next two years.
The ban will end all deep water trawling and gill netting below 1000m depth and for some fisheries below 500m. It will apply to all fishing in EU waters and all EU vessels operating on the high seas in the NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) region. Deep sea trawling, which drags heavy nets across the seabed, is recognised to be harmful to the fragile deep sea marine habitats and destructive to deep sea fish stocks. Fish species living in the deep sea environment are highly vulnerable and have been severely depleted, according to EU assessments.
NGOs heralded the proposal as “historic”. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) (SEE BELOW FAL COMMENT) stated: “The proposal is strong and, if adopted, would mark a significant turning point in the fortunes of the deep sea, which have been recognised as needing urgent protection from destructive fishing practices”.
Initially a veto— pressure from the French Commissioner, Michel Barnier, meant publication was blocked. But that seems to have been withdrawn only 30 minutes before the legal deadline in the face of mounting opposition to his stance.
France and Spain are the two countries predominantly involved in the fishery.
Initial reactions opposing the ban have been sharp. The French Fisheries Minister has said the proposal is “unacceptable” and that he will oppose it. A representative of Scapêche, a French company directly involved in deep sea trawling, said it was “A loss of reason.
The Commission’s position is purely political”. The Commission Proposal will now be sent to the EU Fisheries Ministers and the European Parliament for adoption. The debates are very likely to be heated.
However, the whole story is not as straightforward as you might think. FAL thinks it is worth having a look at the various NGOs involved in the campaign.
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has notable members including the RSPB and the Pew Foundation which is one of the funders of Ocean 2012.
Ocean 12 does not have its own funds. The coalition’s activities are carried out and funded entirely by its member groups — Oak Foundation Geneva and the Pew Environment Group the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia.
If you want to see what the industry is up against with the aggressiveness of extremely well funded NGOs have a look at fishlove.org highlighted on the Ocean 12 website.
Quote from this website: “fishlove is an ongoing project that invites well-known personalities across the globe to make a bold stand to stop over-fishing. Scientists predict that all marine life will effectively disappear from our oceans by the middle of this century if nothing is done about over-fishing. The people in these photographs want over-fishing to stop. All fish taken in the photographs were kindly donated by Waitrose, and have been caught sustainably according to the company’s impeccable environmental policy.”
Ocean 2012—Transforming European Fisheries is something else. Their video “ Ending overfishing” launched to celebrate Fishweeks 8 June to 31 August is a masterpiece of propaganda—End overfishing or fishing will be over.
While it is not unreasonable that organizations outside the industry are listened to we cannot help wondering why it is that
As Cormac Burke Fishing News Editor wrote in FN of 3 August “Welcome to the fishing industry-a sector populated by those who must endure anti industry, often completely untruthful and dramatic stories in the national press on a daily basis. Heaven forbid if the industry were to say something mildly incorrect about an environmentalist.”
Why exactly is the assumption that members of the industry are always wrong has become so acceptable by the political establishment and, unfortunately, the media?
Apologies for the silence. Several postings are, so to speak, brewing. In he meantime, the summer issue of FAL Newsletter is out and there is plenty to read there. For once, we shall start by quoting something light, a recipe that sounds absolutely excellent: Creamy Tagliatelle with Prawns and Spinach. (Ha! You didn't expect that.)
• 500g spinach
• 500g fresh tagliatelle
• 250ml fresh cream
• 250ml white wine
• 1 chopped onion
• Optional - 3 medium sized mushrooms (chopped)
• 3-4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
• Pinch of salt
• Grind of pepper
• 1/3 teaspoon of paprika
Lightly fry the chopped onion and fresh prawns in butter until translucent. Next, add the chopped garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add ½ of the white wine and let it simmer for 1 minute, then add the cream and remaining white wine.
Let this simmer so that the wine is reduced and flavours are absorbed. Be careful not to have the pan on a high heat as this will cause your sauce to be lumpy and keep stirring it. Flavour your sauce with salt and pepper and a small sprinkle of paprika.
In the meantime…
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add salt and olive oil and the pasta. As this is fresh pasta, it will only require 4 minutes cooking time. Once al dente (um, still a little hard to chew) drain your pasta and then put it back in the pot and add the fresh spinach. Put a lid on the pot. This will ensure that the spinach wilts amongst the heat of the pasta. Once your spinach is wilted (only takes 2 minutes) add the pasta with the spinach to the creamy white wine and prawn sauce and serve. Buon appetito!
EurActiv quotes the European Commission as saying:
EU member states that have repeatedly flouted EU limits on how much fish they can catch will receive greatly reduced quotas for this year, as the bloc strives to ensure sustainable fishing
The worst offenders, according still to the Commission, are France, Portugal and Spain.
What exactly that will achieve is anybody's guess as countries that are already flouting their quota limits are unlikely to stop when those quotas are reduced.
This farce has been going on since 1983 when quotas were introduced as a way of making a transition to the real Common Fisheries Policy, which is, let us not forget, equal access by all members to all the waters and all the fisheries. The arrangement of TACs and quotas is due to end in December 2012. What will happen then? Will a new system be put into place or will the fully integrated single European fishing industry be finally be launched. We shall have to see.
In the meantime, we may as well acknowledge that countries are unlikely to obey rules that are arbitrarily imposed on them by some central authority that has no understanding of such concepts as trade or local conditions.
Tom Hay, the Honorary Chairman of FAL, continues in his efforts to educate our politicians. Here is a letter he wrote to Ian Hudghton an SNP representative in the European Parliament, where the party is a member of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group for voting and funding purposes and he, himself, sits on the Committee on Fisheries. A copy of the letter went to Struan Stevenson MEP, Vice-Chair of that Committee, who has been mentioned on this blog before.
The letter is being published with Tom's permission.
It was good to see you in the Waterside Inn this past Friday the 30th March 2012.
I am sure that the thoughts which gave rise to the statement you made publicly in Aviemore a few years ago that FAL was right, must revolve around your mind oftentimes, as you witness the continued deliberate destruction of the British White fish fleet, as it desperately struggles to survive, only a stone’s throw away from its almost inevitable collapse.
Be that as it may, I was visibly shaken, and astonished that you sought to proffer the thought, that the horrendous anti-British principle of “equal access” to our fishing grounds, and living marine resources might only be a threat. Every Nation which has become a member of the European Union both with, and without a maritime sea-board, has agreed by treaty to accept that principle.
The Commission has gone out of its way for years, to make it absolutely clear that the “acquis communautaire” for marine fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states fleets, for all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations, and that the “acquis” is not negotiable. Actual negotiations are limited to transitional arrangements or derogations, but for as long as the European Union continues, the “acquis communautaire” remains sacrosanct”.
It is outwith the bounds of EU law for a derogation to override a treaty. If a derogation could at any time wipe out a treaty, what would be the point of having a treaty in the first place? Furthermore one member state or an applicant nation such as Iceland, (if they are foolish enough) cannot amend a treaty without the unanimous consent of all the other member states. Treaty amendments have usually been made at inter governmental conferences which are usually held once every four years, although this time limit is not unalterable, but every head of state must be at the summit, and the decision taken must be unanimous.
If on the other hand the UK Parliament argued that a continuance of the present derogation was a vital national interest of ours, and the Spanish or any other member state argued that its discontinuation was equally a vital national interest of theirs, and if all negotiations failed, as could easily happen, and perhaps would most likely happen, the disagreement would have to be brought before the European Court of Justice. The Court would without the least shadow of doubt find that the derogation must end, and the full thrust of the “equal access” principle as prescribed by the treaties must be introduced.
The simple fact is therefore, however unpalatable it may be, that any other member state of the EU in this sequence of events, could veto the continuance of the derogation after 2012, but we cannot by veto ensure its continuance.
The European Union’s plan of action to get rid of the British fishing fleet is quite clear, especially to those of us who have experienced the most awful persecution and humiliation of the 1983 derogation. The Brussels bureaucracy deviously planned and cleverly masterminded the concept, that our fishermen should be guided towards the establishment of a single European Union fleet, on a non discriminatory basis, with no increase in fishing effort without them ever knowing what was happening.
They believed that this could best be accomplished by successive steps, each craftily disguised as emphasising the need for more and more conservation, but which when taken together would inevitably and irreversibly lead to the annihilation of the British fleet. Thus with characteristic arrogance and contempt for ordinary hard working people, these lavishly paid and incompetent officials have assumed that British fishermen could be deluded, however reluctantly, into co-operating in their own extermination.
The European Court of Justice has stated that the Community system of national quotas is a derogation from the general rule of equal conditions of access to fishery resources, and the principle of non-discrimination laid down in Article 40(3) of the treaty. I have a top secret, classified, confidential document, which was leaked to me from a government department which clearly states this. I am prepared to let you see it sometime if you should so wish. So how can the 1983 fisheries agreement be the Common Fisheries Policy, and a derogation from it at the same time? Those who knowingly continue to propagate this lie, are highly skilled in the deception, since it serves the purpose of deceiving our fishermen into believing that the Common Fisheries Policy can be reformed, when indeed it cannot!
In Fishupdate.com October 17 2003, not all that long after the end of the 2002 derogation, it was reported from the EU Fisheries Conference in Southern Ireland, and I quote --- Spanish fishermen will be given access to some of Europe’s most sensitive fishing grounds under a deal agreed by EU Fisheries Ministers. They have agreed to open almost 10,000 square miles off the Irish coast, until now been deemed environmentally sensitive. The deal to allow access to a quarter of the restricted area ignored opposition from Ireland, Britain, France and Portugal. The Irish Box, a 50 mile exclusion zone round the Irish coast has been seen as one of the most important spawning and nursery grounds in EU waters.
Neil Parish MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Fisheries in the European Parliament, said “ This decision is totally hypocritical. The European Commission is telling everyone that whitefish stocks are perilously low, and have demanded quota cuts and reductions in time at sea, for British fishermen etc. etc…..until Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler is quoted as having said --- “Spain and Portugal have now been fully integrated into the CFP, all rules that could be considered as discriminatory have been abolished and from now on, EU measures will apply equally to all. The new regime legally brings to an end the discriminatory restrictions on access following the full integration of Spain and Portugal into the Common Fisheries Policy.”
Can we really expect our so called European Partners to whom we have given such valuable treaty guarantees to negotiate their cancellation, and thus surrender their assurance of unfettered access to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. I think not. The stark reality which yawns before our fishermen is the fact that they have to be driven out of their own fishing grounds to let the rest of the member states fishermen predominate in British waters.
The only way to rescue the British fishing industry, and having it re-established as it once was, is through the restoration of National Control by a United Kingdom Act of Parliament, over those waters legally under our jurisdiction in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea 1982.
I am sending a copy of this letter to Struan Stevenson MEP.
I have not the slightest doubt that FAL will be accredited a station of great honour, in the annals of history for telling British fishermen the truth.
Thomas Hay. Hon. Chairman FAL
So far, there has been no reply and Tom's exposition of the Common Fisheries Policy as it really is has not been acknowledged, refuted or even discussed.
FAL has gone to some trouble to work out the SNP's timetable on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy and, in the circumstances, this is information that needs to be widely known.
Let's have a look, shall we?
FAL Newsletter December 2003:
SALMOND LAUNCHES BILL TO WITHDRAW FROM COMMON FISHERIES POLICY Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond has published a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons, which carries cross-party support, aimed at scrapping the Common Fisheries Policy.
Entitled the “Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill”, Mr Salmond’s Bill would have the effect of withdrawing the UK from the CFP and asserting national control over Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters.
“This Bill is one of only a handful in recent years which carries the support of MPs from every political group in the House of Commons – such is the upsurge in anger and frustration at the disastrous impact of the Common Fisheries Policy."
Or, in other words, in 2003, less than a decade ago, Alex Salmond was in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the CFP. Whether that could be achieved or not while the country remains in the EU is, in this case, irrelevant. That was, apparently, his opinion.
On October 12, 2006 FAL held a fringe meeting at the SNP Conference in Perth.
At that time SeaFAR (Seafisheries Advisory and Reference Group) an industry government body, had just issued its Action plan for "A sustainable, profitable and well managed Scottish fishing industry within the EU".
This was the title of the topic at the meeting with the added words - "Fact or Fiction?"
Richard Lochhead MSP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Rural Affairs, Energy and Fisheries had welcomed the plan but added that it would not work because the Labour-led government had not recognized the simple fact that Scotland's fishing grounds were controlled by the EU through the CFP.
At long last and seven years into our Scottish Parliament, the Labour-Lib Dem government has recognised the need for a strategy for one of our most vital industries.
However, the reality is that regardless of how many good measures it may contain, it ignores the elephant in the room, namely, the Common Fisheries Policy which will always undermine our efforts to take the industry forward to better times. Only when Scotland regains control of our own waters will we be able to plot a course into calmer waters for our fishing communities.
Clear enough and accurate enough.
In 2007 the SNP had this in its Manifesto:
A better future outside the CFP
The SNP will continue to work for withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy and will not support any future European Constitution that grants the EU "exclusive competence" over this valuable resource. We will work with our partners to enlist support for the repatriation of fisheries responsibilities to member states.
We favour national control over fisheries, which conserves stocks as well as the livelihoods of fishing communities. While we recognise that international cooperation is required in the management of fish stocks, conservation is not being achieved in the CFP. Our maritime neighbours Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands all operate economically successful and environmentally sustainable fisheries outside the CFP. Scotland can emulate their success.
On July 31, 2008 Richard Lochhead reaffirmed during a meeting with FAL that the SNP and, therefore, the new Scottish government supported withdrawal from the CFP and restoration of national control over fisheries.
Well that was then. Since 2008 the notion of national control has been diluted somewhat.
On November 2, 2011 Richard Lochhead MSP. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Scottish Government was giving evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. The Report on EU proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was later published.
Q. 236 from the Chair of the Committee:
You would not wish to repatriate fishing policy?
Mr Lochhead's response:
No, our policy is to work towards repatriation of fishing policy from Europe to member states, and then allow us to work on a regional basis with other member states, where appropriate.
The questioning followed on:
Don’t you agree that the Commission is, in all but name, travelling in that direction? Mr Lochhead's answer was reasonably clear though one must forgive him the politician's phraseology: I very much welcome the direction of travel if we are able to get on that road and drive along it. That is why we are waiting to find out if it is legally possible. There are a lot of unanswered questions. There will still be some decision making at Brussels level. There is how the regional body is going to work and how much decision making they will actually have. It is a question perhaps you can ask me once we have the new CFP in place but, at the moment, we have great concerns over the principle that Europe lays down our seas as a common resource. We believe that these decisions should be taken at member state level.
Since then Richard Lochhead who, we must assume, speaks for the SNP on the subject has been talking more about the Scots "being good Europeans" than any straightforward notion of repatriating the fishing policy even assuming he knows how he could go about it .
2012 Your Scotland Your Future
“With independence we will remain part of the EU.” Richard Lochhead
With full participation, we will be enthusiastic and active Europeans though we will always make sure Scottish interests are fully and firmly represented. We will also be able to communicate our often distinctive circumstances and needs, particularly in areas such as fishing, at the top table. We will, for instance, argue for the replacement of the current Common Fisheries Policy.
One would think that this idea of communicating distinctive needs and circumstances "at the top table" has not been particularly useful to the UK government who, let us not forget, tend to use similar words. Why does Mr Lochhead think that miraculously it will work for a much smaller country that Scotland will be, should it acquire "independence within the EU", another impossibility.
On May 18, 2012 Richard Lochhead wrote in Fishing News about reforming the CFP. Had he read or listened to the numerous briefings FAL had submitted to him he would have realized that reform is not really possible while the basic concept of the CFP - integrated EU fisheries is in place.
Finally, here is a slightly hard to fathom comment from Richard Lochhead, made during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on June 7, 2012:
The debate has been dominated by the issue of regionalisation and bringing more decision making closer to home to regional bodies—and, I would argue, member states. I was slightly disappointed by comments attacking the concept of nationalising the CFP and should point out that the European Commission, the European presidency and other member states have a degree of sympathy with the idea of passing powers back to member states, not just regional bodies.
What we would really like is a clear indication of whether the SNP is still in favour of pulling out of the CFP. Then we would like to hear how they intend to achieve it.
By which we mean the problems created by the Maastricht Treaty otherwise known as the Treaty of European Union. It is important to recall that it was not till this treaty was signed that the Common Fisheries Policy became part of the consolidated treaties, having been before that a policy created by regulations. (Discussed here and here.)
As mentioned in a previous posting, it was Article 38 under Title II that formally 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.
The Maastricht Treaty did something more that was noted by some people at the time but dismissed by the defenders of the treaty and the whole European project as being of little real importance: it established a European citizenship. In Article 8 we can read:
1. Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union.
It then goes on to define various aspects of that citizenship and this Article has remained in all succeeding treaties. A good many people have argued that the citizens of this country were not asked whether they wanted to be citizens of the European Union and should, therefore be able to give it up. But can they?
This is what Lord Stoddart of Swindon (a good friend of FAL) wanted to know and asked
Her Majesty's Government what is the process by which British subjects may renounce their European Union citizenship.
The response given by Lord Henley on behalf of HMG but, undoubtedly, written by one or more of his minions in DEFRA was illuminating:
Under the Maastricht Treaty, every citizen who is a national of a member state is also a citizen of the Union. The UK has defined its "nationals" for European Economic Area (EEA) purposes as:
British overseas territories citizens who derive their citizenship from a Gibraltar connection and;British subjects under Part IV of the British Nationality Act 1981 having the right of abode under s.2 of the Immigration Act 1971.
A UK national as defined above who renounced that status and did not have the nationality of another member state would cease to be a European citizen. It is not possible, however, to renounce European citizenship while remaining a UK national.
So hard luck. If you want to remain British you have to remain a citizen of this preposterous Union.
Once again apologies for the silence. The weather has not been conducive to much thinking and there were many distractions such as the Jubilee week-end. All that is over though the weather continues to be the reverse of charming.
When we discuss the CFP, its real structure, aim and purpose as well as the supposed reform, it is important to think about the bigger picture. The CFP is part of the EU's treaty structure (since the one signed at Maastricht) and the difficulties with it reflect the difficulties with that idea: a centralized integrated political construct that cannot function either efficiently or to the benefit of any member state or community.
Recently, there have been various calls for an IN/OUT referendum on the EU membership. We, on this blog, are not happy with that as the campaign merely fudges a number of issues and takes away attention from things that matter. We consider that a healthy economic and political life (and that includes the fishing industry) cannot be revived in this country as long as it stays in the European Union, where reforms cannot be achieved except towards further integration.
Therefore, we need to concentrate on the two vital questions: how do we get out and what do we do afterwards. We hope to have a discussion about what needs to be done about the fishing industry on this blog, which will now become considerably more active (depressing weather or not).
In the meantime, it is worth recalling that some of the organizations and think-tanks that have presented themselves as being "eurosceptic" are, in fact, little more than front organizations for the EU or, as some people have referred to them, perestroika europhiles. In other words, they cannot see beyond a pointless and unachievable call for a reform in the EU or something they describe as a change in the relationship between Britain and the EU.
Of course, there is no relationship between Britain and the EU as Britain is a member of the EU. That is like calling for a change in the relationship between Devon and the UK - a nonsensical concept.
Furthermore, given the structure of the EU and the fact that any change in that can be achieved only through a wide-ranging change in the treaties that need to be accepted unanimously and implemented unanimously, the idea is well-nigh inconceivable.
That does not stop some organizations, too frightened to follow their own logic to the end. The latest of these is the research organization and think-tank, Open Europe, who have produced numerous reports that showed severe structural flaws in the EU and in its many policies.
For all of that, they proclaim on very little real evidence that Britain is better off in the EU; they also repeat that some kind of nebulous change in the relationship is achievable simply because Open Europe think it desirable - a fallacious argument. But it is worth looking at their report and the article about it, if for not other reason then to understand that not all organizations that proclaim to be on our side, really are.
... when you impose centralized rules, disregard the differences between the different fishing fleets and then try to implement the rules. The Guardian gives an interesting account of fishing observers on ships in the Northwest Atlantic Fishery Organisation (NAFO) being intimidated. It's not a pleasant or attractive story but well worth reading.
Not so long ago, Mr Davies, made a few of his usual self-promoting comments on the subject of fish on his website.
There is a great deal about how much he and his colleagues are doing to promote the so-called CFP reform, though there is even more about it not really going anywhere and nor can it (though Mr Davies will never admit it) while there is a centralized European fisheries policy, whose aim is to assert that the fishing waters are European.
Then there are attacks on UKIP and their leader, Nigel Farage MEP. It is to be noted that these attacks have increased recently and have been used instead of arguments by various Conservative politicians, especially MEPs. One can only surmise that they are worried about UKIP making inroads among people they consider to be "their" supporters.
Nigel Farage MEP is the leader of UKIP and a member of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, although he has yet to attend a single meeting. UKIP is opposed to British membership of the EU and therefore also to the CFP. Amendments to this effect can be tabled but they will be opposed by more than 90% of MEPs and will be lost. So what will Nigel Farage and UKIP do then?
The Fisheries Committee is almost evenly divided between reformers and those who oppose change. Having had his chance to vote for his beliefs, and lost, will Farage support positive reforms to create a more sustainable policy, will he vote against them, or will he abstain and risk reform being lost? By the way, Britain's fish stocks were declining at a dramatic pace even before we joined the 'Common Market' some 40 years ago, so let there be no pretence that everything was wonderful then.
Mr Davies then invites his readers to write to Mr Farage and put those questions to him.
It might be a good idea if Mr Farage's potential correspondents pondered the following response from Roddy McColl, who is the Secretary of FAL and a man who has forgotten more about the CFP than Mr Davies is ever likely to learn:
Good Afternoon Mr Davies
I noticed in your April 2012 Reply to “Fish Fighter” your assertion that “By the way, Britain's fish stocks were declining at a dramatic pace even before we joined the 'Common Market' some 40 years ago, so let there be no pretence that everything was wonderful then”.
I took advice from Marine Scotland Science regarding this as I suspected it was incorrect. That has been confirmed with one species exception namely North Sea herring which by this time was in serious decline and by mid- late 70's the fishery was closed.
However 40 years ago we had very big stocks of cod, haddock, whiting and saithe (gadoid outburst was at this time). Mackerel was also fine.
In several cases fishing mortality was on the rise but it is wrong to say stocks were in trouble.
If you have scientific evidence to support your assertion I would be pleased to see it otherwise I trust that you will not repeat incorrect views and that you will inform Fish Fighter of the error.
Roddy McColl Secretary The Fishermen’s Association Ltd
So far, we have heard nothing from Mr Davies and, apparently, no correction appeared.
The Chairman of FAL responded to Richard Benyon's article with this letter:
If the Minister had better informed himself about the EU Treaty obligations relative to the CFP after FAL explained these to him when he was Shadow Fisheries Secretary, then I might have some belief in his declared commitment to ensure a thriving UK fishing industry.
There is nothing broken about the CFP. It is achieving what is set out in the treaties: EQUAL ACCESS TO A COMMON RESOURCE. Everything else is a smoke screen including protecting stocks for future generations.
The Commission has gone out of its way for years to make it absolutely clear that the non negotiable “acquis communautaire” for marine fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states fleets, for all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations. The CFP is about establishing an EU fleet, controlled, directed and managed from and by Brussels using compliant Member States as their agents to that end.
For any Minister to say that the current reform process provides one of the biggest opportunities ever to shape the future of the CFP is disingenuous. Fifty per cent of our fleet has gone. Once prosperous fishing villages decimated, boat building is virtually at a standstill and net manufacturers and engineering businesses closed.
The disaster in the British Fishing Industry, and that is surely what it is, entirely emanates from the principle of equal access and non discrimination to British waters and marine resources enshrined and deep-rooted in the Common Fisheries Policy.
Any reform will be virtually meaningless. Exclusive competence for fisheries has been transferred to Brussels without the consent of the British people.
I refer Mr Benyon to the FN article "Looking back" of 20 April 2012. He should reflect on the words of the late Sir James Goldsmith who, when addressing a large crowd of fishermen at Newlyn 15 years ago stated that the EU “had been built on stealth and lies".
Nothing has changed in 40 years. Neither will it until we escape from this edifice of a federal Europe and repatriate powers which were shamefully given away in the first place.
Unless that happens our once proud heritage will continue its demise -- another expendable industry forfeited on the altar of the EU while, not for the last time on fisheries, the British public continues to be seriously misled.
A J Patience
25 April 2012
Unfortunately for us all Fishing News no longer has its own website. Therefore, we cannot link to the first of Richard Benyon's monthly
vacuous pronouncements of Conservative policy articles on matters to do with fisheries. Instead, we have decided to copy the text onto the blog. It was published on April 20.
This is the first of a series of monthly columns for Fishing News which I want to use to address the issues that fishermen up and down the country are facing. As the Minister for Fisheries, my job is to ensure that the fishing industry can thrive. I never thought this would be an easy task and the last 18months couldn't have demonstrated. more clearly that different people have different ideas on how we should progress. But it is important that we all head in the same •direction. I believe 2012 provide some of the biggest opportunities we have ever had to shape the future as we work to reform the broken Common Fisheries Policy. This is a policy that I hear many fishermen complain about and I have never hidden my belief that it needs major overhaul. It has failed to achieve its intention which was to protect stocks for a prosperous fishing industry
Some say that protecting fish stocks and allowing fishermen to flourish are mutually exclusive and that one has to give. I couldn’t disagree more. We need healthy fish stocks to support a healthy industry will continue to work with the industry and with all who have a legitimate interest in managing our fish resources responsibly, to achieve both.
Last month I attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels at which we debated how to tackle the problem of discards. Everyone agrees we must take action: there is more argument over how best we do this. Some want a blanket discard ban: simple in theory but far from simple in practice. I believe the best way to make progress towards eliminating discards is through a fishery-by-fishery approach enabling fishermen to adopt measures that suit the circumstances of different fisheries, A local approach will allow us to work with fishermen on the ideas that will actually succeed in practice.
The starting point must be to reduce unwanted catches in the first place, and to account for everything caught at sea. In the UK, we have been trialing a catch quota scheme which does just that. On a voluntary basis fishermen who join the scheme account for everything they take from the sea and landall they catch, regardless of size. Results published last week show the Catch Quota system has been successful. Discards of North Sea cod and Western Channel sole are reduced to 0.2% of catches .in 2010, average discard rates for N. Sea cod trawlers. were 38% and 28% for Western Channel sole beam trawlers. This is a tremendous result and I applaud the contribution whichfishermen have made to this success. I am very pleased that •more fishermen have joined the 2012 catch. quota scheme and I believe that we can build on last years success. You can read more about the success of last year's trial in the annual report which is now on the MMO website. I want everyone to know that I am keen to hear from fishermen on ways in which we can help the UK fishing fleet - both the under and over ten metre boats -to ensure that we can protect livelihoods. I want to ensure we have a thriving fishing industry for the long term and at the same time we protect fish stocks around the UK.
As our readers will note, Mr Benyon seems incapable of understanding the main point of the Common Fisheries Policy in that it is a policy whose aim is to integrate the different countries' fisheries and create a single European fishing ground and, eventually, a single European fishing fleet. His attention is firmly focused on the details and not the main issue.
It has been a longish time since this blog was last updated and there is little excuse for that except that discussions as to the best way to proceed have been going on and will be reflected in future postings.
In the meantime, we would like to call our readers' attention again to a document that needs to be revived. It is the Conservative Party Fisheries Policy that had been accepted by Michael Howard when he was leader and ditched immediately by David Cameron when he succeeded to the job.
It is our opinion in FAL that this policy, with a few possible minor changes, can still be the basis of our contribution to the discussion on how to move forward or how to "reform" the Common Fisheries Policy. Those who take the trouble to read at least the Executive Summary will see that we do not consider that there can be any movement until control of fisheries is restored to the UK government. Then we need to consider how far down in the chain should decisions be positioned.
We appreciate all contributions to the discussion, which will be fully aired on this blog.
Further to our little excursion into the mind and activity of Chris Davies, Liberal-Democrat MEP and self-styled expert on fisheries, there will be a public debate in Peterhead on the subject on March 30 with "three leading members of the European Parliament" taking part.
It will take place at the Waterside Inn, near Peterhead between 18.00 and 19.30.
It is free to attend and open to all, but advance registration is required. To register, or with any queries, please email email@example.com or call: 0131 557 78 66.
Representatives of FAL will be there.
This posting has to start with an apology. For various reasons there was a long break in updates. The reasons have now been dealt with and the blog will resume with a vengeance.
Our attention has been called to yet another self-styled expert on the fishing industry, to wit, Chris Davies the Liberal-Democrat MEP, a man who, as his CV shows, has been in politics or political PR all his working life. In this he resembles a number of other politicians today.
He is the co-ordinator on the Committee of Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He was Rapporteur for the main Regulation and the man who set up the inanely named (to go with the inanely grinning photo) Fish for the Future committee.
What can one say about somebody who seriously writes this sort of stuff:
If fish stocks are to recover then the tonnage of the fish caught must be temporarily reduced, and we have to make use of the financially less attractive fish that are caught but are presently discarded. More fish have got to have a chance to breed before they are caught. In some fisheries this will mean that there must be some pain in order to secure long term gain, and that will arouse strong opposition.
There is a real danger that the Commission’s reforms will be hijacked by vested interests who think only of the short term. The Coalition Government in the UK will be strongly in favour I believe, but in the Council of Ministers strong opposition can be expected from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and maybe Poland. I expect this pattern will be replicated in the European Parliament, which has equal decision-making powers.
It is easy to understand why he has been referred to as self-styled expert. The whole posting is full of meaningless waffle of this kind, all of it meant to promote himself as the man who will save Europe's fish and fishermen. After all, nobody else has noticed that things were not quite what they ought to be.
To be fair, his committee did produce a long report with many amendments to the Commission's proposals. The amendments seem to take somewhat vague proposals and add words such as "sustainable" to make them even less likely to be put into effect. But it is possible that one or two of our readers who might plough through this document will find something useful in it. If so, could you let us know through the Comments system?
Of course, it does not occur to Chris Davies or his committee that the CFP, which is an entirely political construct whose aim is the creation of a single European fisheries and in which decisions are taken at the centre through political negotiations cannot possibly deliver on any of the promises of sustainable fisheries or scientific conservation, never mind the notion of a sensibly developing fisheries industry.
Still, we are glad to see that Mr Davies remains very satisfied with his work though we are disturbed by his worries that sensible ideas like his will be overcome by everybody else's selfishness and short-termism.
In the European Parliament all the amendments will eventually be considered by the Fisheries Committee, and its membership has a bias towards Spanish, French and Italian MEPs who are not the most progressive. Meanwhile, the Commissioner tells me that Fisheries Ministers on the Council seem once again to be ignoring the big picture about the dire state of our seas and defending instead the narrow interests of their large scale fishermen. It wouldn’t be so bad if the representatives of the nations only minimally involved in fishing were to speak up in favour of reform, but so far they are not getting involved.
We shall see how the debate progresses over the next few months. Woody Allen once said “the world is run by the people who turn up”. In this instance the wrong people seem to be there.
Please note that throw-away comment about Woody Allen, designed to show what a cool guy Chris Davies is: he knows all about films and even someone who was ever so trendy ... oh, about twenty years ago. Still, he is not far wrong: the wrong people do seem to turn up for the CFP debates, not least self-satisfied and ignorant MEPs.
Those words are "common", "fisheries" and "policy". Somehow, reports are produced about overfishing, sustainability, fishermen and their lives, the marine economy and yet, nobody mentions those three vital words. Why is that?
The BBC reports that a new report by the New Economics Foundation, which tends to be a little woolly on politics and real economics, has published a report called Lost at sea: £2.7 billion and 100,000 jobs. It attacks overfishing, which they say is bad for the economy and criticize European fisheries ministers. Yet, they find it impossible to mention that what is behind the overfishing as well as the discards is an insane policy that has, as its basis, the notion of a common European fishing resource to which all member states can have equal access and which is regulated centrally on the basis of political decisions.
Another report produced by the International Sustainability Unit is entitled Towards Global Sustainable Fisheries and will need a closer examination, which we promise to provide. But it is not a good sign that the Executive Summary sees no need to mention those dreaded words or a few others like "third", "country" and "agreements". How can one have a serious discussion on the subject if one avoids the thorny political issues?
The Congress of Deputies overwhelmingly passed the non-binding proposition from the Popular Parliamentary Group (GPP) requiring the urgent renovation of the fishing agreement between the European Union (EU) and Morocco.
The proposal was approved by 298 votes in favour, 28 against and 3 abstentions, EFE agency informed.
Joaquin Garcia Diez, GPP deputy, defended the initiative to prevent Spanish vessels from extended inactivity and the increase of unemployment level in populations which are highly dependent on fishing, such as the fishermen of Barbate.
In this city, 50 per cent of economic activity depends on the product of fishing in Moroccan waters, the legislator said.
For Garcia Diez, the new protocol must be supported by scientific reports and take into account the requirements of European Parliament (EP), and the opinion of the industry and the autonomous communities.
Members of the Popular Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) also reached consensus on the amendments tabled by the Socialists, seeking immediate implementation of the aid fund provided for the duration of the fisheries suspension.
Jobs in the Canary Islands are also being threatened.
Having mentioned Reclaim Our Seas Alliance or ROSA again, we feel it may be necessary to give some information about this organization.
ROSA is an alliance of fishing groups from England, France, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland united in a campaign to halt the economic and social decline suffered by fishing communities caused by the CFP.
ROSA represents a new strategic direction for fishing policy that gives Member States with an interest in a particular fisheries area the primacy of deciding the right policy for that area.
ROSA’s objectives are:
1. To halt the centralising process that has characterised EU fisheries policy through the real CFP of equal access to the resource with exclusive competence for all marine resources being with “Brussels” and
2. To initiate the process immediately of repatriating control of policy, management and stocks back to individual EU maritime Member States That is the outcome that we are looking for from the review of the EU‘s Common Fisheries Policy.
So far, that outcome appears to be unlikely and the fight must go on but it is good to know that we are not fighting alone.
We have mentioned before a certain organization that exists on the social network Facebook, called Reclaim Our Seas Alliance or ROSA. Its aim is to set up communication between various fishing groups in the relevant member states of the European Union.
ROSA TRI has been providing links to the story of the ongoing protests by Italian fishermen against fuel prices and tax increases. (As it happens, these were inevitable, given Italy's economic situation but the fishermen are a little fed up with being always on the receiving end of every new tax and regulation.) Two links are here and here though the provenance of the second link may not be to everyone's taste.
Some people might have problems with this video as well, Press TV being, notoriously, controlled by the Iranian government, but we think the content is worth watching:
FAL sent its support through ROSA TRI and added words or warning:
The Fishermen’s Association Ltd (FAL) - a founding member of ROSA -has total sympathy with the Italian and French fishermen facing escalating fuel prices and stringent EU Regulations. However be warned.
You may believe that the current social and economic crisis faced by the EU fishing industries is of gigantic proportions for the coastal communities and the industries they support; BUT our bitter experience over many years is that those Regulations will only get worse as the ultimate objective of the EU’s strategy is realised – the elimination of the fishing fleets of the Member States and the creation of an EU fleet.
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.
We will be happy to meet with representatives of all Member States fishing organisations who share that objective.
However while we sympathise with the frustration and anger of our EU colleagues we can neither condone nor participate in any illegal action.
On behalf of FAL
So far the reaction has been positive. We shall see whether a real alliance between the various organizations can be built.
Regulation 2141/70, the basis of the Common Fisheries Policy was adopted by October 1970 though, apparently, the FCO remained unaware of this or, possibly, insisted that it was unaware. The text we have linked to is in French as it was not published in English at the time, there being no English speaking country in the EEC. One imagines a translation was provided for the FCO eventually and for the negotiators. It was also published in Dutch, Italian and German.
A cursory glance through the Regulation shows that it establishes a common policy for the fisheries and the concept of commonly held waters or, in other words, equal access for all member states. In this Report the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in Section 4.1:
Community control over fisheries is derived from explicit mention in the Treaty itself 2/, as enacted by the Council of Ministers through regulations in 1970 3/. They were consolidated in 1976 4/, with derogations provided for by the Treaty of Accession in respect of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Regulation 2141/70/EEC, established a common structural policy for the fishing industry and in particular aimed to ensure equal access to the fishing grounds of each member State "coming under its sovereignty or within its jurisdiction". 5/
2/ Article 38 - para. 1, and Articles 39-46, read in conjunction with Annex II which brings fisheries within the overall common agricultural policy
3/ O.J. 1970 L 236/1 and 5 - Council Regulations 2141 and 2142/70/EEC
4/ O.J. 1976 L 20/1 and 19 - Council Regulations 100 and 101/76/EEC
5/ Article 2 of Regulation 2141/70 and restated in Article 2 of Regulation 101/76
Actually, the references are not exactly accurate (we shall deal with later developments in other postings) because the Regulation does not mention Article 38, merely, Articles 7, 42, 43 and 235.
Article 38 of the Treaty of Rome states:
1. The common market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. “Agricultural products” means the products of the soil, of stock-farming and of fisheries and products of first-stage processing directly related to these products.
2. Save as otherwise provided in Articles 39 to 46, the rules laid down for the establishment of the common market shall apply to agricultural products.
3. The products subject to the provisions of Articles 39 to 46 are listed in Annex II to this Treaty. Within two years of the entry into force of this Treaty, however, the Council shall, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, decide what products are to be added to this list.
4. The operation and development of the common market for agricultural products must be accompanied by the establishment of a common agricultural policy among the Member States.
The reason Article 38 is quoted erroneously is because it is the only one that actually mentions fisheries or, to be quite precise, the products of fisheries and the establishment of a common market in them all.
The Articles that are actually quoted as the basis for the infamous Regulation do not refer to the subject as was stated by Service Juridique of the Council of Ministers in its Opinion of 18/05/1970. The Opinion discarded Article 38 as it did not cover fisheries themselves, only their products; it discarded Articles 39 - 43 as these did not even mention fisheries; and it discarded Article 7 as it did not furnish a sufficient base for the Regulation.
That left Article 235, a catch-all one, so familiar to those of us who have had the misfortune to deal with EEC/EC/EU legislation.
If action by the Community should prove necessary to attain, in the course of the operation of the common market, one of they objectives of the Community and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the Assembly [European Parliament], take the appropriate measures.
Even so, fisheries are not mentioned so the argument that Article 235 is a sound enough legal basis remains doubtful.
In the end none of it mattered. Breaking its own legal structures, not for the last time, the EEC's Council of Ministers passed the Regulation. The British government denied as long as it could its existence, then trumpeted as a great achievement that a derogation for the 6 mile zone was agreed and even that was under Community rules. The 6 - 12 mile zone was to be under limited control but all of this was merely a 10 year derogation.
In its negotiations, the British government accepted the basic premiss of the fisheries being a common resource and that, inevitably, meant equal access to the waters allowing for temporary derogations.