Monday, 21 May 2012

This is what happens ...

... 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.

We have had occasion to mention on this blog, Chris Davies, the Liberal-Democrat MEP, a man, we pointed out, whose CV shows him to have been in politics or political PR all his working life. Nowadays, of course, he is, at least, on his own account an expert on fishing, having set up the inanely named (yes, yes, we are repeating ourselves) committee, Fish for the Future.

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.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

FAL's response to Richard Benyon

The Chairman of FAL responded to Richard Benyon's article with this letter:

 Face the Music Mr Benyon 

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. 

 Yours sincerely 
 A J Patience 
Chairman FAL 
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.

 The future - a column 

by Minister Richard Benyon 

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.