Thursday, 20 September 2012

And while we are on the subject of mature cod

DEFRA is unhappy about the Sunday Times claims that seem to have been based on very little evidence. 

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 fight frank and open discussion. 

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.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The CFP chalks up another success

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.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

An interesting paper on fisheries

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.