Sunday, 9 February 2014

John Ashworth decides to retire

Another quote from the latest FAL Newsletter is a typically well-argued comment from John Ashworth, who used to run Save Britain's Fish, made in October 2013:

“It never ceases to amaze me how cunning the EU system is in hiding their real intentions. Ever since 1982 when the first derogation from the CFP expired, the system has always portrayed the temporary management arrangement as the CFP, and the present “Regional CFP” is no exception.

By using this clever wordage, the Fisheries acquis communautaire of equal access to a common resource without discrimination, which is the real CFP, is concealed as the EU Fisheries Directorate grappled over many years, complicated by a steady continual increase of nations joining the EU, to bring about the acquis through various management means by stealth.

The fishing issue has always been an excellent example of EU manipulation. As we approach the European, followed by the General election, and in turn pressure for an in/out EU referendum, watch the number of times the word “Reform” is used. The question is what is being reformed, and how, because as in Fisheries, reforming the temporary management arrangement of 1983, which most people are being led to believe is the CFP, is no solution, because whatever is devised, and what you think you have reformed, the direction is still to accomplish the acquis.

The decimation of the British Fishing Industry has, and is, taking place solely because of the acquis communautaire. After all these years it is still not fully understood, which is why the EU system gets away with the continual advancement to full political union, and those following a "reformist agenda", without tackling the question of the acquis are furthering that advancement.

Readers of this blog will know that we agree wholeheartedly with John's assessment though we need to add something: the EU may be cunning in the way it presents certain aspects of its structure but, on the whole, it does not hide the truth about competences going to it and about the acquis. The EU happens to approve all that. The problem is with our own politicians, analysts, journalists and media personalities as well as some organizations that speak for the fishing industry: they determinedly do not want to know the truth.

The news is that John Ashworth has decided to retire from after 51 years. The following appeared in last week's Fishing News:

After 51 years in the Industry, John Ashworth, the Bison Trawl door designer has decided to call it a day and hand the business over to two members of staff, Andrew Appleby and Yusuf Mohamed.

Said John, who has been treated for Parkinsons over the last 7 years, “the Bison door is a very good product, but during the past year I have let to many customers down mainly through my terrible memory and side effects of the medication, so it is time to step down and let the Bison door progress, but still be on hand to help with any problems Skippers might have. The change over will take place at the end of March“.

It was January 1963 that John started in the industry by placing hides on board the Grimsby and Hull vessels to protect the cod ends. These weighed 10 stone each (64kg.) and if the vessel was stem on, had to be carried up a ladder. At that time one was assured of a job for life within the deep sea Industry and yet within 10 years that industry was in terminal decline.

Within those 10 years in addition to hides, John produced rubber discs and developed the laminated bobbin from old conveyor belting. He had a small factory in Stonehaven producing plastic bobbins and spacers, using scrap plastic heated by industrial microwave ovens and moulded in a manner built and designed by John.

It was while in Scotland that the influence of the Marine Laboratory Aberdeen made a huge impact, in conservation and research, of which John for some time wrote a regular column in Fishing News. It was the underwater filming by the Marine Lab that was crucial in the development in the early 80’s of the Bison door.

It was while selling hides in France that John met Mr. Morgere and took on the agency for Polyvalent Trawl doors, which had a degree of success in the declining deep sea industry, but turning to the inshore sector, problems arose, and in due course the agency was given up.

The first Skipper to take John to sea with Polyvalent doors was Colin Newby of the Kariandra from Bridlington, but it was Bill Messruther from Scarborough that persuaded John to design and manufacture his own Trawl doors and helped in all the testing. From there on it became international with help from Greencastle - Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the USA and later Norway.

For over 20 years John was on board fishing vessels in many parts of the world (with some hair raising stories to tell) either learning fishermen’s requirements or teaching how to use the Bison door. It is this expertise he will carry on providing after March.

Three years ago John’s son Angus, who ran the Bison door production, started an auctioneering business, with the intention of operating both, but the auction side became full time, hence the reason now to hand over to Andrew, who has been with the Company 20 years, and Yusuf to whom John is guardian.

John is extremely proud of the Bison door, which he states is a different concept to any other design, and in many ways ahead of its time. It will do everything it was designed for, and that there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the Bison door change the fortune of a vessel around. The downside for John is having witnessed the unnecessary demise of the Industry he has worked in for half a century, for what had the enormous potential to being one of Britain’s and Ireland’s greatest Industries.

Existing contact numbers will remain in use of March.

From the point of view of this blog, of course, John's political activity is even more important.

Up to 2002 John was heavily involved with politics and the Save Britain’s Fish campaign, as he knew from studying the Accession Treaties of joining the then EEC, the conservation damage that would be caused by the CFP and in due course the destruction of the British fishing Industry. He was admirably partnered in this project from the fisherman’s side by Tom Hay from Peterhead, another Bison Trawl door customer, and many others, but sadly never the whole industry, and today the Industry and Nation pays the price for that lack of support.

One day he believes Britain and Ireland will leave the CFP and restore the Exclusive Fishing Zones back to their rightful ownership, maybe not so far away as most think, then the restoration can begin.

The author of this posting (and many others) is all too well aware of John's work, having spent many hours in the past on the phone to him or sitting across a table discussing these matters. Sometimes those discussions were conducted via fax machines (remember those) or answerphones. But there was not a single question on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy and its effect on fishing in the UK that one could not ask John with a reasonable certainty that there would be a useful answer. On the other hand, the said author is also proud of having been instrumental in providing John with some of the material that he needed to put together the real picture. In fact, though we on this blog and in FAL wish John a long and peaceful retirement we do hope that he will use some of it to put together all the many different papers about the CFP and .... well, who knows, a publication?

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Balance of Competences Review

The government (that's the one in the UK not the real one in Brussels) has been conducting a balance of competences review on various subjects, as this blog mentioned some time ago. FAL has submitted its statement on the subject of fisheries and there is a summary in the latest Newsletter:

There is being undertaken by the UK coalition Government a Balance of Competences review between the powers of the UK and the EU and how this affects the UK national interest. Part of this review calls for evidence on fisheries policy and is part of a wider cross Whitehall initiative considering 32 policy areas “designed to provide a constructive and serious contribution to the wider EU debate about how to modernise, reform and improve the EU.”

However some might consider it to be window dressing to appease the Conservative Eurosceptic MPs. Be that as it may let’s consider the following:

David Cameron has talked about a new settlement, a new relationship with Europe or more correctly with the EU.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is stuff and nonsense.

The reason is the existence in EU law of the “acquis communautaire” - the entire body of EU laws, including all the Treaties, Regulations and Directives passed by the Institutions, as well as judgements laid down by the Court of Justice.

The “acquis” for fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states' fleets (access to resources being based on the principle of relative stability for regulated species and unrestricted for non-regulated species).

1. In 1981 the European Court of Justice ruled that the EEC had exclusive competence to adopt fisheries conservation measures in Member States waters

2. EU exclusive prescriptive competence implies that Member States are precluded from any law-making.

3. Member States may not act validly unless treaties or secondary provisions say so.

FAL has just submitted its response to the above Review. It highlights a number of facts and opinions that demonstrate that exclusive competence is the chokepoint for a successful UK fishing industry; that it has resulted in the destruction of businesses and communities and that unless such competence is returned to the UK, further reduction of the British fleet and the communities it supports is inevitable.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of this submission by email please contact me at

It is worth remembering that any organization or, even individuals with specialist knowledge can submit a response to the Review.