Monday, 23 December 2013

Response from DEFRA

DEFRA has responded to the points made by FAL as enumerated in this posting. They seem to agree with us.

Dear Mr McColl,

Independent Scotland & Fisheries

Thank you for your email of 29 November providing your views on the fisheries content within the white paper ‘Scotland’s future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’. I have been asked to reply.

The Government agrees that the analysis in the guide underestimates the challenges for an independent Scotland negotiating in the EU as a small member state. It is the UK Government’s view that Scotland’s interests are best represented by being an integral part of the UK.

I would also encourage you to respond to the Fisheries Balance of Competence Review Call for Evidence that is open until the 13 January. The review is looking to gather evidence from stakeholders such as you, with experience and understanding of what EU membership means for UK fisheries. The review will provide an informed and objective analysis of the impact of the EU’s power to act and aims to deepen public and parliamentary understanding of the nature of our EU membership. We are keen to hear your views and ensure the report reflects the range of views held by stakeholders on these important issues. Further details on the review can be found at:

FAL will be submitting evidence. May we encourage other organizations and individuals to do so as well.

Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Fisheries in an "independent" Scotland

As the SNP's intention is to have an "independent Scotland within the EU", we cannot do anything but put that word in quotation marks. Whether you want to be in the EU or not (and we do not), that is not independence, merely membership.

On Wednesday the White Paper, Scotland's Future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland (not forgetting our proviso) was launched. Also to be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Chapter 8 deals with Environment, Rural Scotland, Energy and Resources, the first two of which entirely and the last very largely are EU competences, so the role of the "independent" Scottish government and parliament will be to implement those directives, regulations and decisions.

Fisheries comes under that heading, too. (See p. 282 in the pdf document or you can download it as an e-book but you will still have to find p. 282.)

In 2012, Scotland accounted for 87 per cent of the total value of UK landings of key stocks, representing 37 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of these stocks available to the EU. However, Scotland receives just 41 per cent of the European Fisheries Fund allocation to the UK, despite having a far higher share of both the UK sea fishery and aquaculture sectors. As a result of being a low priority for the UK in EU negotiations, Scotland receives just 1.1 per cent of European fisheries funding despite landing 7 per cent of the European Union’s wildcaught fish310 and accounting for more than 12 per cent of EU aquaculture production. Scotland is the world’s third largest salmon producer with 83 per cent of UK aquaculture production by volume.

Our fishermen need a voice at the top table in Europe. Despite two thirds of the UK industry being based in Scotland, Scottish Ministers have not been allowed to speak on behalf of the UK in Europe, even on occasions where the interest is almost exclusively Scottish. This means that Scotland’s representatives – who are closest to the needs of the Scottish fishing sector – are not able to ensure that their voice is properly heard.

Which is all very well but a couple of things seem to have been neglected: Scotland's voice is not going to be particularly strong as it will be a small member of the European Union with very few votes in the Council; and, secondly, many of those problems go beyond the EU and Scotland as a member state will not be taking part in negotiations with Norway or Iceland as the EU will be doing it on the country's behalf.

There is a great deal more of the same but those two problems are not even mentioned, let alone responded to. Just how will an "independent" Scotland ensure that it gets anything at all out of the negotiations within the EU where decisions are taken by 28 countries and how will it ensure that its interests are adequately represented in international negotiations? After all, it is not going to be like Norway.

Here is the list of priorities for action:

Our priorities for action

If in power after the 2016 election we will:

■■ prioritise the needs of the Scottish fishing industry and aquaculture in European negotiations

■■ protect Scotland’s fishing quotas, preventing fishing quota being permanently transferred outside Scotland and safeguarding Scotland’s fishing rights for future generations

■■ use Scotland’s fishing levies to promote Scottish seafood. In an independent Scotland the industry’s levies will remain in Scotland to support the Scottish industry’s objectives and priorities for our catching, onshore and wider seafood sectors,

We are sorry to have to point out that whoever wrote those words does not even begin to understand how the Common Fisheries Policy functions, let alone what its purpose is.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Norway and fisheries

No doubt, readers of this blog would have heard the Prime Minister and other fervid supporters of Britain's EU membership talk dismissively of Norway's position in the European Economic Area (EEA) but not in the European Union (EU).

Or, in other words, Norway is in the Single Market but is not part of the rest of the EU legislation and is very jealous of her ability to dismiss that legislation if it does not suit the national interest as not being part of what they had agreed to when the EEA Agreement was signed. The UK, let me remind my readers, can do no such thing. Mr Cameron, this country's Prime Minister, does not think that would suit Britain as that would mean that we would just "“just accept all the rules of the Single Market, pay for the privilege of being part of it and, as it were, be governed by fax rule".

Let us be charitable and assume that it is ignorance rather than a desire to be economical with the truth that inspired Mr Cameron to make that statement.

A new paper published by the Bruges Group, The Norway Option by Dr Richard North, goes into the subject in some detail, showing how many of the decisions the EU implements are actually made at a higher, international level and how important Norway's role is in a number of those organizations while the UK is represented by the Commission and, possibly, the Council.

Fishing does not come under the Single Market though the original CFP was set up through sleight of hand, by using Treaty Articles that applied to trade. (Here, here and a letter by Tom Hay here.)

Let us now have a look at how "powerless" Norway, who remains outside the CFP,  is in the question of fisheries. This is what Dr North writes on page 16 of the pamphlet:

As regards the European Union, the EU ratified the UNCLOS [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea] agreement in 1998, and subscribes to the FAO codes, the combination being part of the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy.42,43 Although the CFP is not part of the internal market acquis and is not part of the EEA Agreement, trade in fish and fish products is covered, and to some extent is affected by these international treaties and agreements. Norway, of course, represents herself on the relevant bodies, but EU Member States are represented by the European Commission and the EEAS[European External Action Service].

As regards the CFP, much of the current provisions are hedged by the international agreements, to the extent that it would be very difficult for individual member states to formulate their own independent policies. This is especially the case as the EU has also concluded or is party to multiple bilateral and multilateral treaties with neighbouring fishing states. For instance, it lists eleven with Norway, of which three are bilateral, eight with Iceland, and one with the Faroes. These inter-relate with regional organisations such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), to which the Russian Federation, Norway, Iceland, Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland) and the European Union are parties.

Even before that, on pages 12 and 13 we can read this:

Codex Alimentarius promulgates international food standards, which are then adopted regionally and locally. All EU Member States are members of the governing commission. In 2003, the European Community joined, sharing competence with EU countries depending on the level of harmonisation of the respective legislation. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the EU became the body of record. The EU and its Member States draw up EU position papers on the issues discussed in the Commission, the various Committees and Task Forces. The Committee on Fish and Fishery Products is hosted by Norway.

Just in case anyone can misunderstand the implications, on page 31 there is a clear explanation:

For another example, in Codex Alimentarius negotiations, the UK and other EU member states have ceded authority to the EU on some technical issues, allowing exclusive EU “competence”. By contrast, Norway is not only an independent member but, in hosting the Fish and Fisheries Products Committee, is the lead nation globally in an area of significant economic importance to it. It is thus able to guide, if not control, the agenda on standards relevant to this product group, to which the EU then reacts. In all respects, Norway has a far greater say in Codex Alimentarius affairs than does the UK.

Outside the framework of the EU, Norway is thus able to make its voice heard on the international stage, permitting it to express its own interests and take up its own negotiating positions. It can also initiate rules on its own account, without first having to seek EU approval. It has, for instance, been particularly active in exploiting the opportunities afforded by international conventions.

Whether anybody really legislates or imposes rules by fax in this day of e-mail is an interesting question but whoever does that it is not the EU on Norway. It might happen the other way round. Oh, and let us not forget that in negotiations about fishing in the North Sea the UK is represented by the EU (as will be Scotland should it ever achieve that glorious aim of "independence within the EU"). Norway and Iceland represent themselves.

Purely technical problems (with internet access rather than fishing nets) made it impossible to post for a couple of weeks but we are now back and will post with renewed vigour.

Some catching up is in order. The European Parliament voted on October 23 "on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF. The proposal to subsidise new vessels was rejected. MEPs voted for a cap that would force member states to choose between new engines and new jobs for young people".

So, Mr Cameron et al, what happened to that idea of restoring some control over fisheries to the member states who are actually doing the fishing, assuming they are allowed to do so? Should they not be the ones to decide what they want to do and plan according to what they see as the best way forward for their fishing communities?

Monday, 21 October 2013

The real CFP

Just how difficult is it to understand what the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is really about? Judging by pronouncements made by politicians, policy wonks, media "experts" and civil servants (though that may be with tongue firmly in cheek) difficult to the point of being impossible.

John Ashworth, who used to run Save Britain's Fish, sent this e-mail to Fishing News. So far it has not been published: 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 grapples 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, 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.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Baltic fishing rights

European Voice reports that

European Union fisheries ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday (17 October) are expected to agree on the distribution of rights to fish in the Baltic Sea in 2014.

There is, however, to be another item on the agenda:

The ministers will also discuss the annual consultations between the EU and Norway on their bilateral fisheries agreement, which is likely to encompass the ongoing fishing dispute over mackerel with Iceland.

There has been a great deal on this blog about the bullying of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. There is no need to repeat any of that for the time being. However, it is interesting to note in the light of the argument about the size of catches and whether, as both the Icelanders and the Faroese insist, there has been an increase in the amount of fish available, that

Last week, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), an independent scientific organisation, issued recommended mackerel catch levels for 2014 of 889,886 tonnes, a 64% increase from 2013, based on the fact that the stock has expanded north-west towards Iceland. Based on this migration, Iceland has begun unilaterally increasing its fishing, but the EU has threatened sanctions. Iceland welcomed the ICES report.

What exactly is the EU's argument and why is Britain supporting it, given the facts? Come to think of it, does Britain have the right not to support it as long as the common fisheries policy remains in place?

Monday, 7 October 2013

The reshuffle

Richard Benyon who was responsible for the fisheries policy has left his position. Paul Goodman on ConHome says:

The Government is losing good, solid, experienced Ministers. Richard Benyon, Simon Burns, Mark Hoban, Mark Prisk…these are all Ministers who have either been at their brief or on the front bench for a long time, and know their stuff. It’s a brutal fact of political life that most Ministers are sacked sooner or later. This will be scant consolation to the “innocents”, as they’ve been called, who’ve done nothing wrong.

Whether all who have had to deal with the fisheries issue would agree with that assessment of Benyon's activity is questionable. More as it comes in.

15.57 He is being replaced by George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth. We need to wait for his first pronouncements to be able to judge how he intends to proceed.

16.15 Apparently Dan Rogerson MP for North Cornwall has also been appointed to DEFRA though that does not seem to have percolated to the media yet. That leaves two places on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee at the House of Commons.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Snippets from the latest FAL Newsletter

The Autumn Newsletter of the Fishermen's Association Limited (FAL) is out and we thought our readers would like to see some snippets from it.

First off, there is an article by the Chairman about the discards in the West of Scotland Demersal fisheries, which strangely echo the arguments made by Icelanders and Faroese in their fierce debates with the EU (here, here, here, here and here):

It is difficult not to be dismayed at the continuing demands of the Commission for more fishing restrictions on West of Scotland fish stocks especially as skippers who fish the grounds have seen more fish these past 2 years than at any time since 2001.

When I retired the deep water fleet or “edge of shelf “fleet stood at 37 vessels. This has now reduced to 8 who spend most of the year in Area VIa / VIb.

This year alone we have seen 4 vessels leave the fleet who traditionally fished West of 4 grounds.

This is why we have been advocating that instead of supporting the EU's bullying, Britain's and Scotland's fishermen should take the side of the Icelanders and the Faroese and negotiate some agreement with them. Ah, but they cannot, not while we are in the CFP. Norway can negotiate, Iceland and Russia can negotiate, Denmark on behalf of the Faroe Islands can negotiate but Britain? We shall have the EU negotiating on our behalf should they be inclined to do so.

On the Scrap and Build policy we have this:

Over the years FAL has argued for a vessel scrap and build policy. In June 2010 Richard Lochhead was informed by Sandy Patience that: “In the past one saved to build up the business – either by re-engining and proper care and maintenance or new building. However there are so many other demands now—buying of fish or shellfish or leasing quota and days plus buying of licence parking to obtain more days that nothing is being set aside for reinvestment.

Had a scrap and build scheme been introduced this would have encouraged the young men left in the industry to look forward with hope not despair.”

Regrettably this was never promoted by Marine Scotland.

On 10 July 2013 at a meeting of the EU Parliament Fisheries Committee, Alain Cadec MEP, Rapporteur on the EMFF proposals emphasised that ‘the money for fleet renewal (vessel construction) would only be available for a part of the fishing fleet — replacing vessels older than 35 years, smaller than 12 metres, with an obligation to reduce the vessel’s capacity by 40 percent.’

Mr Cadec stated that “his is responsible fleet renewal. Furthermore, you may only receive money to replace your engine if you reduce capacity. These are the only real measures in the EMFF and the basic regulation in the fisheries reform to reduce capacity in the EU fishing fleet.”

Unfortunately that fleet renewal proposal is not a scrap and build policy. In any event if passed in Parliament’s Plenary session in October (See page 14 CFP Reform Watch Article) it will do little, if anything, for the Scottish whitefish/prawn fleets but may assist some of the owners of very old boats in the Scottish/UK fleet.

The SNP has been making noises about an independent Scotland (within the EU, which is something of an oxymoron) being able to sort out the mess that Edward Heath's government had imposed on Scottish (and other) fishermen. They have not yet specified how they will do it.

In the SPRING 2013 NEWSLETTER we asked the following question:

In view of the condemnation by both politicians of the CFP and their call for restoration of national control would they care to explain how they are going to ensure the livelihoods of the Scottish fishing industry both offshore and onshore and the communities they support IF the Scottish people vote for independence and the SNP subsequently achieves its overwhelming ambition to become a member State of the EU?

We still await a reply. Perhaps we will obtain that when FAL meets Mr Lochhead on 31 October.

As soon as we have an answer it will be published on this blog.

Let us finish on a more cheerful note, to with the recipe in this edition of the Newsletter, for Mussles au Gratin (nothing wrong with European cooking, after all):


455g (1lb) vacuumpacked mussels in garlic butter sauce 55g (2oz) parsley, chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed 6 x 15ml spoon (6 tablespoons) breadcrumbs 6 x 15ml spoon (6 tablespoons) pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated grated rind 1 lime and juice of half a lime salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 x 15ml spoon (6 tablespoons) olive oil 1 lemon and 1 lime to garnish


Mix together parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs, cheese,grated rind and lime juice. Season and mix with theolive oil. Blend thoroughly.

Split cooked mussels in half and discard the empty shells. Spread mussels in half shells with the breadcrumb mixture and arrange in a shallow ovenproof dish.

Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

Serve garnished with lemon and lime wedges.

Bon Appétit! Buon Appetito! Guten Appetit! And in Icelandic: Verði þér að góðu!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Faroese fight back

The Faroe Islands who want the coastal countries that include Russia, Iceland and Norway (but not the UK because we do not negotiate on our behalf) to meet in September and discuss the management of the herring stock, have meanwhile taken the EU to an international tribunal under UNCLOS over those threats of sanctions.

The BBC reports that

A statement from the Faroese prime minister's office said the government had requested an international tribunal to declare the European Union "in breach of its obligations" under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It asked for EU authorities to be "ordered to refrain from the threat or adoption of coercive economic measures on the Faroe Islands".

Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has also demanded the EU withdraws the threats and allows a peaceful settlement to be found under "free negotiations".

European sanctions will be brought in against Faroese herring and mackerel imports from the end of August.

The Scottish fishermen are supporting this high-handed action. As we have said before, Britain should be looking to ways of negotiating with both Iceland and the Faroes. But we shall not even be there at the September meeting which is still scheduled to take place.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The non-negotiable CFP

We are very pleased to publish a letter from the indefatigable Honorary Chairman of FAL, Tom Hay, in which he once again attempts to explain that the common fisheries policy (CFP) is non-negotiable. The letter, we hope, will appear in the next issue of Fishing News.

It appears that Richard Benyon is determined to continue misleading British fishermen about CFP reform. His plausible statements in Fishing News 9th August 2013 on this very serious matter are extremely erroneous, in fact, spurious since they are deceiving our hard working fishermen into believing that a better future lies in store (how often have we heard that?) for them, if they submit to his optimistic overtures, that history would show that returning the seas to sustainable harvesting “as the really big win” of CFP reform. Fishermen will have certainty over the future of the stocks they fish, and depend on, he continues, but cunningly however, he doesn’t say British fishermen because, he really means EU fishermen.

This is why FAL is equally determined not to allow him to get away with this. What he is talking about reforming, and craftily calls it the CFP, is a temporary derogation from the general rule of equal conditions of access to fishery resources and non discrimination laid down in Article 40 clause 3 of the Treaty.

Never to my knowledge or belief has Richard Benyon or Richard Lochhead for that matter, ever stated publicly the appalling fact that the CFP is free access to waters on a non- discriminatory basis for all member states fleets, and that it is not negotiable.

Whatever these servants of the British people may tell our fishermen, they have no security whatsoever, and absolutely nothing can be done for their peace of mind, as long as we remain within this horrendous, anti-British Common Fisheries Policy.

Take a look at the East Coast of Scotland as an example of the enormous damage which has already been done. Every Port from the Borders to John o’ Groats, which used to be a bustling hive of activity, now lies indisputably desolate.

There is only one clear unobstructed way of escape. The fisheries agreement signed, by Treaty in 1972 must be revoked, and the shackles of this terrible Common Fisheries Policy thrown off, so that we can regain control of our potentially rich fishing grounds, which are rightly ours according to international law, yet so shamefully surrendered by the Edward Heath Government through unbelievable deceit.

Succeeding generations of the British people will hold us accountable for evermore if we allow a disaster of such tremendous enormity to befall our nation.

Thomas Hay

Honorary Chairman FAL

Friday, 9 August 2013

Iceland's case

On the whole, we do not consider it necessary to quote politicians at length. It is enough to note what they say and move on. However, in this case, we do recommend our readers to read the article by Sigisrdur Ingi Johansson, Iceland's Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, in the Wall Street Journal. As we have pointed out before (too often to link to) the EU's behaviour has not been rational or politically sensible; it has been the behaviour of a greedy, peevish school bully but, at least, there is some sign that sense might, if not prevail, at least get a look in. Talks are planned for early September.

Iceland's recently elected government has a renewed sense of purpose to resolve the international dispute over mackerel catch levels in the northeast Atlantic. Yet rather than pushing toward a fair outcome, aggressive talk of trade sanctions from Brussels is harming the effort to seal a lasting shared-quota agreement.

Iceland is dealing with an unexpected explosion in the number of mackerel in our waters. Cooperation and diplomacy, not illegal sanctions, are needed to manage the stock together. Our position is clear and unchanged: We want to sit down and reach a fair, lasting solution for all of Europe's coastal states. The EU's decision last week to move forward with sanctions against the Faroe Islands sets an unfortunate precedent.

Since 2010, Iceland has repeatedly offered concrete proposals that would have solved the dispute, including five public requests this year to reconvene the relevant coastal states—Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and the European Union, which represent Scotland and Ireland, among others, in this dispute—for urgent talks. These efforts were rejected.

Given the lack of action from other countries, Iceland's new government, which took office after April's election, decided to take bold action to restart negotiations. We reached out to our counterparts with the offer to host multilateral talks as soon as possible. We are pleased that the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have confirmed they will attend these new talks, which are scheduled for early September. Norway's participation is especially encouraging: The Norwegian government previously stated that it was not in a position to negotiate until after September's elections.

Sadly, the UK will not be there negotiating though the issue is of some importance to this country and its fishermen as well as consumers. But then, we have handed over our rights to the EU and submerged our interests into the Common Fisheries Policy. How well that has served us!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Another fishing dispute

Gibraltar is in the news again. Spain, a country that is beset with problems at the moment, is sabre rattling over Gibraltar.

On Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo warned that "the midday break" for the U.K. was over, a reference to what he called ineffective policies in defense of Spanish interests by the country's previous government, which left office in December 2011.

Mr. García-Margallo made the remarks in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC, adding that Spain was considering restricting flights into the Gibraltar airport and imposing a special fee of €50 ($66) for any border crossing.

These comments come at a delicate moment for Spain's government, facing recession and corruption allegations that have led to a collapse in the popularity of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy . Mr. Rajoy last week dismissed the allegations as "a surprising and imaginative collection of lies." Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, said Monday that Spain's political situation is a likely reason why Madrid is now raising the tone of the dispute.

The immediate cause of the latest crisis was an alleged infringement on the rights of Spanish fishermen.

The latest tensions between Spain and the British territory began 10 days ago after Gibraltar boats began dumping blocks of concrete into the sea near the territory. Gibraltar said it was creating an artificial reef that would foster fish populations.

Spain said the reef would block its fishing boats and ramped up border checks, creating long lines at the border between Spain and the territory.

Picardo called for proportionate customs and immigration controls at the frontier, saying they had been excessive in recent days.

Excuse us, but was this not the sort of outdated national dispute that the European Union was going to make history?

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

They do not listen to us ...

... though they should. This will end in tears. The EU has shown itself to be determined to destroy the economy of the Faroe Islands and, if possible, of Iceland. That will show those upstart Vikings. Fancy not wanting to join such a successful organization as the European Union with its outstandingly successful common fisheries policy. Ha!

The European Commission, as the Scotsman reports

today finally moved to impose trade sanctions against the Faroe Islands because of their continued refusal to enter into an international agreement on the division of the North Atlantic herring stock.

A total ban on the import of Faroese catches of both herring and mackerel into European ports is to be brought into force before the end of August in a major blow for the Nordic nation’s fishing industry. Similar sanctions are expected to be imposed in the near future against Iceland on mackerel.

Last year Icelandic vessels landed 123,000 tonnes of mackerel while Faroese boats took 159,000 tonnes of mackerel, one of the most important catches for Scotland’s powerful pelagic fleet.

Member States have agreed to impose sanctions on the trade of both herring and mackerel from the Faroes to the EU. Mackerel has been included in this EU sanctions package because the Faroese catch the mackerel in association with landings of Atlanto-Scandian herring.

And there may be scope under the sanctions deal to introduce further fish products in the trade ban at a later date. Future sanctions could include fishmeal, fish oil and Faroese salmon products because herring is used in the manufacture of their feed.

The sanctions were welcomed by the leaders of Scotland’s pelagic fleet who have been calling for action for more than two years.

If only those organizations had been so tough with the European Union but that is past praying for. As this blog has suggested a number of times, British fishermen and their organizations ought to look at what the scientific evidence is (not so far disproved by anybody) and try to negotiate deals with the Icelanders and the Faroese. Probably that, too, is past praying for. Meanwhile, the other side of the story is presented by Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, whose political status is a little complicated but who are, nevertheless, more independent than the United Kingdom is. They can decide on their own domestic policy, for instance.

The article has been published by EurActiv and EUObserver and is worth reading in full.

The EU on 31 July will decide whether to adopt coercive economic measures against the Faroe Islands, over a dispute about the quota allocation of Atlanto-Scandian herring.

Not only does the proposed EU action contravene the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and circumvent available procedures to deal with such disputes, it is also based on inaccurate allegations and is counterproductive to a reaching a negotiated solution.

Underpinning the European Commission’s proposal to implement economic measures against the Faroe Islands is the assertion by European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, that the Faroe Islands have “left the negotiation table” on Atlanto-Scandian herring.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Faroese Government has been repeatedly calling for negotiations between all coastal states to discuss a revision of the sharing arrangement for this important and very valuable shared fish stock in the Northeast Atlantic.

Multilateral management of shared fish stocks should always be based on the best available scientific information on the size and behaviour of the stock.

We have been witness in recent years to a marked increase in herring in Faroese waters, and for longer periods. Assessments by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in 2011 and 2012 confirm these new trends and the increased dependency of the herring on maritime areas within Faroese jurisdiction.

Then again, even if sanity prevailed in this country we could not negotiate with either Iceland or the Faroe Islands because we do not control our fisheries or our fishing industry. We have to go along with decisions taken in Brussels for reasons that have nothing to do with fishing and everything with politics. It is not a matter for rejoicing, though.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bullying the Faroese

As this blog has pointed out before, the EU is squaring up against Iceland and, above all, the Faroe Islands, maintaining that they do far too much fishing and should, instead be obeying the rules the EU wants to impose on them. We have also pointed out that instead of joining and, indeed, leading the bully pack, the UK and its fishermen ought to start negotiating directly with Iceland and the Faroe Islands to find out whether there is a way our industry can benefit from what both these countries say has been a huge growth in their fishing stocks.

The Wall Street Journal actually had an article on the subject this morning though the information in it is a little muddled. [Hint: If you cannot call up the full article, type the title into Google; that should bypass the paywall long enough to read it.]

On Wednesday, EU member states will vote on whether to ban imports of herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands, after the tiny archipelago nation unilaterally permitted its fishermen to dramatically increase their annual catch this year. By the end of July, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will also decide whether to take the first step toward similar sanctions on Iceland's mackerel exports.

The actions would represent the first time that the EU has imposed sanctions on a nation outside the bloc that doesn't comply with international fishing quotas.

Sanctions could deal a blow to the economy of the Faroe Islands, a nation of less than 50,000 people that is formally part of Denmark but has autonomy over domestic policies and isn't part of the EU. A ban on herring exports would also affect Faroese mackerel exports—since the two are often caught in the same nets—and prevent Faroese herring trawlers from unloading in EU ports.

Wednesday's vote will take place in the Fisheries Committee, as EUObserver points out, with the decision then being taken up by the Commission, which is not the EU's executive arm but the legislative and the executive. For some reason hacks on the WSJ seem unable to grasp this simple fact.

While the EU is accusing both Iceland and the Faroe Islands of breaking international agreements (unspecified in the article) the Faroese say very firmly that EU sanctions "would contravene UN conventions and argue rising sea temperatures have made more fish move to colder northern seas".

At the very least that assertion ought to be tested but we have seen no scientific arguments that disprove it, merely insistence on countries not in the EU having to obey its rules. It is not as if the common fisheries policy over the last few decades has been particularly adept at conserving the fisheries stock or managing the fishing industry particularly well.

The fishing industry in the EU and the UK is disregarding our advice. Having allowed itself to be decimated by the EU and the CFP it is calling on the EU to try to destroy the Faroese fishing industry and with it, the islands' economy with Denmark, being the only one against that. That is understandable as, for many purposes, the Faroe Islands are part of that country, though their domestic economic decisions remain independent.

According to The Scotsman:

LEADERS of Britain’s £500 million pelagic industry today urged the European Union to block the export of Faroese herring and mackerel to Europe.

• Pelagic industry leaders call on EU to block Faroe Islands from exporting herring and mackerel to Europe

• Call comes as Faroese authorities continue to refuse to enter into international agreement on division of herring stock in North Atlantic.

FishUpdate confirms it and adds:

The Scottish Pelagic Processors Association (SPPA), which represents mackerel and herring processors and has a close relationship with UK pelagic fisherman, also wants to see sanctions urgently imposed on Icelandic fisheries.

Ian McFadden, chairman of the SPPA, said: “Mackerel processing alone supports around 2,260 jobs in the UK with several hundred more involved in fishing.

“For several years now the Faroese and Icelandic fisheries have aggressively increased their quotas of mackerel and refused to negotiate with the EU and Norway, which have historically worked together to ensure sustainable fishing practices.

“This activity is a real threat to jobs in the UK and to the economy of some communities which rely on mackerel and herring as the main source of employment.

“We wholeheartedly back the UK and Scottish governments’ support for sanctions that block fresh and frozen landings of herring and mackerel. We can now conclude that other activity to encourage the Faroe Islands and Iceland to agree quotas are proving ineffective and more drastic action is required.

“While the vote on sanctions against the Faroe Islands is due tomorrow we also believe the EU will soon announce plans for sanctions against Iceland – the sooner this is formalised the better.”

Mr McFadden would probably argue that all he is doing is trying to protect British or, perhaps, Scottish jobs. If only he and his organization had been quite so tough with the European Union's Fisheries Committee, the Commission and various rules and regulations issued under the CFP.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sanctions or no sanctions?

EUObserver reports that according to Maria Damanaki, the Fisheries Commissar Commissioner, the EU will decide by the end of July whether to impose sanctions on Iceland and the Faroe Islands over the mackerel dispute. Sanctions could include a ban on Icelandic and Faroese fishermen landing catches in EU ports and could even go as far as a complete ban on mackerel and mackerel produce from those sources.

Reuters has a more detailed piece, which reminds the readers of several matters. One is that Iceland is claiming that their mackerel quota was increased because there was a significant rise in the mackerel stocks, a claim that is not apparently being disputed, as the EU's arguments tend to concentrate on the shocking idea that a country wishes to decide its own fishing quotas on the basis of its own scientific advice.

Secondly, the EU is feeling sore: Iceland does not want to come in and is making no bones about the fact that the whole mess of the Common Fisheries Policy is an important reason for that reluctance. Such insolence! Up with this we shall not put.

Any proposal put forward at the end of this month will have to be agreed by the 28 governments (yes, that's right, Croatia is in now but is hardly a substitute for Iceland) so the whole process will take a little while. Of course, if the UK had her own fishing policy we might be able to negotiate with Iceland to our mutual benefit after ascertaining what the truth is about that "surge in stocks". As it is, we had better prepare ourselves for a mackerel and herring war.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

It's about the fish, stupid

Well, it is partly about the fish. Iceland has now officially informed the European Commission that it will not be applying for EU membership. Appropriately, Fish Information & Services reported it, quoting EUObserver.

Iceland's bid to join the EU is over, the country's foreign minister told the European Commission on Thursday (13 June).

"This is how democracy works," said Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, on his first overseas trip, three weeks after being appointed to the recently elected Icelandic government.

He pointed out that both parties in the new government had campaigned against EU accession.

He commented that the main purpose of the trip had been "to tell the commission that the new government has made decision to put negotiations on hold.

Oddly enough, Stefan Fule, the Czech Commissioner, responsible for EU membership bids (just what kind of a well-paid job is that?) does not seem to have understood what Iceland's Foreign Minister was saying. According to Commissioner Fule, the EU will continue and complete the process, presumably of negotiation for Iceland's membership. With whom those negotiations will be conducted remains a mystery, as so many other things around the Commission.

What is particularly interesting from this blog's point of view is the clear statement that Iceland's "mackerel fishing dispute with the European Union as a prime example of the value of sovereignty". UPI has a longer story on it but says essentially the same.

The Prime Minister said in his speech on Monday that marked Iceland's Independence Day that Brussels was ignoring Iceland's sovereignty in the fishing dispute.

"In the light of the extensive debate that has taken place about the implications of EU membership for fishing, Icelanders must also watch and see whether the EU will treat Iceland with greater fairness in disputes over our fishing within our own economic zone," he said.

"To apply illegal sanctions against a small nation for catching fish in accordance with scientific guidelines and within its own economic zone, at the same time as larger nations are making catches from the same stocks without any criticism being voiced, would hardly promise well for a common fisheries policy."

Iceland says the EU and Norway are ignoring scientific evidence that more of the fish are feeding in its own territorial waters and contends it is being shortchanged by being limited to a small percentage of the overall North Atlantic fisheries take.

Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, the Iceland's chief fisheries negotiator, told The New York Times the EU is continuing to ignore the evidence that mackerel migration patterns have changed, with the fish now crowding into Icelandic waters.

Here is the Prime Minister's National Day Address in full and in English. It is worth reading; there is always some interest in reading a speech by a politician who knows and appreciates his country's history and constitution.

Britain is not playing a particularly glorious role in this dispute. Instead of pressing for sanctions against Iceland, instead of running to the Commission for help, we ought to examine the Icelanders' arguments and start thinking of a way of working with them on equal terms. That might mean a genuine change in the way the Common Fisheries Policy is set up, which would be all to the good.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Again we ask, what reform?

EU Business reports:

EU officials and European lawmakers finally agreed a fisheries reform package on Thursday, winning a guarded welcome from green groups with a commitment to protect stocks and control the wasteful dumping of unwanted fish.

Irish Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney, who chaired all-night talks, said the accord "places sustainability firmly at its core."

Quotas will be set on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield levels to ensure that an underlying fish breeding stock is protected, Coveney said in a statement.

The current wasteful and damaging practice of dumping unwanted fish overboard will be banned, he said, but controversial exemptions will also be allowed.

Or, in other words, nothing very much is going to change though there are alterations to some of the rules that are still set centrally as part of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Various producers, notably Spanish ones, are complaining that banning discards is an unworkable policy and, indeed, it is as the "reformed" CFP acknowledges by including various exemptions.

Green groups, most of which receive EU funding in order to campaign for policies that involve further integration, are moderately happy and will remain the first to be consulted (as well as adequately funded out of tax money).

The Eurocrats are hailing a great break-through.

In the meantime, the ridiculous notion of a policy that can be centrally devised and planned for and by twenty-seven (soon to be twenty-eight) countries remains in place.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

New CFP? What new CFP?

In response to the Fishing News article of May 24, 2013 [no link available] about the new CFP taking a large step forward, Roddy McColl wrote on behalf of FAL:

Are there any UK fishermen who believe that the Brussels deal will deliver workable measure in key areas? (FN 24 May)

As for Richard Benyon’s statement that British fishermen stood to gain from the changes as under the new rules of regionalisation fishermen “will be part of the process rather than victims of it” that is a masterpiece of propaganda, of hope over reality.

There is no new CFP. How often must we repeat that the real CFP is equal access to the common resource?

Of course there will be changes in various aspects of the EU’s fisheries policy- Common Organisation of the Market, a phased ban on discards and the implementation of MSY with a nod towards decentralisation of the “dysfunctional CFP” to quote Richard Lochhead with the introduction of regionalisation though even that will be a Member State acting as an agent (or agents in a regional context) to implement the grand strategy of the EU.

And that has never changed - the Treaties of Accession make it crystal clear that all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations, are a common resource to which all EU member state’s fishermen have an equal right of access.

Exclusive competence for fisheries lies with the EU not the Member States.

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 totally disingenuous.

Worth quoting in those interminable debates in response to those who say that the "new CFP" will be so wonderful and will solve all our problems. It will not.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Iceland is keeping her fish

Iceland has officially abandoned any pretence at wanting to be part of the European Union.

Iceland’s bid to join the EU has come to an end, Iceland’s centre-right independence party leader Bjarni Benediktsson has said.

The eurosceptic politician made the statement in an interview with Icelandic news outlet on Tuesday (21 May).

The 43-year old Benediktsson is in discussion to shape a new government with the centrist progressive party, following elections on 27 April. The progressives also oppose joining the EU.

We understand that a great deal of the argument revolved round the Common Fisheries Policy and what its effect would be on Iceland's fisheries.

Bloomberg reports:

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who will take over as prime minister this week, has decided that a January decision to freeze EU membership talks will be extended indefinitely, his political adviser Johannes Thor Skulason said in a phone interview today.

“Later in the term there will be a referendum on whether Iceland should continue the talks, although no date has been decided,” Skulason said.

A referendum on whether to continue the talks not ex-post facto on whether to stay in.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Referendum or withdrawal?

While the various moves and counter-moves go on in the House of Commons about the possible but practically useless Bill for and In/Out referendum on the EU, over on the other side, where the red seats are, Lord Pearson has introduced a new Bill,the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill [HL] 2013-14. It had its First Reading on May 15 and its aim is "to make provision to repeal the European Communities Act 1972; and to make provision for the Secretary of State to repeal any enactment that has been a consequence of the European Communities Act 1972". It is unlikely to get very far but may well have a Second Reading and, possibly, the odd Committee day. The debates should be interesting and the subject of the disastrous and unreformable Common Fisheries Policy is likely to come up. We must make sure it does.

We have received the following information from Scottish Enterprise:


In support of the Scottish Government’s policy of developing the offshore renewable energy capacity in Scotland while providing a sustainable future for the Scottish fishing community, Scottish Enterprise has commissioned a study on behalf of the Scottish Government to investigate the potential opportunities for the use of the Scottish Fishing fleet in support of the offshore wind industry in Scotland.

The study will incorporate the following 5 aspects:

1) A Demand Study: Where the potential demands from the offshore wind developers for vessels to service the offshore wind sector will be determined.

2) A Supply Study: Which will investigate the potential use and conversion options for the Scottish fishing fleet, should the owners express an interest.

3) A Shortfall Study: An analysis of the potential demand for vessels, and where potentially this may be met by the fishing vessel fleet following conversion or retrofit.

4) A role, retrofit and Conversion Study: Analysis and categorisation of the types of retrofit and conversion options required of a fishing vessel to fulfil a role in the offshore wind industry.

5) Identification of Operational Locations: An evaluation of the location, facilities and constraints of potential operational support locations for vessels deployed to support the development, construction and operation of Scottish offshore wind farms. Initial engagement with industry stakeholders will be through a targeted perception survey, and this will be used to gather industry input, viewpoints and data. Contact with industry stakeholders will be made shortly and, input and opinion sought.

The study is being undertaken by SeaEnergy PLC, and supported by BVG Associates. For further information please contact SeaEnergy PLC through the following e-mail address:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

We have no sovereignty to surrender

This cannot be said often enough: member states of the European Union are not sovereign. They cannot legislate for themselves in the overwhelming majority of fields and in at least one case, the VAT, can decide on rates only within boundaries set by the EU. Fishermen know this better than anyone else: whatever policies would be right for this country or for different parts of it they have to stay within the centrally decided (by 27, soon to be 28, member states) Common Fisheries Policy. Therefore, this posting (not about fisheries but about fiscal rules but that makes no difference) is seriously misleading. We cannot cede sovereignty - we have none to cede.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A complicated legacy

Though we missed the actual day of her passing (by less than an hour) the subject of Margaret Thatcher remains the one that preoccupies everyone's thoughts and discussions. Those of us who do not like the European Union and its policies and would like to see Britain out of it, making her own policies on all subjects including fisheries and creating treaties and agreements as needed, have an inevitably ambivalent attitude to the Iron Lady and her legacy.

She was, as we know, a member of Edward Heath's government, which negotiated Britain's entry into the Common Market. We have traced the events of 1970 here and here. Suffice it to say that a surrender of Britain's fishing grounds was part of the deal. It was not discussed widely and more or less denied in Parliament.

In the 1975 referendum called after some very superficial "renegotiations" Thatcher campaigned vigorously on the yes side. She also signed the Single European Act, apparently not realizing the effect it will have on Britain's economy.

But, let us also be fair. She did realize earlier than many of her colleagues where the whole project was leading as she made it clear in her famous Bruges speech. Whether she really would have called a halt to the process of integration and socialist regulation, whether she could even have managed to do so is irrelevant as soon after this her party got rid of her in a way that has steadily undermined them. It will be interesting to see whether with Thatcher's death that particular sore will finally be healed. Still she did not sign the Maastricht Treaty, which incorporated the Common Fisheries Policy, thus making it impossible to change, reform or, especially, destroy. That was Sir John Major's achievement though he seems to have forgotten it.

After her resignation Lady Thatcher concentrated on promoting the various ideas of anti-statism that are associated with her name, making a few cautious eurosceptic comments. She was more outspoken on the European issue in private but did not want to undermine her successors in the Conservative party. No doubt she recalled Edward Heath's "Great Sulk" and did not want to emulate it. A great pity, in many ways.

The passing of Margaret Thatcher does remind us of the paucity of political talent around us.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

More cod, bigger cod

We have covered the ridiculous scare story of their being practically no grown cod in the North Sea herehere and here.

Now, thanks to EUReferendum, we can examine another side of the story. Well, not that particular story as this does not concern the CFP. It seems that in countries outside that noxious system the number and size of cod has been growing to the point that fishermen in Alaska are complaining about the drop in price. Well, yes, that is what happens when there is more produce.

However, the really interesting development is to be found in the Barents Sea. Last October the Barents Observer recorded that

The Barents Sea cod stock is growing and spreading northwards and eastwards. Never before have scientists found cod as far north as during this year’s ecosystem mission.


Norwegian and Russian scientists recently concluded this year’s joint ecosystem mission to the Barents Sea. The conclusion is that the cod stock in the Barents Sea has set a new record when it somes to northern distribution.

The Russian research vessel “Vilnjus” found cod as far north as 82 degrees 30 minutes north.

The cod stock in the Barents Sea is considered to be the largest in the world. The quotas for 2013 will probably be over 900.000 tons.

In March was reporting that the predictions were coming true.

Six Icelandic factory trawlers have been fishing in the Norwegian and Russian zones of the Barents Sea. One of them is HB Grandi’s Venus, and according to this trip‘s skipper Haraldur Árnason, there are a huge amounts of fish on the grounds, including on the Malaga shallows and the Fugløy bank in the Norwegian zone where the Icelandic vessels have mostly been fishing.

The skippers are complaining - not a good development. With more cod and bigger cod the price per tonne will fall. They might have to think of joining the EU after all. (Just kidding.) There are other ways of dealing with the problem and Norway is looking at them. One can look to improving quality or to spreading the season. (This article about a report released by the Norwegian research institute Nofima is well worth reading in full.)

As EUReferendum says very pertinently:

That Norway is even able to consider these options rests almost entirely on its refusal in 1994 to join the European Union (for the second time). As it stands, fisheries stocks in the Barents Sea are managed by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, established in 1975.

Had Norway become an EU member, it would have handed control of its fisheries to the Commission, to be treated as a "common resource". The EU would be negotiating directly with Russia, excluding Norway from the table.

And like Britain, it might have been looking at quotas in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands of tons it is currently catching, with their fleet a fraction of the size. It is a small wonder that the EU's CFP was one of the main reasons why Norway didn't want to join.

Would it be possible for our politicians, journalists and other would-be experts to understand that.?

The indefatigable Tom Hay, Honorary Chairman of FAL, has written a letter to the Buchan Observer, to be published this week, that replies to Richard Lochhead's latest praise of the so-called CFP reforms. Here is the letter in full.

Dear Editor

It is inexcusable that Richard Lochhead should continue to propagate the fallacy that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) can be reformed. FAL has advised him time and again that the real CFP – equal access to a common resource- cannot be reformed. Yet he carries on regardless. See Buchan Observer March 19 2013.

It serves the purpose of course of misleading the few Scottish fishermen who are left, that something can be done through negotiations to bring to a halt the clear intentions of the treaties - of driving British fishermen out of their own fishing grounds in favour of a predatory armada of fishermen from the other member states of the EU, predominately operating in what are British waters under international law.

He is of course referring to the temporary derogation from the real CFP which terminates at the end of a prescribed period.. He must be aware that the Conservative Administration in 1972 under the treacherous Edward Heath, surrendered by treaty British fishing grounds, fishing rights, and fish stocks to an alien, unelected foreign power, and thereby establishing the CFP.

Should he doubt the veracity of this, he will very easily find out the truth by reading the fishing debates in Parliament in the early 1970’s, or paying a visit to the Public Record Office in Kew London, which might even be better, since he will find out just how Parliament deceived the very people by whom it was elected.

During these debates, the House of Commons was prophetically warned, mostly by Labour Members of Parliament, that the disastrous circumstances which now prevail in the British Fishing Industry were inevitable, and could not be averted if we transferred by treaty exclusive competence to “Brussels” for the conservation and management of all living marine resources within British waters.

The Treaties of Accession make it crystal clear that all species of fish within the waters of all EU maritime nations, are a common resource to which all EU member state’s fishermen have an equal right of access.

This is the real, ugly, one and only CFP, which cannot be reformed, and Richard Lochhead is doing himself and his Party a great deal of harm. If he wants to continue as a servant of the Scottish people in another SNP administration, and perhaps even in an independent Scotland after 18 September 2014 then he needs to stop propagating this travesty of the truth now, and find the courage to return to the position he adopted in 2006 when as Shadow Minister for Environment, Rural Affairs, Energy and Fisheries he stated: The Common Fisheries Policy 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 for our fishing communities.

Thomas Hay

Honorary Chairman FAL

It would be nice to think that Richard Lochhead and, more importantly, his officials would read this and ponder over it.

It is always fascinating to see the media stumble on something that many of us have known for some time but, as the saying goes, better late than never. In this case a Reuters journalist went to Whitby and spoke to at least one fisherman there. The fisherman was not happy and neither were his few remaining colleagues.
Negotiating fishing quotas with Brussels has long been a source of friction for Britain.

The European Union sets limits on how much fish EU member states can catch every year, saying it helps conserve stocks and protect the health of the seas.

But in places like Whitby, home of centuries of seafaring, people blame the EU for destroying their livelihoods.

In the debate on whether Britain should leave the club altogether in a possible referendum by 2017, for many living off the sea, the answer is clear.

They would all vote to be out of the EU and they may even get the chance to do so if that referendum ever takes place.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Perhaps we should think more radically

The Property and Environment Centre (PERC) has published a research and policy paper that takes a radical look at the whole subject.

Much has been written by scholars at PERC and elsewhere on the successful application of property rights to coastal marine fisheries in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. The use of individual transferable quotas allocated to fishers has been shown to help overcome the environmentally and economically destructive race to catch fish, a problem that has plagued government-regulated ocean fisheries for years.

These programs are typically executed in a top-down manner by a government agency in charge of fisheries management. As such they rely not only on adequate capacity and management skills but also on supportive political economy conditions that include the rule of law, a reliable system of monitoring and enforcement, and broad-based political representation to ensure increased accountability of public officials.
The paper concentrates on three developing countries: Chile (is it still developing?), Bangladesh and Indonesia but the lessons might well apply to others, especially those that have been devastated by the CFP and will, one day, have to rebuild their fishing industry.



Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight Campaign grossly misleading

Around the UK and in International waters almost 200 THOUSAND SQUARE MILES of seabed is closed to the UK fishing industry. The list is endless of closed or restricted areas both actual and potential - Marine Protected Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest, UK Real Time Closures of sea areas where there are concentrations of cod, EU Real Time Closures for juvenile cod, haddock, whiting and saithe plus all year closures such as the Windsock off the west of Scotland supposedly to protect cod, Darwin Mounds and Rockall Bank to protect cold water coral, Stanton Bank (reef features) not to mention the impact on the fishing industry of oil and gas plus green energy  operations.

127 MCZs in English waters alone are in the pipeline under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, on top of the all the existing SACs or of all the other industry-led conservation initiatives that are underway.

The Scottish fishing industry is currently in dialogue with Marine Scotland to identify Marine Protected Areas as part of a UK network to meet EU requirements.

What the industry does not need is the continuing harassment by environmental extremists backed by substantial sums of money from charitable groups such as the Oak Foundation in the Fish Fight campaign. That Foundation funded Keo Films to the tune of almost $500k. HFW is a Director and presenter of the company which has produced his and Professor Callum Roberts latest unbalanced assault on the industry.

HFW says absolutely nothing about the effects on marine life of all the pollution, chemicals, agricultural run-off that pours into coastal waters ever year, aggregate dredging, seals etc. No, it's all down to fishermen - despite the fleet being a shadow of what it was. 

His statement that 75% of the world's surface is ocean but that only 0.001% of that is protected is also utterly misleading as only a very small fraction of that 75% is fishable coastal shelf waters.

Does the public not care about the harm that is being done to an industry which is teetering on the edge of viability by the relentless biased pressure of “celebrities?”  

This current campaign is just another demoralising element which threatens the livelihood of fishermen whose families have worked with nature for generations to provide food for the UK.

Over the last 10 years the industry has worked tirelessly with scientists and Marine Scotland and its predecessors along with responsible environmental groups in open, transparent discussions to resolve policy differences which allow us to coexist.

People like HFW and Professor Roberts preach radical conservation which if implemented would result in the seas being returned to some kind of pristine, pre-industrial era state. 

They don't apply this criterion to the landscape, which has of course been totally transformed by agriculture for centuries.    

The seabed is no different from the land, it needs to be worked on and turned over to release the nutrients that sustain the whole ecosystem.

This current Fish Fight campaign involving a march on Westminster will only fuel the growing anger amongst hard working fishermen and their families at the gross misrepresentation of the facts. They do not deserve to be portrayed in a manner that is totally contrary to the actions they have taken and are continuing to take to protect fish stocks for future generations.

But why is this misrepresentation happening? Has the public queried what the real motive is of Foundations such as the Oak when it comes to splashing out millions of US dollars in their quest for marine conservation?

Oak is only one of the charitable foundations currently pumping vast amounts of money into environmental NGOs dealing with fisheries. The Pew Charitable Trust, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, in addition to the Oak Foundation, have put an estimated $75million into direct lobbying activities in Europe since 2000, and in so doing have  raised concerns as to their real motive.

Most of these foundations share the same view about extreme nature conservancy, based on the American view of the ‘Wilderness’. But what is their reason for investing millions of US$ on marine conservation?

The following may, to some extent, provide the answer to this largesse.

It is an extract from the October 2012 paper BLUE CHARITY BUSINESS, Reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy First appraisal 2000-2011 International foundations, Environmental Non Governmental Organizations [ENGOs] and coalitions.

The reason officially promoted is ocean conservation in a vision of wilderness.

However, we quote some troubling facts which might suggest some other motivations.

Firstly, the European Commission has a strategy regarding maritime affairs, named Blue Growth - opportunities for marine and maritime sustainable growth, a program of promotion and support to marine activities which ignore fishing industry to favour marine conservation, tourism, exploitation of seabed minerals, marine renewable energy and off-shore activities, etc. These areas of the marine economy are supported by promises of jobs creation and major earnings. This strategy presents them as new pioneer fronts and of targeting a new marine Eldorado.

Secondly, these new pioneer fronts will need vast marine areas freed from any competing activities. Recent new findings made in marine gas and oil exploration, in areas which are heavily used by current fishing activities (Celtic sea), and future developments of offshore-wind energy will require big-sized offshore areas. It is the same for the future exploration of marine rare earths. The new pioneers may be disturbed by current fishing activities. Up to now, the conditions of cohabitation between off-shore renewable energy and the fishing activities, especially the bottom towed-fishing gear ones, are not clear. Until now, the British marine renewable areas are not opened to fishing activities.

Thirdly, we may think the US foundations which are currently involved in the lobbying are not fully independent, neither from off-shore gas and oil exploitation interests, nor from the supply of high-technology industries in rare earths ones. This presumption is done according to the composition of the board of trustees of these foundations.”

Is it not time for there to be a serious look by the All Party Fisheries Committee in the House of Commons and by the Scottish Parliament at the activities of these organisations as their network of influence spreads?

Sandy Patience
FAL Chairman
20 February 2013

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Can we discard journalists?

We  have been collecting information and opinions about the so-called fisheries reform and will report on it all very soon. In the meantime, however, we have to express the opinion that there ought to be a way of discarding journalists (and politicians, not to mention NGOs), particularly so harmful to the environment as George Monbiot.

Mr Monbiot or Mr Moonbat, as he  is known affectionately to many of us, has spoken on the subject of discards and fisheries policy, revealing a great deal of ignorance.

If the EU decides to ban fishing boats from discarding the edible fish they catch, it'll land the British government in a spot of bother. It's been using the discards issue as its excuse for justifying overfishing.

Well, of course, that is all fishermen yearn to do: waste their resources while risking life and limb in order to discard half of what they caught.

Mr Moonbat should really learn some facts. Yes, it is true that fisheries scientists are against discards but many of them are also in favour of sustainable and well-planned fishing that can be put into place only if decisions are taken as locally as possible. That means real decisions not ones within the highly centralized and politicized Common Fisheries Policy.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

How many times does one have to say it?

The Common Fisheries Policy is a big part of the problem. The reason is obvious: it is a centralized decision-making process that involves twenty-seven countries, many of whom do not have a vested interest, and a great deal of political bargaining. Proposed delegation to local and regional bodies will not change the basic principle as these decisions will still be taken within the framework provided centrally. Only by exiting from the CFP and adopting our own policies that will take meaningful decision making further down the chain can the situation be salvaged. (Here is one possible plan to follow.)

At the Davos Conference this was voiced clearly by the President of Iceland.

Iceland's president has dismissed the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy as a "colossal failure" as some 75% of Europe's fish stock is endangered.

The policy sets quotas for each of the 27 member states and for types of fish.

"Europe is the problem," Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"It is paradoxical that Europeans see themselves as the most enlightened policy makers in the world," he added.

Problems with fish stocks are present in many parts of the world but none so serious as in the seas around the European Union.

Only two countries in Europe have been managing their fisheries in a sustainable fashion - Iceland and Norway, Mr Grimsson claimed, pointing out that neither is a member of the European Union.

But whereas he was concerned about the future of the oceans that are so important to his country, he also said there were reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Fish caught in a sustainable manner can be labelled electronically, so modern technology, such as mobile telephones or smartphones, have now made it possible for consumers to check exactly where the fish they buy comes from, he says.

Technology that accurately maps the movement of all boats also exists, and it costs less than $100 per boat, Mr Grimsson said, insisting it should be compulsory for boats to be kitted out with such kit before leaving port, the way an aircraft is not allowed to take off without the correct instruments on board.

What are the chances of anything of that kind being even discussed, let alone adopted under the CFP?

Friday, 25 January 2013

The official FAL response

Here is the official response by FAL to David Cameron's speech and oddly enough it agrees with the previous posting with additional comments that are especially relevant to Scotland.

Comment by FAL on David Cameron’s Speech on the EU

Talk about a new settlement, a new relationship with Europe or more correctly with the EU is, not to put too fine a point on it, 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” which is not negotiable is the major requirement that drives negotiations when new nations are applying for membership of the EU. The UK had to accept it when it became a member of the EEC in 1972. It had to embrace and enforce every vestige of the “acquis” before it became a member, because all previous members had agreed to obey and implement it in full. There are derogations but these are all time limited and have a date of expiry before they are agreed. They can be rolled over.

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). 

 Mr Cameron has said:

“And to those who say a new settlement can't be negotiated, I would say listen to the views of other parties in other European countries arguing for powers to flow back to European states. And look too at what we have achieved already....... Ending Britain's obligation to bail out eurozone members. Launching a process to return some existing justice and home affairs powers. And reforming fisheries policy. So we are starting to shape the reforms we need now. Some will not require treaty change.”

However not only is Britain not opting out of any common justice and home affairs policies, it is busy opting in wherever there had been an opt-out negotiated.

Furthermore there is no reform of the real EU fisheries policy which is stark and simple and is clearly defined in the acquis --Community fishing vessels shall have equal access to waters and resources in all Community waters outside 12 nautical miles from the baselines. 

Talk about reform is a con trick perpetuating the deceit which has led to our fishermen being integrated in to the establishment of a single EU fleet on the principle of non-discrimination.

After centuries of environmentally benign exploitation and husbanding of resources, Scotland’s fishing industry has been devastated by ideological intervention, mismanagement and overfishing by the European Union. The result has been the loss of 100,000 jobs and an annual loss of more than £1,500 million per year to Scotland’s economy. There should be complete withdrawal from this Brussels-controlled lunacy.

And as for Alex Salmond If he wins the Independence within the EU referendum in Scotland, it will be very interesting to see how he gets rid of the non negotiable acquis on fisheries.

Roddy McColl
For FAL Secretaries 
23 January 2013

For those of our readers who want to read the Prime Minister's speech in full, here is the link. You might wish to skip numerous paragraphs. One has to admit sorrowfully that, despite getting the best education this country can provide, Mr Cameron's knowledge of European and even British history is shaky.

Let us pass on to other matters. The biggest one is the tentative, for it is no more than that, promise of a referendum in 2017, assuming the Conservatives win the 2015 election and conditional, or maybe not, on some renegotiations and repatriation of powers.

This is a little difficult for, as Mary-Ellen Synon points out trenchantly in the Spectator, as things stand there is no method whereby powers can be repatriated. That includes fisheries. We cannot negotiate them back. We can, however, announce that we are activating Article 50 of the Treaties, and negotiate a new deal on the basis of that. This, the Prime Minister does not seem to want to do because, as he says himself, his preference is to stay inside the EU.