Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all or readers with some music, which is not entirely relevant either to Christmas or to fishing: a jazz version by the incomparable Maxine Sullivan of that old favourite, Loch Lomond:

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

It's the policy not the quotas

UKIP is cock-a-hoop at this article in the Plymouth Herald.

FISHING quotas could kill off independent boats, fishermen have warned - and say they will be voting UKIP for “drastic political” change.

The comments came as fisherman at Plymouth Fisheries in Fish Quay met on Friday with Clare Moody, Labour MEP for the South West.

At least four boats moored in the quay were sporting purple UKIP flags.

When asked why fisherman were supporting Nigel Farage’s party, Bracken Pearce said: “Because what have the other parties done for us? The tweaks they are making aren’t working and we need some drastic change.”

One can understand the frustrations fishermen feel at yet another round of cuts in quotas based all too often on less than convincing evidence but it is about time they, their organizations, their spokespersons and, above all, politicians including those in UKIP understood the basic facts of life: it is not about the quotas but about the policy as a whole. As long as we are members of the European Union (and we hear more about that referendum than about Brexit from UKIP these days) we remain members of the Common Fisheries Policy; and as long as we remain part of that we do not control our fisheries and cannot do so. The quotas are a side issue. We need to concentrate on the main one.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Something a little different

Today is the Feast of St Nicholas, a fourth century Greek bishop and saint. He is usually associated with children and present giving. But he is also the patron saint of fishermen, which is appropriate to this blog as well as of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe and of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.

In Greece and Russia he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker because of the many miracles attributed to him. Hmmm. Perhaps we should invoke him more often.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Political developments

The Scottish referendum is over and we can turn our attention to other political matters among which Britain's membership of the European Union is one of the most important ones.

In connection with that we have to note that, unexpectedly, UKIP now has two MPs (as well as three peers). The two are Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton and Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood. Neither of those seats is exactly a UKIP victory as both MPs were incumbents as Conservatives and fought the by-elections under a different flag. Mr Carswell, majority in this by-election was even more handsome than it had been in previous elections when he had stood as a Tory, even allowing for that fall in electoral turn-out. Mr Reckless, on the other hand, reduced his majority quite considerably.

Or, in other words, we have no idea how this will play in next year's General Election. It is reasonable to assume that Clacton will stay UKIP but that is less likely for Rochester and Strood and to this day we have not had a single UKIP victory for the Commons, which matters considerably more than the European Parliament.

Still, they are there in the House and will stay there till next May at least. Will this make any difference? This is what nobody can predict. Two MPs cannot make too much difference in either voting or debating matters though it is fair to say that Messrs Carswell and Reckless will have some support among members of other parties, especially the Conservative one.

There is also the possibility that one or two other MPs might decide to defect to UKIP and call a by-election with unpredictable results. So far, nobody is moving in that direction and Mr Reckless's result is not encouraging to anyone who might be thinking in those terms.

The problem is that UKIP has become a little unpredictable as well. The party whose purpose was campaigning for British withdrawal from the European Union (and, incidentally, from the pernicious Common Fisheries Policy) now prefers not to refer to that subject. Instead they concentrate on subsidiary subjects like immigration and focus their campaign on demands for a speedy IN/OUT referendum.

There are two problems with that. One is that the result of that referendum is moot. In fact, going by opinion polls, one would have to say that the likelihood of an IN vote is very high. It would, therefore, be inadvisable from our point of view to have a referendum too early, before we have organized our troops and, above all, marshalled our arguments that would have to include explanations of how we would exit and what would we do in the country afterwards. How would we organize fisheries in this country once out of the CFP? There are many ideas around and we need to have some clear arguments.

Secondly, if it is a referendum one wants then a Conservative government is a better bet than a Labour one and if the Conservative lose too many seats to or because of UKIP then we shall have Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and he has already made it clear that he is not interested in calling a referendum.

The two UKIP MPs have not been back in the Commons for very long and have not, therefore, had a chance to speak about many matters, including fishing. We must assume that they oppose the CFP but we do not know what they think should be put in its place. In fact, we do not even know how they envisage Britain's exit (known in some circles as Brexit) and what they think should be done afterwards. What sort of agreements will have to be negotiated, for example? We must wait and see what they will say.

On the other hand we do not have to wait for another MP, one who has made it clear that he has not the slightest intention of leaving the Conservatives for UKIP and that is, former Cabinet Minister for the Environment, Owen Paterson.

Readers of this blog know Mr Paterson and his ideas as he was spokesman for fisheries before the 2010 election and is responsible for a detailed plan for the British fishing industry outside the EU and the CFP. (It seems not to be available any longer on the Conservative website so we shall have to find another link for it.) The policy was produced in 2005 and was accepted as such but was discarded when David Cameron became leaders. Its details may well be out of date slightly but it is a strong set of ideas that one can build on.

Mr Paterson has made a speech to a reasonably eurosceptic think-tank, Business for Britain and he called on the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon that lays down the procedure for a member state to leave the European Union before any renegotiation. (As a matter of fact, this is considerably stronger and more outspoken than the usual mealy-mouthed pronouncements by Business for Britain and its various spokespersons.)

The prime minister's promise last year to hold a vote on Europe in 2017 if the Conservatives win the next election was seen as an attempt to halt the rise of UKIP, which senior Tories feared could prevent them from winning an overall majority at next May's general election.

But four days after UKIP defeated the Tories in the Rochester and Strood by-election, Mr Paterson suggested to Mr Cameron he had to be prepared to leave the EU if he wants negotiations on a new relationship with Brussels to succeed.

He urged him to give a manifesto commitment to invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

This would give formal notice of Britain's intention to quit the EU and would spark two years of negotiations ahead of a 2017 referendum.

Unlike calls for a referendum and chatter about immigration (important or otherwise) this goes to the heart of the problem: Britain's membership of the EU, the need to leave and to negotiate a different arrangement. So far there has not been a response from Downing Street, which indicates that Mr Cameron and his advisers take this development very seriously. At least, we hope that is what it indicates. Because this is, indeed, a serious development. A senior Conservative MP with a great deal of experience and with every intention of staying in the party and fighting the battle has stated the need for a real policy on the subject.

James Delingpole puts it all much more forcefully on Breitbart-London, adding for good measure that UKIP is keeping out of the spat because they do not have a real EU exit strategy. This from a man who has been seen for a while as little more than a spokesman for UKIP is quite a strong statement.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

We will remember them

For once, a posting not about the common fisheries policy or about political shenanigans.

Many readers of this blog would have taken part in local ceremonies of remembrance but those who were in Whitehall, watched on TV or listened on the radio to the grand and moving ceremony at the Cenotaph would have noticed that a wreath was laid on behalf of the Merchant Mariners and the Fishing Fleets. That is as it should be. Without them the war on the sea could not have been fought and many lost their lives in both big wars.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Readers of this blog may have noticed that there has been a certain amount of entertainment as the Members of the European Parliament threw around their insignificant weight and held up various Commissioners' confirmation for all sorts of reasons.

They were not altogether happy with the nomination of Karmenu Vella as Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, Environment and Fisheries but it was not the fisheries part of the portfolio that bothered them.

Members of the European Parliament’s environment committee have said they are still not satisfied with the positioning of environmental issues in the new structure of the European Commission. But they will not hold hostage the nomination of Karmenu Vella in order to get it changed.

What a relief, eh?

The European Voice ran a live blog about the confirmation as it happened.

There were a few mildly interesting moments, the moment when Commissioner-to-be Vella held up photographs of his grandchildren not being one of them, except for the fact, not mentioned by him, that

the mother of one of those children sits on this environment committee. Miriam Dalli, a new Maltese MEP, is Vella’s daughter-in-law. She recused herself from participating in today’s hearing.

Much has been made of Commission President Juncker's restructuring of the Commission though we cannot tell how that will work until it starts working (or not). In any case, the main point about the Common Fisheries Policy being a centralized EU policy and decisions will be taken, for political reasons, in Brussels, remains.

David Keating did ask something interesting:

During his press conference I asked him if there is a risk that under the strategy identified by Juncker and himself to make sustainability and environment “everybody’s responsibility”, it actually becomes nobody’s responsibility – particularly if there is no vice-president for environment/sustainability.

He responded that this approach is better than having environment in its own silo, with policies being made without co-ordination with areas like industry and economy. Juncker’s new approach to the structure of the European Commission will mean a better result for the environment, he insisted.

We shall be watching Mr Vella's activity.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The real fight starts now

Important though the Scottish Independence Referendum was, in some ways, as this blog tried to explain, it was something of a side issue for the Scottish fishermen. The fact is that had Scotland voted YES, had there been an "independent" Scotland within the EU as the SNP proposed it, the fishing industry would not have experienced any changes: within the Common Fisheries Policy plans and decisions would have continued to be taken centrally for political reasons. Scotland would not have been taking part in negotiations with Norway, Iceland or Greenland (well, Denmark on its behalf) and so-called reforms of the CFP would not have changed much in reality.

It is clear from the way the votes fell out that areas of Scotland where fishing is important voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the Union (and not in the European version of it, either). As did, incidentally, areas where oil is important.

So, now that the question of Scotland's role in the United Kingdom has been settle for some time to come, it is time to turn our attention to the real battle: the restoration of powers to where they belong and that is this country and its people.

There will be much on that subject in future postings. This is merely a battle cry.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The new Commissioner

Well, the job has gone to Malta and not to a landlocked country as it could have done so easily. The new Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is Karmenu Vella, 64, a Socialist and long-serving politician. Doesn't that make one's heart lift in happiness? Come what may, Mr Vella will be considerably more important in decisions that relate to the Scottish fisheries than, for example, Richard Lochhead.

What can we find out about Mr Vella?

Mr Vella is a member of the Maltese Labour Party and has previously served in the government as Minister for Public Works, Minister for Industry and Minister for Tourism.

So he is going to know a great deal about fisheries. Of course.

Not that it matters. After all, he has advisers to advise him and he is, one assumes, picking his team, even as we speak. Whether there will be anyone there to speak for the Scottish fisheries is a moot point as his portfolio is to do with the EU and its policies. The UK is only one member state as will be Scotland, should it become "independent" within the EU. The only difference being is that, should such an eventuality occur, it will be a considerably smaller and even less important state. What a jolly prospect. The principles of the Common Fisheries Policy will not change, no matter which way that referendum goes.

In his mission letter to Mr Vella, Commission President Juncker said that he would like him to focus on the following:

◾“continuing to overhaul the existing environmental legislative framework to make it fit for purpose. In the first part of the mandate, I would ask you to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation.

◾“taking stock of where we stand in the negotiations on the air strategy. We need to know whether our approach addresses the right sources of air pollution with the right instruments. In the light of your assessment, we can then see how best to conduct the negotiations.

◾“assessing the state of play of the Circular Economy package in the light of the first reactions of the European Parliament and Council to see whether and how it is consistent with our jobs and growth agenda and our broader environmental objectives.

◾“implementing the recently agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to put the EU firmly on the path of a sustainable fishing sector and fishing communities.

◾“engaging in shaping international ocean governance in the UN, in other multilateral fora and bilaterally with key global partners.”

As we can see, the so-called reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has not altered anything (as this blog has pointed out a few times) - the fisheries sector remains a single one for the whole of the European Union with the ultimate aim of equal access for all member states.

Nothing but an exit from the EU and a restoration of the fisheries policy to this country will change that. Is that more likely to happen if Scotland goes "independent" or if it stays in the Union?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

As Scotland approaches that referendum

We need to get certain things right. This blog, obviously, deals with issues of fisheries only but it is worth considering whether a YES vote would help Scotland's fishermen. In general, we have concluded that it will not as long as the intention is to stay in the European Union, that is the Common Fisheries Policy.

On top of that we do not think that any of the politicians who are taking part in the debate (more or less) understand certain basic facts or even stay true to one opinion. Here is a letter from Tom Hay, Honorary Chairman of FAL on Alex Salmond's changing views:

Alex Salmond’s Policies Past, and Present

In the House of Commons on 02/03/2004 Alex Salmond presented his Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy and to restore National Control to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He began by saying: This Bill is supported by members of all eight political Parties represented in this Chamber, and is a plea for fair treatment from one of the great natural resource industries of our land, and whatever the fate of this measure today this is a demand which will return until it is successful.

He went on to say that fishermen regard this policy as a charade, a device to rob them of their birthright, and if we look back more than 30 years ago this country accepted the adoption of the CFP in negotiations to enter the Common Market, with its central provision of equal access to a common resource to support that view. Documents released under the 30 years rule show that this was done by the then Government in full knowledge of the possible damage to our own fishing industry.

Sadly however as far as I know he never presented it again.

He said if we were in a position where there were no fish in the sea, we might have to accept reluctantly that nothing could be done to sustain our fishing industry, although it would still be a very good reason for changing the policy that had brought this about. However, that is not the position. Even according to the hotly disputed ICES figures many of our stocks are in a robust condition such as haddock, prawns, herring and mackerel. The sea is teeming with fish but it may soon be empty of our fishermen.

How right he was! As a result of various de-commissioning schemes, 397 vessels have been removed from the Scottish demersal fleet, and during the same period 285 nephrops vessels have also been removed. A total of 682 vessels mostly of our larger ships have been broken up on the eastern shores of the North sea and elsewhere, to satisfy the shameful demands of the EU treaties which state that all Community fishermen must have equal access to, and use of the fishing grounds falling under the sovereignty and coming within the jurisdiction of the member states.

Thus Alex Salmond for years scathingly but rightly attacked the Conservative Party for surrendering our fishing rights and fish stocks to an alien foreign power in Brussels.

Now it appears that the very thing that he vehemently detested has become SNP policy.

In mid-summer 2013 the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, publicly stated that Scotland is an ancient European nation, and that an independent Scotland will continue in European Union membership. Our country has the lion’s share of all the EU’s oil reserves, a huge proportion of the continent’s renewable energy as well as some of the richest fishing grounds.

Would Brussels want to lose such assets when energy security is one of the dominating issues of the 21st Century?. Would Spanish, French and Portuguese fishermen want to be blocked from fishing the lucrative waters in Scotland.s sectors of the North Sea, and West Atlantic, she continued.

The SNP should be thoroughly ashamed that by their actions their declared aim of EU integration at any price will result once again in our fishermen being treated as expendable, merely to satisfy the SNP’s nauseating ambition to get a seat at the top table in Brussels, where they will achieve nothing.

Thomas Hay

Honorary Chairman FAL

Succinctly put, as always. One can only marvel at the lack of logic displayed by the Deputy First Minister in her statements.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

And just to demonstrate reality ....

.... here is an interesting article published in the Daily Express. It is not particularly well written and the quotes from various eurosceptic organizations could be better phrased. (To be fair to the people who made those statements, it is possible that originally they were completely different.) Let us simply have a look at the facts and figures:

ALMOST £2.5billion of British taxpayers’ money is to be given to the Czech Republic by the EU – to help boost the landlocked country’s fishing industry.

The money is part of a £19billion package agreed by Brussels to help develop industries in the Czech Republic and tackle unemployment.

The unemployment in the Czech Republic is, in fact, rather high, the promised economic benefits of EU membership not having materialized, though it is a little lower than unemployment in the UK. However, there is more:
The fisheries sector, which accounts for just 0.04 per cent of the Czech Republic economy, will benefit from at least £24million of ring-fenced money.

That is the way fiscal matters are arranged in the European Union. Does Mr Lochhead really think anything will change if Scotland becomes "independent within the EU"?

There are times when explaining facts to politicians looks like a lost cause as anyone who has ever had to do so on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy knows only too well. So, here we go again. If Scotland becomes independent of the United Kingdom (a big if but let us grant it) but a member of the European Union, its fishing industry will be part of the Common Fisheries Policy and it will not be taking any decisions on the subject. All decisions will be taken centrally for various political reasons to do with various issues that involve other member states. Scotland will not be negotiating with other fishing countries in the North Atlantic as Norway or Iceland do if it stays or re-enters the European Union. Of course, if it does not the situation will be different.

It is not clear whether Richard Lochhead understands this. A summary of the new Report on Scotland's Future and the Scottish Fisheries indicates that the intention is to stay in the European Union and to have an independent fisheries policy which is an illogical absurdity.

Mr Lochhead said that only independence will ensure Scotland’s fishing will be a national priority and ensure that the industry thrives for generations to come.

The five gains for the fishing sector set out in more detail in the report are:

• Fishing will be a national priority

• Direct representation in the EU and ability to negotiate our priorities without compromise

• Protection of Scotland’s fishing quotas

• Fairer share of EU Fisheries budget

• Ensure Scotland’s fishing levies promote Scottish seafood

Let us repeat it once again: within the Common Fisheries Policy, that is, within the European Union, fishing is not a national policy, it is what we call an EU competence and has been since the day the United Kingdom entered the Common Market though the arguments used for that surrender were dubious to put it mildly. (This blog discussed it here and here.)

The notion of negotiating anything with twenty-seven other countries (if Scotland becomes the twenty-eighth member) without compromise is .... well, how shall we put it .... Scotch mist. Scotland's priorities will not be considered to be any more important than any other country's priorities and they are all subsumed to the central politics of the European Union.

The same argument applies to Scotland's fishing quotas or to what any Scottish government might consider to be a fairer share of the Fisheries budget. They might get a reasonable share of Scotland's fishing levies to promote Scottish seafood but it is much more likely that there will be some complicated arrangement whereby the fishing levies will be allocated as the EU decides but some other funds might be given to Scotland for promotion of Scottish seafood somewhere or other.

The only thing that will change will be the number of votes in both the Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament. Scotland will have far fewer in both than the UK has now and cannot achieve much with. That Mr Lochhead does not mention.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

"Independent" Scotland and the EU

Readers of this blog will know that we do not consider membership of the European Union, whose legislative and regulatory rules, laid down often in opposition to the democratic wishes as expressed through elections (and we do not mean the farcical ones to the European Parliament, when 33.7 per cent of the electorate bother to vote), over-rule domestic legislation, to be synonymous with independence.

At present it looks like the SNP does consider those two political terms to be synonymous and talk airily of being independent of the UK this autumn and members of the EU on rather astonishingly favourable terms (do they really think Scotland will get some kind of a rebate?) by early 2016. At best this is moonshine or Scotch mist, at worst dangerous misleading of the electorate. Let's be reasonable: under no circumstances will the possible negotiation of Scotland's membership of the EU under Article 49 of the Treaties change the situation as far as the Common Fisheries Policy is concerned, that being part of the acquis communautaire or, as some describe it, occupied legislative territory, and not up for discussion while admission negotiations take place.

This paper, produced by the Centre for European Reform (CER) does not touch on the fisheries issue but is of interest, nevertheless, as it deals with the whole thorny subject of a putative "independent" Scotland and its equally putative membership of the EU. As we have pointed out over and over again, the subject of fisheries cannot be separated from the subject of EU membership.

The Centre for European Reform is not a eurosceptic organization. Far from it. It is one of the UK's leading europhile or, to be more polite, pro-EU think-tanks. Its original remit of proposing necessary and, if needs be, tough reforms has been abandoned some time ago in favour of cheer-leading with the occasional suggestion that not everything within the EU is completely wonderful but most of it is.

Neither is the author of the paper, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a eurosceptic. Indeed, he probably looks for his trusty cloves of garlic when any such person comes anywhere near him. His career has been entirely within the europhile establishment and like so many former Foreign and Commonwealth Office grandees, he finds it a little difficult to tell the difference between Europe (a geographic and cultural entity) and the European Union (a political construct) or to realize that the world is a little larger than either of them and Britain (including and especially Scotland) has historically looked to the rest of the world as much as it did to Europe.

So Lord Kerr's cautious admonitions are to be taken seriously. When he says that the path to EU membership for an "independent" Scotland is thorny, it is best to take note of it. When he explains all the difficulties that are likely to be encountered, including the undoubted fact that Scotland will cease to a member of the EU if it leaves the UK, Scots should pay atttention. When he then explains, quite rightly, that the membership negotiations will not depend just on Scotland, the remaining UK or Brussels but will involve all other member states whose vote will be needed in the final agreement, he shows up the superficiality of the SNP's understanding of the EU and its structures.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

About that reshuffle

The reshuffle is the lead story in the British media and has even appeared here and there in other countries. This is the last big one, we all assume, before the General Election in May 2015 (and what Scotland's position will be by then is unclear) so, give or take a change or two, this will be the team that will be leading the Conservative Party into that battle.

Some of the changes are not surprising. William Hague has been known as a part-time politician for some time and his departure was most likely suggested by him. He will earn a good deal more as a writer, after dinner speaker and general pundit than he does in Parliament even as Foreign Secretary though he might occasionally think back to the time when Margaret Thatcher mused about him becoming another Young Pitt. He did not. His successor, Phil Hammond, seems a little more aware of the reality of Britain's membership of the European Union.

From the point of view of the fishing industry the one departure, enforced, we are sure, that matters is of Owen Paterson from DEFRA. This is not good news. Mr Paterson made the odd mistake but he knows the countryside and refuses to go along with the fashionable views on the environment. He is also known as a man who is capable of holding independent opinions on various matters and of asking a large number of different experts on the subjects he had to deal with. His departure is seen as a sop to the Green lobby, which is rejoicing openly.

There is some silver lining for Mr Paterson: on the backbenches he will be able to speak out more openly. As a man who knows a good deal about the fishing industry and understands the pernicious and overwhelming nature of the Common Fisheries Policy, he will, we hope, make his views known in the future when he will no longer be hampered by a Cabinet position. It does not show the Prime Minister in a particularly good light, though.

Mr Paterson's successor is Elizabeth Truss, whose past experience tells us little about here ability to deal with DEFRA or with the various bits of EU legislation that her department is subjected on a daily basis.

So far as we can tell at this stage, fisheries will remain in the hands of George Eustice, a man who appears to believe in the teeth of all evidence that the so-called reforms of the CFP are genuine changes in a policy that cannot be changed without being dismantled. He also seems unaware of the fact that food labelling is wholly an EU competence. Maybe he is just pretending to b ignorant.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

From FAL's June Newsletter

First of all, here is an interesting time line that we have referred to before. It is always good to be reminded of such matters:

SNP TIME LINE -- from National Control to EU Integration 2003 Alex Salmond launches Bill to withdraw from Common Fisheries Policy.

2006 SNP October Conference, Richard Lochhead refers to ‘elephant in the room’ the CFP will always undermine our efforts to take the industry forward to better times. Only when Scotland regains control of our own waters will we be able to plot a course into calmer waters for our fishing communities”.

2007 SNP’s Manifesto -A better future outside the CFP The SNP will continue to work for withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy and will not support any future European Constitution that grants the EU "exclusive competence" over this valuable resource. We will work with our partners to enlist support for the repatriation of fisheries responsibilities to member states.

2008 31 July FAL’s first meeting with Richard Lochhead as Cabinet Secretary when he reaffirmed the SNP and therefore the new Scottish Government’s stated aim of withdrawal from the CFP and restoring national control.

2012 Your Scotland Your Future “With independence we will remain part of the EU.” Richard Lochhead 2014 Independence will result in direct representation in the European Union and ability to negotiate our priorities without compromise.

2014 The SNP’s policy of repatriation of fisheries, of the aspiration of national control has been discarded

So that's that. For whatever reason the SNP does not envisage an "independent within the EU" Scotland running its fisheries policy. Instead, the EU will continue to decide matters centrally, for political reasons and then generously hand over a few details of administration to the regions. Nor will Scotland be negotiating with Norway, Russia, Iceland or Greenland - the EU will be doing that.

That are other interesting pieces in the Newsletter, to be discussed and dissected in future postings.

The Daily Post has an article about what they see as a worrying development for Welsh fishermen.

Traditional sea fishing on the Welsh coast is in danger of of being wiped out under new EU rules due next year.

Scores of fishing families, many of whom have fished the coast for generations, have been thrown into a panic by plans to prohibit drift netting.

The blanket ban, due January 2015, was proposed following concerns some fishermen were flouting existing rules designed to protect tuna, dolphins, sharks and other marine animals.

Nothing wrong with trying to protect various marine animals who die unnecessarily in some of the drift nets. However, the Welsh fishermen say that this does not apply to them:

But fishermen on the Dee estuary claim the problem is limited to the Mediterranean and has no relevance to Welsh fishermen, who use small, mesh nets for catching plaice, flounder and sea bass.

If the ban goes ahead, some 70 vessels will be at risk around Wales as in-shore fishermen are prevented from using any other gear, such as fixed nets.

These matters should be discussed properly. Unfortunately, as long as we are in the Common Fisheries Policy (and as long as we are in the EU, we are in the CFP) this is not an argument that can be used. The policy may be implemented regionally after the so-called reforms but it is decided centrally, often as a result of political horse trading. (Well, all right, shark trading.)

On May 14, Richard Lochhead had an article in the Press and Journal in which he argued that a "yes vote" in the forthcoming referendum would mean Scotland would no longer be "a bargaining chip" (where do these people get their vocabulary?) but will be able to negotiate directly. It would appear that he has not noticed how little say any country that is part of the Common Fisheries Policy, i.e. of the European Union has in those negotiations unlike, say, Norway, Greenland, Iceland and even the Faroes. This blog has written on that subject repeatedly so all he or his minions have to do is to read it.

As we have not been able to find a link to it, we have reproduced a copy of the article here and hope our readers can still decipher it if they have not seen the original:

Of far greater importance is the response from FAL that was published on May 16:


Yes Vote means “direct voice”

Richard Lochhead Scottish Fisheries Secretary in today’s P&J “categorically assures” the fishing industry that the SNP will not use our fisheries as a bargaining chip to be traded away in any in EU negotiations.

Can the industry accept the assurance that Scotland will have sovereign control over its own destiny and full control over its fishing quota to protect an historic asset for future generations?

There is no evidence to support this assertion but there is overwhelming evidence to show the disastrous effects of the EU fisheries policy over the last 40 years on the Scottish (and indeed the whole UK) fishing industry and their communities.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr Lochhead is being completely disingenuous. Once more, in the desire to have a seat at the top table, he ignores the non negotiable 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 European Court of Justice.

The SNP’s slogan “Independence in the EU” is an oxymoron outside the minds of the SNP. There will be no sovereign control.

The acquis for fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states and the EU’s exclusive competence in fisheries. That has not been changed by the so called recent reform of the CFP.

The acquis effectively ensures that the objectives of the Treaties regarding the EU fisheries policy are fulfilled - the political end game of an integrated EU fleet, operating in EU waters under a strategic policy agreed at EU level but giving Member States the semblance of authority by delegating to them implementation powers to operate in a regional context.

So in the face of this, what can Mr Lochhead do to protect the Scottish fishing industry? And it’s not just fishing.

In Treaty after Treaty — Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon — ever more power has been removed from the UK (and Scotland as part of it) and channelled to the EU be it the economy, immigration, energy, trade, agriculture, fisheries or social policy.

That erosion of powers will continue if an independent Scotland becomes a Member State of the EU.

Outside the EU, on the other hand, an independent Scotland, as part of EFTA or an EEA Associate membership would actually acquire more freedom of action in its own Exclusive Economic Zone.

Perhaps this time Mr Lochhead and his colleagues will pay some attention to the arguments as they come from people who understand the issues.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Other places, other solutions

We have received an article from Cato Institute, a well-known think-tank in Washington D.C. on the subject of New England fisheries and the appalling problems it faces. Some of it will be very familiar to our readers: 

In a crowded meeting hall in Portsmouth N.H. [New Hamshire] the New England Fishery Management Council voted in January 2013 to recommend drastic new cuts to the catch limits for Atlantic codfish off the New England coast. Over the strenuous objections of local communities and fishermen the council proposed 77 percent reductions in the allowable harvest for each of the next three years in the Gulf of Maine and 66 percent cut in next year's catch on Georges Bank. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration approved the proposed catch limits and other "emergency" measures in May 2013.

New England fishermen and other opponents of the plan fear that the restrictions will doom the centuries-old local fishing industry. Plan proponents, however, counter that the measures are the only way to save the rapidly collapsing Atlantic cod industry. Unfortunately, even these severe new limits may be too little, too late. The latest measures follow years of mismanagement, overly optimistic stock estimates, and misguided fishery policies that failed to align the economic interests of the fishing community with the long-term sustainability of the fishery. In the 1990s, for example, the fishery stock assessments indicated that short-term catch limits and fishing effort reductions could rebuild the fishery stock and ultimately lead to higher long-term yields. Nevertheless, local fishermen and their political representatives vehemently opposed any such reductions.

All arguments that we have heard before together with some indication that decisions are taken for political reasons rather than economic or environmental. The article goes on:

It would be easy to attack new England fishermen for being short-sighted. To do so, however, would ignore the incentives they face—incentives created by the existing regulatory structure. Incumbent fishermen have little incentive to agree to catch reductions because they would be unlikely to capture the full value of the rebuilt stocks. A rebuilt stock would encourage inactive trawlers to resume fishing and active trawlers to increase their fishing intensity.

The authors' proposal may sound radical but, as they point out, this has been discussed for a while and there is empirical evidence to prove that "property rights in fisheries through territorial or catch-share allocations among fisheries participants" can ensure an economically and ecologically sustainable fishing industry.

It is worth reading the whole article, as some of this blog's readers may not have thought about this idea before. However, FAL actually has discussed it and is, as an organization, opposed to the notion. Tradeable Quotas /Transferable Fishing Concessions and was originally in the proposals for the “reformed CFP” but “discarded” after opposition from all and sundry except the Commission. The reason for the opposition is obvious: this idea plays into the hands of those with the biggest economic clout to the detriment of the small communities.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Apologies and some news items

Firstly, a huge apology to all our readers for the unheralded and far too long break in this blog. There were good reasons for it, to do with health, both human and computer. However, the FAL blog is once again operations and we start with a few news items to whet everybody's appetite.

The Western Morning News reports that there will be CCTV cameras fitted to fishing boats to ensure that no discards are perpetrated. We should welcome the ban but it ought to be pointed out that the whole problem of discards was a symptom not the cause - the cause remains the Common Fisheries Policy, which remains a centralized structure where decisions are taken for political reasons at the heart of the EU. Maybe George Eustice does not realize this. FAL is ready to provide him with the necessary information.

This could be of interest to fishing organizations and individual fishermen who have something to contribute to the discussion. On March 31, a package of consultations was launched concerning the implementation of reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Here, incidentally, is the consultation letter that may well have gone out to some of this blog's readers but can be asked for if not. And here is the Consultation Document that requires responses from fishermen and their representatives.

Finally, some news that might not be directly relevant to many readers but is of interest because of what it implies in political terms. Undercurrent News reports that

The European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands have agreed to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) of Northeast Atlantic blue whiting by 86% for 2014.

It will not escape our readers' attention that Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands do their own negotiating, which the UK does not and neither will an "independent" Scotland within the EU, should such an entity come about.

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.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Well, somebody mentioned fishing

It was the UKIP peer, Lord Willoughby de Broke who referred to fishing as one of the competences this country has lost to the EU over the years, during the Second Reading of the EU Referendum Bill in the House of Lords on January 10.

Many of the powers were given away, as I will tell noble Lords in a minute, without the British people ever being asked whether that was what they wanted. Treaty after treaty—Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon—drained ever more power away from the British Parliament at Westminster and from the people of this country and channelled it to the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Very little that matters is now left to the Westminster Parliament, which has nothing at all to say about the economy, immigration, energy, trade, agriculture, fisheries and social policy.

That happens to be the truth. All else is moonshine. That is the position from which we must move forward.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Up to a point, Mr Collins

There is an interesting article in The Scotsman by Simon Collins, the Executive Officer of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, entitled Scots fishermen face tidal wave of red tape. We cannot really argue with the essence of that title only with the implication that somehow they did not face that tidal wave before. But then Mr Collins, while capable of seeing some of the effects, seems unable to understand the main cause of the problem, being rather a supporter of the European Union and of the Common  Fisheries Policy or so it would appear from this article.

Mr Collins starts by giving a lyrical description of the Shetlands and its fishing industry but soon switches to the problems, which are well known: too much regulation, no attention paid to what fishermen want or know, decisions taken centrally regardless of what happens in reality. Yes, yes, yes. We have been saying the same thing and blaming on the Common Fisheries Policy, which is dedicated to all those ideas.

Not so Mr Collins. He thinks the EU is a splendid institution, really, but the Commission is a bit of a problem.

The Commission is an unelected body of career bureaucrats dedicated to the implementation of European law and the enforcement of what it regards as EU policy. It has long outgrown its original role as an administrative arm at the service of elected European leaders, and is now firmly convinced of its right to frame policy as well as implement it. In many areas of life, this might not matter too much. Brussels’ tentacles do not extend absolutely everywhere. Unfortunately for the fishing industry, and especially so for island communities like Shetland that depend so heavily on it, fisheries conservation is one of the few areas of “exclusive competence” reserved to the European Union.

Well, up to a point, Mr Collins. The Commission is certainly "an unelected body of career bureaucrats" but it was never envisaged as "an administrative arm at the service of elected European leaders", whoever they might be. As it happens, the EU has no elected leaders.

The Commission is seen as the guardian of the treaties, which are in their consolidated form, effectively the constitution of the European Union and of its member states. That includes the United Kingdom and will include, should things turn out that way, an "independent" Scotland within the EU (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one).

Furthermore, the Commission is, according to the rules laid down by successive treaties, the sole originator of legislation in the EU. Proposals mostly go to the Council and the European Parliament but if there is disagreement between those two bodies, the Commission, also according to the rules laid down by the treaties acts as the co-ordinator of the legislation.

In other words, it has always been far more than just an administrator that carries out politicians' instructions (incidentally, Commissioners tend to be politicians) and that is because the creators and supporters of the EU or those of the latter who understand the structure do not believe in governance by politics: they consider that it should be done by management as politicians tend to be short-sighted, governed by party loyalties, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Thus, the idea, expressed by Mr Collins that if politicians in the EU just get a grip on the Commission, clip its wings and contain its powers all will be well comes from that well known volume: Tales of Porcine Aviation. It is the Council, who are, indeed elected politicians (at least nominally) who make the decisions on fisheries, which, as Mr Collins rightly points out, is and has been since 1970 wholly EEC/EC/EU competence.

What good does it do us that they are elected? They are not elected by us. There are 28 members in each Council of Ministers and they are not going to pay too much attention to the Shetland Islands, Scotland or the UK if they can do a deal for their own benefit. As this blog has mentioned before, the UK does not take part in discussions about fishing in the North Atlantic and neither will an "independent" Scotland within the EU. Iceland, Norway and Russia do plus Greenland through Denmark. The EU will negotiate on our behalf as it sees fit and much of that negotiation, as we have pointed out over and over again, will not be based on knowledge and information supplied by fishermen or their organizations and not even on scientific evidence but on political calculation. That is how it will be as long as we remain in the Common Fisheries Policy.