Brexit must allow us to quit the Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of our fishing waters

Brexit must allow us to quit the Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of our fishing waters

Unlike most of the Westminster elite – who wouldn’t know a fishing boat from a yacht – I have had many jobs catching cod and eel in the freezing cold Baltic Sea. My family are fishermen in south eastern Denmark and my brother-in-law’s family have lived off the sea for generations.

Working in many parts of the fishing industry has shown me the devastating effect EU membership has had on the Danish fishermen, including my family: evident from the declining number of fishing boats in the local harbour year on year.

The number of fish landed in the UK has gone down by more than 50% since we joined the EU and the number of fishermen has almost halved since the mid-1990s.

If you take a place like Fleetwood in Lancashire, which was once England’s third biggest fishing port, it now has no full-time fishermen left with the last remaining trawlerman recently putting his boat up for sale. This is absolutely disgraceful considering the fishing industry in Fleetwood used to employ 11,000 people. The decimation of the fishing trade is not only disastrous for coastal communities, but has economic implications for the whole country. British fishing communities may have had the backs of the Westminster elite turned on them for the past forty years, but this will not be the Brexit Party’s response.

The sad thing is that that we import over 40% of the fish we eat from other EU countries, much of it caught in our waters. The UK used to be self-sufficient in fish but since 1984 we have had to import more and more fish to feed ourselves. Why are our fishermen going out of business while foreign boats are selling our own fish back to us?

When we leave the EU, it is extremely important that we leave the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy, and take back full control over our fishing waters in a 200-mile exclusion zone. As the independent fact checking organisation Full Fact has stated:

‘The UK is signed up to the UN Law of the Sea Convention which allows countries to establish an Exclusive Economic Zone of up to 200 nautical miles from their coast. If the UK were to leave the EU we could have control of all fish which were within this zone.”

The sooner we leave the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy, the better!

Fish stocks should be managed as a renewable resource; the failed EU system of quotas does not work, partly because of huge discards. What this means is that it is not uncommon for boats to have to throw as much as 50% of their catch overboard due to an inefficient and bureaucratic quota system. And most of the fish thrown overboard are already dead, which means the fish stocks are not preserved anyway – a complete failure of the system.

Norway is not part of the Common Fisheries Policy and has managed to preserve its fish stocks and its fishing industry is buoyant. Norway has a 200-mile exclusion zone and as a result a very strong negotiating position. In fact, there have been examples of Norway denying the European Commission’s requests and stopping EU fishermen entering their waters. This is called a strong negotiating position, something our Government could learn from in the Brexit negotiations. In fact, Norway has the same number of fishermen as the UK, even though the UK population is twelve times bigger.

EU boats catch four times as many fish in UK waters as UK fishermen catch in foreign waters, so by leaving the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy behind will give a huge boost to our fishing industry, while at the same time allowing us to ensure sustainability for this valuable and essential resource.

The world is in need of more fish. It is a sustainable and healthy food for us and the UK has huge resources in its waters. The UK will have a big voice in the world of fishing if we regain control of our waters, just like Norway.

We must implement an environmentally and economically fit-for-purpose policy, becoming sustainable and successful looking after our own resources.