Europhiles claim the EU saved fishing stocks but we know the truth

Europhiles claim the EU saved fishing stocks but we know the truth

Thirty years on, a news report from 1991 shows the EU has failed to address the fundamental flaws in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), despite fishermen and scientists saying its quota policies cannot work.

Contrary to a deliberate false narrative to excuse the CFP, the EU did not save stocks but caused the problems of over-fishing and bad management which it still fails to address. These failures resulted in decommissioning schemes which scrapped 60% of the Britain’s fleet, tearing the heart out of families and communities.

The EU caused over-fishing through “equal access to a common resource”. This barred Britain exercising her rights to manage her waters and address the increasing vessel technology and power.

The EU then incentivised over-fishing with minimum market prices which prevented a glutted market and its low prices halting over supply.

As stocks buckled, the ineptitude was capped off by throwing petrol on a bonfire by giving grants to build more powerful boats to hunt less fish harder. The EU caused these problems and then implemented Quotas which do not work in mixed fisheries. As the video shows, fishermen have been saying this since 1991.

Fishermen cannot determine what mix of species they catch. Quotas led to illegal landings, mass discarding, and forced fishermen to overfish.

Currently quotas force fishermen to discard around half of what they catch, which causes inaccurate science as the data become more and more disconnected from reality.

There is now an abundance of Hake in the northern North Sea and Skate in the southern North Sea, but as the quotas see mountains discarded the science has no data to reflect this and therefore quota limits simply don’t reflect this abundance.

To add insult to injury when quotas were set under EU ‘relative stability shares’ the UK only received 25% of the resources although Britain contributes half the waters and catches.

This deprivation of our own resources and ability to manage appropriately, coupled with EU funded over capacity and a failed quota system is what killed over half the British fleet and wrecked not only communities but killed a heritage that is probably lost forever.

Was this an accident or was it, as many think, a series of deliberate pretexts to cull the British fleet and make way for an EU fleet?

Not only do EU member states directly take 60% of the resources from British waters under ‘relative stability shares’ but EU ‘freedom of establishment’ laws allowed EU owned but UK registered ‘Flagship’ companies to buy out struggling family owned British fishermen.

These EU flagships now own around half of the 40% slither of our own fish we receive as part of the EU. A legal challenge in the Factortame case overturned and forced the government to allow this to happen, proving the British parliament and courts were no longer sovereign.

Sadly, for over 30 years fishermen and scientists have been ignored by the politically motivated and dysfunctional CFP which has created a scramble to survive.

Not content for the EU to make a pigs-ear of things, the British government implemented a system of Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) entitlement units to allocate vessels a portion of the UKs quota share from the EU. The government then allowed this entitlement to quota to be traded and corporatised in a similar manner to stocks and shares.

As the dysfunctional system failed, it drove family community fishing out of a livelihood. Quotas were cut and fishermen were forced to spend more and more buying FQA entitlement just to remain stagnant.

The capital and price involved is now prohibitive for all but the biggest companies – many of them EU ‘flagships’. To buy quota entitlement to one ton of North Sea Cod is £12,000. On the market a vessel may only gross a £2500-£3000 per ton. Net profit could be as little as £800.

This is a fifteen-year payback even before you buy and licence a boat. If the quota is cut you have to buy more FQA entitlement just to get back to where you started.

Was the corporatising of national resource a government cock up or designed to facilitate and drive consolidation to appease the EU?

Many vessels have had to resort to leasing quota from ‘slipper skipper’ quota traders at astronomical rates. Many are simply giving up.

As government body Seafish stats show, across the British whitefish fleet around 60% of a hardworking skipper and crews’ wages and profit is going on quota rent to these ‘slipper skippers’ ashore.

Many rental prices are now too prohibitive to even bother with. To rent one ton of North Sea Cod is £1500-2000 yet on the market a vessel may only gross a £2000-£3000 before expenses and wages.

We now have a corporate syndicate that controls something akin to a quota racket that centres around the two federations that claim to represent the industry. Many prominent federation figures were ambivalent to Brexit or backed remain as they were averse to any ill-wind toward their well feathered nest.

Combined with remain-minded mandarins it is clear why there is little progress towards a clean Brexit and a fresh start that would benefit our marine environment and all fishermen.

The incoming EU 2019 discard ban addresses the discard symptom but not the quota cause. As of 2019 when vessels exhaust their smallest quota they must stop fishing and tie up for the rest of the year.

This final drive into a 30 year cull-de-sac of failed management will, according to official stats, ruin around another 60% of what’s left of the British fleet.

The EU has every incentive to fully enforce the ban as under international law (UNCLOS Article 62.2) if a nation does not have the capacity to harvest its resources it must give the surplus to its neighbours. The government cannot enforce the same failed EU quota policies to appease the EU or a minority of vested interests.

We are now close to a tipping point. British fishing cannot be trapped in a transition where we ‘take back control’ to hand it straight back and become a vassal state. We must escape the failed CFP as soon as possible before there is little left to save as we cannot survive this ineptitude much longer.

Brexit is one last chance. Britain must ‘take back control’ of all waters and resources within our vast Exclusive Economic Zone (out to 200 nautical miles or the midline) with the clean slate provided by Article 50 of the treaties ceasing to apply and the CFP with them.

Reverting to international law confers Britain a fair slice of internationally agreed fish stock limits between Britain, Iceland, Faroe, Norway and the EU based on the predominance of fish stocks in our waters – this could see the industry double to £6-8bn annually.

Importantly, the UK would be free to implement new, fit for purpose and discard free, mixed fishery management based on limiting fishing time at sea in hours in return for landing and recording all catches. This system would result in catching less but landing more by bringing ashore what is otherwise discarded.

Knowing what vessels were catching per hour would generate highly accurate effort per hour stock data and management response. Creating a holistic approach working with and in response to our fluctuating rich mixed fisheries – currently we are forced to do the opposite of all these.

A universal level of time per vessel would be a fairer system allowing all fishermen to survive and strive to their potential and in doing so rejuvenate coastal communities nationwide.

Importantly Fishing for Leave has proposed the government retain and incorporate the British Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) entitlement unit system – retaining the investment vessels were driven to make in order to survive.

These FQAs should be converted from being entitlement to arbitrary weight-based quotas that force fishermen to discard to Flexible Catch Compositions (FCCs) that set percentages of species fishermen should aim to catch.

If fishermen exceed their FCCs then they needn’t discard or tie up but can swap a value of time equivalent to the value of the “wrong” fish caught.

This means there is no financial incentive to Race-to-Fish for high value species or for species the vessel did not traditionally have FQA entitlement to catch but it means there is the flexibility to land and record all catches.

Any loss of time is paid for by the value of the “wrong” fish retained meaning fishermen can make a living but needn’t work on catching more fish than necessary.

This system would preserve large scale investment in FQAs whilst allowing the flexibility for all fishermen to prosper across all sizes and sectors to rebuild coastal communities.

This would give Britain a unique, world leading discard free management system, allowing Britain to husband her resources sustainably in a system that allows all fishermen and communities to prosper.

We have proposed for months that the government run a self-funding pilot of this system. This would cost the government nothing and make the government look like it is doing something toward future policy.

If it succeeds then we have a world leading alternative. If it fails then it costed nothing and at least we tried.

But one thing is certain, we cannot continue with a system that has failed since the news report from 1991. That would be Einstein’s definition of madness.

Reverting to international law could see UK fishing double in value