Saturday, December 5, 2020
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Fisheries: EU puts politics above good practice

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AS the fishing issue rumbles on I wonder if it can ever be resolved, because the two sides are so far apart and it would require capitulation by one side to get any movement.

However, one good thing that comes out of these negotiations is a deep analysis of where the parties involved really stand. This gives us a much better understanding of how to proceed in the future.

The EU side are fully aware that the loss of the UK living marine resource means the EU will have to reduce the size of their fleet, but from which member state(s)? They don’t want to do that, preferring to leave everything as it is and let the UK’s coastal communities go on taking the hit of past reductions and possible future ones.

Their argument is that because they have enjoyed a UK asset for 37 years, access to each other’s waters should stay the same even though the UK has left. If not, the threat of cutting off access to the EU market hangs over the negotiations.

Another point the EU are making is that fish move about. They feel that if a certain stock has been in EU waters and moves into UK waters, EU vessels have the right to come into UK waters and take what they perceive as part of that stock. In many ways I see this as a means to restore the principle of equal access by the back door. Imagine the conflicts around the world if such a principle was brought into international law.

From past experience of being in the Common Fisheries Policy we are aware of the many flaws in an equal access principle, but from the stand-off of the present I believe there is one issue which is important for the future.

This is ‘Why do fish stocks move?’ Like birds, there are some species that move naturally, but the majority don’t, bearing in mind there are no fences in the sea.

There are two answers, the first being the gradual warming of the water. Marine life is very sensitive to temperature and one degree can make a difference. The second is the food supply: what and from where do species obtain it.

The EU tell us to look at the big picture. Well, we are, and it is not good. You should not break the food chain, by overfishing the sand-eel stock, or going over the sea-bed using electric pulses.

So-called conservationists don’t discuss the effect of warming on marine life, and how fisheries management should be tailored to cope with that. Instead, these negotiations show that for political reasons the EU would increase the dosage of its past failures.

As a sovereign coastal state we have an international obligation to put right the faults of the past and show others by example the correct way forward. We are not going to achieve that unless we have complete control of all sectors of the territory of the UK. 

As the deadline looms, events could change rapidly.

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John Ashworth
John Ashworth has worked all his life in the Fishing Industry, as a gear designer and manufacturer. He spent 20 years working on fishing vessels around the world, and promoted environmental issues, He led the Save Britain's Fish campaign through the nineties and early twenties and is now part of Fishing for Leave.

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