SOMETIMES my articles provoke some excellent constructive comments which help to move the debate forward and add to overall knowledge of the subject.
One such comment on my last article came from Graham Reakes, who asked if we knew the value of the resource the EU had taken out of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone since we joined the EEC in 1973. He received a response from ‘English Outsider’ who pointed out one vital reason why such a calculation was fraught with difficulties – fish/shellfish are caught out of sight and landed surreptitiously. I followed up this comment by replying to Graham that his question was very difficult to answer because it would require someone to monitor the actual (as opposed to reported) catch of every single vessel. The authorities simply do not have the resources, or wish to, to undertake an exercise of this magnitude.
Those who work at sea know that once you are well away from the shore you are a law unto yourself. Incidentally, this is another reason why I am so opposed to the CFP. It imposes a management system on all EU fishermen that forces them to use their relative freedom from observation to cheat. To avoid falling foul of the quotas set by the CFP, fishermen provide falsified information about both the composition and location of some of their catch. This is not only unhelpful to scientists but it pits fishermen against the authorities when they should all be working together.
I have worked on many EU vessels around the world and seen what happens. Everything about the CFP is unfavourable to the environment, so when you hear environmentalists speak in support of the CFP, it betrays their complete ignorance of the facts. On leaving the EU (and with it, hopefully, the CFP) we can – and indeed, must – produce a management system totally different from the fatally flawed CFP, one which will encourage accurate reporting of the catch, enabling scientists to have reliable and up-to-date information and creating an environment where fishermen, scientists and the regulatory authorities are working together rather than against one another.
At the moment, we do not know how much resource is discarded. It is true that the EU has tightened up discarding and some land-based EU officials may naively believe that discarding doesn’t happen now. The truth is that overfishing and the slaughter of undersized fish carries on and we have no idea of the actual figures involved.
So there are good reasons why, regrettably, I cannot answer Graham Reakes’s question. So much data is missing. All I can say is that between 2014-16, on average the EU fleet had 674,000 tons of our resource, worth £711million, per year. That represents 59 per cent by weight of all catches within the British sector. That is, however, the declared catch, not the actual amount that has been caught/killed, which may be considerably higher for reasons I have explained above.
Nonetheless, using even the reported figures, we can see how bad the CFP has been for the UK by comparing our situation with that of Greenland. Greenland is not a member of the EU but, with a substantial resource and limited catching capacity due to its small population, it allows the EU to fish in its waters. It receives a payment in return, unlike the UK. If we had never joined the EU but still allowed the EU to fish 59 per cent of our national resource on a similar basis to Greenland’s arrangements, the EU would have had to pay us around £229million per year for the privilege. Instead, it pays us nothing. Worse still, it expects to continue to get it for nothing when the UK is no longer a member of the EU.
You simply can’t give that amount of marine resource away without seriously damaging your own coastal communities. This is precisely what has happened. Two other people who commented on my last article confirmed how run-down these towns have become, ‘Wizzywheels’ highlighted the plight of the coastal communities of the North East while ‘Oaknash’ expressed his anger about the decline of proud fishing communities in Cornwall. However, the remainiacs in our Parliament think this is a price worth paying for the ‘privilege’ of being part of the EU.
Independence offers such potential. Our coastal towns, all too many currently consisting of run-down communities and boarded-up shops, could again become attractive places to visit. Working vessels keep harbours alive and create interest. Recreational fishing would become more popular, especially if good fish were catchable. This would have a beneficial effect on hotels, bed & breakfasts, restaurants and shops, bringing in wealth and employment opportunities for young people who are now forced to move away. Where there is clear water, diving is another leisure activity which could flourish if our coastal areas were revitalised. This will not happen, however, if there is no marine resource. With massive trawlers towing up and down the English Channel there won’t be anything left.
The knock-on effects of a revival of our fishing industry give the lie to those who say the living marine resource belonging to the UK is not worth bothering with, and should be bartered away for something else – something which will benefit others not connected to the coast. I for one get angry when I hear people saying things like this. It is not acceptable.
Over the past few weeks the motives of some of our MPs and their supporters, particularly in the media, have been laid bare for all to see. This minority care not a fig for the livelihoods of those who live and work in our coastal communities. Nor do they care about obeying the mandate delivered by the people in June 2016. The EU has also been shown in its true colours. It does not want us to leave, unless it can be on such humiliating terms that we will beg to be re-admitted to this club of failures. Fisheries is one area which the EU does not wish to see returned to national control.
We may yet leave on 31 October, we may not, but the remainiacs, rather than rallying the public behind them, have shown themselves to be cheerleaders for an organisation which does not respect the will of the people and does not want us to prosper away from its clutches. It is only a matter of time before their power will be broken and the rejuvenation of our country, especially those areas which have suffered most from our membership of the EU (and EEC before it) can begin.