Fishy EU goes fishing at Britain's expense

The UK's fishing industry is central to our national identity, and puts food on the table for millions. But Brussels wants to destroy it, and is doing a good job of doing so. Yet another reason to get Britain out of the EU as soon as possible

Whitby fishermen have served us better than Brussels
Alan Murad
On 3 December 2014 13:52

The number of British fishermen has fallen by a quarter in the last two decades. Behind the scenes is the EU’s long-running (and much hated) Common Fisheries Policy which lays down the law for small time fishermen and huge trawlers alike, though the rules are drafted in the interests of large scale fishing businesses and rigged against small players.

Even if you give Brussels the benefit of the doubt, it looks like a concerted effort to wipe out fishing in Britain as an independent profession.

Nothing illustrates the double standards and disparity more than the fact that a fisherman with his own boat is allowed to catch two crates of fish worth £50, but has to discard the remainder and all ‘unwanted’ catch under EU rules.

There are also strict quotas for particular species labelled ‘endangered’ like cod. After complying with the rules, the catch which remains is meagre even though ‘unwanted’ fish could have valuable commercial uses, so these policies impact adversely on our fishermen’s wages and livelihoods.

Naturally, large companies employing huge commercial fishing vessels can easily handle throwing away a portion of their catch with minimal impact on their profits. Meanwhile independent fishermen’s livelihoods are devastated. It used to be the case that small fishing boats under 30 feet never had to record their stocks, but the rules keep changing all the time and nearly always at the expense of fishermen in small boats.

Moreover, each EU Member State with a maritime industry has a fishing quota, but a foreign company can register one of their own titanic trawlers as a British vessel and singlehandedly scoop up a huge portion of Britain’s quota.

The Dutch trawler Cornelis Vrolijk is a case in point. Its cargo can hold a quarter of Britain’s allocated fishing stock gathered in one fell swoop. It flies a British flag, but its profits go to a Dutch parent company even though they benefit from the fishing quota allocated to the UK. None of their catch gets sold in European markets but gets exported for sale worldwide, from Japan to Nigeria.

Policies on discarding are supposedly motivated by environmental concerns because of the wide-scale depletion of our fishing stocks. Ironically it is the EU’s own policy of imposing shared ownership of Europe’s fishing waters which is causing this problem. This is precisely what’s fuelling relentless over-fishing and devastating fish-stocks.

Small players like the traditional fishing communities on the Cornish coast have always fished sustainably, while commercial fishing, such as the latest Dutch behemoth, cause catastrophic damage.

Unfortunately it is the small fishermen who get punished while industrial fishing reaps the benefit and gets off scot-free.  For an island nation such as our own this will impact hugely, but we’ve always had a terrible deal from the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The EU is incapable of recognising its own part to play in this and certainly has no interest or sympathy for our small-time fisherman. The rights of small-time fishermen are not a priority for the EU’s top brass.

To stop the fishing industry around our shores from perishing and to secure our fishing waters from exploitation, it is essential we must Get Britain Out of the EU.

Alan Murad is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out

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