Fish Apr02

More fishermen than fish!


The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) expires at the end of this year. The CFP was a disaster. It failed in its objectives of preserving fish stocks and sustaining jobs. Too many boats chasing too few fish, boats without location detectors, inadequate number of patrol boats to conduct spot checks, reliance on national inspectors to detect fraudulent claims and logs have all devastated fish stocks in our waters.

During the past 10 years, 66,000 fishermen in Europe have lost their jobs, and employment in the processing sector has fallen by 14%. In addition, the numbers of mature fish of commercially important species are now at half the levels they were 30 years ago. Disposal of dead undersize fish caught with illegal nets reduced fish stock levels and gave no value to the fishermen.  

The UK fishermen need a fishing policy managed by London, not Brussels. They need a fixed number of catch days each year with electronic tracking of boats with multinational inspector teams on patrol boats monitoring international waters. EU funding should be invested in conservation and seeding fish to improve stocks. Every effort must be made to preserve cod (NW waters, Irish Sea, Kattegat and Western waters), hake (North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat), whiting and haddock (Irish Sea) and Norway Lobster and Sole (Bay of Biscay & Cantabrian Sea).

How is the catch from European seas divided among the EU Member States? Denmark, with a population of 5 million, has 22%; Spain, with a population of 40 million, has 18.7%; Britain, with a population of 58 million, has 13.7%; France, with a population of 58 million, has 10.16% and Netherlands, with a population of 12 million, has 8%. More than 50% of the total subsidy goes to Spain, Italy 8.8%, Portugal 7.7%, Denmark 5.3% and Germany, France and UK about 4.8%. What has this subsidy been spent on? Renewal and modernisation of fleets has soaked up 839bn, decommissioning 653bn and aquaculture, processing, port facilities and other 2116bn!

The biggest single challenge today for the EU is to reduce drastically the fishing fleets and redeploy the men in other forms of employment. 40% of fleet capacity must be cut and about 30,000 fishermen must leave the industry. Incentive payments to leave of 30,000 (18500) per crewmember and a grant of  50,000 (30,000) per fishermen for retraining are suggested. Justification is based on the fact that many Mediterranean villages rely solely on fishing for employment.

Why should the EU subsidise such an industry? We did not receive any EU grants for investment in our declining towns and cities. Thousands of people were made redundant when we privatised state-owned industries and thousands of miners, car workers and others were redeployed at our own expense. Why should the EU pay up for Spain, Portugal and Italy when they did not do the same for us? If the GDP in these countries is lower than ours then it is not that they are poorer but simply that there is a large parallel economy with people doing second jobs and earning income that is neither declared nor taxed!

The EU boats fish in waters of poor African and Island nations. Poor fishermen, without proper boats and nets, cannot fish intensively. Fish do not stay forever in national waters and these poor countries are lured into selling fishing rights for money for economic development. For example, in Mauritania one 14,000-ton trawler will catch in one day what 10,000 fishermen will fish in one year! The EU pays only 10% of the value of the catch to the Mauritania government. The Spanish and Italian fishermen do not pay anything for the catch, take the fish for processing to their countries and make huge profits! The EU does not offer these poor country fishermen boats, nets or help in fish processing plants to realise a higher value added.

Clearly, there are more European fishermen than fish in our waters!