Another blow for North Sea fishermen Oct03
SCIENTISTS advising the
European Union on fish quotas have recommended a complete ban on cod
fishing in the North Sea. If executed, jobs in the industry will go and
whole fishing communities could be destroyed.
The latest report from
the scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
(Ices) calls for drastic action from the European Commission and national
fisheries ministers from member states, to implement zero catches in order
to rebuild stocks.
The threat to our
fishing industry is very real. Last year, Ices advised a ban on fishing
for North Sea cod and in December, the EU responded with a devastating 45
per cent cut in cod fishing quotas. These savage measures were only
supposed to remain in place until July at the latest. However, Commission
delays in publishing their long-term recovery plans, means our beleaguered
whitefish fleet will have to suffer this harsh regime for almost twice as
long as originally intended. The fact that our fishermen will suffer these
measures for almost a full year is beyond comprehension.
These new findings of
Ices will bring our fishing industry to its knees. It is yet another
bitter blow from the Common Fisheries Policy (CPF). Ices maintains that
the minimum recommended stock size for cod in the North Sea is 150,000
tonnes but the estimated size is 52,000. They propose no more catches
until stocks reach 70,000.
Their findings contrast
those of the Foundation for Ocean Science which last week confirmed that
over fishing was not the only cause for a decline in fish stocks in the
North Sea. The Foundation discovered that record sea temperatures, as a
result of global warming, are destroying the plankton which underpin the
entire marine food chain. Cold-water species of plankton have been driven
north to colder waters and been replaced by smaller, warm-water species
which are less nutritious.
Fishing is clearly not
the only contributor to falling fish stocks and it is time the EU stopped
penalising our fishermen and the communities which depend on the industry
along Britain's east coast.
The experience of the
Canadian island of Newfoundland should deliver a warning to the EU. The
Canadian government imposed a total cod fishing ban off the island's
shores in 1992 when once abundant populations of cod suddenly collapsed.
The economic consequences on the surrounding area were huge and the
community was altogether destroyed. The alarming thing about the
experience of Newfoundland is that despite 10 years of a cod fishing ban,
the stocks have not recovered.
The decision on whether
to implement Ices' recommendations will be taken at several meetings of EU
fisheries ministers in the lead-up to Christmas. The EU will call for
drastic action to be taken but will our Labour Government sell us out?
Conservatives have pledged to take the UK out of the Common Fisheries Policy and to repatriate fisheries control to Westminster. The only way to save Britain's precious fishing heritage is to renegotiate our treaty obligations.