As far back as 1998 fisherman Magnie Stewart of the Defiant LK 371 voiced the frustration of fishermen everywhere towards Discards when he penned the following letter.
Unfortunately, very little has changed – fishermen are still being forced, by EU rules, to Discard large proportions of their catch for no conservation or economic benefit whatsoever.
Sadly, after 20years of forced Discarding, the sentiments of this letter are as relevant today as they were in 1998.
“One thing is for sure, if we sit on our hands and do nothing, then nothing will be done”
Over the years, fishermen have been forced to discard hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly good saithe due to EU CFP regulations
When, oh when, are we going to see an end to this obscene spectacle of decent, honest and hardworking men being dragged through the courts of law and fined, all because they will not commit a crime against God and dump perfectly good edible mature fish?
Every fair-minded Shetlander should feel a deep sense of anger and repugnance, and maybe just a little sense of shame, that we allow our fishermen to be treated like this – such as the fine meted out to Kevin Inkster, the young skipper of the Rival.
Fair enough, Kevin and many others like him, myself included, broke the ‘law’ – but who’s law is it?
It is certainly not the law of God and most certainly not the law of common sense – it is a law thought up by desk-bound bureaucrats who seem to think that if over-quota fish are being dumped, dead, back into the water, then somehow in their unfathomable minds, this is ‘fish stock conservation’.
Last week we, in the Defiant, dumped approximately 320 boxes of good grade saithe, as we had no quota left – this was at a market value of £18 per box and totals to £5,760.
I wonder how many shore-based businesses put that amount of money through their shredding machines last week?
The saithe we were catching were an unavoidable bycatch as we were getting good catches of cod and monk mixed in with the saithe and, as there were five vessels working in the same area, you can safely assume that about 1,500 boxes valued at around £27,000 were dumped by Shetland boats with ten miles of the Shetland shoreline.
Believe it or not, this enforced destruction, as I have mentioned before, is all done in the name of fish stock conservation.
It was interesting to see John Simpson of the Shetland Fish Processors’ Association telling a major seafood exhibition in Brussels that Shetland’s processing industry needed additional raw material supplies from the local whitefish fleet.
Well, if that is so, and from what we whitefish trawlers are led to believe, Shetland’s processors would be able to handle quite a lot of saithe – so here’s your chance John…
Start raising the roof and banging down doors and start asking why 90% of the saithe caught by the local fleet has to be dumped back over the side – even though it is already dead.
The answer you will get, of course, is that the dumping is all part and parcel of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – so John, turn your wrath on those in Shetland who support the CFP.
The public may well ask what they can do to bring an end to this outrage – well you can write to your MPs, local councillor, your MEP, the Fisheries Minister in Westminster, you can attend public meetings which Shetland’s prospective MSPs hold and ask them what they intend to do about the situation.
One thing is for sure, if we sit on our hands and do nothing, then nothing will be done and, as the screw is heaved down tighter and more and more decent young men like Kevin Inkster (who work every hour God sends in the struggle to make their businesses pay) will be dragged through the courts for committing virtually no crime whatsoever.
However, I am convinced that if there was a big enough public outcry, then the unseeing authorities who wish to remain unseeing, would have to take notice and, maybe at long last, there will be no more of our fishermen paraded through the courts and perhaps there will be a final end to this crime against humanity which is taking place throughout the fishing industry.
Magnie Stewart, Defiant LK 371 (8th May 1998)