Whether the UK’s referendum for an exit from the control of the European Union is successful or not, today, June 15th 2016, will go down in fishing industry history as the day that decent working people stood up and tried to make a difference.
Despite this wonderful display of unity in an industry often divided by the frustration of unworkable regulations being played down by the BBC as being of ‘little importance’, today marked not just a simple demonstration but a new dawn for fishermen everywhere.
Rarely have the populations of Britain’s coastal communities been able to hold their heads high in pride and say “I played a part in that historic moment” – but today, that was the case.
Every man, woman and child in every fishing port, both large and small, had an input or some sort or other in this standoff when our fishing industry finally made a statement of intent that it is no longer prepared to go on bent knee to Brussels to beg for crumbs of fish that are being taken out of our waters by other countries.
For those who were lucky enough to be on the fishing boats that made up the impressive scenes at Tower Bridge, and those who lined the streets and bridges of London in support, a huge sense of pride was born – a sense of unity and comradeship.
And for those who could not make the journey, they still played their part by putting up posters, helping in the campaign and even by working social media throughout the day to help bring the news of the fishing industry protest to as wide an audience as possible.
There were no ‘leaders’ in this campaign – no egos – and no individual attention seekers (apart from the rather sad sight of the aging Bob Geldof trying to ‘look cool with the kids with his IN flag) —- this was a genuine team game with every single player working his or her socks off to help.
Of course there are names that must be noted – such as organiser Aaron Brown and Allan Simpson, along with political figures who put their weight behind the Fishing for Leave campaign, such as Minister George Eustace and UKIP leader Nigel Farage — but ultimately the praise for making today’s protest such an important and dramatic moment in history is the folk in the fishing industry themselves.
While there were some attempts to distract from the positive and peaceful nature of the FFL protest, such as the media focussing on Bob Geldof’s presence, with a group of youths reportedly hired for the day to wave IN flags, it would have taken something much more serious to detract our fishermen from the job in hand and, if nothing else, their endeavours will have brought the news of the decimation of the British fishing industry under EU control into the public debate arena. This, on the same day that Prime Minister David Cameron tried to tell Parliament (during PM Question Time) that the UK’s fishing industry was “much better off today than it was five years ago” and that “no country in the world can trade seafood with the EU without being subject to tariffs” – both of which are not just incorrect statements but are downright lies.
And so, as evening falls and the fleet of boats who gathered in the heart of London prepare to make their journeys back home, which for some will represent a 100-hour trip at sea, there is an air of pride, of achievement, of “I was there on that special day”.
To the men and women of Britain’s fishing and seafood industries, we salute you and pray that reward for your endeavours will be seen on the morning of June 24th….