Denmark’s TV2 recently came to meet fishermen at Troon in Ayrshire to find out about Brexit.
British fishermen are looking forward to Brexit. Then they can gain control over their own waters. But all of this could end in a new cod war with Denmark.
“The EU taking sixty percent of our resources is robbery – definitely – it’s robbery. We do not personally object to Danish or EU fishermen – they have only exploited a situation that the EU has created” says one of the founders of the organisations Fishing for Leave, an independent non-party political organization that wants out of the EU.
He talks about large Danish pelagic trawlers who catch large amounts of fish in British waters just off the west coast of Scotland – and statistics show that 40 percent of Danish fishing takes place in British waters.
And British fishermen believe that the Danes and other EU countries have robbed them of their resources – and now they have had enough, they want their fish back.
Brexit stands for a seismic change, and is there anyone who thinks in the hard way, yes, British fishermen such as those here at the harbor in Troon, South West Scotland.
– Do they want Brexit? “Yes, absolutely,” says fishing skipper Gary McKinnon, as he works mending nets.
“Let’s get out of the EU, we have great fishing waters here, let’s manage it in the best way and that requires Britain managing her 200 mile limit for our own benefit” he says.
Skipper Gary McKinnon mending nets on his boat at the port of Troon. He thinks it would be nice if all decisions about fishing were taken in Britain instead of the EU. Photo: Henrik Jensen / TV 2
The EEZ – 200miles or the midline
The harbor in the small town of Troon is home to the remains of Ayrshire’s once upon a time proud fishing fleet. There are only 12 family-owned vessels left compared to the previous 50 vessels in Ayrshire’s fleet 30 years ago that used to fish the west coast of Scotland for the herring and mackerel which Danish fishermen catch now.
Once upon a time, the fishing community included several villages where the fishermen mainly came from. Now there are only a few families left scattered among Ayrshire’s half million inhabitants.
This is what the re-established UK EEZ and 200-mile limit will look like. Fishing for Leave campaign says that the pink area around the UK must be free from EU fishermen in the future. Photo: United Kingdom Parliament
Fishing for Leave assert there must be a re-establishment of a 200 mile limit, where it is the British that decide management. Today it is only a 12 nautical mile and some EU fishermen have the right to go all the way up to 6 nautical miles.
When Britain takes back control of the EEZ it could mean huge losses for Danish fishermen. The Danish government is threatening, along with several other EU countries, to draw Britain to the international court in The Hague – We may end up in a new Cod War.
For these fishermen there is no doubt. “It is likely that we will end in a new cod war”.
“Is it because we hate the Danes, no, we do not, but do we want control of our own waters? Yes. Do we want to rebuild our own industry and communities? Yes.”
“It’s a case of managing and putting our own country and our own resources and our own communities first to rebuild our industry and communities that have been so diminished by the robbery of our own resources to benefit the rest of the EU – the free lunch is effectively over”
A seal bounces in the harbor basin surrounded by gulls waiting for a treat while he explains.
“The control of our own waters and its vast resources is worth billions of pounds. The money would be a huge adrenaline injection, so we could rebuild our industry. Create new jobs for young men and build new ships”.
The Fear of May bargaining away 200 nautical miles
The question is whether the British government will follow the fishermen’s demands. There are elections on 8 June and the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has not directly said that she will hold to the 200 nautical miles. She keeps the possibilities of a deal open for the Brexit negotiations. Fishermen fear that she will use fishing to bargain during the Brexit negotiations.
So who are they going to vote for?, That’s the million pound question, says skipper Keith Wilson, who is happy that Britain is taking control of her own waters and fish – “And when that happens, yes, we can negotiate on our terms afterwards, including with the Danes” he says.
Fishermen at the Port of Troon are worried that Prime Minister may bargain the UK EEZ and 200-mile fishing limit when negotiating Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Photo: Henrik Jensen / TV 2