Leak of DEFRAs Assessment Alleging The UK Can’t Enforce Fisheries Borders Is Defeatist
DEFRAs strange document that has been accidentally sent to the press can only be met with incredulous dismay.
The document states that DEFRA feels Britain could struggle to stop illegal fishing by EU vessels post-Brexit.
If the UK leaves with No Deal then the EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and its equal access rights for EU vessels to fish British waters, would automatically cease to apply.
French fishermen and government officials have recently ramped up the rhetoric that they will continue to fish British waters illegally, ignoring their loss of CFP access rights.
Fishing for Leave have recently made numerous public calls to government that any future access should be strictly limited to short term annual agreements and ONLY when the UK receives a reciprocal value of fishing opportunities.
It is difficult not to be scornful of DEFRAs rather defeatist assessment on enforcement.
If this is looked at objectively it’s difficult to see how Britain couldn’t make a semi-decent fist of protecting our waters.
It’s high risk for EU vessels to fish far into UK waters where they’d really have their trousers round their ankles.
So, the main front line is going to be the border zone running from the Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea all the way round to between the UK and the Republic of Ireland off Anglesay.
That’s about 1200 nautical miles. If there’s only 4 of 12 ships DEFRA lists deployed at once that’s 300nm a sector for each ship. Steaming at 15kts that’s 20 hours from one sector end to the other.
Therefore, a ship could steam up and down line daily, watching out for any EU vessel chancing their arm being a half dozen miles the wrong side of it.
Add in modern high spec Radar monitoring targets behaving like engaged in fishing, and spotter planes deployed to direct patrol ships onto vessels fishing illegally with their AIS or internationally legally required satellite monitoring (VMS) switched off, and it doesn’t become insurmountable to pick up most offenders.
Does DEFRA not rate our proud Royal Navy or is Defra/Whitehall looking for excuses to be soft to not upset the EU – on past form one wouldn’t be surprised! They never seem to suffer any incapability of chasing UK boats here there and everywhere for any offense.
With the internationally agreed requirement for all contracting parties to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) to have their vessels fitted with satellite Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), and to share that data between enforcement agencies, it’s not difficult to track the majority of law-abiding vessels.
The EUs lectured everyone on illegal fishing, and has the obligation under international law in UNCLOS not to do so – are they going to sit back and let their fleet go tonto pirate fishing UK waters?
For those risking fishing illegally in British waters when their CFP access rights automatically terminate on Brexit, deterrence through impoundment and heavy fines for release will soon make the novelty wear off.
Our Nordic neighbours happily manage to protect their waters and stock sustainability. In the 1970s Cod wars plucky little Iceland managed to take on the mighty Humber fleet AND the Royal Navy when still a world power, all with two small gun-boats and no electronic or aerial technology– it doesn’t look like we’ll be gifted such fearlessness from Sir Humphry!
Britain can too. It’s a question of political will – that will be an acid Brexit test of the PMs Churchillian mettle.
The world will be watching to see whether a newly independent, unmuzzled Britain has bite to back up her bark or will be a push over in international affairs.
Sadly, it looks like the Civil service and its Sir Humphries are – yet again – looking for any excuse not to defend our national interests.