Michael Reid, skipper of the Apollo INS179, has been a fisherman for more than 30 years and runs the family owned Apollo from Avoch, near Inverness.
When Edward Heath surrendered our fishing rights for membership of the EU over forty years ago , he said that the British fishing fleet was “expendable”.
For an island nation, not only was it deplorable but an insult to the hard working fishermen of our country. The waters around the UK are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in Western Europe , sustaining a wide variety of pelagic and demersal species.
The result of EU membership allowed foreign vessels from France, Spain and others to fish in our waters under the guise of the Common Fisheries Policy, which states that they have equal access to a common resource.
These member states were given a large share of the UK fish quota to allow them to fish around our coast. Because of lack of quota large quantities of the UK fleet was subsequently decomissioned to accomodate these foreign vessels.
Consequently , we have not only seen the demise of the once proud British fleet, but also the costal communities that support them. Towns and villages around the coast that were once home to many vessels , no longer have any fishing boats , but only marinas with yachts and pleasure craft.
Being a skipper of a Scottish fishing vessel for the past twenty five years, we have struggled to get by on the inadequate quotas handed out annually at Brussels. Resulting in the dumping of large quantities of fish , for which we have no quota. How apalling it is to be dumping prime fish dead back into the sea , while watching our foreign neighbours filling their boats in close vicinity.
Our seas to the West and North of Scotland are now fished predominately by foreign vessels , who seem to have unlimited quota and fish unabated.
Already this year we have seen the premature closure of the West of Scotland monkfish fishery to most Scottish vessels. The result being any monkfish caught in these waters must now be dumped dead back into the sea.
A vote for Brexit would have a huge impact for the fishing industry. Not only would we regain control of our own waters , but also the UK fish quota allocation . This in turn would almost definetly see a regeneration of fishing vessels and allow the costal communities to flourish. Young blood, which the industry so desperately needs would be attracted to a more prosperous industry.
The UK is in a great position to look after its own resources. Huge efforts by UK fishermen in conservation and technical gear measures over the last number of years have seen the North Sea cod stock for example, return to healthy levels.
With the advent of satellite monitoring and better policing we can harvest our fish stocks in a responsible and efficient manner, ensuring a bright future for the generations to come.