An Open Letter To Fishing News

IN RESPONSE TO A RECENT ARTICLE IN FISHING NEWS WHEN EX-FISHERIES MINISTER RICHARD BENYON COMMENTED ON THE STATE OF THE UK FISHING INDUSTRY, JAMES PORTUS OF THE SOUTH WESTERN FISH PRODUCERS ORGANISATION SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Fisheries: Facts not Fantasy Richard Benyon. 5th May edition.
If an MP and ex-Minister of Fisheries is going to write an article in Fishing News under the banner “Fisheries: Facts not Fantasy”, the least Richard Benyon could do is stick to “Facts”.
He talks at some length about “UK fishing vessels fish in the waters of other EU countries. In addition to wider sovereign waters fishing rights, UK fishermen have rights within the 6 – 12 mile limits of four other member states: Ireland, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

For example, trawlers out of Brixham exploit the valuable scallop stocks in the Baie de Seine…”
Well, Mr. Benyon, I have news for you.
UK fishermen are NOT authorised to fish for scallops in the 6 – 12 miles limits of the Baie de Seine, nor for that matter for scallops or for any demersal species in any of French coastal (6 – 12 miles) waters. Very definitely UK vessels must stay outside their 12 miles limits or risk detention!
UK scallopers of greater than 15metres agree to stay out of the French self-imposed “closed” zone below the 49 41’N Barfleur / Antifer line in exchange for Western Waters Scallop Fishing Effort.

This agreement has been negotiated annually since 2013, industry to industry, with Defra and French Administration support. Apart from that accord, there is nothing to stop UK fishermen exploiting stocks in “international” waters outside of all Member State12 mile limits, in just the same way as our UK waters outside of 12 miles are “open” to EU fishermen.
Annex 1 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries, lists the international access agreements.

The UK, of course, has the biggest list of access rights to her coastal waters simply because the majority of the living resources of the EU Common Fisheries Policy are located in our waters that were squandered by Edward Heath.
The UK has some limited access to Ireland 6 – 12 for Demersal, Herring & Mackerel (not much use under Pelagic Landing Obligation rules if the fish are in a mixture.) UK has limited access to German waters in the zone around Heligoland for Cod & Plaice only (not much use under the Demersal Landing Obligation rules). UK has limited access in Dutch waters from Texel S Point to the Ned/ German border for Demersal fisheries only.

The UK has limited access to French waters for Herring only from border with Belgium to Cap d’Alprech. (Again, not much use under Pelagic Landing Obligation if there is a mix of fish).

There is NO UK access to French 6 – 12 waters for demersal fishing or for scallop fishing!
The UK has given away far more access to the 6 – 12 miles zones of our waters than has any other member state, so please, Mr Benyon, if you’re going to peddle the “Bremain” line, get your facts straight!

Maybe, Mr Benyon should have read the Parliamentary Brief published August 2015? (http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN05957/SN05957.pdf).
In other parts of Mr Benyon’s article, he says that “European waters will no longer be micromanaged from Brussels.” “Fishermen and scientists will be in control of saying what quantities of each stock can be harvested.”
Neither Mr. Benyon, nor his successor, George Eustice have been able to be anything but vague and unclear about the delivery mechanism of regionalisation of fisheries management and decision making.

Quite simply, in my view it is “piffle”.

The Treaty obligations do not allow any other EU body than the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, voting in a co-decision process, to make controlling decisions. These hollow promises are the “Emperor’s new clothes” of the 2013 CFP reforms.
I refer readers to a very well researched article about the history and machinations of the CFP on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Fisheries_Policy).
“some critics argue that applying the subsidiarity principle to the CFP may not improve the policy’s effectiveness, as it may lead to what de Vivero et al. term the ‘participation paradox’— the theory that the greater the number of actors involved in the decision-making process, the less significant the contribution made by each actor, and the smaller the participatory role played in the policy process.

Greater devolution within CFP decision-making may therefore silence the voice of the fisheries industry as it competes with other state, private and civil actors to whom authority is also granted.”
Mr Eustice is so convinced that the new CFP delivers none of the Benyon promises that he is now committed to Brexit! I say, bring it on!
Mr Benyon also asserts that 80% of 45% of UK production goes to EU countries. That means 64% of UK production goes to non-EU countries. Bear in mind that quota-hopping companies hold about half of UK quotas, it should be no surprise they send their catch home to Spain and Holland where the derived income rests.
When, after Brexit the UK Parliament exercises its sovereignty to deliver the original terms of the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act that were struck down by the European Court of Justice in the Factortame case, the Minister will be able to ensure genuine flag-state linkage and all the home advantages that involves.
Finally, I am confident that UK fish merchants presently selling to buyers in the EU will have just as strong a market for the quality of British fish production to which they have become accustomed.

In her April 29th intervention from the Brussels Seafood Expo, George Eustice’s boss, Environment Secretary, Liz Truss asserted that “Fishermen could see their export income drop by £100 million a year if Britain votes to leave the EU”.

Such unqualified assertions serve only as scare-mongering and fishermen will not be cowed by Liz Truss.