Divided by EU rule — united in fighting for Britain’s fishing industry

It is somewhat ironic to note that much of the EU Commission’s control over the fishing industry has always been based on a strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ in treating various sectors differently and ensuring that there would never be any great level of unity within the industry as each sector was left to fight for his own corner just to survive.

I say ‘ironic’ because, through their own disregard of the economies of fishing ventures, the communities they work out of, and the people who rely on this industry, the disastrous management of the fishing industry over the years by the EU Commission has actually succeeded where our own fishing leaders have failed for decades i.e. to get complete unity amongst all fishermen and a single cause that they can fight together for, writes Cormac Burke.


While the ‘Brexit’ debate may still continue to have a nation divided in opinion with just three weeks to go, although latest polls in most media outlets report a strong lean towards the ‘Out’ vote, there is no such division within the UK’s fishing industry as to which way to go.

Across almost every sector, from the struggling inshore vessel fisheries in Southern England to the multi-million-pound pelagic sector in Scotland, the message has been clear from the outset i.e. the opportunity to gain freedom from EU mis-management of British fisheries must be seized upon now.

In this article, representatives from a diverse range from within the fishing industry have been asked to contribute with their opinions on why it is vital that the fishing industry is given a chance to regain control of its own management and of the fishing resource within British waters – a region boasting of one the most productive fishing grounds in the world.



From the smallest inshore boat to the larger pelagic trawlers, the entire UK fishing industry has suffered during its time under EU control



Leslie Girvan – Board member of NIFPO, ex-vice chairman of FAL, owner of three fishing vessels and owner of a Fish Selling company in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland

There is not one single positive aspect of the UK’s suicidal involvement with the European Union – an involvement that has brought about the decimation of the British fishing industry.

The well-worn EU phrase of “too many boats chasing not enough fish” to justify their ever-reducing quota allocations was never a British problem – it was a problem that arose due to the agreement to allow the EU “access to a common resource” which resulted in hundreds of Spanish and French boats being allowed catch fish in British waters.

The time to rectify this situation is now!


John Ashworth – trawl door designer and respected industry commentator

As the designer and manufacture of the Bison Trawl door, I have experienced the unusual position of having worked on trawlers in many parts of the world, not as a fisherman, but a person gaining experience, or teaching how to use the product.

I have witnessed first-hand the damage done to coastal communities, especially Africa, with third country EU agreements, and in the now EU ‘pond’, the inability to manage the marine resource successfully, simply because we have, by our EU treaty obligations, to be run under a political objective.


220814_FNW_Rye Harbour Image

The UK’s inshore fishing industry has been brought to its knees due to the EU’s poor management and allocation of quotas


Charlie McBride — skipper/owner Arcane II

After 40 years of watching blatant mis-management of our fishing industry, and seeing over 60% of the UK’s whitefish fleet scrapped while other EU Member States were given subsidies to build additional new fishing vessels, the time has come to say “enough is enough”.

We must not only halt the EU-driven decline of our industry now, but also to protect the working lives for our children for the future.


Jim Portus – SWFPO

More and more fishermen seem to be getting behind the Fishing for Leave / Vote leave campaign leading to Brexit.

Although I have been in close touch for years with the bureaucratic realities of the Common Fisheries Policy, most fishermen just hunker down and get on with the job of fishing.

They see the paperwork building and the technology infesting their wheelhouses, but generally they expect the administrators to do the job of delivering conservation and better quotas.

It is only now that their eyes are wide open to the depth of the mire of regulation in which they struggle to survive — now they realise there is another way and the door is unlocked to Brexit and to freedom.

Will they push that door and suck in the fresh air of national control?

Their livelihoods may actually be in the hands of the big hitters in the metropolitan centres of London and Edinburgh etc, but to make their votes count they need unity and vision.

On the 15th June there will be a flotilla of fishing boats up the Thames — it won’t be what it was in the 1970s, or indeed 20 years ago at the Save Britain’s Fish Rally, nor even the Cod Crusaders Rally of 2002, but it will be a “last chance” to show some balls and kick the traces of the EU Yolk.

Other rallies will be held in Plymouth and Glasgow. I just hope the media gives fishermen the due coverage they deserve and that Dave Cameron takes note.


Carol MacDonald – ex ‘Cod Crusader’ and current Fishing for Leave campaigner

For each of us, nothing is more important than what our own fishing community means to us – it is where our traditional and maritime heritage life blood stems from.

But, under EU control, our communities have had their guts ripped out and discarded by unelected bureaucrats who sit in Brussels.

These people have no knowledge of tradition, of community economics or how vital our fishing industry is to all of us, and yet these are the people tasked to make up rules that ridicule our way of life and make it difficult for many trying to earn an honest living!

Since our various governments over the years have consistently abandoned our fishing industry and our coastal communities, it falls on us to safeguard our future and that of our children and make our votes count by demanding that we send out a clear message on the 23rd of June.

It is time to exit a Union that we all pay to be part of which, on a daily basis, effects each and every one of us.

It is time to give Britain back control of its spending and give us control of our own country!


Andy Giles — skipper/owner Guiding light III

We need to leave the EU so we can get back our own fishing grounds and get a realistic slice of the quota pie.

I’m fed up of going to sea to avoid fish – all we are doing is saving them for the French to catch.

Let’s have a level playing field for once.


David Stevens – skipper/owner Crystal Sea Fishing Co.

Independence from the EU will mean that UK fisherman can regain control of our waters and end the wasteful practice of discards – a problem which has been created by EU regulations in the first place.

We must create our own selective and productive fisheries through using our problem-solving and innovative approach that we, as Brits, bring naturally to all situations

Most importantly, leaving EU control means that we can put fishing back into our communities and onto the plates of our nation.


Allan Simpson — skipper/owner Christina S

UK fishermen are fed up with unelected people in Brussels ruling, and ruining, our fishing industry.

This is the time to get us back to a situation where we are governing our own industry – unlike the present state of affairs where we have no say in management.

EU control is all about political horse-trading and favours between Member States with no consideration for the people actually working in the fishing industry.


Ed Russell — skipper Halcyon FY 894

I firmly believe our fishing industry, and the many coastal communities that it supports, will thrive outside of the EU.

As a nation,  the cost of EU membership is too high and to have given away sovereignty and democracy in the first place has been complete madness.


Cormac Burke – (MD FishComm Ltd.), ex-fisherman and past editor of Irish Skipper, Fishing News & Fishing News International

Starting out in the mid-1970s as a young fishermen, this industry was filled with excitement, adventure and held a potential to learn and be successful – young men in coastal communities couldn’t wait until it was their turn to follow their fathers, brothers and friends into a skilled career at sea as a deckhand, a first mate and perhaps even to follow the dream of owning your own boat some day.

But today, thanks to the apparent agenda of the European Union to see the total destruction of the fishing sector, we are witnessing the lifeblood of hundreds of coastal communities being drained away as the fleets are scrapped, miniscule quotas are given to those fighting to remain, and prospects for young people are almost non-existent.

The EU is not just ruining one single industry, it is presiding over the very real and serious threat to the entire future of the UK as a once proud sea faring nation.



Under EU control, opportunities for young people to join the fishing industry have dwindled away



Aaron Brown – skipper and founder of the Fishing for Leave campaign

The aim in the formation of the Fishing for Leave campaign was to see a stronger supported fishing industry body, to highlight the achievements, dynamism and determination of the British fishing industry, and to inform the British public about how much better things could, and should, be if our country were to be free to reach our potential outside the central control of the EU.

Given the level of support we see today, and the increasing unification of ‘Brexit’ groups across the nation which is seeing the fishing industry’s plight becoming part of the mandate in groups such as ‘Vote Out’ and ‘Leave.EU’, it’s fair to say that we have succeeded in our initial bid to bring the urgent need for the fishing industry to gain back control from EU mis-management to the forefront.
From now until June 23rd, (and particularly on June 15th when the nation’s fishing fleet will give a show of strength in the Thames and Clyde protests), we will continue in our mission to highlight to the public the devastation wrought on the British fishing industry by the EU and show the betrayal of a critical national resource.