Thursday, 16 April 2009

Focus on Fishing....

Today as the French trawlermen lift their blockade of channel ports, holiday-makers can start to return from their elongated Easter breaks. My family is peppered with amateur anglers (myself included) but over recent months I have learned that the issues surrounding fish stocks are far more complicated than is often reflected in the news. Many UK politicians with a short term view don't want to enter the murky waters of fishery policy but the resources of the sea are too important to be neglected. Centrally run quotas from Brussels have not succeeded in protecting fish stocks - the scandal of "discards" is just one example of its failing.

Today's cave in by the French authorities to offer more subsidies to French trawler fleets may have re-opened the ports for now but does not solve the long term problem.... and yet again puts the decimated UK fishing industry at a disadvantage.

On a winter's visit to the dawn fishmarket in Lowestoft, local fishermen told me that the East Coast cod stocks are on a high, that their line fishing technique was totally sustainable, and that this was local food at its best... though on closer questioning I discovered that the bait for their hooks was caught off the Falkland Islands (they said by Spanish trawlers) and shipped half way across the world.

A few weeks ago I was collared by another fishermen in Canvey Island at the mouth of the Thames Estuary. He explained that Dover Sole catch in the Channel was at his lifetime low - and he blamed the Belgians.

This is not a local industry.

Decision making needs to be more local - but can not be done unilaterally because the proximity of our coast to that of other countries means that we have to work together. The Conservative Party has suggested local fisheries boards - bringing together interested parties from each affected country in each local fishing area.

This is a system that on the whole works well for inland fisheries in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but just as a salmon river can be perfectly run by a fishery board but have its stocks destroyed by netting or fish farming in the estuary which is beyond their control, it will be difficult to influence the key players in the global fishing industry with a purely European solution.

Somehow we need to balance the needs of local communities and small local fishing fleets with the economics of the factory trawlers. As with the Common Agricultural Policy, the unthinking subsidy of the industry such as those proposed by the French Government today will not provide a long term solution

1 comment:

Gallimaufry said...

You are no doubt aware of Owen Paterson's excellent proposals on the UK fishing industry that were kicked into deep water by David Cameron in order to avoid banging on about Europe. When will the Tories (and I count myself as one having voted nothing else since 1983) admit that Heath lied and gave our fish away to get into a Europe that is not fit for purpose?