David Levy – The 14 actions required to solve the fisheries riddle – Jan 15

What is the reality for the Reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and have the lessons which will lead to the regeneration of stocks and marine fish food security been learnt and applied?

The popular expression for those engaged in a project is that you have been on “a journey”. Our marine journey has been actively talked about in the UK for in excess of a decade. In my opinion, the journey started with a clear definition of what we wanted to achieve.

However we also started this journey not knowing how we would go about enforcing what was agreed. This deficit in management thinking is a historic one.

Those who have more knowledge than myself say that what I seek is too complicated. They say the fisheries issue is an international problem and not a national one, and we can only deliver what the “congress” can agree on, and technically that is true.

Those countries who rely on the marine world as a main economic contribution to their GDP manage their resources with more prudence and husbandry. Iceland and Norway are the prime examples, with both being pro-actively engaged in managing their fish stocks.

Yes, their territorial waters are their own and they protect them, and the fact is that these waters are abundant and well managed. These countries are self-sufficient. Poorly managed countries, like the UK, are reliant on them to feed their people.

My proposition is that one of the benefits of leaving the EU is that we would have the right to follow a similar course of conservation-based marine management, but we would have to develop a different attitude and thinking to what exists today.

Ministers meeting in Europe engage in a parochial defence of their rights, and are briefed by the fishing industry to fight for their perceived rightful share of quota. But it is a childish solution which arises from such thinking. This thinking believes that we are dealing with an inexhaustible supply of food which we have our “rights to exploit”.

It is pathetic to watch our justifications for this thinking being played out on an international stage. Once upon a time the UK led the way on moral and ethical management. Now we swamp the potential for good management with bureaucracy which has superimposed itself as the means to find the best solutions.

Defra ministry officials hold endless seminars, conferences and specific regulation descriptors. But the bottom line is the decisions have already been made, and whenever deadlines have established it is as if the excuses are rolled out almost immediately. 2015 is such a year of deadlines, and shortly the excuses as to why they have not been met will be in the public domain.

Looking to the EU, it is not as if we gained anything from its subsidies regime in the delivery of enforcement. In this day of GPS and closed circuit television all ships could be kitted out with both, and monitored from existing monitoring stations. People like BlackFish could train the public in enforcement and forge links with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to deliver a tighter system of accountability, and thus a better managed fish stock. It’s not rocket science, but all of this it is undesirable to an industry which has poorly policed itself.

The question is — why is it also undesirable for our politicians and ministry officials?

To answer this question is central to solving the fisheries riddle.

Could it be stupidity in current thinking that is holding us back?

Historically fishermen have had the rights to fish and go anywhere. However, we live in a different world from when these historic rights evolved.

If we are to rescue ourselves and our global place, our position has to shift. This means:

  1. All fishing quota is brought back into the hands of English-owned companies.
  2. No quota can be sold to foreign vessels.
  3. All quota is landed in UK ports.
  4. Inshore small-boat fishermen receive a higher percentage of quota.
  5. We manage our fish stocks and our territorial waters in a manner that follows Norwegian practice.
  6. We have a target of regenerating our fish stocks to historic levels.
  7. We employ proven technology to improve the age-profiles of fish stocks.
  8. All our national fishing ships and boats are engaged with accountability and are fitted with GPS and CCTV.
  9. We keep out all foreign fishing from our territorial waters.
  10. We protect spawning and nursery grounds from any fishing.
  11. We protect spawning and nursery grounds from loss of habitat.
  12. We place conservation ahead of socio-economic factors.
  13. Fishing communities are trained into policeman roles that are subsidised.
  14. The inshore small boat fisheries should provide the lead thinking about value for each fish caught.


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