David Levy – The Common Fisheries Policy is all about talk and bureaucracy, and no action – Nov 15

The Common Fisheries Policy, plus all it’s recent reforms, has successfully provided for a bureaucracy which is international in dimension and the equivalent in size of a multi-million £ industry.

How a reasonably intelligent fisherman is supposed to understand all of the intricacies of the management of his CFP quota obligations is beyond me.

I have tried to follow the explanation of what has and can be landed versus the quota for each fish species, and this has left me reeling in its complexity.

It’s about different boat sizes being given a different allocation of quota, about what part of the catch is allowed to be landed, and how this operates in each country where the catch can be landed. Then there is a reliance on a huge bureaucracy to collate information centrally in each Member country — but who audits the practice?

The very nature of the numbers involved facilitates criminality. It is inevitable. The system’s management design exacerbates this opportunity. And this is the case for an industry which has historically run fish stocks close to extinction, using historic fishing rights as a justification backed by well-rehearsed lawyers to promote their case.

I do not include the under-10 metre boat fishermen in this conclusion. They are excluded by government and by quota size. My conclusion is about the factory ship companies who own the bulk of British quota and also their home country quota.

These are the companies who exchange flags of ownership for convenience, who when they have exceeded their quota have only received a slap on the wrist as punishment — so, no real incentive to change behaviour, especially when each fishing area is only patrolled very occasionally. It is clear that the management of this “Wild West” is under-resourced, and these companies know it.

Working this out is not rocket science — these companies will take risks for the financial benefit, and they have already been caught doing it.

Taking my assertion that the process of marine management is complexity personified, what justifications can the European Commission have for the CFP’s implementation when it has become so unwieldy?

Further, is it not incumbent on the Commission to produce a structure that delivers greater accountability for all ?

I would go a lot further with this management regime – and insist that we implement a rotational scheme akin to fallow farming but at sea, using marine reserves areas where there is no-take for at least five years.

Should we not also review the ease with which other countries provide a limited time to land catch — no quota, just fishing within a specified time period, and the industry can then police the seas once the season for catch had expired? This could easily be monitored, and the close proximity of ports is important when the season is so short in duration.
Combined rotated marine reserves, plus time limited catch for all fish species, could provide easier control and management.

It would not limit the fishermen with unreasonable bureaucracy. It is fair for all, and could provide a structure understood by everyone. It would cut down on the amount of people you need for its introduction and for its on-going application.

This I suggest is the reason why it has been ignored by Defra and the EU.

They would rather produce a system which nobody who uses it, understands. All except the bureaucrats whose jobs rely on it.

There are many reasons why the British cannot abide the Americans. However in terms of protecting fish species, integrating marine reserves, and with sensible boat identification linked with catch and restaurant end-use, they are light years ahead of us.

And the reason why this is so is because they are doers, whilst here we are talkers.

David Levy November 2015 Marinet Blog

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