“Neither EU nor UK has displayed competence in fisheries management” says Marinet

The UK Government (Defra) consultation on the “balance of competence” between the EU and UK with respect to fisheries management has just closed for public submissions of evidence.

The purpose of the consultation has been to seek opinion so as to arrive at an assessment of the balance of advantages and disadvantages between the UK’s fisheries being managed by the EU under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) relative to their management entirely by the UK (e.g. as prior to the UK’s entry into the EEC [EU] and the development of the CFP). Central to this determination are Defra’s own criteria that fisheries need to be assessed in terms of healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment.

Marinet has contributed to this public consultation.

In its submission, Marinet informs Defra that, from a historical standpoint, it can see no evidence that either the UK or the EU has displayed action and thinking which displays a greater competence.

Marinet observes: “Much has been promised over the years by both the UK and EU in terms of fisheries management. However the truth is different, and the reality delivered by both parties has been one of relentless decline in stocks, the industry and the ecological structure of our seas.”

“Much is claimed by the EU” states Marinet “for the new terms and principles embodied in the reformed CFP. The restoration of stocks to health by 2020 is a principal feature, along with other management measures, including near-zero levels for the discarding of by-catch under the quota system. Is delivery of this a realistic expectation?”

“It is doubtful” observes Marinet “that restoration of stocks, along with the fishing industry and the ecological structure of the seas — as promised in various statements by the EU during 2013 — can actually be delivered. This is because the legal commitment to healthy commercial fish and shellfish stocks by 2020 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD Descriptor 3) has been traduced and corrupted by the EU with the consent of the Member States, including the UK. One must therefore view the promise of a brighter future with a strong degree of scepticism.”

“Would the restoration of sovereignty in these matters to the UK offer a different conclusion?” asks Marinet.

“Evidence has shown” says Marinet “that the UK has often been an active partner of the EU in the historic decline of fish stocks, the industry and ecological structure. The wilful abuse of the legal requirement under international and trust law by the UK to implement fishing quotas in accordance with scientific advice is testimony to this. The integrity of the UK in these matters — sensible fisheries management — is therefore very questionable.”

Marinet observes that “When Marinet has put it to the UK Government that it should pursue a CFP reform agenda based on the restoration of food security via the maximisation of stocks and the protection of spawning and nursery grounds, the UK has replied that it needs to be pragmatic and pursue a solution for which it can get majority agreement — the implication being that the reform agenda Marinet has advanced is too radical and therefore unrealistic.

However the Marinet reform agenda is one that is based on science, experience and, in all truth, common sense.”

Marinet’s submission concludes that neither the EU nor the UK give reason for confidence in their competence.

“It is to be profoundly hoped” concludes Marinet “that both the UK and the EU will reflect deeply on these matters and, in this spirit, acquire the determination and integrity which has been hitherto absent in order to secure the healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for our fish stocks, industry and seas which so urgently requires to be delivered. Continued failure, regardless of where the balance of competence lies, is a grim prospect. Most regrettably, this grim and dismal prospect continues to confront us.”

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