Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Fishing and the EU

Last week I met with fisherman in Newlyn to discuss the future of the industry in the event of a vote to leave the EU. 

There are some things which we would definitely retain. We would still target sustainable fishing limits to ensure our fisheries remain profitable for the future, and we would still have as a quota system as it is the only system that works in a shared fishery with mobile species. In addition, we would still strive to challenge the wasteful practice of discarding dead fish back into the sea. 

However, free from the hindrance of the EU, the UK would be able to assert itself in the North Sea to deliver fair and sustainable fishing. There are two key reasons why we would be better off. 

Firstly, the North Sea is the most important fishery in the UK. However, fishing opportunities for stocks are decided by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, not the EU, which only has a seat at the table, alongside Norway, Iceland and even the Faroes. It is extraordinary that the UK, despite being the country with the greatest interest in the North Sea, is denied a seat at the table and we must put our faith in the hands of an EU negotiator, who more often than not, fails to deliver. 

The second reason for voting leave is important for fisherman in the West Country. Outside the EU we would re-establish national control for 200 nautical miles as provided for in international law. We would then be in a strong position to argue for a fairer share of quota allocations in many fish stocks. 

There has long been an historical injustice in quota allocations to the UK fleet. In 2015 the UK allocation of Cod was just 834 tonnes compared to 5,500 for France. For Plaice in the Channel is was 1,300 tonnes for the UK, but 2,600 for France. The list goes on. If we take control of our fishing grounds we will have the opportunity to revisit these issues and deliver a fairer share of fishing opportunities.