BY ALLOWING PULSE FISHING against its own rules the EU has provided unchallengeable proof of why we need Brexit and how the Common Fisheries Policy has been an environmental, economic and social disaster.
This abhorrent method of fishing uses electrical pulses similar to a taser to shock fish off the seabed and into the trawl following behind the electrodes at the mouth of the trawl net. It has been shown to cause severe spasms to the point of causing spinal fractures in Cod. Nothing is known about the effect on smaller marine life and organisms crucial to the wider marine environment but anecdotal evidence suggests it is devastating.
The EU has a ban on the use of electricity in fishing operations. However, ten years ago the EU Commission allowed a derogation from this ban under the auspices of a trial in the southern North Sea. This was despite international scientists and the EU’s own scientific advice saying not to allow the method to be deployed.
The method was developed and deployed predominantly by the Dutch fishing industry. What began as a trial has now extended to cover 100 boats and has gone on for ten years. Dutch fishermen candidly admit it is now a commercial fishery masquerading under the auspices of a trial.
Fishermen around the Southern North Sea have bitterly complained that the areas where pulse fishing has been deployed have seen severe degradation of commercial stocks.
A survey recently conducted off the Kent coast by CEFAS under orders of the fisheries minister George Eustice, left fishermen appalled at the difference seen between areas using Electric Pulsed fishing and those not – describing pulsed areas as “an ecological desert” – the trial results are to be published in the beginning of next year.
Fishing for Leave applauds the efforts by the MP for Lowestoft, Peter Aldous, and others that have helped with the campaign to bring the appalling practice of Electric Pulse Fishing to the country’s attention.
The governments commendable pledge to ban this abhorrent practice in British waters post-Brexit must be fulfilled by Michael Gove and DEFRA. Doing so will bring real environmental benefit and shows leaving the EU can be used to deliver real improvements.
There are other issues the government must take advantage of the Fisheries Bill to legislate on;
1) The government must also ban the equally bad EU industrial Sand-eel fishing, where hundreds of thousands of tons of this vital ingredient in the North Sea food chain is removed for Danish pig feed.
2) The EU’s Quota system forces fishermen to discard up to half their catch, and then catch even more, to find the species they are allowed to keep. The government must use the freedom of Brexit to move to a discard-free policy. Limiting hours of fishing time at sea in return for being able to land and record all catches.
This would end discarding and give accurate data. Allowing fleet management in-line with nature. The government must legislate to trial and implement such a system and mustn't heed vested interests in the Quota system -– many lobbyists being close allies with the Dutch.
3) The government must legislate to repatriate our resources as per international law. Not only has the EU allowed environmental degradation of our waters, in the southern North Sea other EU member states hold 90 per cent of the Total Allowable Catches (TACs).
Under international law & the principle of 'Zonal Attachment' a nation is entitled to a TAC share based on the predominance of fish in its waters. In the Southern North Sea Britain should have a 60 per cent share. This would be worth approximately £2 billion in processed value to South East coastal communities previously ravaged by the CFP.
4) The government must tighten the economic conditions that determine and regulate what constitutes a British fishing vessel. This should be similar to what Mrs Thatcher’s government proposed in the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which was over-ruled by the ECJ – where a British fishing vessel must be 60 per cent British owned, 60 per cent British crewed and land, sell and process 60 per cent of its catch in Britain.
5) Legislate to ban shore-based quota renters who are bleeding 60 per cent of the profit from hard working active fishermen who are forced to lease their entitlement to fish that’s been gobbled up by these ‘Slipper Skippers’. As in Norway all fishing entitlement must be held on an active vessel within two years.
6) Importantly, the government must legislate to ban EU boats from fishing British waters unless the EU can swap Britain an equal value of fishing opportunities.
Any foreign boats issued a temporary annual or seasonal license must land all catches from British waters into a British port to ensure compliance and economic benefit from British resources to this nation.
7) Most Importantly, the government must legislate that the half of Britain's fisheries resources that can (and must) be rightfully repatriated under the terms of international law are distributed equally to all fishermen and communities.
These resources must be allocated outside the current disastrous British Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) entitlement system. This has facilitated monopolisation to a few companies through a race to the bottom of economically illiterate prices being paid to secure FQA entitlement.
National resources must be fairly distributed to all, large and small, for even if all the above points were enacted, without the raw materials we will fail to seize this momentous chance to rejuvenate our coastal communities.
Fishing for Leave, and the thousands of fishermen and folk in dependent coastal communities supporting us, won't quit until all the above are delivered.