Enough of the fishy business, our trawlermen do not need Europe

Enough of the fishy business, our trawlermen do not need Europe

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Saturday 2, June, 2018

THERE WAS a sorry show this week in Brussels and Holyrood. The blue team again played the old game of slamming the Nats – and the rest – for voting in the European Parliament against our fisheries.

"Oh the humanity! Oh the shame! Only the Tories can...." well yes we get the message, subtle as it is.

There had been a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week where a vote was held in linking CFP membership to access to EU markets.

The Tories voted against it. So did UKIP. The rest voted FOR!

There is an argument that those not in government must focus on reducing the risks of Brexit and those in power on maximizing the gains. It is then quite reasonable to vote differently in parliament.

None of this business will matter at all if the British Government does not do up our industry like a kipper. Sadly its record through the decades – irrespective of which party was in government– is not good.

The truth is that 58 per cent of all fish caught in UK waters by volume is caught by other countries. In return we catch 12 per cent of our landed fish outside the UK but elsewhere in the EU.

Other EU states catch TEN times as much in our waters by volume as we do in theirs, SEVEN times by mass.

This is without the asset stripping of Sandeels for bait, fertiliser and mink farms in Denmark, which reeks havoc on our marine ecosystem and starves our puffins (our favourite seabird).

There is a question bothering me that no one seems to have asked.

"If locking the EU out of our waters means we can catch twice as much as now and the only penalty is we cannot easily sell some of our fish to the EU then how is this such a bad deal?"

We are not 19th century mercantilists or some post-Soviet dirtbag republic hawking scrap and weapons for hard currency. Who would argue the oil and gas sector would collapse without exports? 

We import 700,000 tonnes of fish a year and export 400,000. We have 64 million people who don't eat as well as they could. If more fish were sold here at a cheaper price, with the fish oils, vitamins, proteins and minerals their health benefits may equal the landing value.

We still suffer high levels of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Our educational standards are falling and fish is the ultimate brain superfood.

In 2006 Argentina BANNED the export of beef. The prices at home fell. Argentines still eat two pounds of beef per week per person – and have one of lowest bowel cancer rates in the world. So much for red meat being bad for you!

A fully domestic fishing sector that only employed Brits and used ships built in the UK, that landed twice as much as now and sold it all for the domestic market, isn't something especially radical.

For centuries is was normal. 

Except for selling Cod from Newfoundland to Iberia, us Brits caught, sold and ate our own fish. Go to Japan and its entire farm sector is geared domestically, hardly anything is exported now except super high-end products. They look a pretty healthy bunch.

Such a policy would also force export prices higher, so the high-end products would fetch even more than now. Look no further than OPEC. Surely the UK, Iceland and Norway could have some fun with the continent's fish market if we chose to?

If we somehow couldn’t catch all the fish we might, because of a lack of capacity, it would hardly be a waste. Fish grow through the years. Their biomass accumulates and so their stocks recover.

In a service driven economy and a floating currency, a sale abroad is just a sale. It is not in any way superior to a sale at home, often it generates less because of transaction costs. 

The UK simply doesn't need other Europeans to buy our fish. We have 64 million people to feed here. At the moment we eat 19 kilos of fish per person per year. In Norway it's 50kg and in Iceland it's 80kg. The tiny nation of Maldives eats over 160kg per person!

Maybe going back to the 1950s isn't such a bad idea if Brexit means cheaper fish and chips!

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