A seminar in Brussels, organised recently by the European Commission, was held to take stock of…
Take the Politics Out of Fishing
Against the background of high level discussions on where fisheries powers should be located after they are repatriated from the CFP, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation has issued a statement on the distorting effect that devolution is having on fisheries management.
The representative body for fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has said that fisheries management decisions within the UK are being compromised by politics and the fishing industry cannot thrive until fisheries management is depoliticised.
“From devolution to the landing obligation, to repatriated powers under Brexit, fishing is being used as a political football and it is to the industry’s detriment.”
“The principle of devolving responsibility to the lowest practical level, within a system of supervision, is absolutely sound. That’s what we have with producer organisations and it works very well. But when devolved responsibility is distorted by a political agenda it becomes toxic and gets in the way of sensible, pragmatic decision-making. “
“Australia has found a way to largely take the politics out of fisheries management decisions and we should do the same in the UK. Devolution has increased the complexity of fisheries management in the UK tenfold but devolution and the fisheries concordat is a political construct that is getting in the way of sound fisheries management. It was not asked for by the fishermen in any of the four countries of the UK. It was imposed from outside for entirely political reasons and is artificially distorting fisheries management in the UK. More devolution in fisheries is not going to improve things – it is going to make matters worse.
“Devolution is getting in the way of normal straightforward business transactions such as buying a boat, or moving quota to where it is needed. It is also being used as lever to secure advantage for one party in allocations and policy decisions .The concordat was supposed to bring clarity to the way fisheries administrations work together but it is doing the opposite. It is being mainly being used in a power struggle to obtain political advantage that has nothing to do with fishing. Fishermen north and south of the border are the losers from this, as wholly artificial barriers are being applied”
“The mess that is the EU landings obligation is another example of rules that resulted from nothing more than political opportunism. Common sense, pragmatism and the principles of sound fisheries management were completely absent when that decision was taken.”
Fishing Industry is Absent
“The fishing industry is absent in this debate – the people whose activities and livelihoods are affected by all of this are being treated like pawns. Their voice should be at the centre, not relegated to the side-lines when their fate is decided.”
“No one is saying that we don’t need regulation in fishing.
But when the design and application of fisheries rules plays second fiddle to political wars of attrition, it is the industry that suffers. We need to reassert the primacy of the principles of fisheries management before more unnecessary harm is done.
- We require a clear framework at UK level to replace the CFP framework that will no longer have legal force as EU law in the UK after March next year.
- We need to subsequently, revisit the devolution settlement so far as fisheries is concerned. The current arrangement is not functioning.
- As we leave the EU and the CFP we need to reassert the principles of sound fisheries management
- Management decisions should be based on evidence and science, not emotion and politics
- Control of fishing mortality should be achieved through well-constructed harvesting strategies that deliver high long-term average yields; we should seek to maximise the value of our fishing opportunities as we contribute to the nation’s food security
- Cooperation is between all the parties is a precondition when stocks and fisheries are shared
- We should move to optimum exploitation patterns, accepting that in mixed fisheries trade-offs will be required
- We should have practical, workable discard policies that reduce unwanted catch to a minimum
- A balance between catching capacity and available resources in each sector is the foundation stone for effective fisheries management
- We require an adaptive and responsive management framework to deal with a dynamic resource base and a dynamic industry
- Management with the consent of those regulated is a prerequisite for success; this means more than cosmetic consultation exercises; it requires an advisory system that puts genuine stakeholders at the heart of the system with genuine stewardship privileges, responsibilities and obligations
- The equal access principle should apply to all UK vessels operating in UK waters
- The UK single market should be recognised and supported in policy decisions affecting fish and fishing business operations
Achieving every one of these objectives become more difficult if we are left exposed to the distorting and corrosive effect of a politicised devolution settlement.”