Fish­er­men’s leader backs exit from EU pol­icy

The Oban Times - - Business -

SCOT­TISH Fish­er­men’s Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Ber­tie Arm­strong has in­sisted ex­it­ing the Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy is the only way for­ward for the in­dus­try.

In a mes­sage to politi­cians, he said fish­er­men would not agree to any­thing which takes them back into a sys­tem that de­prives them of 60 per cent of the catch.

He said: ‘It’s been a while since fish­ing mat­tered so much. That’s be­cause we are com­ing out of the EU and while most peo­ple are aware Brexit is a big deal for fish­ing, they are per­haps not sure why.

‘Ac­tu­ally it’s easy to un­der- stand, but ev­ery politi­cian and ev­ery­one in or con­nected with the fish­ing in­dus­try and its com­mu­ni­ties needs to know what is at stake.

‘When you hear of prom­ises to look af­ter our fish­ing in­dus­try, there is only one sin­gle that this can be achieved – by per­ma­nently leav­ing the EU and the Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy.

‘What­ever any­one may have thought of the value of EU mem­ber­ship, that spe­cific com­po­nent – the CFP – is plain bad for us.

‘The rea­son is not that fish­er­men just want more fish or less reg­u­la­tion. The real prob­lem is the con­di­tions ac­cepted on en­try in 1973. Th­ese oblige us to give away 60 per cent of our fish and shell­fish re­source an­nu­ally. That’s a big ticket price, paid up ev­ery year since. But we’re leav­ing and we sim­ply can­not agree to any­thing that takes us back to that.

‘How on earth did it hap­pen in the first place? The easy-to-un­der­stand back­ground is that when we joined in 1973, ev­ery­one fished where they liked, as hard as they liked. There were no quo­tas.

‘On join­ing, this ‘ com­mon ac­cess’ was adopted as a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple and when it be­came ob­vi­ous we were in a down­ward spi­ral of over­fish­ing, lim­its were in­tro­duced, quite cor­rectly.

‘Cru­cially, each mem­ber state’s share of the now re­stricted catch was fixed on the track record from the bad old days when ev­ery­one fished ev­ery­where, with­out lim­its.

‘This was named ‘rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity’ and per­sists un­til to­day – hence the 60 per cent al­lo­ca­tion to oth­ers of fish our wa­ters.

‘Mean­while and cru­cially, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity out­side the Euro­pean Union took an en­tirely dif­fer­ent route to sus­tain­able fish­ing.

‘This was by ex­tend­ing fish­eries lim­its to 200 miles - or to the me­dian line be­tween coun­tries where less - with the re­sul­tant coastal state hav­ing full rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for their own nat­u­ral re­source – in other words sovereignty over who was per­mit­ted to fish there, and for how much.

‘That’s our sea of op­por­tu­nity, that’s what we will get on Brexit.

‘To cut a longer tale short, we are sur­rounded by some of the best fish­ing grounds in the world and most of the fish are in our wa­ters.

‘That’s why other mem­ber states come here to fish. It’s not for the scenery or a de­sire to burn off fuel, it’s for the prime fish that can’t be caught in their own wa­ters.

‘When you hear fish­ing was ‘ex­pend­able’ as part of our en­try to Europe, that’s what is ac­tu­ally meant – award­ing 60 per cent of what would have been our fish to the other EU fish­ing na­tions. That’s why de­spite ap­ply­ing at the same time Nor­way did not join with us - slim ma­jor­ity in a ref­er­en­dum, sound fa­mil­iar? - and why Ice­land aban­doned its ap­pli­ca­tion when it be­came clear it could not join with­out ac­cept­ing the CFP, nor mod­ify it af­ter join­ing.’

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