Fish Don’t Respect National Boundaries, Says MCS

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The European Referendum is creating lots of questions, yet there seems to be a remarkable lack of consistency when it comes to answers. I’m a politics graduate and even that is no salvation from confusion!

Here is what the Marine Conservation Society has to say about it, regarding fishing.

Leaving the EU doesn’t guarantee a better future for our fishing industry because some Member States may still be allowed to fish in UK waters due to ‘historic’ fishing rights, says the UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which, unusually for a charity, seems to be taking an overtly political stance on Europe.

MCS says if the current agreement the UK has with the EU had to be renegotiated it could put in jeopardy our ability to fish elsewhere. Other countries may have no desire, and may not be legally obliged, to allow us to fish in their waters – particularly if they were excluded from our own.  I get the tit for tat idea – we can’t have your fish, you don’t get ours…

The idea that leaving the EU would mean we could keep all our fish to ourselves is misleading, says the charity. Additionally, the Fisheries Minister George Eustice has already indicated that many of the most controversial aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for the fishing industry; quota limitations, the discard ban and fishing limits set at sustainable levels will remain, even if the UK were to leave the EU. I’m not sure I get the logic to this but if anyone wishes to explain it to me, please do.  It seems to slightly contradict what’s above. We can’t have your fish, you don’t get ours, but actually we may still get yours, though we can stop you having ours? 

“The UK is allocated the second largest quota in the EU after Spain, landing significant catches into the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and France,” says Debbie Crockard, MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate. “The UK currently exports huge amounts of seafood to other EU countries and leaving the EU could result in changes to trade agreements which would significantly impact this and our long-term relationships with other fishing nations”

“Fish aren’t British or French or Spanish – they’re just fish and they don’t respect national boundaries,” says Debbie Crockard. “Fish like mackerel, herring, cod and seabass are highly mobile and because of our location we’re always going to have to share our fish with other countries.” Does this mean a one-way sharing situation, as indicated above?

MCS says there’s an assumption that leaving the EU would provide a silver bullet for the UK allowing it to remove the shackles of the CFP – a policy which has come under criticism from both the fishing industry and environmentalists in the past. But MCS says that many years of negotiation the newly implemented, radically reformed CFP has the potential to turn these criticisms on their head.

“Until recently the CFP was universally considered a failure with failing fish stocks, falling numbers of fishermen, and decimated fishing communities all around Europe. This situation provided a serious incentive for all parties involved to drive forward radical reform of the CFP in 2013,” says Debbie Crockard.

The reformed CFP provides the opportunity for more regional management with a much stricter focus on maintaining stocks at sustainable levels. This should result in fishermen and Member States having a much greater opportunity to manage the seas in a way that delivers for everyone and ensures the fish – which is what it’s all about – can recover and be managed responsibly for the future.

“New ambitious targets should ensure compliance with scientific advice, setting fishing levels to allow long-term sustainable exploitation; an end to the practice of “discarding” through a commercial landing obligation; decentralisation of fisheries management; and the potential for greater rewards for low-impact sustainable practices, ultimately leading to a more reliable, prosperous and environmentally sound fishing industry,” says Debbie Crockard.

MCS says that because the UK took a leading role in both the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers to drive forward this positive change, we should consider the reformed CFP a success and key legislation that the EU can be proud if implemented correctly.

“An exit from the EU could unpick the largely successful efforts that have already taken place to ensure we can all continue to enjoy a fish supper,” says Debbie Crockard.

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