UK must quit EU fish policy, say processors –

UK must quit EU fish policy, say processors Published:  30 August, 2006

A LEADING processors’ group today called on the UK to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy.

In a statement issued in the wake of a crisis meeting last week, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation, said that the EU fish policy is not working and the UK Government must extricate itself from it as quickly as possible.

However the federation accepted this was a long-term objective and in the meantime there must be changes, including an easing of days at sea rules.

In their statement, the federation said that the Scottish seafood processing sector is facing yet another year of great difficulty. The continual erosion of quota combined with the “days at sea” restrictions imposed on Scottish fishermen has, they say, resulted in a poor supply pattern and dramatic rises in the price of fish.

The impact on the processing sector has been devastating and has led to numerous seafood processors closing down with significant job losses, particularly, in the North East. Unfortunately, the decline is far from over with the threat of further quota cuts and effort control for 2007.

The statement went on:

“With only four months remaining this year, the 2006 haddock TAC stands at only a 50% uptake and we are now faced with the potential of the TAC not being fully utilised due to the days at sea restrictions.

“The fisheries management regime that now exists is bureaucratic, autocratic and ineffective in sustaining viable catching and processing sectors and vibrant local communities. Furthermore, it is indisputable that the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed to conserve fish stocks since its inception – its ultimate goal.

“Fishermen and processors both have a long term need for sustainable fish stocks – this has been recognised and decommissioning has reduced the Scottish fleet by over 60%. However, we need to ensure that there is an economically viable future for the industry to continue to survive and this does not appear possible under the current structure.

“The Scottish Seafood Processors Federation believe that it is now time for the UK Government to extract itself from the EU CFP and move towards the restoration of national control of the UK fisheries falling within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). We need to radically reform the current situation and feel that this cannot be done under the CFP. The UK can legally withdraw from the EU Common Fisheries Policy and repatriate its own waters under the international law, UNCLOS, and develop its own management policy for the resources therein.

“This is not a political issue but one founded on the need to have a system that will achieve the ultimate goal of balancing conservation and exploitation of fish stocks, whilst recognising the socio-economic impact on our local communities. This can best be achieved by managing the UK fisheries independently through a coalition of stakeholders to include fishermen, processors, shore based support services, scientists and environmental organisations.”

But the federation accepted this is a long term objective.

In the short term they needed fisheries management to address fundamental issues which are “decimating” the industry:

These were :

*Remove the restrictions on days at sea for the remainder of 2006 to allow fishermen to catch the remaining quota and enjoy similar access to our fishing grounds as their EU counterparts. This would also allow fishermen to operate their vessels in a more fuel efficient manner improving the economic return and environmentally friendly benefits.

*The Cod Recovery plan must be reviewed in light of its destructive impact on the haddock fishery, which remains in a healthy stock state, and which underpins the white fish processing sector and the onshore infrastructure

*Increase the quota on monkfish as the fishermen have participated in the scientific observation programme to demonstrate the health of the stock, as agreed, and quota remains far below the levels of five years ago.

*Tackle the issue of compliance by other EU countries to ensure a level playing field in the globally competitive market for fish and seafood.

“We urge all fishermen and processing organisations to unite behind the common objective to deliver independent management of Scotland’s important fisheries resources.”

*See the September issue of FISHupdate for a report and special interview on the crisis facing the processors