Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I presume he was joking

During the short debate in response to Lord Teverson's Starred Question on fish discards there was a slightly comical moment. Lord Teverson asked
Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have following their estimate that, of 37,000 tonnes of cod, haddock, plaice, sole, anglerfish and other demersal species caught by English and Welsh registered vessels in the North Sea and south western waters during 2008, 9,400 tonnes were discarded.
A good question though those estimates, I suspect, are a little on the low side. Well what is HMG going to do? Easy, as Lord Davies of Oldham explained:
My Lords, the UK Government are funding initiatives to address discards, working together with the fishing industry. These include limitations on fishing effort, improving gear selectivity and closures that protect spawning and undersized fish. The UK has also committed, with Denmark and Germany, to trial a catch quota management system. Through the review of the common fisheries policy, we are working towards a European discard policy that applies to all member states, regardless of where they fish.
Very useful, indeed, and has been the policy of successive British governments. Sadly, large amounts of fish are still being discarded because they are caught above quotas and cannot be landed. (Of course, large amounts are landed in various places and sold on the black market, but that's another story.)

Lord Teverson was not pleased.
I thank the Minister for that reply, but I am rather disappointed. The Secretary of State for the Environment called last month for a ban on waste food, yet he is responsible for discards whereby we throw away a quarter of our most precious species. Is that not obscene, and should not the UK Government insist, in relation to the common fisheries policy, that like Canada, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand, we should have a ban on discards? Why cannot the EU do that when other nations can?
I trust that readers of this blog have noticed a certain something all those countries listed as examples of good management by Lord Teverson. Lord Willoughby de Broke made the connection clear:
Could the Minister confirm that the countries mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in his second question—countries which all run successful fisheries policies—are all outside the European Union? Would it therefore not be better for this country to follow their path, repatriate the common fisheries policy and run it from the UK in the interests of UK fisheries?
Ah yes, all those countries run their own fisheries policy, something that the Labour Government cannot even envisage and the Conservatives have decided not to include in their election manifesto.

At this point, the Minister made rather a comical comment:
My Lords, there is still the question of who fishes in which waters. The noble Lord will readily accept that the fishing fleet of Spain, for instance, has been significantly expanded in recent years. It is important that we have a common fisheries policy that ensures that the practices that are followed by the Spanish, and to an extent by the French, are the high standards that we are trying to set, particularly with regard to our discard policy for British fishermen.
The Minister or his talented advisers think that the British fisherment should follow rapacious Spanish practices? How very odd. And while we are on the subject, why and how has that Spanish fishing fleet expanded? Did that have anything to do with the amount of Structural Funds the EU poured into the Spanish fishing industry? Not possible.

Nor is it possible that the Minister could say with a straight face in response to the Countess of Mar's very reasonably question about the logic behind discards:
My Lords, the fishermen have to make a living. Their problem is that only certain fish are marketable and economic to land, to say nothing of the fact that new gear tends to catch in its nets a whole lot of sea animals and fish that are really not edible and which are therefore discarded. The noble Countess is right; we want to change the gear that is used so that it is appropriate for the commercial fish to be landed. That is exactly what the British Government are seeking to achieve.
Marketable? Economic to land? Nothing to do with quotas then? Dear, dear. I was not present at the debate so I cannot tell my readers whether the Minister's nose lengthened just a tad but if it did not, Jiminy Cricket was not listening.

While we are on the subject of what the British Government are seeking to achieve, there was a Written Statement [scroll down] on January 21 about the outcome of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. This is what was said about those negotiations:
With regard to fisheries and the technical conservation measures regulation, council reached political agreement (with the UK and Ireland voting against) on an interim compromise for 18 months only of the current annual provisions governing mesh sizes, gear types and catch composition, having failed to agree the main framework proposal. This was in the context of the impending entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which would require co-decision with the European Parliament on this aspect of fisheries. An absence of any decision would have left a legal gap on such technical measures from 1 January 2010 given that current measures are in the annual fishing opportunities regulation, which will remain as a council-only decision.

The UK and Ireland worked very hard in bilaterals with the presidency and the Commission to find an acceptable solution. The Commission was inflexible, claiming that the relaxation of the relevant catch composition measures would be detrimental to haddock stocks. The UK asserted that this had no effect on fishing mortality and merely led to increased discarding. Regrettably, the presidency was not able to accept UK and Irish requests and a final compromise was agreed with no concessions offered. Agreement was reached by qualified majority, with the final formal adoption by written procedure by 30 November.
In other words, Britain and Ireland, still the possessors of the richest fishing waters (though not for much longer if the CFP stays in place) were outvoted and achieved nothing. So much for our efforts and influence.

UPDATE: Link at the top has been changed to the correct one.


  1. The whole CFP stinks mightily. Our pettyfogging bureaucrats are simply not fit for purpose. They routinely harass the domestic fisherfolk we have left, and allow particularly Spanish rulebeaking plunder to go utterly unmolested.

    The apparatchicks (Barroso et al) in the commission play for domestic gains - our bunch of blithering boobs have their noses in the bylaws manual while the stocks are being mined rather than harvested.

    I have some connections to fisheries research and can, I believe with a high degree of confidence tell you that the EU fishing monitor program is a complete and utter fraud - where the evidence gathered by the EU employed monitors is routinely discarded and figures dreamt up by the ship owner are substituted with the connivance of EU officials.

    The stink exceeds the smell of rotten fish...............

  2. You do not surprise me, Tom. My work in the past with Save Britain's Fish and the research I did for them confirms what you have said with complete accuracy not just a high degree of confidence. The CFP is another political project and all other considerations get buried.

  3. For my working life I have been a fishmonger. I started life working on the deep water fleet so have some experience of both as well as being a Churchill Fellow studying the North American Fisheries. We have one big problem. Politicians who have continually sold the industry down the drain in pursuit of other EU deals. The largest UK fishing fleet is based in Scotland and yet they have virtually no say in Europe and time and again our ministers fail to perform. Discards are but one problem but quotas are the real nemesis. Insufficient fish landed throughout the year not only effects the profits of the boat owners and skippers, but also the processors, port wholesalers, distribution network and the retailer. Reduced catches increase the distribution costs and drastically increase the cost to the consumer. Why do you think there as so few independant fishmongers around today. It is not because we have all retired to the Bahamas. We just could no longer see a future in the trade. My company was 160 years old. I gave up because I could see no support from our ministers. The cynic might suggest there was no mileage in it for them. There are no companies big enough for corporate boxes at Twickers or Wimbledon, no strawbery teas at Hendon and no helicopter trips to the British Grand Prix. I wonder?