European Union countries will be guilty of vengeful behaviour if they pile pressure on UK fishermen as a result of Brexit at the annual December Council.
Scottish fishermen’s leaders warn today that with a fisheries agreement to be negotiated as part of the final exit settlement, it is not in the interests of the EU-27 to adopt hardline positions in the talks.
There is already considerable anger over the EU’s decision to roll over an arrangement with Faroe that allows its vessels to catch a third of their mackerel quota in UK waters despite having promised to carry out a review.
Further concerns relate to the EU’s insistence on achieving conflicting priorities such as completing the roll out of the discard ban without addressing the problem of choke species at the same time as proposing significant reductions in quota for key stocks.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation today launches its first ever annual SFF State of Industry Report (click on the link to view), which highlights the industry’s rationale for exiting the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and provides clarity on a series of issues within the industry.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive, said: “We are getting close to the point where Britain leaves the EU, and this will be the last December Fisheries Council that we attend before we begin the transition to coastal state in our own right.
“Sensible management of fish stocks is extremely difficult when you are facing the double whammy of (i) an unworkable discard ban that takes little account of the mixed fishery in Scottish waters and therefore the issue of choke species and (ii) significant cuts to key stocks such as cod and haddock that will exacerbate this problem.
“If further evidence were required that the CFP is a disastrous tool for fisheries management, this is it.
“But given that we have a fisheries agreement to negotiate, it would be utter folly for the EU to try to exact retribution on the UK by further punishing our hard-working fishermen instead of analysing the situation dispassionately and looking for a series of sensible, practical solutions to these problems.”
In his foreword to the Report, Mr Armstrong states: “In order to grasp the very particular reasons why the industry is so firmly opposed to the CFP, which is a sine qua non of EU membership, you first have to go back to 1973 and the UK’s accession.
“A condition of entry was that we pool our richly endowed fishing waters with those of other members. As an internal civil service memo infamously stated, in the broader interests of UK membership the fishermen ‘must be regarded as expendable’.
“Secondly, you have to recognise how galling are the practical consequences of CFP membership. Fully 60 per cent of the catchable fish in UK waters is set aside for vessels from other member states. Our skippers on the fishing grounds rightly argue that a rebalancing of this grossly inequitable division of what should be a national natural resource would provide new jobs and income to their communities.”