The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing – Booklet still available

Readers who appreciated John Ashworth’s excellent series of articles on the Common Fisheries Policy will be delighted to know that the eight pieces he wrote for this website have been edited into a single booklet, which is now available free of charge (although any contributions would be greatly welcomed).

If you live in near a fishing port, it will be a particularly useful booklet to distribute, but even if you don’t, what has happened to our fishing industry is not a one-off story, atypical of European Union behaviour. This well-researched and hard-hitting account of the destruction of our fishing fleet by government ministers and civil servants epitomises everything that has been wrong with our membership of the EU and provides a very powerful reason as to why we must leave the EU.

Even with the referendum vote behind us, this booklet is still well worth a read and copies are still available.

Please contact us by e-mail or by ringing 0845 519 7254 if you wish to order copies.

A pdf download is now available here.

The Common Fisheries Policy Part 8: Can we believe anything?

One theme that runs through the UK’s 43-year involvement with the EEC/EU is that our politicians –  supported by the Civil Servants – have done everything in their power to keep the UK locked into the Common Fisheries Policy and indeed, to the EU as a whole. There have been constant assurances and promises everything was being done for UK fishermen and the future was guaranteed to be better. There were glowing expectations of what reform would bring.

Yet the opposite has happened. These empty promises merely kept the UK locked into a system which progressively strangled our industry and the fishing communities. Constantly a light of hope and change for the better appeared to be shining at the end of the long tunnel but as you got nearer, the light disappeared further away into another tunnel so as to continue the flow of implementing integration – as commanded in the Treaties – often by stealth. An EU Common policy has one destination, a Union fishing fleet in Union waters.

Fisheries provides a true life and particularly graphic example of what our own people have done and will do to betray their own. But for what? This question has never been answered. We are currently watching the same picture unfolding with Prime Minister Cameron’s renegotiation package. It will be presented as a light at the end of the tunnel – the final solution that will enable the UK to be in Europe but not run by Europe. “Come with me and I will give you back your country”, says Mr. Cameron. Oh really??

Just to recap what the salient features of the Common Fisheries Policy actually are:-

Equal access: All waters of the member states, up to the shore (base) line is shared equally with every other member state. Apart from during the early 1970s, you never heard the equal access principle mentioned, even though it was created at the very start of the Common Fisheries project – as far back as 1970.
To a common resource: All living marine life is a common resource.
Without discrimination: One of the main principles of the EU membership which our Prime Minister does not want to understand.
Without increasing fishing effort: So if a new member has large capacity and little resource, that capacity has to be absorbed with no increase in catching more which means someone has to go.

On January 1st 1973, Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined the EEC, and in their terms of membership was a 10-year derogation (an exemption from equal access) for the coastal state to retain the 6 mile and partial 6 to 12 mile limit. This concession was more valuable to Britain than any other member state.

The first derogation ran out on 31st December 1982, and a new derogation was put in place, once again of 10 years’ duration, from the 1st January 1983 to 31st. December 1992, and thereafter every 10 years, the present one expiring 31st December 2022. We are constantly told Britain is at the forefront of fisheries regulation. Oh yes! We are briefly when the threat of losing the derogation for the 6 and partial 6-12 limits hangs over us, but this is not exactly a strong negotiating position.

The Fisheries Minister for 1982/3 was Peter Walker, who called that session “The CFP”. You will often find officials stating the CFP started in 1983, but it didn’t. It was merely another derogation from the CFP. He also stated “the Commission made an unequivocal statement as to the right and obligation of all member States, in the unique circumstances of fisheries, to protect this vital resource, and the Commissioner stated that this would apply to all of the proposals on conservation, access and quotas.

Of course they would say that; it was an obligation written into our Accession Treaty. Walker went on to say: “No concessions of any description will be made by the United Kingdom Government that affect the United Kingdom fishing industry.” He had obviously taken no notice of other part of of our Accession Treaty, yet a month later in January 1983 he stated: “The reality is that if the United Kingdom, instead of demanding anything like the historic proportion of Europe’s fish that it had caught, demanded a 200-mile limit and 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of Europe’s fish, that would mean the massive destruction of the fishing industries of most of our friends and partners in western Europe.

Is that why we joined the EU? To sacrifice our fishermen and indeed our country on the altar of the EU?

Ten years later, when the 1992/3 agreement was being negotiated, the then Fisheries Minister David Curry stated that, “The measures form a package that secures the industry’s future and that of the fishermen. The policy is based on conservation and common sense.” What  conservation? Answer: the conservation of too many vessels chasing too few fish. Hardly “common sense” as the term is normally understood!

At the same time Sir Hector Munro, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, “I go to Brussels next week; we shall do our best to help the fishing industry in the United Kingdom. Fishermen must understand our difficulty and understand that we cannot concede more fish than conservation will permit”.

Precisely so. We are tied by the Treaties which our own people don’t acknowledge, but everything is building up to use the beneficial crises of conservation to get rid of the British fleet.

On to 2002/3 and another period called “reform of the CFP”. Alun Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs stated that “One of the Government’s aims for reform of the common fisheries policy is the encouragement of sustainable fishing. UK and EU funding is available to encourage fishermen to adopt selective catching methods.” By now it was a bit late to save the British fleet. Encouraging the use of selective gear should have been started 15 years previously, but the mission of integration had to come first.

The 2012/3 period was called the “New CFP”. Admittedly every 10 years the package gets bigger and more complicated, but the management regulation still contains equal access and the time-limited derogation for the 6- and partial 6 to 12-mile limit. This means on the 31st. December 2022 the whole Fisheries management regulation falls, and the whole negotiation starts again.

One thing that did change in this so called “New CFP” – one word, Community waters/vessels became Union waters/vessels. This was another small step to the eventual final destination to total integration.

So December 2022 will be another battle of pretence. Our Ministers will go to their masters in Brussels and argue for British fishermen, who are really Union fishermen. Meanwhile the only “British waters” are so limited that the fishing of those waters thas now been relegated to a cottage industry which only exists thanks to a derogation within the 6 and partial 6 to 12 mile limits, which the other EU member states are under no obligation to renew.

Or perhaps it may not be like this. We could end this farce once and for all by voting to leave the EU. Indeed, if we do so, by 2022 we could instead be showing the world how, as free people we can manage the marine life to the benefit of mankind and the environment, rather than the driver of politics of subservient people.


The whole purpose of writing these articles is not just to expose the scandal of the CFP but to point out where the blame really lies. Firstly, look at the deception of that frequently-used word “reform.” Anyone using that word must be challenged:- What is actually being reformed and how? As far as the CFP is concrned, the answer is very little. The treaties constrain the scope for reform to little more than tinkering at the edges. Secondly if our government ministers, aided by Whitehall, can be so duplicitous and treacherous in this one area of fisheries, can we really assume that their behaviour with regards the EU has been totally honest in every other area?

The Common Fisheries Policy part 7: FleXcit: Our fisheries’ future.

One cannot expect to cross examine Prime Minister David Cameron on the issues on which he intends to campaign to stay in the EU if the leavers can’t explain what will replace EU membership. Hence the reason for FleXcit, which contains a lengthy section on Fisheries – from page 267 to 280. Dr. Richard North and Owen Paterson MP had already produced a green paper on the subject of Fisheries and this has now been incorporated into FleXcit

Anyone who campaigns in the forthcoming EU referendum, for the “leave” side, cannot just say that Parliament must repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, and hope for the best. That is not good enough. There has to be an orderly and amicable separation, which is not going to be easy. After 43years of integration, it is going to be a major challenge. However, as far as fisheries are concerned, it is no good scrapping one régime in order to establish another equally bad system. Withdrawal presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to show what can be achieved in an area that contains one of the finest marine resources in the world.

The North/Paterson green paper, now part of the overall Fisheries FleXcit plan, is excellent. It is the most exciting prospect for marine management, and for someone like myself who has worked on fishing vessels in many parts of the world, and has been heavily involved in conservation, I know the potential is staggering.

As far as the UK is concerned, the fundamental principle on which a policy should rest is that the fish and other sea creatures within the UK’s fishing zone of 200 mile/median line are the property of the nation as a whole. Custody of that resource lies with the central and devolved governments.

The first priority, therefore, is that control/competence is returned back to Britain. The overall Fishing Industry, while appearing as one, is made of several different groups, often opposing each other. The Industry is as divided now as it was in 1972 when the British Trawler Federation supported the “equal access” principle because they mistakenly thought they would gain access to Norwegian and Icelandic waters.

An inshore industry could be built around the 0 -12 mile limit, which would have a beneficial effect on coastal communities through tourism, recreational fishing, employment and other ancillary industries. All could be administered locally. The offshore Industry would be based on the 12 to 200 mile/median line, and then you have the straddling stocks and reciprocal arrangements, which brings genuine friendship between fishermen of different nations. When other nation’s vessels fish in our waters they would do so under our rules.

Devolved Fisheries Management Authorities (known as FMAs) could be set up. There would be two types: inshore (As far out as the 12 mile limit); and offshore (from 12 to 200 miles or up to the median line). Each would have a small executive board, responsible for policy-making, a consultative council and an executive arm responsible for administration. There would also be an agency, responsible for monitoring and carrying out enforcement action. Members would be appointed independently of the Secretary of State, and inshore boards would be appointed by the local authorities in the relevant maritime areas.

FleXcit’s fisheries proposals are based on the concept of “Days at Sea”. The advantage of this is that there is no reason to cheat. If you are a good fisherman, you will do well whereas a poor fisherman will not survive.

By contrast, the CFP is based on the political tool of quota – it has to be because of the integration process and equal access principle. It encourages cheating and dumping of non-quota catches either on shore or at sea. It is a rigid system trying to impose its will on a fluid and rapidly changing conditions.

Two essential features are needed for a viable fisheries policy. The first is the ability to be able rapidly to close areas down where juvenile fish are abundant. This has to be done within hours, even if the closure period may only last for a day or two. This ability to react quickly will never happen while our waters are under the control of Brussels control. The other important feature of any contemporary fisheries management is the use of selective gear, As a fishing gear designer I need to emphasise that the gear you design for one area is not the same for another area. Even if you are catching the same species, you need to make slight alterations to the gear. This level of adaption is impossible under the policy imposed by Brussels where one set of rules must fit the whole of a large area.

You must have fishermen on side to make this work, but again, under the North/Paterson proposals, this is far more likely than under the current EU- controlled regime. The attitude it has engendered is that if I don’t catch it, some other foreigner, even though it is another EU citizen, will get it, so I will get in first.
With selective gear, as long as the Minimum Landing Size (i.e., below which you are not allowed to sell) is above the breeding size, you can’t overfish, because you are culling the top of the pyramid. If there are no fish of that size, the fisherman will have no catch to sell, and will go out of business, but that is market forces at work, not overfishing.

Personally, I am strongly in favour of the model used by the Faeroe Islanders which operates in a diametrically opposite way to the EU system of setting for each species a total allowable catch on an annual basis, often based on dubious research. In my view it is no good working from the top of the pyramid downwards. Research should be directed at the base of the pyramid upwards; starting with the food source. Once you know the availability here, you can calculate what can be sustained at the top. If for example you have a collapse of the base, you have to fish the top hard, the very opposite to what would happen now.

To explain what I mean, this would be like a situation where a famine is taking place somewhere in the world and another million people are sent to that area to live there. If you don’t have the flexibility to enable fishermen to catch more adult fish, they will simply eat their young. This is exactly what happened in Norway when they destroyed their sand-eel stock. The adults took longer to grow and the fish that survived ate their young, destroying the next generation.. Sometimes one species will increase dramatically, and they have to be fished harder to restore the balance. You can only do this with a system as proposed under FleXcit, not the rigidity of Brussels.

Another area that is totally unfair is that fishermen have come under criminal law, which puts them on a par with drug dealers, thugs and thieves. This is not the way to get maximum co-operation out of those who harvest the sea, for which any successful fisheries régime requires maximum data being collected from the fishing industry. The best penalty for offences is to dock days at sea, and if the operator continues to offend, to take their fishing license away.

Leaving the EU per se is no solution in itself. It is only the beginning. Every badly-designed EU policy will require individual replacement with something better. And fisheries provided a useful example of exactly how a bad policy can be replaced by something better. Largely self-contained in policy terms, it makes an excellent test bed for policy development as well as illustrating the complexity of the repatriation process.

There is no question that it poses a challenge but at the same time the opportunity to do far better – to harvest nature’s gift free of political interference – cannot be ignored. Ranged against us are those who don’t want the Nation State, and those reformists who either don’t understand the workings of the EU, or else who have a hidden agenda. If they really believed in reform, they would want to get rid of the principle of equal access to a common resource without discrimination. However, such reform is impossible because of the thinking behind the EU Common fisheries policy, which is incapable of beneficial reform along the lines suggested here as it violates the very principles of integration enshrined in the EU treaties which it was designed to promote. Unfortunately, so-called reformists never acknowledge this harsh reality.

The Common Fisheries Policy part 6: The public swallowed the propaganda

Our British political representatives continually assured everyone things would be okay for British fishermen, with the huge Spanish fishing fleet becoming into the “community fleet”. They gave assurances that all would be well when the first ten-year derogation ran out, just asthey did in the 1970s and just as is presently happening regarding the forthcoming derogation termination in 2022.

These same people had a problem:- knowing full well that the execution of British fishermen had to take place, but having to do it without the British people knowing.

Looking back in hindsight, we, the fishing Industry, provided the answer for them.

In the second half of the 1980s, and into the 1990s two situations were happening: large amounts of juvenile fish were being dumped dead back into the sea, and the sand eel stocks, which play a crucial role in the food chain, were being hammered.

The industry highlighted these problems, and through some brilliant research by the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen, groundbreaking information was provided on how, by changes ot the gear design, the small fish would not be caught.

Our own Ministry firstly denied either of the events were taking place then secondly went into silent mode, appearing to want to take no action. At that time we did not appreciate why.

One area where the EU excels is if they have a problem, sometimes a crisis ensues which they can use to solve the problem and  at the same time further the integration process. This is called a beneficial crisis.

Here, we had unwittingly solved their problem. By allowing the slaughter of juvenile fish to continue, encouraging the wiping out of the sand eel stock by issuing massive uncatchable quotas, what will happen is that fish stocks will plummet. Exactly the same thing had happened in Norway a few years previously, so they knew it was going to happen.

The next thing was that the cry of “too many vessels chasing too few fish” was heard. Various means of encouragement were given to British fishermen to get out – decommissioning, and giving or selling our quota to Spain and everyone in the UK thought this was to safeguard the environment. On the contrary, I maintain this was a deliberate act to bring about the treaty obligations without anyone in the UK realising the trickery and deception that had taken place. It was a very convenient beneficial crisis that came at the right time. It was concealed within the claim that too many vessels chasing too few fish without the British public knowing the skullduggery and real reason why fish stocks were plummeting.

The mass destruction of the British fleet took place and the British people thought it was all about conservation. The EU, ably assisted by our own Ministry, had won a great propaganda coup, Spain has been integrated as per her rights as part of the community fleet in community waters. The concept of national fleets and natonal waters were being eradicated and the public were none the wiser. Mission accomplished.

This deptiction of events will, of course, be denied, but it is not strange that once the British fleet was scrapped, the sand eel situation was acknowledged, other measures were introduced, and stocks started to improve? All accomplished by the British against the British. This is why I call it evil. How otherwise could you have got rid of the British fleet without a public outcry if stocks had been healthy?

Three decades ago, the divers of the Marine Laboratory, had made themselves a simple but very effective underwater vehicle which was towed and which allowed them to observe the escape behavioural pattern of certain species. This opened up the possibility of designing selective fishing gear. For example Haddock, on trying to escape, go upwards and backwards, cod go downwards and try and escape underneath, so you can start to design fishing gear with escape panels. Once again, it was typical that much of this work was commenced by the British but never advanced because it was not in the interest of EU Treaties where politics of integration come first. Our bright ideas were then developed further by other countries.

Where the escape areas were noted, panels of different mesh shape and size can be inserted. This was blocked during the process of the British fleet’s destruction, but is now happening. If you look at fish netting, it is what we call diamond mesh. When you pull the strain across two opposite points of the diamond mesh it works in a scissor action which makes the whole trawl very strong and flexible. For escaping round fish this can be a problem. The fish, by pushing into the mesh, opens it, wriggles though. The mesh then closes just as the fish flick its tail to get away, taking scales off the tail area where it then gets an infection and in turns dies. Therefore the area of escape, a window of square mesh is inserted, but because this mesh is a lot weaker and distorts easily, it has to be specially made. Unlike diamond mesh, the escape opening size stays constant.

This is a start, but not the full solution. In Canada they have had good success with grids set at an angle inside the narrow end of the trawl.

It is possible to design fishing gear to take the species and size you require, leaving everything intact alive at the sea bed. It is no good carrying out separation near the sea surface, because with fish that have swim bladders, being hauled up through the pressure zones ruptures their bladder.

Even through very slow progress is being made within the CFP and regionalisation is becoming a possibility, there are far too many serious flaws within the system for it to be ever a success. Common European Union policies are political; they are cumbersome, bureaucratic, one-policy-fits-all, a rigid structure, slow to respond, and above all to create full integration.

Marine life simply doesn’t respond to that system. In the sea, life is fast, furious, and cruel. Those supporters of the CFP repeatedly claim that “you need a CFP because fish know no boundaries”. True they don’t, but they have other boundaries. It is not rocket science. Marine life revolves around the environment; water temperature is critical. Squid, for example, will move for half a degree temperature change. The food chain is a must. Down in the sea, everything gobbles up everything else up. It is a vicious world down there. What is so important is to look after the base of the pyramid of life. If the base is destroyed, as happened with sand-eels, you can’t expect much at the top.

So different species will move for food and temperature. Thirty years ago there was a huge outcry about “overfishing” when the cod left the Grand Banks, Newfoundland. It was not overfishing. The water became to cold and the cod moved eastwards across the North Atlantic, and as the cod were no longer on the Banks, eating up other species, the amount of crab and shrimp multiplied dramatically.

So if you are trying to control fisherman, as they are presently, restricting them to a given area, in a given time frame, for a given species, of a given quantity, you are in deep trouble, and you end up destroying more than you market.

Because, unlike agriculture which has fences, keeping farm animals where you want them, in the sea, excluding fish farming, the wild marine stock are free to go where they please. As one species move out another moves in. Presently you might have quota for one, not the other. Result, discarding marketable fish.

It is not just the commercial fisherman that has to be considered, but also the huge potential of recreational fisherman.

So the drive for a Common Policy, destroys the environment, jobs and communities. It is a disaster and it is not creating a united European people, but the very opposite – Nationalism. How do you think the residents of Peterhead feel, when after being Britain’s premier fishing port 20 years ago, has become desolate with empty shops and a harbour with hardly any Scottish vessels, and yet money is being spent to deepen the harbour to accommodate Spanish and French vessels as a transit point?

In part 7 we look at the FleXcit plan for Fisheries.

The Common Fisheries Policy Part 5: Spanish Accession

When the original six member states produced the fisheries regulation in 1970 that created the Common Fisheries Policy, they must have thought they had a winner. Not only did they think they would do well out of the policy, but it was what the founding fathers wanted, creating community waters and in due course a community fleet. It was the start of the eradication of the Nation State. At that period of time it was already acknowledged a 200 mile/median line fishing zone was coming, as it did by 1976 through an Act of Parliament.

The big disappointment for the then EEC was the rejection of membership by the Norwegian people, who if they had joined, would have contributed a healthy large marine resource with not so much fishing capacity. Also if Norway had joined in due course, so might Iceland. The problem for Norway was fisheries, as it is for Iceland.

When the preparation was taking place for the management system to be put in place after the first ten- year derogation ran out, often mistakenly called the CFP, it was established that Spain, whose application was filed in 1977, would join. Indeed, along with Portugal it did join in 1986, bringing a massive fishing capacity with little resource, tipping the capacity to resource ratio the wrong way.Things were further complicated by Greenland leaving the then EEC in 1985, another loss of resource and again, because of fishing.

Britain tried to secure a 50 mile exclusive fishing zone, and later attempted to seek a higher percentage share of the quota, but the other Member States said, “no, go and read the Treaties” – something the British are not good at.

The Accession of Spain and Portugal sailed through our Parliament during 1985, without hardly any questions being asked, with both Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons and the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth office in the Lords, Baroness Young saying the same thing, namely:-

“Fisheries was one of the most difficult issues to be negotiated and among the last to be settled. The Spanish fleet is presently the fifth largest in the world. After Spain’s accession, the Community fleet as a whole will be the world’s second largest. It was therefore essential in the negotiations to protect limited stocks and maintain the balance of existing fishing opportunities under the Common Fisheries Policy, only so recently agreed. The outcome was broadly satisfactory. Spain and Portugal are incorporated into the common fisheries policy for its duration. But, with certain limited exceptions, Spanish and Portuguese access to EC waters is limited to those areas and species to which they currently have access. The number of Spanish and Portuguese vessels fishing in EC waters will continue to be strictly controlled and subject to strict reporting and monitoring requirements. The arrangements thus do not affect the effective fishing opportunities of United Kingdom fishermen.”

This statement was taken at face value and not challenged. It was, in the long term, totally wrong, even if in the short term it was correct, but when the transitional arrangements ran out, Spain would get her rights as stated in her Accession Treaty to which Britain had previously agreed. When a new member brings in massive capacity, with little resource, it is going to cause tremendous problems, and as it is clearly stated there can be no increase in fishing effort in Community waters, such a combination can only mean one thing, as Ruth Albuquerque clearly said in Shetland, some fishermen had to go to make room – British ones.

The truth did not come out, until a decade later, when the then MP for Ludlow, Christopher Gill asked in November 1995 a parliamentary written question: “Does the percentage share-out allocated to each member state of the EU for each of the fish stocks concerned vary when a new member state is fully integrated into the CFP?”

The answer came back from Fisheries Minister Tony Baldry, a month after his mauling by Tom Hay in the Carlton Club, He said he would write to the Hon. Member and thankfully the answer was printed in Fishing News in December 1995:-

“Member states percentage do indeed vary in those stocks which are affected by the accession of new member states and that it is true to say that the UK’s quotas as a proportion of total community quota decreased when Spanish quota were added to the community total.”

Yet a few months previously, in September 1995, newly appointed Scottish Fisheries Minister Raymond Robertson, had been lambasting the SBF campaign, saying leaving the CFP is wrong, what we want is reform of the fisheries policy and reform of the CFP will really happen.

Genuine reform can only be implemented by unanimous agreement. Meanwhile, the integration process rolls onwards and the obliteration of the British fishing fleet continues, in a most devious manner.

The deviousness all came from the British side; none of it was Spain’s fault or responsibility. The situation and procedure were laid down in the Spanish and Portuguese Accession Treaties and the relevant Regulations. Admittedly. these are not the easiest documents to follow, but everything is there. Sadly throughout our association with the EEC/EU, it has been British officials and politicians who have not told the truth, but rather, peddlied deception.

William Hague, the first of three consecutive Conservative Leaders who endorsed the policy of National control of Fisheries, finished his October 1999 conference speech by stating:-

“And so I say to the people of Britain: if you believe that our country is unique in the world but is in danger of losing its identity; if you believe that Britain is a place where you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, but now you are penalised for it; if you believe in Britain as a healthy democracy, but that the standards of democracy are now being tarnished and diminished; if you believe in Britain as a country where the law is enforced and respected, but that now it is not respected enough; if you believe in Britain as a country that will work with its neighbours but never submit to being governed by anyone else; if you believe in an independent Britain. Then come with me, and I will give you back your country.”

This is the same William Hague who has recently (December 2015) said he would vote to stay in the EU, and this now explains why he would never say exactly how he would implement National control. What he said, and what he intended doing were opposites.

Even now the present Westminster Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP states he is a “strong eurosceptic”, who is pleased with his Ministry’s so called “CFP reform”. yet he happily hands the British people’s resource to an outside source – the European Union, He is another minister who doesn’t understand what the CFP is and muddles it up with a political management system, which he is promoting. He is actually proud of it and its target of achieving full integration. Is this former UKIP member a Eurosceptic ? I think not; rather another Hague.

With this historic record of deception by senior politicians and Civil Servants how can you trust anything Cameron, his associates or the Civil Servants will tell us over the next 20 months? If this tale of betrayal has not been bad enough, the next stage in the project to get rid of the British fleet without the British public understanding what was happening was pure evil.

This will be revealed in Part 6.

The Common Fisheries Policy – Part 4