The Fishy Business of Brexit

fishing-boat-1281272_960_720Before you start to feel bad for the fishermen (fisherpeople?) on the Thames, here are some facts:

1) Quotas are important. If we fish all the fish, there are no more fish. The fishing industry has been utterly unable to regulate itself. EU quotas have led to the glacially slow recovery of managed stocks, because the quotas are higher than scientists advise. We need lower quotas combined with no-take zones, otherwise there will be no industry at all. Furthermore, UK quotas are divided among UK fishermen by the UK government so if one individual boat loses out it’s not necessarily the EU’s fault.

2) Three large companies own 61% of all fishing quotas. This isn’t about Michael Gove’s father alone on a tiny boat in a stormy sea. This is an industry monopolised by millionaires who are fighting regulation, just like all other industries. Viewed in that light it is completely unsurprising that “Big Fish” has joined Farage, alongside his banker allies.

3) Fishing rights to certain waters are set based on historic use. The fisheries industry does not want that to change because British boats are in loads of places that definitely aren’t British.

I know emotive stories about these poor Scots in their woolly jumpers and orange hats are relatable, but (as always) it is more complicated than that. It is completely understandable that they are unhappy: the history of their industry has generated a lot of jobs that simply cannot be supported through sustainable fisheries. It seems that the fishermen think Brexit would lead to higher quotas. Someday quotas might increase, but only if ecosystem-based management leads to increases in stocks that can support higher quotas, and that is the point of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

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One thought on “The Fishy Business of Brexit

  1. I whole heartedly share your position wrt referendum.

    But a Small bit of pedantry regarding 2). Some 60% of UK quotas are landed in Scotland. The telegraph article interchanges between UK and England, but states the 61% is England landings. Being gracious and assuming there are no landings in Wales or Northern Ireland, this article provides evidence of <25% of landings are by monopolies.

    To my knowledge the situation in Scotland is one of individual skippers as opposed to big business, so to my understanding, this is about people like Gove's father. I think it is misleading to tend to " big-fisher" arguments.

    As a final comment, the situation is great thanks to EU quotas which are heavily influenced by UK (Scotland) scientific evidence. The UK is responsible for the management of over 30% EU waters, so we have a heck of a lot of clout which has led to most stocks now fished sustainably (http://goo.gl/r9bk7Z) and employment remains steady in the fleet (e.g. http://goo.gl/2tdtXD).

    Good to see this being raised.

    Take a peak at http://theconversation.com/fact-check-is-80-of-uk-fish-given-away-to-the-rest-of-europe-39966

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