A new report has found that Britain is the country most responsible for overfishing in its territorial waters despite it being bound by the Common Fisheries Policy which sets annual quotas.
The report by the New Foundation said that UK fisheries ministers “squander the economic potential of our seas by consistently fishing over and above the limits recommended by scientists,” according to The Times.
Quotas for fishermen from across the EU are decided by fisheries ministers in Brussels. They have to negotiate for a large enough ‘Total Allowable Catch’ to keep what remains of the UK fishing industry afloat while not plundering the UK’s territorial waters. The discussions of the meetings are kept secret, with only the findings being made public.
And up until the CFP was finally reformed, the TAC resulted in millions of tonnes of dead fish being thrown overboard after being caught as the European Commission had failed to understand that the ‘discards’ would be dead after they had been caught and brought on board.
According to the report’s authors, food for an additional 160 million EU citizens and an extra €3.2 billion in annual revenue could be made if ministers paid more attention to scientific advice, which would result in stocks being allowed to return to their maximum sustainable yield (MSY). It says that if this happened, 100,000 jobs across the EU could be created.
But the findings ignore the devastation the Common Fisheries Policy has brought to the UK’s fishing industry; once thriving and now on its knees. Sometimes British fishermen can only stand on the shore and watch, their quotas reached, as trawlers from other countries catch fish in UK territorial waters.
“Every year fisheries ministers have an opportunity to unlock this potential when they agree how much fish should be caught in EU waters,” the report says. “Scientific bodies like the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) provide provide information about the state of most stocks and recommend maximum catch levels.
“The UK, France and Denmark top the ranking of EU overfishing states in Northern European waters because they have the highest share of stocks that will be fished above scientific advice. For example, UK will fish 34,453 tonnes of mackerel; France 7,118 tonnes of blue whiting; and Denmark 17,710 tonnes of sprat, all in excess of scientific advice.”
Statistics included in the findings say that between 1987 and 2011, Total Allowable Catches were set higher than scientific advice in an average of 68 per cent of decisions for 31 out of the total 69 categories of fish stocks. And it says there are few signs that the reformed CFP has led to any real chance, with TAC for the Baltic Sea and deep waters in 2015 also set above the recommended levels of scientists.
But the report was questioned by UKIP Fisheries spokesman Ray Finch MEP who said that it failed to take into account the bartering which has to take place as member states territorial waters became property of the European Union.
“British waters are indeed overfished but once we leave the CFP and gain control of our own fish stocks we will be able to make decisions based on the best interests of Britain, our fishing industry and our fish stocks.
“The CFP has been one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern times and the responsibility for that should be laid firmly at the feet of Brussels Bureaucrats greedy to allow overfishing and weak British ministers.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The UK government enters annual negotiations [with the EU] with the firm belief that any decisions need to deliver a thriving fishing industry, sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment. We listen to the best available scientific advice to achieve this.”