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Old 02.08.2016, 22:28
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Re: The Brexit referendum thread: potential consequences for GB, EU and the Brits in

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“By the 2020 election if we haven’t got back our territorial fishing waters...." Today the UK only possesses 13% of the EU’s total sea area, but is allocated 30% of the EU’s current fish quotas; seems only likely to end in tears?
It isn't as simple as just the quotas. Under EU regulations, vessels from anywhere in the EU can register in the UK and then fish the UK waters, taking the catch back to their own country. British registered trawlers from France, Belgium and Holland are often seen fishing off the South coast of England.

Another problem is the distribution of the quotas. The large corporate owners have a far greater share of the quotas, leaving the small independent owners struggling with ridiculously low quotas

This is a reply I got from one of the local Labour MEPs when I reported boats fishing off Hastings

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Thank you for your e-mail highlighting your concerns about EU vessels fishing off the coast of Hastings.

I can understand your concerns about Dutch vessels in British waters, particularly around the coast of Hastings. As you have rightly pointed out, Hastings has a small fleet of fishing vessels, which are very important to the local economy. The Hastings’ fishing vessels were the first in the world to gain the Marine Stewardship Council’s internationally recognised eco-label, which is fast becoming the badge of sustainability for its sole, mackerel and herring fishing, and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that fishing in Hastings benefits the people of Hastings, and the local economy.

However, whilst I do not know the exact circumstances of the Dutch vessels, it sounds likely that despite their previous history, they are not doing anything illegal.

This is due to the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU. The Common Fisheries Policy, adopted in 1983, was imposed in order to ensure that declining fish stocks are exploited responsibly. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, EU member state vessels have a regime of equal access from all member states in the EU’s exclusive fishing zone. This is due to the view that fish are a natural and mobile resource, and they do not adhere to national boundaries. This is stipulated to be 200 nautical miles from its coastline. EU member states have a 12 mile zone around their own coastline within which their own fishing vessels have their own exclusive rights.

The UK Government have also previously shared your concerns following the registration of foreign vessels as British. This can be seen with the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which introduced the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Fishing Vessels) Regulations. In these regulations, a vessel could only be registered as British if it had a ‘genuine and substantial connection’ with the UK. For this to be the case, three conditions had to be fulfilled: (i) the vessel must be British-owned, (ii) the vessel had to be managed and its operations had to be directed and controlled from the UK, and (iii) any charterer, manager or operator had to be a qualified person or company. A ‘qualified person or company’ was a person who was a British citizen resident and domiciled in the UK or a company which was incorporated in the UK and had its principal place of business there having at least 75% of its shares owned by, and at least 75% of its directors being, ‘qualified persons.’

However, this statute was challenged by Factortame Limited, a Spanish fishing company. Previously able to register their vessels under the old legislation, under the stipulations of the new Merchant Shipping Act in 1988, they would have been unable to re-register. As such, they launched a preliminary injunction, where they stated that the offending part of the 1988 Act could not be applied to them on the grounds that such application would be contrary to directly effective rights under EU law. These rights included the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality, the right of individuals and companies to establish themselves in business anywhere in the EU, and the right to participate in the capital of companies situated in another Member State.

As you can imagine, this was a very contentious issue, and the UK Government disagreed. As such, this case was taken through the British judicial system, from the High Court, to the Court of Appeal, and to the then House of Lords, and eventually, to the European Court of Justice. The ultimate ruling of this case was that where national law directly conflicts with an EU law, the law of the EU will ultimately prevail.

For local economies like Hastings, it is important to ensure that these fisheries are sustainable, but most of all, profitable. The MSC accreditation has ensured that consumers have started to recognise the logo, and buy the local sustainable fish sold by the local traders. This is particularly true of the local restaurant and hospitality industries.

As part of a team of Labour MEPs, I have been working to reform The Common Fisheries Policy. Whilst it has laudable aims of trying to ensure sustainability by protecting fish, and protecting fisherman, the Common Fisheries Policy does have its flaws.

In 2014, we voting overwhelmingly in favour of far-reaching reforms aimed at saving our dwindling fish stocks. There were a whole host of reforms made to the Common Fisheries Policy, including removing the policy of ‘discarding.’ This removed the requirement to throw fish, often dead, back into the sea, as they did not fulfil EU size regulations. There is now going to be increased regionalisation as to EU fisheries policies, allowing Member States to tailor fisheries management to local conditions. Member States will be given the facility to submit joint recommendations to the Commission on how obligations will be met within shared regions. The EU are also attempting to deal with the overcapacity of the fleet, as the capacity of the EU fleet to catch fish exceeds the number of fish available to be caught. Member States will now be required to report annually to the Commission, describing the capacity of their fleets set against the fishing opportunities available. This should help to safeguard places like Hastings against overfishing by huge vessels.

These reforms will be hugely beneficial for the fish, but also for places like Hastings. Jobs in the fishing industry have been in sharp decline, but allowing fish stocks to fully recover by 2020 is expected to lead to a 30% increase in jobs for fishermen by 2022.

Anneliese Dodds MEP
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Last edited by Deep Purple; 02.08.2016 at 22:44. Reason: Added email from MEP
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