From Socialist Voice, February 2010

Fishing organisations unite to campaign for radical change

Following a meeting in Dublin on 26 January 2010, fishing groups from England, France, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic formed an alliance to campaign for radical changes in current European Union fishing policy.
     That policy has failed to conserve fish stocks. It has caused untold hardship for fishermen and their local communities and industries. It cannot be reformed. The EU maritime member-states must regain control of their own waters rather than the competence for fisheries remaining with Brussels.
     That has not worked. It has been proved to be ineffective and inadequate in the conservation and management of fish resources. It has resulted in bankruptcies, the uprooting of individuals and families, and the destruction of thriving communities with centuries-old cultural traditions and communal lives.
     Roddy McColl of Aberdeen, secretary of the Fishermen’s Association, warned that “while the current EU review of the Common Fisheries Policy pays lip service to principles of ‘stakeholder involvement,’ ‘decentralisation,’ and ‘involving fishermen directly in policy making so that decisions are made closer to the people they affect,’” the fine words are “nothing more than a smokescreen for an ever-developing European Union which wishes to control every aspect of fishing activity.
     “The reality is that the European Union’s strategic aim is the creation of an EU fleet and the elimination of the fishing fleets of the member-states.”
     Caitlín Uí Aodha, secretary of the Irish Fishermen’s Organisation, reminded participants that two years ago the EU Court of Auditors had characterised the EU fisheries industry as “suffering from economic fragility resulting from over-investment, rapidly rising costs, and a shrinking resource base, reflected in poor profitability and steadily declining employment.” What was being described was “a social and economic crisis of gigantic proportions for coastal communities.” This had been deliberately brought about as part of the EU grand plan.
     The common fisheries policy is equal access to the common resource, not the management regime (the “transitional derogation”) introduced in 1983, under which the discriminatory principle of “relative stability” was introduced in the allocation of fish quotas to member-states.
     There is only one way forward for the development and protection of fishermen and the people who depend on the sea, and that is by getting control back to national governments.
     Olivier Leprêtre, president of the Picardie and Pas de Calais Fishermen’s Organisation in the north of France, said there must be a united campaign to halt the economic and social decline suffered by fishing communities.
     The groups agreed that the three priority issues in the next few months would be:
     1. To prepare a detailed set of policy proposals on the price and market structure of the industry.
     2. To campaign against the introduction of “internationally transferable quotas,” as these would lead to the excessive concentration of ownership, with disastrous consequences for smaller-scale fisheries and coastal communities.
     3. To advance the case for a rational and scientifically coherent balance between the objectives of sustainable economic, environmental and social priorities in fishing policy and management. These issues will be addressed from the general viewpoint of the need
     (1) to halt the centralising process that has characterised EU fisheries policy through the real CFP of equal access to the resource, with exclusive competence for all marine resources being with Brussels, and
     (2) to initiate the process immediately of repatriating the control of policy, management and stocks to individual maritime member-states.
     Dealing with the symptoms alone has no value whatever. We must eradicate the real origins of this terrible disaster that has befallen our fishermen, our fishing grounds, our fishing rights, and our fish stocks.

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