Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The last fisherman : who's got their hands on all our fish?

An overhaul of the law that governs fishing in Europe only happens every 10 years, so we need to make sure that this time, it works.
We want a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that supports sustainable fishing, ends discards and puts the health of our seas first.

From TheGuardian

Greenpeace has spent a lot of time lately on wharves, docks, piers and beaches.
The story we're hearing is the same the coast long; the UK's low-impact, small-scale fishing industry is on its last legs.

These fishermen, most of whom are part of the inshore under-10-metre fleet, tend to land high quality fish, using methods that do little or no damage to the local environment.
But they aren't rewarded.
Quite the contrary: despite comprising 77% of the active UK fleet, they have access to only 4% of the country's quota.

So who's got their hands on all our fish? (It's worth remembering they are our indeed our fish; they're a public asset, a common resource).
No one really knows who holds UK quota, but what we do know is that the answer mostly involves those with the most economic clout and ability to throw their weight around.
In a gradual process bordering on privatisation by stealth, the resource of the many has fallen into the hands of a few.

As the long-time Hastings fisherman John Griffin puts it: "It's definitely the 'greener' side of the industry that's suffering.
We're as morally correct as we can be, we don't hide anything and we try to be as green as possible; we're doing our best but we're the ones being pushed out."

Which brings us to an unprecedented alliance between UK fishermen and Greenpeace.
Today we're launching a campaign called Be a Fisherman's Friend, to save the UK's struggling inshore fleet, and thereby protect our fish.
It's a common myth that Greenpeace is anti- fishing; we just want fishing rights to be given to those who fish in the right way.

Most people are aware the system's broken.
In fact railing against the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is a British political ritual, conducted in language as familiar as the Lord's Prayer or the football results.

So well-worn is this tale that it's rare for anyone to even question its basic veracity, or to ask why, if it's so broken, successive fishing ministers have done so little to fix it? Yet if we cannot find an answer to this question, we will continue to be hamstrung by a policy that's trashing our oceans and failing our fishermen.

A reform of the CFP, currently underway in Brussels, provides a once-in-a decade opportunity to alter things so that the system rewards those fishing sustainably.

But let's go back. How did we get to the point where EU fisheries policy allows a tiny number of high-impact operators to dominate how we manage our oceans and fish stocks, despite their fishing methods being so destructive?

"Efficiencies" in fishing have been progressing at the rate of around 3% a year for decades. Ever-more powerful boats go further and faster, with ruthless and indiscriminate fishing methods, hunting down fish in hundreds of miles of ocean using sophisticated sonar systems.

The inevitable result is that fish stocks decline: 72 % of European fish stocks are now depleted.
If we continue to fish as we are, 91% of European fish stocks will be at unsustainable levels within the next decade.

In response to the problem of "over-capacity" [read: too many factory-style boats catching too many fish], boats have had to be forcibly removed from the industry.
And because the more "efficient" boats and skippers make the most money, they're often the ones who remain in the game while others are forced to leave.
Fishing rights, money and influence have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a relatively few individuals and businesses, who in turn act as a powerful and entrenched lobby for the kind of industrial scale fishing practices that maximise profit at the expense of local employment and the local environment.

In the UK, this process has been exacerbated by successive governments' chronic mismanagement of the national quota allocation, which is what's left the inshore fleet with access to only 4% of quota.

The UK government has also allowed those who control the lion's share of the quota to treat it as a tradable commodity.
Unused quota is leased out at exorbitant prices, maximising profits for the quota "owner" at the expense of ordinary fishermen in coastal towns up and down the country.
We're on our way to fishing rights being traded like subprime mortgages.

Evidence shows that those who fish selectively and with least environmental impact offer the greatest benefits to the economy.
One recent analysis estimated that for every tonne of cod landed, trawlers delivered negative economic value ranging from -£116 for the smallest trawlers to almost -£2,000 for the largest. Gillnets (a lower impact fishing method) in contrast generated a net +£865 of value.
Yet between 2006 – 2008, trawlers landed almost 6,000 tonnes of cod, while gillnets landed less than 3% of this – just 163 tonnes.

The CFP reform is an opportunity to sort out the mess.
It is now up to the government to pursue reforms at home and in Brussels, which will capture the economic benefits of sustainable fishing. Giving priority access to those who use selective, low-impact methods and provide the highest levels of local employment should become the guiding principle of fisheries management.

This won't be easy. Vested interests will continue to claim that "batting for Britain" is simply about grabbing a greater share of the EU pie, rather than securing a truly radical reform of EU and UK fisheries management.
For the sake of our fishermen, our fish stocks and the health of our coasts and seas, this government and the fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, must take a different view.

From WP : the end of fish, in one chart

Links :

1 comment: