Fishing moratorium

By Sean O'Flaherty (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Sean O’Flaherty (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I really am struggling to think of anything realistic and positive for the environment that will come out of our Brexit.

Here is an example that would fit beautifully into the Brexiteers’ suggestion that we could do so much better when we regain control of our own destiny – but it simply won’t happen, I presume.

Let’s take marine fisheries. I’m no expert, so this scenario may be rather adrift from reality – like the political system itself at the moment – but it’s still an interesting area to explore.

Let’s imagine that we can now regulate fishing pressure in our waters much more effectively because we have our salty marine sovereignty back. It is a widely acknowledged fact that overfishing is bad for the marine environment in the short and long terms, and bad for marine fishermen in the long term but good for them in the short term. That is the crux of the problem – people are rather bad at delayed gratification, particularly if they think that somebody else is making hay (or whatever is its marine quivalent) while the sun shines and they aren’t.   And so fishery after fishery across the world has been damaged by overfishing because that has been in the short term interests of fishermen – who don’t believe in experts like biologists.

But, when we regain our salty sovereignty we could call a 5-year moratorium on much fishing in our territorial waters, pay fishermen to remain idle with all that dosh that we aren’t giving to faceless eurocrats anymore, restore our fish stocks and then let our fishermen free to fish much more successfully in future.  And every time our fishermen took no notice of the experts, which they won’t, and overfished the stocks, we could bring in, with our regained salty sovereignty, another 5-year moratorium, this time uncompensated because it would be their own fault.

I’m pretty sure that this was what Boris and Gove and Farage were thinking so let’s see them get on and do it. It will be a fascinating test case in salty sovereignty.


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10 Replies to “Fishing moratorium”

  1. The control of our fishing waters was another area of the pre-referendum debate that glossed over the likely reality of our post Brexit relationship with our neighbours.

    It is hard to imagine how we will be able to exclude fishing boats from other EU states from our waters without experiencing some significant retaliatory measures. It is worth bearing in mind that a substantial proportion of the UK catch is sold abroad especially in Spain. It seems likely to me that the fishing industry will find, like the farmers, that they are not electorally significant enough to be able to demand that the British government fulfills all their dreams and demands and they will discover they are no better off than they were pre-Brexit.

    1. How electorally significant they are depends on how heavily their representative body donates to the Tory party. That is why the gamekeepers and farmers are so electorally significant despite being barely a fraction of a percentage point in demographic and voting terms. And that is apparently fine, but god help anyone who donates to a trade union to fund Labour or makes a donation to the SNP, then they are corrupting the system and considered traitors to the realm. Our political system, ladies and gentlemen, and now with 100% less oversight or restraint.

  2. Interesting idea, but rather than paying the fishermen to remain idle, we could instead pay them to monitor fish stocks and to monitor/report any illegal fishing. I suspect if the latter was framed as 'British fisherman guarding our seas against foreign poachers' then Messrs Farage, Gove and Johnson would rather approve.

    PS - I think it's time we stopped calling him Boris. We should leave that to his friends.

    1. I have an even better idea, since they wanted this bright Brexit future. Lets not pay the damn fishermen a damn penny, and let them have to suffer the "mercy" of the DWP.

  3. Historic rights within 6-12 nautical miles and quota sold to foreign flagged vessels within the UK's EEZ (12-200 nautical miles) will probably continue to be accessible to fishing boats from other MS after Brexit.

    Yes, some of the UK catch is sold abroad. When did you last see a whole fresh langoustine (Nephrops), rather than 'scampi' in a UK fishmonger or restaurant? I believe Iceland will sell you a pack of four frozen, but the vast bulk of what's caught in the Irish Sea, off the West Coast of Scotland (e.g. the Clyde Estuary) and in the North Sea is sold into EU markets within 24 hours of landing. And let's not forget that Nephrops are bottom feeders near the bottom of the marine food chain and are targeted when pelagic and demersal fisheries are no longer commercially viable; and cod eat Nephrops, so some fishermen don't want to see cod recover. Fisheries management is complicated and sadly politics trumps science all too often - hard to to see that changing after Brexit.

    So fishermen and fish stocks may be no better off, but more worrying is the potential loss of marine environmental protection from Habitats, Birds, Bathing Waters, Water Framework, and Marine Strategy Framework Directives and the underpinning UK regs unless our post Brexit government decides to enact equivalent UK legal protection for our seas.

    1. Sustainable prawn fishing involves ploughing up the seabed and passing it through seive.... the marine bed habitat is completely destroyed. Prawn fisher men who use trawled dredges do not want white fish back...ploughing the seabed "fertilises' it" for even more prawns. Its just like fire improving the health of the moorlands.

      Meanwhile on a moor near Tomatin... or counrtyside guardians improve habitat quality by clearing the drains in a blanket bog....

  4. This is a great idea - as the NCC showed, if we 'rested' our fisheries and then fished them sustainably we could get back to the much larger catches of the past. Perhaps the key is you don't have to do it all at once - you could work your way round the coast/fisheries, reducing the lost output of a sudden moratorium. Ernest has a crucial point - don't ask fishermen not to put to sea at all, probably allowing skills to drift away, get them doing the monitoring (and protecting their own resource from illegals - far better than the Government can do it). It will build up the expertise and commitment to continuing monitoring, and the fishermen will see for themselves stocks rising during the moratorium.

    There's a bigger point here - crucial to the future: this is THE time to put forward big ideas. Mike Clarke in his blog comments on 'the need for our leaders to be at their best.' Well, Mike, other conservation NGOs, Mark, me and contributors to this blog, we are those leaders. Where else are you going to look for sound, well thought through ideas on the future of our environment ? Few current politicians have the basic knowledge and understanding to do the job, and the ones who do have almost always welcomed support and discussion. Under no circumstances should we wait for the political parties or lobbying bodies like NFU and CBI to produce their own ideas and then try and lobby against the bits that damage wildlife - that will be just another stage in conservation's retreat. And as the fisheries example shows, and there are many others - like upland management & flooding - there are big opportunities for everyone to win, in contrast to the 'green carp' assumption that looking after the environment is always in opposition to prosperity.

  5. One result of ‘salty sovereignty’ will be even greater exploitation of the West African coastal waters by southern European trawlers.

  6. Now we are going to take back control of our expenditure (mmmh, I remain a realistic agnostic on political promises) and we are now told that there are going to be more cutbacks and tax rises can we please have accountability and demonstrable public benefit delivered by such subsidies / welfare payments to agri-industry, businesses, bankers, politicians etc.?

    Off piece but has anyone seen any figures for the Unit being set up of top ranking civil servants (bureaocrats) charged with extricating the UK from the EU over the next decade or so and doubtless based in some mega expensive Westminster postcode? Assume that the politicians & their media pals factored this into the cost benefit analysis when they provided the public with their facts?

    1. Today Radio 4, Q & A session gave a guestimate of half a billion quid (surely not enough) to unpick the mass of EU-UK legislation/trade deals. Of course that's assuming enough civil servants can be found with the stamina and competence to do all this stuff. Total upheaval across all gov. depmts. - little time space for anything else.
      Answer: EXIT BREXIT and lobby your MP +++.


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