The failure of the Common Fisheries Policy

A veteran of European Union politics, Dr Lee Rotherham, and ecologist, Professor David Bellamy look into the disaster of the Common Fisheries Policy. Here, they report their findings.

The Common Fisheries Policy has proved a disaster:

• To fishermen

• To the economy

• To communities

• To the ecology

We recognise that poor stock management has generated a global fisheries crisis since World War 2. However, the data suggests that if the seas off mainland Europe had been better run, 1970s levels of UK employment and stock could have been maintained. At fault is the CFP because of certain key elements;

• Communal management without particular responsibility

• A quota system based on lobby and barter

• A culture in Whitehall of managing inevitable decline

• A reluctance to end the CFP as this would signal an EU failure or retreat

• Political ambition in Brussels to drive for an integrated EU fleet system

• Governments operating as disinterested (UK) or self-interested (others) stakeholders

The United Kingdom could have followed the example of Canada, Iceland, Norway and others and expanded its own territorial waters as international law permitted. It couldn’t, because those fell to common management under the CFP. Crucially, successive governments have declined several opportunities to make this an issue for renegotiation.

Ending the CFP would bring significant economic benefit to the country. Our estimate consists of costs ended (taxes, foreign subsidies, jobs, social services, societal) and benefits gained (over the long term by reclaiming the national waters and running them efficiently). These would alternately accrue quickly, or would realistically take a generation to recoup.

We believe that the following are best estimates for the annual cost of the CFP:

• Unemployment in the fleet and in support industries – £138 million

• Decline in communities – £27 million

• Pending damage to recreational fishing industry, low estimate used – £11 million

• UK share of support to foreign fishing fleets under EU grants – £64 million

• UK share of support to foreign fisheries industry under EU grants – £1 million

• Redeemable UK share of EU third water fishing permits (allowing for half to be invested in development aid) – £12 million

• Loss of comparative competitiveness – £10 million

• Ongoing decommissioning schemes – £4 million • Foreign-flagged UK vessels – £15 million

• Administrative burden – £22 million • Loss of access to home waters under 200 nautical mile principle – £2.11 billion • Higher food prices factored into social security payments – £269 million

• Economic value of dumped fish – £130 million

• Total economic cost to the UK of the CFP – £2.81 billion

We cannot find any evidence of any similar attempt to provide a costimpact of the CFP having been made before. As such, we would be delighted having opened the field to debate for more detailed and precise data to emerge into the public domain. In the absence of such, our estimates stand.

Alternatively, it is possible to look at it from the housewife’s perspective. We estimate that the cost of the CFP in terms of higher bills is £186 per household per year – or £3.58 a week.

At the same time, the ecological impact of the CFP is severe. In particular, just counting three species, in just the North Sea, according to Government estimates, in just one year the CFP forced the dumping of 23,600 tonnes of cod, 31,048 tonnes of haddock and 6,000 tonnes of whiting. That 60,000 tonnes of dumped fish is enough to fill a 200 metre long supramax bulk carrier ship or keep Billingsgate fish market stocked for two and a half years.

Thirty five years of foot dragging and tinkering have shown that the CFP is beyond reform. It is unredeemable, an act of ecological vandalism, and unquestionably not in the national interest.

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