Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Fishing - a statement from Andrew George, standing for St Ives constituency which includes Newlyn

Cries of 'take back control' have often been heard going back to the campaigning days of the Referendum last year - but turning battle-cry rhetoric into reality is another battle altogether - or it might just have been achieved a long time ago. Through the Gaps asked Andrew George for his vision of the future for fishing as it affects the industry here in the St Ives constituency and beyond.

Andrew George at Newlyn Fish Festival

"The fishing industry is often treated as a political football. This is no less now than at any time in the last 30 years. No one would be more pleased than I if we really could get our fishing waters back and successfully scrap the despised quota system during our exit from the hated CFP. These were amongst the claims confidently predicted as the easy to deliver benefits of Brexit during the referendum campaign a year ago. These claims might as well have been 
emblazoned on the side of a red campaign bus along with many of the other claims made.

In reality the process of securing better control of fishing activity in the 6-12 mile zone and within the 200 mile/median line etc are not matters which will be resolved through Brexit negotiations. They would of course require international agreement, but through the London Convention and the United Nations’ Law of the Sea, ie not the EU or Brexit process.

Indeed, these are matters I’d been pressing for previously but secured little enthusiasm from successive Labour and Tory Fisheries Ministers. My primary concern for the industry is that politicians are honest with the industry about
what can be achieved and don’t commit the kind of cruel hoax – ie of raising undeliverable expectations - which has been perpetrated on the industry many times previously.

Securing complete control in the 12-mile zone has to be a firm objective of future Government policy, even though the Brexit negotiations are not necessarily the primary vehicle to achieve this. It is clearly absurd that the foreign vessels which take advantage of access to the 6-12 mile zone are not the same that secured that entitlement decades ago and are often many times more powerful and therefore destructive than those that were originally granted this favour.

Whichever way the negotiations go, it’s clear we should at least maintain if not expand and deepen our international links with other fishing nations as it is only through better joint working that we can secure the improved longer term sustainability of the industry. The example of the annual Trevose ground closure is a case in point and one which demonstrates both the far-sightedness of the industry and the necessity of fishermen working together to secure a shared benefit for all, including the marine environment.

Of course I have long supported the view that we should move away from a quota based regulatory system as soon as practicable, but that will take time. The sooner we achieve a management regime created by fishermen, scientists and other stakeholders working in concert with each other and taking the politicians and regulators out of the equation the better. However, whichever system is adopted fishermen fully understand that a fishing free-for-all is not an option. My favoured option of closed areas, satellite enforced surveillance and reasonable protections for smaller and medium sized enterprises and vessels ought to form the backbone of a way forward, but we’re a long way from that point at present.

Above all, my promise to local fishermen is to give them a voice which they’ve lacked for a couple of years now. We need to have someone who can hold the next (inevitably I’m afraid) Tory Government and Ministers to account and not someone who acts simply as their local echo chamber."

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat candidate for the west Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives