Sunday, 25 March 2018

How will UK fleet of 'Flag of Convenience' vessels fair during the Brexit transition period and after Brexit?

Leaving Newlyn after a token landing of fish on the market one day after the Brexit Transition deal with the EU was announced.  The 'English' flag of convenience trawler, Sanamedio makes her way slowly out to sea as the crew stow her deck gear. 

FV Sanamedio leaving Newlyn at high water.

Her AIS track shows her route in, the 12 hours she was stationary in port and then steaming back out West again...

where 24 hours later she was fishing west of the Scillys, south of the Republic of Ireland...

Between them, she and the  UK flagged vessels catch millions of pounds of fish every year, precious little of which is landed directly to UK fishing ports but is transported back to their 'home' (sic) ports mainly in Spain and Holland. Statistically, these vessels, the income they create directly and the subsequent income they generate indirectly and the jobs that they directly and indirectly support are all included in UK GDP figures.

Just how real is this financial loss to UK fishing communities?

The UK missed out from this one vessel alone on the following potential economic benefit had the fish been landed and marketed for onward processing in the UK – and these are all figures based on UK Govternment accepted statistics approved by SEAFISH. Rupert Evelyn covered this story back in October 2017 for ITN News.

In 2015 she declared landings to the value of £1,606,284 of UK Quota Species only)

Of this she declared landings of £89,574 into the UK

Extract from the Sunday Times

From second homes....

This has parallels in Cornwall where, in some villages (like Mousehole) the number of holiday or second homes  is well over 50% and more like 80%. All these properties were once locally owned and then sold, inevitably to the person who paid the highest price and in a capitalist society like ours, without state intervention more often than not that is someone from 'up country'. 

to 'slipper skippers'...

Arguably, where the UK went wrong was when Defra allowed fishermen to sell those licences to fish - inevitably many end up being owned by ever bigger owners and inevitably into the hands of foreign or multinational companies as the right to buy access to fish increases in value and becomes  a tradable commodity in its own right and, as the industry gets to grips fishing sustainably at every level, that value will increase in hugely to match its long-term worth.

What benefit to the UK economy do these boats actually present?

Just one of around 20 boxes of fish landed by the Sanamedio this morning.

The Sanamedio landed enough fish to, approximately, cover the cost of her landing dues. 99% of her catch went straight into the back of a lorry destined for Spain.

Defra helpfully explains all on its website:

The Economic Link

From 1 January 1999 all UK registered fishing vessels over 10 metres in overall length and landing 2 tonnes or more of quota stocks have had to demonstrate an economic link with fishing communities in the UK. This licence condition was introduced to ensure that British coastal communities dependent on fisheries and related industries derived economic benefit from vessels fishing against UK quotas.
The Economic Link is not ‘a loophole’ as has been reported.
While not as visible as a landing into a UK port, each will have had to demonstrate a valid link benefit to the UK from its activity in some form to stay registered. They may have demonstrated this link by:
  • Option A: landing at least 50% by weight of the vessel’s catch of quota stocks into the UK
  • Option B: employing a crew of whom at least 50% are normally resident in a UK coastal area
  • Option C: incurring a significant level of operating expenditure in the UK for goods and services provided in UK coastal areas
  • Option D: demonstrating an economic link by other means (including combinations of the above) providing sufficient benefit to populations dependent on fisheries and related industries.

MMO actions relating to vessel ownership

Media which reported on an ‘investigation’ did not check their facts directly with the MMO. The MMO is not carrying out an investigation relating to foreign ownership of UK fishing vessels.
Our fisheries management work includes periodic review of the activities of vessels which take part in the Economic Link scheme.
We also recently wrote to all Fish Producer Organisations to ensure ongoing compliance with regulation (EC) 1379/2013. Fish Producer Organisations were established under the Common Fisheries Policy to enable groups of fishermen to market the fish they catch, and manage their own quota allocations.
The vessel lists published on our website include details of all UK registered fishing vessels and whether they are a member of a PO. Not all fishing vessels are members of POs.

Fish imports and exports

Chapter 4 of our annual fisheries statistics covers trade in fisheries products. The most commonly imported fish from the EU in 2015 was salmon. The most commonly exported fish to EU countries was mackerel.
Other market data may be available from Seafish.

Access by other vessels to UK waters

Historical fishing rights to access UK waters are outlined in a document on the EC website.

Employment and tax issues post Brexit:

When we become a Coastal State after Brexit whenever that may be and extend our offshore limits, will fishermen on foreign vessels require a work permit to fish inside the new British limit. Currently, they require a work permit to work on vessels inside the 12 mile limit or within the 12 miles if they are non EU citizens?

Also, will foreign vessels themselves will technically be fishing in the UK, so will they be liable for paying tax similar to what Amazon, Google and Facebook have been forced to pay even though they will be landing in a different country?