Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Friday, 18 December 2020

Latest view of Brexit from across the Channel.

 Brexit: will it be wrong? Will not fish? 


Fishing crystallises tensions around Brexit. The editorial staff of the Littoral echo takes stock of this thorny subject.

"92% of English fishermen voted in favuor of BREXIT" ... that's in any case what an information report from the National Assembly affirms. So, BREXIT, good news for English fishermen? Not so sure …

Thibault Josse, project manager of the Pleine Mer Association, thinks the opposite: “It is certain that English fishermen have the feeling of being dispossessed of their fishing quotas. In fact, 80% of English quotas are held by foreign owners or British millionaires. But this has nothing to do with the European Union. The problem is that the English quotas are distributed via a system of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ). A system where fishing quotas are put on the market, which favors the accumulation of these quotas by the great fortunes. This system will not change with Brexit: artisanal fishermen are cheated by the industrialists who will continue to buy back the quotas, and by the populist right of Boris Johnson who has used this problem to get Great Britain out of Europe. But the problem of quota grabbing will not change with Brexit ”

A recent press release from the BLOOM association goes in the same direction:“The commodification of access to fishery resources which was inaugurated by the ITQ system - which are governed by the law of supply and demand - has therefore favoured the financialisation and capitalisation of fishing in the United Kingdom . In the absence of regulation, these mechanisms give rise to an ever greater concentration of the sector in the hands of a few operators. These oligopolies gradually eat away at the fishermen's access to quotas and end up excluding them from the sector. From this point of view, the problem is therefore neither that of the distribution of TACs (total allowable catches) between the countries of the European Union - moreover questionable and open to criticism - nor even that of free access to British waters. . As it happens, it is one of the direct consequences of the introduction of this ITQ system by the British government itself. "

According to these two associations, the privatisation of fishing quotas would therefore be the reason why British artisanal fishermen voted in favuor of BREXIT… but probably the famous BREXIT will not change the problem. So it seems that the populist right led by Boris Johnson has largely manipulated English fishermen, into believing that Europe was responsible for the quota grabbing, when the real problem lay elsewhere. This prospect is disturbing, especially since BREXIT will have a strong impact on European fishermen, but also on the British fishing industry which exports three quarters of its seafood to the European Union.

Hubert CarrĂ©, president of the National Committee for Fisheries and Marine Washings explains “If overnight there is a border and we no longer have the right to cross it, well I can tell you that it hurts a lot . The 12-meter gill net from Dunkirk, which is 3/4 of an hour from British waters, will be 100% impacted in its activity. The trawler which is 60 to 80 meters which used to fish pelagic in British waters will also be affected. So there is an impact on the vessels depending on their profession and the area they frequent, and the most affected are the fishermen of Hauts-de-France, Normandy and Brittany. Some fish almost 100% in British waters such as those who fish for anglerfish for example. Armaments will be impacted between 25 and 85% " 

Indeed for the fishermen of Boulogne or Lorient, up to 90% of the catches are carried out in British waters. A dramatic situation for certain armaments which will have to fall back on French waters. However, this “deferral of effort” may also pose a problem: boats which traditionally fished in British waters will find themselves in competition with coastal boats. This phenomenon could cause real "conflicts for the resource" or even a phenomenon of overfishing in certain areas.

On the British side, 70% of fishery products are exported to the European Union. The introduction of high customs duties on seafood could therefore have a strong impact on the English fishing industry, and serve as a means of pressure to maintain the historic fishing rights of certain European shipping lines in British waters. Indeed, high customs duties would have dramatic effects on the English fishing industry in the very short term: the purchase price of fish would fall sharply following the drop in demand, putting fishermen and fishmongers in great difficulty.

Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission evokes "a big point of tension on fishing" while Boris Johnson said he wanted to "deploy the British Navy" so that European fishermen do not have access to English waters from the October 1st. Between populist arguments, postponement of effort and customs duties ... the Brexit soap opera is far from over!

Full story courtesy of The Echo of the Coast website.