UKIP is rising to the challenge, promoting a good document titled A Vision for the North East. It’s well worth reading and deserves wide distribution.
With regards to our Fishing Industry, the document states:
‘We recognise that at present, we simply don’t have enough boats to fish the quantity of fish in our own waters. It’ll take time to rebuild our fishing industry. We want licenses to be sold to foreign vessels to continue fishing in some of our territorial waters. That income would be ring-fenced for grants and interest-free loans for our fishermen, to enable them to buy new boats and state-of-the-art equipment.’
Unless I’ve misunderstood the situation as it currently exists, the UK Fishing Industry and Fishing Communities have been systematically destroyed over 40 years with EU quotas and EU fishing boats carrying off their catches to EU harbours, with the consequential loss to UK local and national economies.
I’ve been a persistent advocate for several years of reclaiming our territorial waters, a 200 mile limit or median thereof, and rebuilding the infrastructure of the UK Fishing Industry. I would suggest that the granting of licenses to foreign fishing vessels, even for a short period, could very well protract the rebuilding of the UK Fishing Industry and be counter-productive rather than fast track it for the benefit of the people of the UK.
The incentive for a UK entrepreneurial fisherman to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in a new boat, gear and crew is diminished if they are faced with just the prospect of taking over from foreign vessels that have stripped our Territorial Waters of fish.
If, as suggested, licenses are to be sold off to foreign vessels to help pay for these new UK boats, those licensed foreign boats would, unless restricted to selling their catches in the UK, still be able to sail off and sell our UK fish on foreign shores rather than landing the fish in the UK. In other words, no benefit at all to the UK economy. Additionally, we would do, as we do at present, have to buy foreign fish to make up any shortfall. Or would that be UK fish, caught by foreign boats, landed on foreign shores and then sold back to the UK? A double whammy to the UK economy!
I would suggest there will be more value to the Exchequer and the UK in stopping completely all foreign fishing vessels fishing n UK Territorial Waters. The small number of boats we have now should then be able to increase fish landings, and thus increase revenue to the Exchequer. That would be more valuable than issuing licenses to a few foreign boats to run away with UK fish. In turn, the Exchequer would be better placed to provide grants for new UK boats.
My view is that foreign fishing vessels should be excluded from UK Territorial Waters from day 1 or, at the very least, soon after.
Yes, we haven’t got the vessels to immediately fill the gap in fishing all UK Territorial Waters. But do we want to fill the gap with foreign-owned fishing boats?
It could be viewed as a major benefit to the UK Fishing Industry to have a gap with major knock on benefits in rebuilding the infrastructure.
- In effect, because of our depleted UK fishing fleet, it would allow fish stocks to recover, create very rich fishing grounds and provide an incentive for UK investment in new boats.
- Rather than a rush for UK fishermen to buy foreign built boats to fill the gap, any grants provided should only be offered for boats built in the UK. That would I hope, stimulate UK boat building, engine and equipment manufacturers, repair and maintenance yards and attract foreign investment into the UK.
- Fish quays, fish processors, wholesalers, exporters, transport would have time to plan ahead for increased fish landings and business.
- Time will be required to provide additional Fishery Protection vessels to patrol UK Territorial Waters. These could be part of the UK Border Agency, Coast Guard or Royal Navy. From personal observations, Royal Navy personnel who wish to stand down from active service yet remain within the Navy structure, are a valuable human resource.
- All of the above would lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, increased businesses, and increases to local and national economies tax and revenue. Coastal areas, in particular Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North East and South West would benefit greatly.
- I would also suggest we examine the fishing infrastructure of other countries with a successful fishing industry, in particular with reference to boat sizes. We do not want to replace EU boats stripping UK Territorial Waters with just a few UK large vessels hoovering up everything. Norway’s successful fishing industry would be a good starting place to look at.
In conclusion, whilst the granting of licences to foreign fishing vessels could be viewed as a stop gap, I would suggest it could, if not handled efficiently, be counter productive and restrict the rapid growth in UK Fishing.
Rebuilding the infrastructure of the UK Fishing Industry is not just a matter of increasing the number of boats in the Fleet.
Clear detailed plans for the future of the whole of UK Fishing before, or soon after Article 50 is triggered, is required to build confidence for all concerned.