(Image credit: Fishing for Leave)
Fishing for Leave reacted with ‘incredulous dismay’ at what they say is a ‘strange document’ by DEFRA. The document, accidently sent to the press, states that DEFRAs feels Britain would be unable to stop illegal fishing by EU vessels post-Brexit. If the UK leaves with No Deal then the EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and its equal access rights for EU vessels to fish British waters, would automatically cease to apply.
French fishermen and government officials have recently ramped up the rhetoric that they will continue to fish British waters ignoring their loss of CFP access rights.
Fishing for Leave have recently made numerous public calls to government that any future access should be strictly limited to short term annual agreements and only when the UK receives a reciprocal value of fishing opportunities.
Fishing for Leave scorned DEFRAs ‘rather defeatist assessment’ on enforcement:
“Look at this objectively. It’s high risk for EU vessels to fish far into UK waters where they’d really have their trousers round their ankles.So, the main front line is going to be the border zone running from the Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea all the way round to between the UK and the Republic of Ireland off Anglesey.
That’s about 1200 nautical miles. If there’s only 4 of 12 ships DEFRA lists deployed at once that’s 300nm a sector for each ship. Steaming at 15kts that’s 20 hours from one sector end to the other. Therefore, a ship could steam up and down line daily, watching out for any EU vessel chancing their arm being a half dozen miles the wrong side of it. You add in high spec radar monitoring for targets behaving like engaged in fishing and the spotter planes they have to direct patrol ships onto vessels fishing illegally with their AIS or internationally legally required satellite monitoring (VMS) switched off, and it doesn’t become insurmountable to pick up most offenders.
Does DEFRA not rate our proud Royal Navy or is Defra/Whitehall looking for excuses to be soft to not upset the EU – on past form one wouldn’t be surprised! They never seem to suffer any incapability of chasing UK boats here there and everywhere for any offence. With the internationally agreed requirement for all contracting parties to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) to have their vessels fitted with satellite Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), and to share that data between enforcement agencies, it’s not difficult to track the majority of law-abiding vessels.
The EUs lectured everyone on illegal fishing, and has the obligation under international law in UNCLOS not to do so – are they going to sit back and let their fleet go tonto pirate fishing UK waters? For those risking fishing illegally in British waters, when their CFP access rights automatically terminate on Brexit, deterrence through impoundment and heavy fines for release will soon make the novelty wear off.
Our Nordic neighbours happily manage to protect their waters and stock sustainability. In the 1970s Cod wars plucky little Iceland managed to take on the mighty Humber fleet AND the Royal Navy when still a world power, all with two small gun-boats and no electronic or aerial technology– it doesn’t look like we’ll be gifted such fearlessness from Sir Humphry! Britain can too. It’s a question of political will – that will be an acid Brexit test of the PMs Churchillian mettle.
The world will be watching to see whether a newly independent, unmuzzled Britain has bite to back up her bark or will be a pushover in international affairs. Sadly, it looks like the Civil service and its Sir Humphries are – yet again – looking for any excuse not to defend our national interests.“
On the same issue – the publication of a Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) email, which admits the UK will struggle to police its coastline post-Brexit, sparking fears the country could be exposed to terrorism, smuggling and conflicts over fish stocks – Brexit Party fishing champion June Mummery MEP, has slammed the establishment parties, saying:
“Rule Britannia should now state we are on our knees, rather than ruling the waves, after the mess the legacy parties have made of our coastal defences.
It just goes to show what little priority consecutive governments have placed on the defence of this nation when you realise, we have 12 ships to patrol an area three times the landmass of the UK. It’s an absolute disgrace and needs to be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency!
While fishing vessels do usually carry AIS satellite tracking systems; skippers can simply turn off their transponders. Some EU skippers already do this when they don’t wish to be tracked in British waters, so I can be confident in saying this practice will continue as EU vessels try to beat new post-Brexit fishing rules. As for monitoring from the air; David Cameron’s 2010 defence cuts saw the removal of all maritime patrol aircraft from the Royal Air Force; leaving our coast wide open to all types of incursion. Only now are new jets been purchased, and these are still to become operational.
As for Border Force being tasked with fisheries patrols, they are already understaffed, under-resourced and have their hands full dealing with the expanding cross-Channel migrant crisis. If the Government is serious about defending our waters, they must prioritise investment; seek to purchase some used maritime patrol vessels as a stop-gap and put in place a robust shipbuilding programme in British yards for patrol vessels.
We must also use a multi-layered approach to defend our coastline, with harsh fines for skippers turning off AIS; the development of drone monitoring technology and more people at sea, monitoring what is actually going on out there.”