What have these three apparently unconnected things got to do with each other?  Read on, and all will become clear.

EU Interference

We’ll start with the EU, always a good culprit. And where better to start than with their Fisheries Policy. That’s the very same fisheries policy that bans drift nets across the whole of the EU, because there was a particular problem with turtles in Italian waters, which was not a problem in other seas of the EU.

It’s also the very same fisheries policy that sets quotas. You know, the crazy policy that has fishermen who have accidentally caught too many fish having to throw them all back into the sea… dead.

OK, the actual numbers in the quotas are not “cross-Europe”, they are by zone, but often these zones are far too large, for example one stretching all the way from the Wash to Dungeness. And take, for example, the current annual quota for skate, which is 100 tons in a year for that zone. One ship managed to catch 8% of that quota in one trip, 8 tons! How can that be, if the skate is supposed to be so threatened in those waters that a savagely tough quota has to be imposed? The answer is because at the moment conditions in the Thames Estuary are perfect for skate, and they are teeming there, at a level higher than any year since the Second World War.

Meanwhile, the quota for Dover Sole remains at a sensible level in that zone, but…

First, however, we’ll take a look at another aspect of EU Interference – their “project” funding.

You know the system – we pay £3 into the EU. A slice goes on “administration” (all those MEPs, their assistants, the Commission, their assistants, the EU quangos and so on), some of it just disappears, given the way that EU audits have failed 19 years running, £1 or so makes its way into funding projects elsewhere in the EU, and a £1 or so finds it way “home”, for a project that the EU wants, not necessarily one that the UK government would place priority on.

Thames Haven “London Gateway” Port

So, step forward two of the EU’s funding bodies:

  • The European Investment Bank, co-owned by the member nations. They have “invested” £300 million into the £1.5Bn “London Gateway” port project, in the form of a loan.
  • TEN-T, the Trans-Europe Transport Network, who are effectively an EU quango. They have spent £12.7 paying for dredging of the Thames Estuary, to permit deep sea ships to reach the port, located just upstream of Canvey Island with the Hoo Peninsula on the opposite bank.

The business case for this port was that it would generate 12,000 direct jobs plus 30,000 indirect and induced jobs. Currently, around 2000 direct jobs have been created. However, one of the major investors in the associated business park was Marks and Spencer (who are still seen as a Jewish company), and the port owner is DP World (Emirates). There have been some political and commercial sparks, and much of that future investment is now in jeopardy. Add to that the global downturn in trade and there is now a surplus of port capacity on the East Coast, Felixstowe being a major container terminal with both road and rail links. This does not bode well for the future of the port, but in the meantime…

Lower Thames

…the dredging of the Thames has absolutely savaged Dover Sole and other fish stocks in the Tidal Thames. Take a look at the map and this: the Lower Thames Estuary is crucial breeding and nursery ground for Dover sole, flounder, bass and mullet and commercially important shellfish such as cockles and mussels. Of course, the port owners deny this, but it’s a fact that since the dredging has started, catches of these fish have plummeted. The local fishermen did warn them in advance. And now it’s a fact, local fishermen are lucky to bring one Dover Sole back with them. What they are finding are a lot of already dead young Dover sole and other species from the nursery grounds.

So, why are all these fish dying? Surely, some silt and sand being disturbed might disturb their breeding, but young fish being found dead? That, surely, must have a different cause.  So, now we make the third connection (says he, feeling a bit like James Burke in his “Connections” series):

Pitsea Toxic Waste Tip

This was closed some years ago, but it is located just inland from where the port is. As with all toxic waste tips, they are supposed to be located where there is an impermeable layer underneath them, and clay is perfect for this. The London clay basin extends out this far, and in fact goes under the Thames to the Hoo Peninsula.

Furthermore, such toxic tips, which will include liquid waste as well, are required by law to have a surrounding “bund”, a wall of the same impermeable material, lined with plastics and other impermeable material, to prevent leakage and seepage. While the fishermen have been unable to prove it, this is too much of a coincidence – unexplained deaths of young fish, a nearby closed toxic waste tip where the “bund” may not have been inspected for years, where leakage may have occurred, and the toxic waste has run under the Thames on top of the clay basin.

The dredging uses a process known as “liquefaction” which then destabilises the seabed, allowing it to become more porous, which, should there be dubious materials lying under the sand and mud layer, and above the clay basin, then such materials would flow downstream – right through the fish breeding and nursery grounds in the relatively shallow Estuary.

There you have it. I have learnt all this from the fishermen in the constituency I am UKIP PPC for.  They have enlisted the help of their current Southend West Tory MP, Sir David Amess, who I am fighting in the General Election. Apparently, he has been very helpful and he made some splendid speeches in the House of Commons, but…

…he’s in a party which is totally wedded to the idea of the EU, and all that that entails, including fishing quotas and meddling EU projects. One suspects that Thames Estuary fishermen and their friends and families may well be voting UKIP in May.

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