Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 4

Memorandum submitted by Grimsby Fish Producers' Organisation Ltd (T5)

  We refer to your letter dated 5th April 2001 and have to say that, so far as the members of this Organisation are concerned the situation has either deteriorated or failed to improve depending upon the subject and in all cases our members are significantly worse off than at the time of your report in 1999.

  The reasons in the main are the failure of the Government to act in a manner required to reflect the rapidly changing scenario and the abject failure of its negotiations within the EU to protect the interests of the UK fishermen. In short the Government have created the distinct impression that they regard the industry as expendable.

SEA FISHERIES RESEARCH

  This aspect leaves an awful lot to be desired. The failure to understand what is happening on the fishing grounds and the ability (unless politically blocked) to accept why stocks appear to be reducing is a failure which needs to be addressed.

  The scientists appear to be split for example as to whether the cod stocks are in serious decline or have migrated because of global warming. The result is that we are embarking upon a stock recovery plan in the North Sea when we do now know for sure if there is a stock to recover. At the same time there appears to be wilful neglect in taking fully into consideration other factors causing serious stock depletion such as Industrial Fishing, seismic surveys, gravel extraction, seals, global warming and most significantly water cooling at power stations and industrial complexes.

  Our members still maintain that the assessment of the whiting stock is hopelessly wrong. The quota is cut year on year with the result that more and more are being dumped. There are larger fish than we have seen for years, which does not suggest a stock in decline.

  The practice of sampling at the same spot each year at the same time in order, we are told, to get a regular picture does not stand up if fish are moving because of climate change and other abnormal disturbances.

FINANCE

  A £6 million decommissioning scheme for the English fleet says it all.

  The industry in England desperately needs financial assistance to modernise. The average age of the fleet is unacceptably high but the financial capability to embark on a restructuring programme is missing. This results in an escalating age problem in the fleet and must as a result have serious implications for profitability and safety. Furthermore an ageing fleet is no aid to recruitment and as a result the average of the crews is also rising.

  The English fleet has borne the brunt of decommissioning over the years and it is now vital that a financial package be produced in order to reverse this trend.

LICENCES AND QUOTA TRADING

  This is one factor which has been beneficial and has enabled our members to maintain better fishing opportunities than might otherwise have been the case.

  The only problem we have at the moment is the failure of MAFF to adopt an annual reconciliation programme which would update the quotas held by PO's rather than have to keep carrying forward the transactions each year leading to an ever growing programme of transfers between PO's and a heavier than necessary work load for MAFF.

  However, the problems of reducing fishing opportunities are going to inevitably bite in this trade and some form of financial assistance may be necessary to enable PO's to prevent more quota falling into the hands of "armchair fishermen" and flag ship operators.

ENFORCEMENT

  Enforcement has become a growing problem for our members in recent months. Some of our members have been boarded three/four times in a day, which borders more on persecution rather than enforcement.

  "Protection" vessels have been coming up in the dark displaying incorrect fishing lights or even no light at all and boarding vessels in the dark unannounced. There has already been an incident in which two members of a boarding party fell into the sea in the dark but were fortunately recovered. How long will it be before there is a collision and, God forbid, loss of life? Whose responsibility will that be?

UK/EU

  At the moment the EU are rushing to bring out new technical measures to deal with the alleged stock problems. As previously mentioned there are significant differences of opinion as to what is actually happening. These EU led processes are creating the impression of sheer panic rather than a considered approach and must be slowed down in order that a debate can take place, free of pressure, to properly assess what problems exist and then take appropriate action. The EU are clearly not taking account of all the factors, some of which are mentioned in paragraph four, and we could well finish up with measures which bear no relationship to the problem.

25 April 2001


 
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