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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
"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?
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