EU ‘worse than useless’ on fisheries (John Tulloch)

Thank you for your fine coverage in Friday’s paper of the North Sea Commission (NSC) conference at Scalloway fishery college (NAFC) and Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) chief Simon Collins’ stinging criticism of the EU decision on discard bans.

Virtually every sentence quoted from Mr Collins describes a failing organisation that is worse than useless – damaging, actually – which will never change its ways to become effective. For example:

“You don’t just decree something when it’s incompatible with the system you have… [The management system needs to]… take account of the very, very mixed fisheries we have.”

Absolutely. The mixed fisheries point is basics, not “rocket science”.

Whichever species you aim for you will also catch several other species in the same tow so if you catch your annual quota of, say, hake which are abundant, in one month, you can’t go to sea to fulfil your remaining quota for other species for the next 11 months because you will, unavoidably, fill your boat with hake.

The EU has been running Shetland’s fisheries ever since they sandbagged the UK in 1970 and if they can’t learn this fundamental fact of fisheries life in forty five years of management they never will.

To crown it all, Shetland has been poorly represented by both UK and Scottish ministers and never more so than in this ongoing discard ban debacle and the recent EU pelagic fishery negotiations with Faroe.

Some fret that, should Shetland or the UK leave the EU, the effect on Shetland would be “catastrophic” due to Shetland’s “close integration into EU markets in fishing, tourism and agriculture” (Jonathan Wills).

However, Norway and Switzerland remain outside the EU and have no difficulty accessing its markets and should the UK leave, it will have similar arrangements so there will be no “catastrophic effects” for Shetland.

Small fishing nations like Faroe and Iceland have chosen not to join to protect their fishing industries and following the EU’s similar heist of Denmark’s fishing grounds in 1970, Greenland immediately won self-government (1979) and left the EU (1985). They all, likewise, enjoy access to EU markets, as well as the current advantage of not being subject to Russian economic sanctions which have hit Shetland Catch, severely.

Wir Shetland’s policy is that, as it stands, EU membership is extremely damaging for Shetland, primarily, as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and its associated fisheries management system.

Autonomous government in association with a larger country would give us local control of our economic zone, including fisheries, by empowering Shetland to leave the EU while retaining access to its markets and would be a major boon to the isles.

Opponents insist Shetlanders are incapable of running their own affairs yet the NSC chiefs were mightily impressed with Shetland’s marine planning initiative and the level of co-operation between fishermen and NAFC scientists.

Executive Secretary Camilla Stavnes described the marine plan as “totally unique in Europe”, saying “we don’t have any other example of best practice, regionally.”

Regarding the interaction between industry and science, she said, “I have never… (witnessed)… such efficient dialogue between fishermen and (NAFC) scientists.”

Ms Stavnes attributed this success to the “delegated powers” devolved to Shetland in Jo Grimond’s ZCC Act, 1974, implicitly drawing attention to the benefits of increased local autonomy.

Shetland, she explained, is one of 31 regions in the NSC group which itself is part of the “umbrella group” CPMR (Council of Peripheral Maritime Nations) which is “very influential in Brussels”.

“Shetland has had a very strong voice in these organisations” she claimed, adding “but unfortunately there are other interests represented.”

“Other interests”? You don’t say?

In stark contrast to the Faroese pelagic fishery negotiators, Mr Collins and the SFA are not even an “insect on the tail, trying to wag the elephant”.

Wir Shetland believes Shetland should continue to support international co-operation but we should control our own fishing grounds, earning us a “seat at the table” when fishery management discussions are taking place.

Surprisingly, any similar ambition on the part of Shetland Fishermen’s Association was noticeable by its absence from your conference report?

Seafood is Shetland’s biggest industry – much bigger than oil and gas – and having demonstrated such effectiveness in the face of bungling incompetence from EU fishery regulators, is there any reason why this success cannot be built upon and extended into other areas?

As Winston Churchill famously said, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job!”

John Tulloch

Chairman, Wir Shetland




Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • January 18th, 2016 8:43

    I’m pleased to see my letter entering it’s third day online without a single objection to its content.

    Given that it’s SNP policy to remain in the EU with independence I had anticipated a storm of protest from SNP Shetland activists and internet trolls?

    Perhaps, a consensus is emerging among them that EU membership is very damaging for Shetland and a tacit acceptance that Wir Shetland has been right on this, all along

    • Ray Purchase

      • January 19th, 2016 12:54

      I think it’s more likely that nobody could be bothered to read it.

  • Andy Holt

    • January 18th, 2016 20:20

    In a fascinating programme on Radio 4 recently on the possible consequences of a Brexit, the presenter travelled to Greenland, where, as a direct result of not joining the EU in the 80’s their fishing industry had flourished. Shetland’s fishing sector is massively successful, despite not because of UK membership of the EU and could be even more so freed from the shackles of Brussels. Interestingly, the Greenland people voted overwhelmingly to stay out of the club only to be forced subsequently to hold a second vote for the purposes, one assumes, of confirming they were in their right minds the first time!

    • Duncan Simpson

      • January 19th, 2016 7:15

      Very well said Andy Holt. Being in the EU may make sense for some nations and may be beneficial for some areas of Britain but it is certainly not for Shetland.

      With the future of North Sea oil uncertain we really need to protect our main industries like fishing, aquaculture and crofting. The best way to do that is with an autonomous Shetland Government in charge of our own affairs.

  • Andy Holt

    • January 19th, 2016 18:52

    I suspect the deafening silence from the nationalistas may be connected to the “less than thirty dollars a barrel” oil price. Remind us chaps, how were we gonna finance our “freedom”? Alec? Nicola? John? Charlie? Danus?

    • Ray Purchase

      • January 20th, 2016 11:04

      Maybe the ‘Nationalistas’ can think about more than one issue and don’t take everything back to a referendum that took place 16 months ago? Also, you may be aware that Scotland is not and independent nation and that the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems all advocate staying in the EU? Shetland doesn’t have an SNP MP or MSP so why not call out the majority of people in Shetland who also voted for pro EU parties?

    • Robin Stevenson

      • January 20th, 2016 12:02

      Andy I wholeheartedly agree that fishing is indeed an essential part of Shetland’s economy, however unlike Shetland, Scotland isn’t reliant on only one commodity – whether or not you’re aware – oil and gas accounted for a mere 15% of Scotland’s revenue in the event of independence, from discovery in 70’s it was $10 per barrel. Until 2006 oil had never been more than $50 per barrel, and yet Scotland STILL managed to subsidise the rUK? Because in all that time Scotland has paid far more into the UK coffers than what we have EVER received back.
      Scotland’s “Freedom” was never solely dependent on oil, and if it were, then I suggest you immediately get in touch with every other European non-producing oil country of a similar population to Scotland, and remind “those chaps” just how doomed they all are?

      Incidentally, there are many other types of fish that are netted from your waters other than “red herrings”.

      • Gareth Fair

        • January 20th, 2016 15:23

        If you did your homework you would realise that Shetland is not ‘reliant on only one commodity’.
        Believe it or not we have farming, tourism, textiles, engineering, manufacturing, aquaculture and technology industries to name a few. We even have inward foreign investment such as a new gas plant.
        Unemployment in the islands has been very low for three decades; in the past ten years, it has varied between 0.7% and 1.6% and has usually been less than half the Scottish average.
        I don’t think you will win any support for the SNP with comments like that.

      • Chris Johnston

        • January 20th, 2016 16:34

        Oil production peaked at 4.5 million barrels/day average in 1999 and has since steadily declined to about 1 million barrels/day, with no end of the decline in sight. With the falling price (US$27.63/barrel today) and falling production, tax revenue will be a pittance compared with the past.
        Best find another method to finance spendthrift government.

      • Ali Inkster

        • January 20th, 2016 17:19

        Wrobin as ever your “facts” are complete BS, the oil price corrected for inflation was over $50 through the late 70s and early 80s
        If I put it terms you may understand a penny carmel cost 1p in the 70s that same penny carmel now will cost you 5p, so the price of a penny carmel in the 70s adjusted for inflation to todays money would be 5p.
        As for Scotland subsidising rUK without oil, if you truly believe this you will have no objection to Shetland having full fiscal autonomy with the proceeds from which you now admit are our waters. I have no problem with full fiscal autonomy for Shetland so why did the snp refuse full fiscal autonomy for Scotland?

      • Ian Tinkler

        • January 20th, 2016 17:58

        Just the usual ignorance and bombast from Robin Stevenson, “unlike Shetland, Scotland isn’t reliant on only one commodity”. It is little wonder Wir Shetland in a few weeks has more members than Shetland Branch SNP, has managed in years. Keep it up Robin. It would be refreshing to have a view or two from Dannus Skene or even Douglas Young, at least they have a bit of local knowledge and could find Scalloway without a map! Perhaps they are not central enough people to talk for the Politburo, and as such have the SNP silencer muzzle on.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • January 20th, 2016 19:17

        Great comment Gareth

        So now we’ve established that Shetland has umpteen commodities, IF we remove one of its main commodities [ie: fishing] would you tumble into the depths of hell, bordering on armageddon, as we’re told Scotland would with the present price of a barrel of oil? And IF not why not? …I thank you in advance for making my argument for me 🙂

      • Robin Stevenson

        • January 20th, 2016 21:35


        Once again, you’re missing the entire point, ‘Regardless’ of the price of a barrel of oil we didn’t see a penny? Thus the reason why we subsidised the rUK, In short, membership of the UK for the last 32 years has left Scotland anywhere from £180 billion to £250 billion worse off than it would have been as an independent country, whether the price of a barrel was $5 or $500 made not one blind bit of difference to Scotland.

        The SNP never refused full fiscal autonomy [FFA] However EVERY news station and paper declared we did, which was rather strange, when we consider, it was never on offer in the first place? But hey!…You stick to yer Telegraph or Beano, and continue to believe whatever they print.

      • Ali Inkster

        • January 21st, 2016 2:40

        Remove fishing from our economy Wrobin as the EU, westminster and holyrood seem hell bent on doing Shetland would most definitely suffer, and gaining local control over this resource along with the rest is imperative for Shetlands future prosperity.

  • iantinkler

    • January 20th, 2016 23:20

    Robin, Why does the SNP behave as if Scotland would you tumble into the depths of hell, bordering on armageddon, if Shetland gained its own autonomy, and separated from Edinburgh. You strive to leave the UK, many here wish to self govern also. Why your obvious hypocrisy? Could Scotland not survive without shetland?

    • Robin Stevenson

      • January 21st, 2016 21:15


      FFA is off the table, everyone’s lost interest, the matter was raised as a possibility for Scotland to control its entire revenue, but it was never offered, merely talked about, then immediately shot down in flames by producing London based IFS or OBR figures based on their unbiased [ha ha] forecasts? And let’s not forget how exact their forecast have always been?….Here’s just one example, but their are many others:

      Your last paragraph – more or less – sums up Scotland’s position, what you’ve just said is “Yes oil would be a bonus, but we’d still do rather well without it”…Ditto. But we DO have it and history has already proved that prices go up as well as down, once again a ‘snapshot’ year or two is utterly pointless.


      in answer to your question: Yes it could, but why on earth would we want to?

      • Gareth Fair

        • January 22nd, 2016 11:39

        So instead of demonstrating why the IFS / OBR figures on Scottish FFA are in anyway misleading, you point us to a blog that disagrees with the IFS statement on wealth inequality.
        As for the rest of it, you obviously did not read the IFS report.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 22nd, 2016 12:35

        @Robin Stevenson,

        Good to quoting quoting the right wing Adam Smith Institute as a more reliable source of information on the economy than the IFS.

        Here’s another excellent effort of theirs:

      • Robin Stevenson

        • January 22nd, 2016 18:43


        Take a guess who said this?

        “Right from the start the Tories used the OBR not just as part of the government but as part of the Conservative Party,”….Yep, that’s right. the honourable [brand new] Lord Darling

        The IFS relies on OBR ‘predictions’, so here we are, getting predictions based on predictions, guesstimates, at best.

        In the event of independence, the IFS report [like every other report] ‘assumes’ that Scotland would inherit a population share of UK government debt, it also fails to consider further Scottish business/population growth, nor does it deduct Scotland’s share of UK expenditure, in other words, their figures are flawed, which in turn, any other figures based upon them are ‘also’ flawed.

        Perhaps you could show me – say in the last 50 years – where economists have predicted anything right?….I’d highly recommend the latest film ‘The Big Short’ just to give you an indication of the competency of worldwide economists, who are about as useful at predicting ‘booms and busts’ as you or I.

        And no Gareth, I didn’t read the IFS report, I was just finishing reading the ’39 Steps’. [another excellent piece of fiction]

  • Gareth Fair

    • January 21st, 2016 8:09

    You are so dramatic, no one is talking about ‘depths of hell, bordering on armageddon’.
    I’m just trying to get you to understand that Scotland perusing a FFA agenda at the present time is going to mean big cuts and tax rises. You seem happy to accept that, but I am not.
    Here it is in black and white for you, please read it.

    Bear in mind that analysis assumes an average oil price of $83 in 2016.

    I’m not sure the fishing industry is likely to suffer the same over supply problems as the oil markets if that is what you are trying to suggest?
    However, even at today’s oil price Shetland would still be a rich country (GDP/ capita), this could help us to support key industries.

  • iantinkler

    • January 22nd, 2016 22:26

    Whoops, Wir Shetland may have a friend. Could not make it up, could you! Nicola, SNP muzzle is slipping off. Will Dannus ever make a comment?

    FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has criticised the party’s “love affair” with Europe as he revealed he will campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.

    Mr Sillars said he had met and would be happy to work with former MP Nigel Griffiths, who is leading a Labour campaign to leave the EU in Scotland.


  • John Ashworth

    • January 24th, 2016 12:38

    I have restarted the old Save Britain’s Fish campaign as ReStore Britain’s Fish campaign, and have recently written 8 articles for Campaign Independent Britain, which can be found on their web-site, who are producing a booklet based on those articles in time for the launch of “The Leave Alliance”, a group who will be contesting the future EU Referendum.
    For those in Shetland, you will not be forgotten, and the damage the CFP has done to yourselves and the whole British Fishing Industry.
    John Ashworth


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