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!”
Chairman, Wir Shetland