Fishermen upbeat after EU vote opens door for leaving institution
Leave-supporting fishermen have spoken of their delight and positivity after Britons voted to leave the EU.
Gary Smith is skipper of the whitefish trawler Devotion. From a fishing point of view he said it was the right decision and is positive about the industry.
“The common fisheries policy has been terrible for fishing, forcing British men to dump fish while huge foreign vessels plunder the stocks,” he said.
He admitted UK fishermen were not entirely blameless, having largely taken the law into their own hands with black landings (the landing of over quota fish) in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the mass dumping of good fish back to the sea.
“But with a governing body so far removed from reality I feel we had no option, these immoral and illegal acts were done totally unwillingly for survival.
“I believe now more than ever before we need to unite as one voice, everyone agrees that fisheries science is at best a two-year-late guess. That is simply not good enough.
“Surely what we are catching is an indicator of the stocks. And if fish are abundant we should be able to harvest them sustainably and not waste them.”
Mr Smith said restrictive measures were needed, but they had to work.
“We most certainly need restrictive measures, but measures that actually work, not dumping fish or taking back our own territorial waters like Iceland did with no concessions for historic rights or any nonsense like that,” he said.
“Fishing is a natural resource that will keep giving forever, as it has done for thousands of years, if it is properly managed.”
He believed the future of fishing in Shetland was very bright. But he added: “We need to be smart, we need knowledgeable people in charge, not the unelected guy who has never seen a fish, never had a proper job and believes that these crazy restrictions are workable.”
He called for unity, local control and sensible restrictions.
“If we have these three things the outlook is very, very good,” he said.
While Magnie Stewart is no longer involved in fishing he had 30 years involvement in the industry.
He said Britain leaving the EU was “an ideal opportunity to set things right”.
He added there needed to be discussions between fishing representatives and discussions with Nicola Sturgeon about the SNP’s plans.
“I think it’s a positive thing,”he said.
“It gives Britain its 200-mile limit and when we go into fishing negotiations we will be sitting as a single entity rather than as part of the EU, so we can speak to Norway and Faroe and Iceland on a one-to-one basis.”
Mr Stewart said there was going to be a lot of uncertainty “until who governs the country gets sorted out”.
He said there needed to be meetings with whoever was going to be the fisheries minister.
When it came to catching fish, he said there had to be controls in place. “Fishermen are clever enough to see how things need to be if politicians listen to them,” said Mr Stewart.
He said the “main priority” was for fishermen’s representatives to meet with Ms Sturgeon to find out her intentions.
“If she takes us back into the European Union, and there’s an independence referendum then bang goes our 200-mile limit and we’re back to where we started.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Association pelagic committee chairman David Hutchison said the leave vote meant a great opportunity for the fishing industry.
“I voted to leave. I think most fishermen did, and I think if you look back most fishermen were against the setting up of the Scottish parliament in the first place.
“They voted against independence and they voted for leaving the EU, so they are hardly going to support an independent Scottish government within the EU.
“We’ve had some meetings and it’s certainly not changed our views.”
He added: “I can’t see it making much difference to the quota allocations immediately but we should get our fishing limits back.”
Mr Hutchison said all EU countries and Norway and Faroe were fishing extensively in British waters.
“I’m scared that Nicola Sturgeon and her blind independence policy … they are going to take their eye off the ball and miss a great opportunity for the fishing, and maybe even worse than that they give away more fish to please Brussels.”