Why the UK fishing industry could choose Brexit
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Ross Dougal, has said that the majority of its members want to leave the EU on 24 June.
He’s not alone, either.
From the Huffington Post to The New York Times, there’s been widespread publicity about the plight of UK fisherman when it comes to EU regulation.
But why does the UK fishing industry feel so strongly towards Brexit?
The EU Common Fishing Policy (CFP)
It’s probably the most derided piece of legislation to emerge from Brussels.
By placing restrictions on what fisherman can catch – and how often – the CFP has arguably caused far-reaching damage across the UK fishing industry.
It’s become increasingly difficult for small-scale UK businesses to compete with larger commercial fisheries from places like Spain and Denmark.
And despite the fact fishing makes up less than 1% of the EU’s GDP, there are communities in places like Fraserburgh and Peterhead where up to 40% of the local population is employed in the industry.
The result isn’t really surprising: an often a deep-rooted contempt for CFP, and the legislators themselves who’ve enacted it.
It’s the catch-all phrase to describe the civil servants who work in Brussels.
But one of the main criticisms is that it’s arguably bureaucrats – not those within the fishing industry – who call the shots and make the key decisions which impact everyday lives.
This has resulted in calls for a more regionalised form of regulation, where local fisherman could have a say in laws which directly impact them. Some of the key issues would include fishing quotas, trade and holding abuses of power accountable.
Without any upcoming plans to do so, however, some people within the fishing industry will choose Brexit.
Historic drops in fish stock
The last point that could potentially sway voters is the historic decrease in fishing volumes since the CFP was first brought into law.
With British waters becoming a so-called ‘common ground’ for European fishing, it’s widely believed that fish stocks have depleted significantly in the new millennium – even though fishing quotas were intended to prevent this very problem.
Events like the Scallop Wars have also done little to increase confidence in EU capabilities. With so much commercial competition at sea, it’s unsurprising that fish populations have also taken a hit.
However, recent government research has shown that fish stocks are actually on the increase. This is thanks, in part, to the EU relaxing ‘catch limits’ and banning the wasteful practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea after being caught.
But it begs the following question: even if fishing stocks are increasing, is this too little too late for an already overstretched UK fishing industry? And how will it impact the referendum?
The UK fishing industry – leave or stay?
It’s fair to say our fishing industry has good reason to demand change in Brussels.
From CFP legislation, to seemingly unnecessary bureaucracy, and drops in fish stock, the livelihoods of everyday fisherman have been placed under significant strain in recent years.
The choice to leave the EU, however, could be just as impactful.
Leaving the EU wouldn’t necessarily mean automatic reform. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that without representation in the EU, we’d still be subject to the same international restrictions – but without a say on the laws themselves.
So we have to ask:
Would it better to renegotiate our position within the EU, or leave the table altogether?
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