In the same way that discarding perfecting good fish, dead or dying back into sea is a disgrace, so is the attitude of many European fisheries ministers charged with ensuring sustainable fish stocks and viable fishing communities. For years they have ignored the obvious: that if they negotiated policies that allowed fish stocks to recover and championed low impact fishing, they would create more jobs.
A new report published recently backs this up, by calculating that restoring 43 fish stocks in Europe to sustainable levels would increase profits in the fishing industry to the tune of over €3 billion a year and would create 100,000 new jobs.
For the past few decades, fisheries ministers have been more akin to ‘fishermen’s ministers’, more concerned with keeping fishermen in their jobs and money in their pockets than looking after the long term sustainability of fish stocks. This report demonstrates that the two things go hand in hand; that you must have a decent amount of fish left in the sea at all time, in order for there to be enough for fishermen to catch. This is just common sense right?
Over the past 40 years or so, Europe’s broken common fisheries policy has allowed European waters to become vastly overfished. Europe’s massive fleet has fished so much out of the sea, that three out of four fish stocks are at unsustainable levels. What makes things worse, is that many of these fleets are being kept in profit only because of the European subsidies they receive. That’s money from you and me.
This report has exposed to the public what politicians have been refusing to admit: that if we stopped chasing after the last few fish and let fish populations recover to sustainable levels, then fishing communities would be billions of Euros better off. In today’s difficult economic times, 100,000 new jobs could be a life line to support small scale, low impact fishing in local communities across the UK and abroad.
It is a win-win situation. Healthy fish stocks and more profitable fishing communities = an industry that delivers huge benefits to society. You would be right in asking why such a political no-brainer is even an issue – especially in the current financial and economic crisis. The answer is that there are much darker forces at work here.
The current reform of the common fisheries policy has highlighted how the vested interests of the most powerful fishing companies – and their stooges in Westminster, Holyrood and Brussels – have had politicians in a vice for many years. They have forced their hand to make decisions that seem to defy all common sense about what’s good for the long-term benefits of society, in favour of decisions that are good for profits. Examples of common sense being thrown overboard include; setting quotas higher than scientists recommend, giving subsidies to the most destructive vessels and refusing to champion small scale, low impact fishing.
Thank god for the New Economics Foundation for publishing that which politicians want to bury their heads in the sand about. Let’s hope the UK's fisheries minister Richard Benyon and UK MEPs heed the advice in the report and take its findings to their counterparts in Europe to bring some sense back into this madness. Common sense? All-aboard please.