Posted by Willie — 19 November 2012 at 11:38am
This weekend, an unprecedented meeting took place in
Brussels. At first glance it might not seem like much of a big deal - a bunch of
fishermen from across Europe getting together in the EU capital . But this was different.
perhaps, but that is the gist of what is referred to in European fishy politics
circles as ‘The External Dimension’. Although it sounds like something from sci-fi, this is quite simply European fishing boats catching fish in
non-European waters. Earlier this year I joined a Greenpeace
ship in West Africa to see the scale of this first hand. It’s a pretty big
deal, in every sense.
Basic first aid tells you
the most important thing to do is not cause any more harm: don’t make things
worse. That makes sense, of course, but if you happen upon someone lying
bleeding on the pavement, simply not kicking them on the way past isn’t
really a good enough reaction.
struggling for analogies to use, ways to try and explain just what is so bad
about the recent EU
Council ‘agreement’ on fish stocks.
Last weekend Cornwall Greenpeace group took our new campaign to the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival
EU Council meetings – the epitome of fun. These are when
representatives of each EU member state, usually the relevant government
minister, get together to discuss issues of importance. Last Monday - all day, and into the small
hours, it was the turn of the UK’s minister, Richard Benyon to get
together with his 26 counterparts to discuss and agree a way forward on Common
Fisheries Policy reform.
Be a fisherman's friend launch event at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth
Last Friday was World Oceans Day. Being an oceans campaigner that, on one hand, means a lot – but on the other it begs the question of why the rest of the world
doesn’t think about oceans all the other days, like I do!?
Artisanal fishing boat 40 miles off the coast of Mauritania
Approximately 1.5 MILLION small-scale fishermen live and work along the coast of West Africa. They live a life directly dependent on the seas on their doorstep. And it's not just them - their families and communities depend on it too, of course. Yet here in the seas off West Africa it's clear to see their interests are being ignored in favour of allowing massive, industrialised, factory fishing vessels to gobble up all the fish. Of course some of this is illicit, but much of it is legitimised plunder, such as the huge PFA vessels down here with EU subsidies and paid-for Fisheries Partnership Agreements.
UK registered supertrawler Cornelis Vrolijk fishing off Mauritania
I’m out in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere off Mauritania in West
Africa, aboard the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise. We’re here to document
and expose the shocking overfishing of Africa’s coastal seas by huge fishing
vessels from the EU and elsewhere.
Last year Richard Benyon met with Greenpeace and a delegation of West African fishermen
EU council meetings are rarely something that the vast majority of
us get excited about. These meetings are when the representatives from each of
the EU governments get together, to discuss specific topics. Usually it’s the
relevant minister who goes, but they are effectively deputising for their
Our ship, the
Arctic Sunrise is currently in Mauritanian waters, to highlight the problems of
overfishing emptying African seas. Vast factory-style fishing boats are
trawling out fish at an alarming rate and decimating local ecosystems and
livelihoods in the process.
Today's verdict is a slap in the face for all of us
seems to pay quite handsomely, especially if you manage to be part of a
profession that seems to be beyond reproach. That can surely be the only
conclusion to draw from the group of 17 fishermen who were
fined a mere £720 thousand in court today for an overfishing scam that
effectively stole £63 MILLION of fish from our seas.