Prepared at the request of a Dutch student at the College of Europe in Warsaw who is in the British delegation for a mock debate on fisheries. There are obviously not many Britons there.
Extract: The Norwegian Fishing Minister broke ranks with the rest of his government and exposed this swindle to his fellow-countrymen and women, and the Norwegian people wisely voted against membership. The British government, which refused a referendum which they knew that they would lose, concealed these damning facts from the British people and fishermen.
Suggested statement by the British Delegation on Fisheries
Ladies and Gentlemen
The statement I am about to read on behalf of the British delegation will surprise you. It is intended to do exactly that. For too many years, British delegations to discussions on fishing have spoken from an abject position on their knees. This time, we are standing up.
I will begin by reminding all delegates of the debt they, and, indeed, the whole world, owe to the fathers of our fishermen, and to their families, who knew that every time the men of the family put to sea, it might be last time they would ever see them again.
I know that after making this statement, the British delegation will be told that they are standing alone in Europe. In 1940, we indeed stood alone, a lonely fortress of freedom, without which there would have been no Canadian and American intervention in Europe or supplies of arms and fuel to the crucial North Russian front. If we had fallen, all Europe by now would be groaning under a cruel Nazi tyranny.
Without the gallantry and sacrifice of our fishermen, we should have succumbed to the Nazi blockade. Our fishermen swept the mines, and sometimes were blown up by them. They hunted the U-Boats, and sometimes became the quarry. They escorted the convoys. They patrolled the cruel waters of the Arctic. The went with the North Russian convoys, where, to the pitiless U-Boat wolf-packs, the surface raiders and Nazi bombers were added the fury of the Arctic. Where the wind knifes down from the Pole, through the thickest clothing, where the black ice freezes on decks and rigging, where the ice laden spray cuts unguarded faces to the bone and the waves are higher than a house.
Condition for which the big distant waters fishing vessels were far better suited than razor-bowed warships weighed down with guns and armour, with steel interiors streaming with condensation. In those heroic days, the fathers of our fishermen wrote a page of glory worthy to rank with the deeds of the fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain and the defenders of Stalingrad. They and their children have found little gratitude, either from their own country or from those they helped to liberate from the evils of Nazism. On the contrary, they have been shamefully swindled and subject to insult and abuse. It is ironical that the Russian government continues to award gold medals to survivors of the convoys, many fishermen amongst them.
Britain is an island, or rather a group of islands, from Shetland to the Channel Islands. Consequently, it has a wide range of coastal shallows. In addition, the submerged land masses in the North Sea, like the famous Dogger Bank, lie almost entirely on the British side of the Median Line which divides the British 200-mile to Median Line Exclusive Fishing Zone from the small fishing Zones of other EU nations, with only narrow shallows, most of which have been turned into Fish Deserts, by years of reckless and irresponsible fishing.
Demersal (bottom-feeding fish) fish hatch, mature, and feed in warm shallows. Pelagic (mid-water feeding) fish hatch, mature and return to shallows to spawn. It is therefore not surprising that probably 80% of the non-Mediterranean fish stocks of EU nations is found in British waters.
Until 1970, the Common Market found no need for a Common Fisheries Policy. Why was this suddenly found to be essential at that time. The answer is simple. It was becoming evident that the uncontrolled exploitation of the worlds fisheries was leading to disaster, and that extended fishing limits were inevitable. Britain, with huge fish stocks and Norway with considerable stocks, were considering membership. So a shabby trick was devised, to ensure that British and Norwegian fishermen would not benefit from extended national limits. The bizarre doctrine was devised, that all fish within the waters of member states should be a common resource to which all Common Market fishermen had an equal right of access. This strange concept would be laughed at anywhere else in the world.
The Norwegian Fishing Minister broke ranks with the rest of his government and exposed this swindle to his fellow-countrymen and women, and the Norwegian people wisely voted against membership. The British government, which refused a referendum which they knew that they would lose, concealed these damning facts from the British people and fishermen.
In 1976, the British government, in common with other Common Market maritime nations, and many others, declared that from the beginning of 1977, a 200-mile-to-Median-Line Exclusive Fishing Zone would be established. It was then discovered, that by accepting the doctrine of Equal access to a common resource, this immense resource was the common property of continental Common Market states, even land-locked ones.
The next stage in the swindle then proceeded. Catches were shared out on the basis of so-called Historic Rights, which have no standing in International Law. A great deal of the British fishing effort had been directed to the Arctic, especially Icelandic waters. British fishermen have fished off Iceland since the Middle Ages. That did not give them any claim to continue doing so after the failure to negotiate access when Iceland had declared a 200-mile-Exclusive fishing Zone some time before.
These Historic Rights were taken from those years during which the Continental onslaught on what were now British waters was at its height. So we have the incredible situation of French vessels fishing cod all he year round off the South-West of England while British fishermen exhaust their quotas in a month. In 1977, a French fishing journal boasted that 81% of the French catch was taken from within 50 miles of the British coast.
We also find all restrictions lifted on 11 species to satisfy the nasty Spanish taste for eating baby fish, the quickest way to destroy stocks, and British fishermen compelled to toss hundreds of thousands of tons of coley back into the sea, dead, because the fools in Brussels have set ridiculously low quotas for this species.
Her Majestys Government has now decided that they will tolerate this shameless swindle no longer. An Act of Parliament will be passed stating that all the provisions of the Fisheries Limits (Amendment) Act 1976 shall apply any provisions of the European Communities Act 1972 notwithstanding. It has been confirmed by the highest legal authorities in Britain that this is perfectly legal and constitutional. These include former Masters of the Rolls, Lords Denning and Donaldson, the Conservative Lord Chancellor, the distinguished Queens Council Leolin Price and numerous others.
This Act will provide that foreign vessels may fish in British waters only by consent of her Majestys Government. The Fishing Minister may issue licences to fish to vessels of other nations, inside and outside the EU, either in return for access to their waters, or, in the case of nations with limited resources, for cash payments. The Captain of any foreign vessel who defies the lawful command of the Captain of one of Her Majestys Warships or Fisheries Protection Vessel, shall be treated as a pirate, and dealt with under the Piracy Act, save that the death penalty shall not be enforced.
Governments of vessels admitted to British waters for cash payments will be required to apply, in their own limited and abused waters, the sensible conservation measures applied in British waters, including selective fishing gear, which will allow immature fish to escape uninjured, to restore their own fish populations. They will also be obliged to end the disgraceful practice of the Commission of taking advantage of the poverty of African nations to purchase access into their waters for the predatory Iberian fleets, which toss hundreds of thousands of tons of fish back into the sea dead, keeping only such valuable species as prawns, while Africa starves, and, instead, to help African nations develop their own fishing industries to feed their hungry people.
Such an act will be legitimated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS82) which established 200 mile zones and also requires member states to fish responsibly and to conserve stocks.
These decisions are not negotiable. The British delegation is now standing up, and is not on it knees. What we propose will be in the ultimate interests of all fishermen, European and African, and may well set an example for a universal, world-wide fisheries policy to safeguard this most precious bounty of nature.