Sunday, June 06, 2004

Straddling and migratory stocks

An example of EU myth-making

In last Saturday's Telegraph there was a letter headed "Fish need European protection to increase", written by John Godfrey, Consumer member of the EU Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

In it he challenges Michael Howard's claim that fisheries are a "...clear example" of a policy "that would be better dealt with at a national level" by making the oft repeated point that "...fish do not respect national boundaries. Most stocks in British waters swim in seas nearer to our neighbours around the North Sea, the Channel and the Irish Sea".

This is typical of the disingenuous approach by Europhiles who claim that the EU is the be all and end all, when it comes to things like conserving fish stocks. But, as is also so often the case, this is a "little European" talking, and talking rubbish to boot.

The problem of what are known as "straddling and migratory stocks" is well known, and affects fisheries around the world. In order to deal with it, in 1995 there came into being the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, together with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries to which all EU member states are signatories. Its objective is to ensure the "long-term conservation and sustainable use" of these marine living resources.

Nor is it a toothless agreement. Signatories which share what are known as "regional seas" have committed themselves to implement the principles of the agreement – which includes wide-ranging conservation measures - through regional management arrangements

With that, the Agreement then gives participating states strong enforcement powers. The flag state still has primary jurisdiction over its vessels, but if it fails to act after being notified of a likely violation, any other state which is party to the relevant regional management arrangement or organisation has the right to board and inspect the suspected vessel.

Should the CFP be repatriated, as Mr Howard advocates, the UK would of course, abide by this Agreement and enter into regional management arrangements with its neighbours – not all of which are in the European Union. It would then expect other member states, either separately or under the aegis of the EU, to continue to honour their international obligations.

On this basis, fact that UK fisheries were taken back under national control would not affect the fate of these stocks. The point Mr Godfrey makes is specious.

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