Thursday, September 02, 2004

The government has spoken

On 24 July of this year, we wrote a Blog entitled "Why is it a 'victory'?", noting that, in a testament to the utter powerlessness of British fisheries ministers, and the vacuity of the media, the Western Morning News had claimed "a major victory" by securing a commitment from fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw that he would "press the EU commission to implement an emergency closure of the winter bass fishery off the West Country coast".

The action, according to the WMN, was urgently needed to prevent pair trawlers (mostly French) continuing the carnage of porpoises and dolphins – estimated at 2-4,5000 a year - after government trials of so-called "dolphin-friendly" nets had failed to halt the killing.

Yesterday, however, the self-same Western Morning News dolefully reported that the EU commission had rejected the Bradshaw’s entreaties "on the grounds that the data presented by the UK does not justify an immediate ban".

Campaigners have expressed their "disappointment" but the biscuit is really taken by Defra, offering its usual quota of weasel words. "The commission's response acknowledges the considerable efforts made by the UK n trying to find a solution to dolphin bycatch in this fishery," it said, adding, "The response also restates the commission's commitment to work towards a solution to this problem and points to some ways that progress might be made".

Nothing in these meaningless phrases can disguise the fact that – as we pointed out in our original posting – our own fisheries minister is powerless to make decisions as to how our own waters are managed, and our true government is now in Brussels.

Bradshaw can bleat all he likes, but the government has spoken. Unless they are prepared to take action to change this situation, Dolphin-lovers had be get used to the idea that British ministers are no longer in charge.

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