In this week’s edition of Fishing News (essential reading for Eurosceptics) is a chilling tale of just quite how insane the CFP rules have become and how their application nearly cost the lives of the crews of five North Sea fishing boats.
Last Sunday, five boats were trawling about one hour’s steaming off Whitby (off the North East coast of England – for our American and other offshore friends) when the coastguard issued a severe weather warning.
Sensibly, the skippers decided to head for shelter in the nearest port but, under current CFP "cod recovery" rules (Council Regulation (EC) No 423/2004 of 26 February 2004 establishing measures for the recovery of cod stocks), if they have caught more than a ton of cod, they must notify the authorities before entering port – giving them at least four hours notice.
Duly, at about 6.15 pm, they contacted the call-in centre in Edinburgh to report that they were making for Whiby, whence they were told that, under the CFP rules, they could not enter until at least 10.15 pm.
The skippers pointed out that, by that time, the tide would be too low and the boats would not be able to enter, and they would be forced to stay out in the gale until the early hours of the morning. Despite this, and the very real risk to life, the skippers were still refused permission to enter the port.
Risking prosecution, however, three of the skippers ignored the prohibition and entered the port anyway, and two made for Scarborough, a few miles south. Dick Brewer, skipper of one of the boats, Ocean Rose, complained that "this isn’t fisheries legislation, this is decommissioning by death".
After the event, DEFRA issued a statement, without a hint of an apology, saying that there were "procedures in place" to deal with situations where safety was at risk but, "unfortunately the call centre operator did not follow the correct procedures and gave incorrect advice…".
This, frankly, is b******s. the regulations are very clear on the requirement for four hour notification, and there are no exemptions whatsoever written into them (see link above). The operator was entirely correct in stating the law, and the rules did put the fishermens’ lives at risk.
And it is not as if they had not been warned. When the regulations were first framed, fishermens’ representative Barrie Deas, had told DEFRA that the rules could cause potentially life-threatening situations, but clearly, no effective action was taken.
Furthermore, the lovely Ben Bradshaw, fisheries minister, had not responded to a letter asking for the application of the rules to be delayed. But then, he is not in charge, so he couldn't anyway.