The Independent is quick off the mark with a story on the fisheries council agreement, taking the greenie line as usual, headlining "EU retreat on cod ban may drive species to extinction."
Writes Stephen Castle, the Brussels correspondent, "Cod, once a staple of the British diet, could be fished close to extinction, environmentalists warned yesterday. They said a deal keeping North Sea fishing grounds open to trawlers was 'scandalous'".
But, of course, it is not really the fault of Brussels. "Under pressure from the Government, the European Commission backed away from plans to close up to a fifth of the North Sea to fishing fleets, to prevent collapse of cod stocks," Castle then adds.
"Instead, after a night of haggling, fisheries ministers emerged at 5.30am with a series of piecemeal moves, which include a one-day reduction in the days at sea permitted for some fishermen and tougher enforcement of the existing rules."
True to form, environmental groups are "furious with Britain for blocking the proposed North Sea closures", a move that comes little more than two weeks after the report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution proposed more drastic action. It said that, over time, 30 per cent of UK waters should be closed to fishing.
Then, Charlotte Mogensen, fisheries officer for the conservation group WWF, is given plenty of space to say: "For cod, the future looks very bleak because sufficient measures are not being taken. Ministers are putting the socio-economic aspects before the recovery of the species. If it continues this way, in the long run there will not be many fisheries to manage. It is not disappointing, it is scandalous."
Dear, oh dear, oh dear. I have already rehearsed in an earlier posting as to why fisheries closures would be disastrous, both for the fishermen and for the cod. I really, really am tired of these dim, half-witted eco-freaks who, in taking the moral high ground, aim to destroy everything they claim to hold so dear.
And these dim-wits do not even understand what is going on, much less the fishermen – and even I missed it until I saw a piece from the Malta news agency di-ve.com adding a detail which I had forgotten about.
That detail, which I have seen nowhere else – not even in the commission communiqué - informs us that: "With this new agreement, more fish will be caught during 2005 than originally planned but the quota will start decreasing during the coming years." Joe Borg, the fisheries commissioner, is then quoted saying that this would "rebuild stocks without economically crippling the fleets concerned".
Idiot! – me that is. I wrote about it when the White Paper first appeared in May 2002 – the proposed CFP "reform". This is the first year the "reform" applies and what now happens is that a mechanism comes into play called "multi-annual management plans".
Instead of quotas being determined annually at the council bunfight, they are now going to be set for a number of years.
However, while for the first year (2006) the council is allowed to set the catch – defined as "fishing mortality targets" - and the fishing effort limit, in subsequent years, the operation of the plan is to be undertaken by the commission, without needing council approval.
Thus, new broom Joe Borg is taking it softly, softly. Today the fishermen are relatively happy. Next year they are going to be screaming.