Monday, January 10, 2005

Tory fishing policy launched

As flagged up by Booker yesterday, the Conservatives have launched what they describe as a "radical new Fishing Policy".

It is based on lessons learned from successful policies pursued by countries like Canada, the United States, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands, stemming directly from visits by Owen Paterson, shadow fisheries minister.

At the core of the proposals is a scheme for national and local management and control of the industry, with national government setting a strategic framework with priorities focused on restoring the marine environment and rebuilding the fishing industry, while new local bodies would take day-to-day responsibility for managing their fisheries.

The policy is based on the following principles: effort control based on "days at sea" instead of fixed quotas; a ban on discarding commercial species; permanent closed areas for conservation; provision for temporary closures of fisheries; promotion of selective gear and technical controls; rigorous definition of minimum commercial sizes; a ban on industrial fishing; a prohibition of production subsidies; zoning of fisheries; registration of fishing vessels, skippers and senior crew members; measures to promote profitability rather than volume; and fair and effective enforcement.

Unveiling the policy, its author, Owen Paterson said: "The CFP has been a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster. It forces fishermen to throw back more fish dead into the sea than they land, it has caused substantial degradation of the marine environment, it has destroyed much of the fishing industry, with compulsory scrapping of modern vessels, and has devastated fishing communities."

Stressing that any national solution must be accompanied by a local management system, which commands the confidence and trust of the nation and its fishermen, he added: "Only local people understand the context of their local marine environment and are best placed to guarantee sustainable local fish stocks."

The full document, at 33 pages, can be downloaded from the Conservative Party site here.

Although it is primarily a consultation document, this represents a major shift in the Conservative Party – a genuine step towards repatriating an unpopular and failed EU policy.

With Michael Howard having committed to bringing this about by national legislation if necessary, this also represents a major challenge to UKIP. For all their rhetoric, UKIP have not been able to come up with any credible (or any) proposals for managing British fisheries, leaving Owen Paterson to remark that, if the fishermen and the nation wants to restore our fisheries to national and local control, there is only one option at the ballot box.

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