Friday 24 May 2024
 10.8°C   NNE Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Letters / Cutting off your nose to spite your face

Forty two years ago I lost my deposit as a local Labour candidate when I stood on a platform opposing the European Common Fisheries Policy.

A lot has changed since then and today, on balance, I think we have to stay in the European Union.

My change of mind is not just because Shetland has actually done very well out of Europe: since 1973, Brussels has made available over £270 million in grants to the Shetland seafood industry alone; the many other European grants received by Shetland’s public, private and voluntary organisations make the EU’s total contributions to these islands worth considerably more than all the spending by Shetland Charitable Trust since 1976.

But a major reason for altering my opinion is that it seems daft to vote for something that will make it more difficult to sell our fish to the world’s biggest single market. Cutting off your nose to spite your face?

I know a lot about the EU’s faults. Concern about the fisheries policy has dominated my time as the council’s representative on Europe’s coastal councils’ committee (CPMR).

It’s true that the decommissioning of much of the white fish fleet was extremely painful; as was the days at sea rule; and more recently the well-intentioned but unjust and unworkable ban on discards has caused uproar.

However, the practical effect of these curbs on the fleet has been to help a major recovery in fish stocks. Those local whitefish boats that survive are generally doing better than they were 40 years ago but if the discards ban is fully implemented that could change very quickly, so I can understand why some skippers are flying ‘Leave’ banners from the masthead.

The CPMR is working closely with fishermen’s organisations and with Members of the European Parliament to try to persuade the European Commission that the discards ban and landing obligation cannot and will not work in a mixed fishery like that around Shetland; the evidence comes from the UK Government’s own Seafish statistics which suggest that, if the discard ban is fully implemented in 2019, the income of the Shetland whitefish fleet could fall by between 40 per cent and 60 per cent.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

 

This is clearly unacceptable and it also breaches the part of the regulations that obliges national governments to preserve and protect the livelihood of remote communities heavily dependent on fishing – i.e. Shetland.

There are signs that our arguments are getting through to the Commission, which is why I think we should remain in the EU and try to reform it, instead of casting the UK adrift on stormy seas where our anchors might not hold.

And we should remember that, although fishing is vitally important to Shetland, it is not a big issue in most of the rest of the UK.

It is therefore unlikely that any UK government outside the EU would make protecting our fisheries a priority.

Ministers would have to make deals to get trade agreements with other countries (including the 27 who remain in the EU) and past experience suggests they would be tempted to swap fishing concessions for much more valuable agreements helping other industries that are more important at national level.

So, “…and always keep a hold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse,” may not be the most inspiring political message but in this case I suggest it is very good advice.

Councillor Jonathan Wills
Independent,
Lerwick South ward

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.

 
Categories

Newsletters

Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.