Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fishing out the waters

States in general are awful at projecting unintended consequences; politicians seem to be possessed of some kind of weird god complex in which they believe that if they decree that something should work, then it will.

When it fucks up, as happens so very often, the damage is invariably compounded by the fact that it takes an age to put right. Often, politicians will not believe that anything is wrong; then they believe, but their pride will not let them admit it; and then, finally, when they attempt to do something about it, the political process takes so long that there are yet more problems.

Of course, no institution embodies this stupidity more than the EU which is made up of 27 pig-headed governments, plus its own special bunch of stubborn fuckwits. And whilst it is starting to filter through to some of these cunts that the Common Agricultural Policy might be a bit shit, these fuckers have not even considered the environmental and economic damage caused by the Common Fisheries Policy.

But, once more, we have a stark reminder of the utter futility of the CFP.
The UK fishing industry is warning it faces ruin unless EU quota rules which see millions of freshly-caught fish end up back in the sea, dead, are changed.

It says fishing crews often continue catching large amounts of fish, such as cod, by accident after exceeding quotas and have no option but to dump them.

The practice leaves crews struggling to make a living, while damaging hopes for sustainability, say environmentalists.

EU commissioner Joe Borg acknowledges the problem but sees no clear solution.

Well, what a fucking surprise. So, let us go in at the sharp end, shall we?
BBC News joined skipper Phil Walsh for a day's fishing onboard his trawler, the Lucia.

Phil says the quota for cod and other white fish he and other inshore fishermen were allocated by Brussels this year was tiny.

This is true and it is because of the desperate shortage of fish, especially cod, caused by over-fishing. Unfortunately, just because politicians say that something will happen—in this case, that cod will not be caught—does not mean that it is actually going to work.
By June he had landed all of the cod he was allowed. So, since then, the Lucia has been fishing for prawns.

After a four-hour trawl that began before dawn, the net was hauled in. It looked like a bumper catch.

Hundreds of fish splattered onto the Lucia's deck. But there were very few prawns. Despite setting his gear and net mesh size for prawns, Phil had caught mainly white fish, lots of it good mature cod as well as whiting and haddock.

Can you guess what happens next?
After being dragged up from the deep, the fish are all dead or dying. And then—almost unbelievably to anyone who hasn't seen this before—Phil and his one-man crew systematically sort through the fish, salvage what few prawns they can and throw the rest over the side.

The screech of the seagulls reaches a crescendo as hundreds of prime cod hit the water. And soon they are devouring food which would fetch as much as £13.50/kg on a supermarket shelf.

As he empties buckets of precious fish back into the sea, Phil says: "I can't describe the feeling really.

"It's your livelihood and you spend your life trying to catch it and then you have to throw it back over the side. It's an impossible situation and, unless it is sorted out soon, we will all be finished."

More importantly, for those of us who enjoy traditional fish and chips, is that the cod will soon be finished. This is waste on a massive scale: if they are catching the fish, then why not let them land them? This is insane.
Environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund have for years been sounding the alarm bell over the dramatic decline of fish stocks in the North Sea.

They say quotas are essential to limit the amount of fish being caught—to ensure that spawning stocks are allowed to mature and to breed.

Well, WWF, you have your quotas and what is happening? Are the fish stocks recovering? No, because they are simply being caught and then thrown back, dead.

So, what is the extent of this madness. Well, last year, EU Referendum digested the figures. [Emphasis mine.]
Nevertheless, always willing to reinforce failure with, er… more failure, ICES are now calling for a complete ban on cod exploitation AND—in the height of moronic fatuity—are telling EU member state governments that other species, such as haddock and plaice, will have to be severely curtailed if cod is to be protected.

This comes from Gerd Hubold, the general-secretary of ICES, who has told the uncritical Times that the main problem is that although cod catches have been cut to 26,500 tonnes a year, more than twice that amount is being caught in bycatches by fishermen chasing other species such as haddock, whiting, hake and plaice.

Fishermen, we are told, "accidentally" caught about 50,000 tonnes of cod last year, and have to throw the dead fish back in the sea because it is classed as an illegal catch.

The Common Fisheries Policy is a classic tragedy of the commons and a nice illustration of the damage done by top-down planning by absolute fucking lunatics with no idea of what they are doing.

Can we fucking well leave yet?

9 comments:

Tomrat247 said...

"More importantly, for those of us who enjoy traditional fish and chips, is that the cod will soon be finished. This is waste on a massive scale: if they are catching the fish, then why not let them land them? This is insane."

As a northerner I must point out that the only true fish and chips is haddock and chips. ;-)

This is a difficult situation - you have the quota to prevent overfishing, but differentiating between species in your catch is almost as difficult. To compound this, tiny quotas and high prices mean that allowing some room for maneuver will invariably lead to over fishing and perpetuation of the problem they are trying to solve.

Why not remove the quota system altogether but create transient fishing zones? Similar to cyclical farming methods fish would naturally move further away from commercial fishing lanes into these and after a few years stocks would build back up in these areas and the zones could be switched again.

Devil's Kitchen said...

As a northerner I must point out that the only true fish and chips is haddock and chips. ;-)

Well, we sent you northerners all the crap, obviously... ;-) I must say that I'm not really a fan of haddock.

To compound this, tiny quotas and high prices mean that allowing some room for maneuver will invariably lead to over fishing and perpetuation of the problem they are trying to solve.

Lift the quota and you put more fish on the market and the laws of supply and demand will ensure that the price drops, of course.

Why not remove the quota system altogether but create transient fishing zones?

This is what used to happen in days of yore, of course. Easiest way: let fishermen buy the fishing grounds: private ownership will ensure that they are fished sustainably. Hence why I mentioned the tragedy of the commons.

DK

Tomrat247 said...

A question of taste I suppose - I lived in Oxford in my uni days and had to endure the worst cod in the universe and pay a fiver for the privelege - spose thats what I get for moving inland and south; Maccy D's was preferable...barely...

One question bothers me though: what would privatisation of fishing lanes do to security concerns like smuggling, slavery and terrorism? be a bit easier to exploit these than present commercial fishing commons, especially where profit margins for standard fishing were relatively small.

FlipC said...

Dealing with problems:

Stage 1: "There is no problem"

Stage 2: "There could be a problem, but we need to collect data to assess that"

Stage 3: "We can't say if there's a problem or not until we've gone through the data we've collected"

Stage 4:

a) "Yes there was a problem, but it resolved itself while we were investigating it", or
b) "Yes there is a problem, but it was caused by my predecessor and we need to collect more data on how to solve it", or
c) "Yes there is a problem, which is now a crisis with only one option available to solve it" or
d) "We don't if there's a problem as we discovered a problem in the data we collected"

Anonymous said...

For years now thanks to the EU CFP, Spanish ships have fished our waters and landed their catch in Spanish ports where scrutiny of catch limits just aren't happening.
This marked the beginning of the end for many of my associates in the fishing industry.

Davide Simonetti said...

I agree with that the CFP is an utter disgrace. I don't know what Joe Borg is on about when he says he sees no clear solution to the problem. There is a solution that should keep everyone happy (and not waste any fish) but as far as I know the EU hasn't even tried to implement it. The idea is to create zones in the North Sea and Atlantic where fishing is forbidden until stocks replenish. This would allow fish like cod to spawn and grow. Eventually they'll leave the zones and become fair game. To me this seems a better way to protect cod supplies than the obviously ineffective quota system. The problems, of course, would be getting consensus to implement the scheme and then enforcing it (international waters).

The problem of overfishing exists in the Mediterranean too where the EU and The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (Iccat) have failed miserably in protecting the bluefin tuna which is facing extinction in the Med.

Brian said...

I wonder if we could mince up European Union officials and chuck them in instead. Would this be a legitimate product (horrible thought) or just 'bycatch'?

AD627 said...

Of course, any realistic solution - whether transient fishing zones or the use of property rights - is going to require enforcement. Which is a pity, because the bunch of incompetent crooks currently in power has turned the Royal Navy into a global joke…

Ian Bennett said...

What's most alarming is that it's taken them thirty years to realise that the CAP does more harm than good. As for Borg seeing no clear solution, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the EU isn't the solution to the problem, it is the problem