MMO figures show that a supposed £32m windfall for North Sea Sole and Plaice is nothing but Paper Fish
Figures have revealed that a promise of a £32 million windfall for the UK’s North Sea Sole and Plaice fishing fleet has turned out to be nothing more than paper fish as the fallout from the botched Trade and Cooperation Agreement rumbles on.
New information has revealed that nearly £32 million worth of extra fish promised by Boris Johnson and his party does not exist.
Last month, Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis replying to a question from Conservative MP, Peter Aldous on the quota for North Sea Sole and North Sea Plaice revealed that post-Brexit, North Sea Sole would receive a boost of £13m, and North Sea Plaice would receive a boost of £18.8m.
Over the weekend it was revealed that the promise of a £31.8m boost to UK fishers in the North Sea was not as it has been printed on the tin.
Fishing industry expert Terri Portmann slammed the figures quoted by Victoria Prentis saying, “The valuation is codswallop. Fishermen have been stitched up again.”
Marine Management Organisation (MMO) data shows that from 2016 to 2020, the UK’s North Sea sole and plaice fleet have caught well below their allocated total allowable catches (TAC).
The data also shows that the EU fleet, which would have consisted mainly of Dutch and Belgian fishing vessels, were unable to catch their allocated TAC.
The big gain in sole and plaice quotas promised fishers a big payday but the people in the industry can’t see any financial advantage coming their way.
James White a Felixstowe fisherman was wary of seeing any improvement saying, “Nothing has changed for us. Basically, the numbers of sole we see at this time of the year are very small. We have no spring fishery anymore because we don’t see the numbers. We have no other mixed fishery apart from skate.
“Instead of increasing the quotas for plaice and sole, the government would be better of giving us access to spurdog and sea bass. We’ve never seen so many spurdog and sea bass. Obviously, spurdog is banned in its entirety and the bass allowance is so minimal it doesn’t make it viable to target.”
Where North Sea Sole and Plaice received huge increases, important stocks such as Cod only received a 1% increase for UK fishing vessels.
Labour’s shadow fisheries spokesperson, Luke Pollard MP criticised the findings saying, “Fishing has been betrayed again by Tory Ministers. Fishers were promised extra fish in the Brexit deal, but new investigation shows these fish exist only on spreadsheets as paperfish.”
Defra said negotiations are “based on the best available scientific advice”, adding that the £146m figure in the UK_EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement was calculated differently to the £31.8m figure.
TCA Paragraph 125. The Agreement provides for a significant uplift in quota for UK fishers, currently estimated to be worth around £146m for the UK fleet. This is equal to 25% of the value of the average annual EU catch from UK waters and will be phased in over five years; with the majority of this value (15%) being transferred in the first year (2021). It ends the dependence of the UK fleet on the unfair ‘relative stability’ mechanism enshrined in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and will mean that the UK vessels are able to take a larger proportion of the total landings from UK and EU waters going forward.
Angus B MacNeil, MP for the SNP lambasted the British government saying: “Numbskull UK Gov negotiated Brexit “extra” quota for fish that does not exist. They might have as well have secured “quota” for catching dinosaurs as they don’t exist either.”
by Oliver McBride