Ken’s Column



From Ken Watmough

In category - Members News

January 31, 2020

Happy New Year Dear Reader,

Having said goodbye to 2019, I’m sure many of you are pleased to see the back of it. During 2019, there was so much bickering about Brexit that most of us are sick to the eye teeth, I know I was. However, I hope as we enter the new decade of 2020, we have 2020 vision. Of course 2020 vision is ‘optician’s speak’ for having good normal vision, so should you take any commercial decisions to make changes in your businesses that it is done with a clear 2020 vision approach.

The annual fishing quota talks took place at the end of December and there have been quite a number of reductions on the UK Total Allowable Catch (TAC) this year. The prospect for our UK fishers is not too good regarding the amount of fish being allowed to be caught. The decisions to reduce the quota on certain species has been based on the scientific information available. The marine scientists have seen a considerable decline in North Sea Cod, so to maintain a sustainable fishery, cuts in the cod quota needs to be made.

Whilst this news was unwelcomed by the fishermen’s organisations, Mike Park of the White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) has been quoted: “The North Sea cod stock is very prolific, but this next year will be extremely challenging and the Scottish fleet will face these new challenges and will focus on trying to resolve the stock problem’’.

Also Elspeth Macdonald, the new chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) indicated: “The reduction in the TAC for North Sea cod will have a serious economic impact on the Scottish white fish sector in 2020 and will present major difficulties for the Scottish fleet’’. Mind you, there are encouraging signs, the scientific information on fish stocks is constantly under review by the marine scientists, and their information could reveal that the cod stock has revived sooner than expected – we can only hope so. Hey ho!!

At the time of writing, ‘The Fisheries Bill’ has cleared Parliament. This should now set in motion the process for the UK to become a ‘Coastal State’, returning total control of our seas to the UK. I did mention in my last newsletter that the UK intended to leave the EU on 31st October, that did not happen of course, the UK has now left the EU on 31st January.

Also, now that the ‘Fisheries Bill’ is through parliament the UK and the EU are aiming to start negotiations for a new deal on fisheries on 1st July, this will help prepare for a decision on quotas for 2021. Yet even before any of this can take place, information from a leaked European Commission memo, sent out to EU members, suggests that Brussels could dig in and hold out for a status quo agreement, meaning they wish to hold on to the share of UK fishing as they have done in the past.

They are suggesting that any future UK trade agreements needs to be linked to giving access to UK fishing. This is not an acceptable route for our government negotiators to take. The organisations who act on behalf the Scottish fishermen are seeing this as a likely sell out. I also understand that Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) in a recent interview on the Radio 4 Farming program, pressed for a more equitable quota arrangement, certainly not to be based on catches of the 1970’s, which were considered then by the EU as the ‘track record’ for setting EU fishing quotas. It does look like rough times ahead, but I do hope that our UK fishermen get back the real value of being out of the EU.

I wish to draw your attention to two interesting TV programs, each regarding fishing and our fishermen. Both programs highlight their very dangerous jobs whilst catching fish. The program FISH TOWN (BBC1 Mondays) is the second program in the series, and is centred on Peterhead. Sadly, there are no subtitles. It was during the most recent program there was a segment of the 2019 Fishing News Awards, which I was able to attend on behalf of our NFF. The second program (BBC 2 Tuesdays) is also a very interesting program featuring the fishermen of Megavissey in Cornwall, and shows how volatile the sardine catching season can be.Seeing Megavissey, it brought back memories for my wife Cath and I, for we spent some time touring Devon and Cornwall before we returned to Torquay for social weekend organised by Gordon and Mo Sage – and like all our social weekends, this was a great one.

In my last newsletter, I was unable to mention the likely outcome of the ongoing Brexit saga, but since then we’ve had a General Election resulting in Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government gaining a considerable majority and now securing the UK Withdrawal Agreement. So, as I finally completed this newsletter on 31st January, I also shared on TV with so many others, the historic moment when the UK left the EU. Dear reader – what does the future hold?

Ken Watmough.

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