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Outrage: Devolution Of English Fishing Interests

UK - The National Federation of Fishermens Organisations (NFFO) is furious that a agreement between Defra and the devolved administrations will hand over control of parts of the English, and Northern Irish fleets to Marine Scotland, if they operate what is deemed to be a Scottish fishing pattern.

We are incredulous that such a move is even being contemplated, said Arnold Locker, Chairman of the NFFO.

Our vessels, many of which have been forced to operate from Scottish ports because of days-at-sea restrictions and quota constraints, will now, if this agreement is allowed to come into force, be forcibly reassigned to Scottish administration, despite the fact that their ownership lies in England, their crews are English, their whole history and affiliations are English, and their administration has been in English ports. The Northern Ireland fleet will be in exactly the same position.

What is disgraceful is that our quotas and effort will be reassigned to Scotland and we will have absolutely no leverage whatsoever with marine Scotland how those allocations will be managed in future. We will have been disenfranchised. Can you imagine how much attention an Edinburgh administration will pay to our interests?

We would be in a much stronger position if we were French or Belgian or Irish. Then EU anti-discrimination rules would provide us with some protection. As it is because we are members of the same member state, these rules dont apply.

What will the position be for vessels that operate in Scottish waters for part of the year? Will they continually have to change port of administration? We dont know because there has been no proper dialogue on this profoundly important issue.

The unintended consequences that could flow from this half-baked decision could be profound. We could see our vessels affected by management measures that are discriminatory in effect. It is all the more outrageous that it is being pushed through without proper consultation with the people who would be affected by it. Because this is deemed to be a government-to-government agreement, we have not had sight and will not have sight of the new concordat, until it is signed, and probably not even then.

The driver for all of this is a handful of vessels which have changed administration to avoid the consequences of devolved decisions for example the English under-10m licence cap. But there is a simple solution to that problem: make transfers between administrations contingent on agreement by both the departing and receiving administrations.

A request to meet the Minister to discuss the implications of this bizarre abrogation of duty has been refused and we are therefore considering all of our options. What is certain is that we will not be going meekly like lambs to the slaughter.

the Fish Site Editor

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