As Boris cracked Brexit jokes EU fishing boats plundered UK waters

Mike HookemMike Hookem

As we entered the month of October the political conference season kicked off, first with the Labour Party followed soon after by Conservatives.

While these two conferences were taking place and we listened to many speeches on subjects from the economy to education to energy as various politicians congratulated themselves a fleet of the world’s largest ‘super trawlers’ – the infamous ‘factory ships’ – invaded the UK’s east coast waters from Flamborough to the northern waters off Scotland. These vessels are huge. One of the largest, the Margaris, is 136 metres in length (equal in length to 14 normal size fishing vessels). She drags a net stretching the distance of six football pitches and she is registered under the Lithuanian flag.

She was previously called the Abel Talisman but when she attempted to register under the Australian flag and fish Australian waters the ‘Aussies’ sensibly and decisively decided that this would not be in the best interest of local fishermen.

She was promptly and unceremoniously banned.

So, I ask, where was the outrage at either the Labour or Conservative conference that this factory ship was plundering British waters even as MP’s slapped themselves on the back?

Why has the Conservative Government abandoned UK fishermen and coastal communities? What has become of Her Majesty’s official opposition the Labour Party?

The UK fishermen and their coastal communities rely on the income earned from fishing our waters are desperately seeking a champion to fight for their industry.

An industry, as you cannot have failed to spot, reeling from constant betrayal by established political parties.

According to a BBC report more than half of England’s fishing quota, £160 million, is in the hands of vessels owned by companies’ resident in Iceland, Spain and the Netherlands.

That amounts to 130,000 tonnes of fish a year. You can certainly see the problem and understand the frustration and fear for the future of UK artisanal fishermen.

What are these struggling coastal fishermen and communities to do at the next general election when politicians come knocking at doors asking for votes, promising to support fishermen.

A barnstorming end of conference speech to the party faithful from Boris Johnson, who talks the talk but continually fails to walk the walk, will not restore confidence.

The Brexit cry of ‘regain control of our waters’ is now seen as nothing more than a cheap confidence trick to gain votes.

Boris Johnson continually talks of ‘sustainability’.

The notion underpins his policies on energy, industry, and of course his ‘green agenda’ for the future.

Yet throughout the Tory conference he totally ignored the sustainable food source that swims around our coastline.

The continued raping of UK waters by foreign vessels, the destruction of the seabed by heavy trawls is being totally ignored by the PM.

If the Conservative government is to be believed, then a sustainable UK fishing industry must be at the top of their agenda.

But it seems not. Instead we see once more a Boris Johnson failing to deliver on his promises and the Labour Party refusing to acknowledge the folly of the government policy and call out the PM on his betrayal of UK fishermen.

The Government must commit to enacting the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act, which states a fishing vessel can only be classed as British if it has ‘a genuine and substantial connection’ to the UK so putting an end to quota hopping by huge EU companies in UK waters.

If the Government flinches then UK fishermen, frustrated by being continually ignored, will loan their vote to the smaller parties.

Many of these smaller parties and independents are in talks to consolidate their voter base to create a new party and take on the duopoly of Con/Lab.

The waters surrounding the United Kingdom and the fish in them are a natural sustainable resource belonging to the people of the UK.

We are the guardians, the recipient of its bountiful supply of fish, food for the nation’s table, its aquaculture a sustainable benefit of the United Kingdom its people, fishermen and the generations of fishermen to come.

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