FROSTY’S RAMBLINGS Empty nets again for UK trawlers
I love fish. I eat a lot more fish than red meat. My idea of the perfect meal is to eat a fish supper in full view of the boats that have caught the fish. It could be deep-sea cod, coastal crustaceans, or local herring – what used to be called silver darlings.
It could be in Hastings at the tables outside a nice restaurant right across the beach where they always winch the inshore fishing boats. The only downside here are the bloody thieving seagulls.
It could be Aldeburgh eating scallops that the divers caught that morning on the boats docked here. Fresh whelks, cockles and even periwinkles are caught and sold all along the North Norfolk coast.
I have wonderful memories of fishing harbors like Killybegs in Donegal, around Orkney and Shetland and all over Northern Europe. I ate delicious brown shrimp in Bremerhaven where the shrimp boats dry their brown fillets from their masts. They look like old sailing ships.
Closer to home, I ate delicious locally caught fish in Whitby, Scarborough and other ports along the Yorkshire coast.
The French coasts have always offered remarkable locally caught oysters, shrimps, langoustines and many other fish. Across the Atlantic in New England I sat on the port side and ate inexpensive lobsters and awesome clam pastries. As you would expect, Fisherman’s Quay in San Francisco takes a few hits.
All over the world there is almost a Freemasonry of those who fish. Fishermen often care more about the hunt for fish than about politics or national borders. Now, at least on both sides of the Channel, all that seems to have changed.
The vote for and against Brexit was very close. Some were for, others against and some, like our Prime Minister Boris Johnson, could not make up their minds. Remember he wrote two articles for The Telegraph, one for, one against, and only decided which one should be published at the very last moment.
Many of the arguments in favor of Brexit seemed very compelling and the Brexit position was the first. Some industries believed Brexit would bring wonders for their own special interests and one of them was the large offshore fishing fleet.
Everything did not go as planned. The ocean of opportunity that Brexit would bring has certainly dried up for Yorkshire and other fishermen on the east coast.
News that Britain and Norway have failed to secure a fishing deal means boats like the Hull-based Kirkella remain tied up, possibly for good.
The Kirkella is a state-of-the-art trawler with a crew of 30 that catches 8-10 percent of all fish sold in UK fish and chips. In its heyday, it provided cod and haddock for one in 10 of the fish ‘n’ chip takeaways consumed in Britain.
Kirkella was built in 2019 and is 81m (265ft) long, with a 16m (58ft) beam and measure 3,976 gross tons. The crew accommodation has a gym and a cinema.
The new bright yellow vessel is the latest chapter in the history of a fishing industry that stretches back generations in Hull and other ports on the east coast. This unique vessel represents more than 100 jobs, and many more in the supply and service chain.
Warnings were given in 2019 during the ship’s launch about the failure to secure a deal. That year, the Kirkella sailed up the Thames to highlight threats to the fishing industry if Brexit negotiations did not lead to a satisfactory deal.
At the time, Sir Barney White-Spunner, Chairman of the UK Fisheries Advisory Board, said: “Brexit has huge benefits for the fishery if properly managed. Our concern is that this is not being properly managed. “
Today, fishing families and the many people working in the industry ashore, as well as the huge, multi-million pound companies that own the vessels and facilities ashore and alongside have come together to campaign for save Britain’s distant water fishing industry.
Johnson, and his Conservative government with his old friend ex-Ukipper George Eustice at the helm as fisheries minister as part of his Defra brief, were slow to secure the promised deals with one of our traditional partners around the North Atlantic – the Faroes, Greenland, Iceland and now Norway.
Memories of the cod war with Iceland were rekindled. From 1952 to 1976, the Cod Wars were a series of clashes between the UK and Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic. Each of the disputes ended with an Icelandic victory.
It’s not just that Johnson, Eustice, and the entire Tory squad didn’t make a deal. They have also shown a complete lack of due diligence to the fishing industry.
The fishermen were happy that the government was negotiating continued access at low prices to our markets for Norwegian exporters in exchange for Britain receiving Arctic cod quotas.
Without such an agreement, British vessels can no longer fish in Norway’s subarctic waters. As a result, there will be no Arctic cod caught by the British sold via crisps for our national dish.
Without such a deal, all of our cod will be imported from the Norwegians, who will continue to sell their fish products in the UK duty free while our vessels – like the Kirkella – are excluded from Norwegian arctic waters.
The boss of Kirkella’s operating company, UK Fisheries, Jane Sandell, summed it up in the pages of the Yorkshire Post: “We were promised a sea of opportunity, not the sabotage of an entire industry. Sandell went on to tell the BBC that the lack of a fishing deal was “a disgrace and a national embarrassment”.
It’s not just Hull and the east coast that are suffering. The head of Plymouth City Council recently claimed that the city’s fishing industry had been ‘betrayed’ by the Brexit deal.
All around the coast, fishing communities are unhappy with the post-Brexit deal, as it did not allow them to catch more fish as originally planned, and in the meantime, EU boats still fish in UK waters.
Twenty shellfish companies are looking to justice. “We are seeking the advice of a leading lawyer on the government’s actions regarding the EU trade deal and the assurances given by the government to allow exports of live shellfish.
“We believe there has been negligence and maladministration regarding the government’s negotiations on the deal and its treatment of our clients,” said a spokesperson for their legal team.
Unfortunately, even more shellfish specialists are closing their doors and selling their boats for pleasure.
Useless Eustice de Defra promised he would only make deals “if they are balanced and in the best interests of the UK fishing industry”. They offered Norway what they called a fair deal on access to UK waters and the exchange of fishing quotas.
Now they have concluded that our positions remain too far apart to reach an agreement this year. Many in the fishing community voted for Brexit on the promise of a better future, but for the crew of the Kirkella and many others, that future now looks very bleak.
Pump man, Jacob Rees-Mogg can joke whatever he loves about getting our fish back, but that’s no laughing matter for the many families whose income depends on fishing.
Karl Turner, Labor MP for Hull East, told us: “Brexit was supposed to be the salvation of the fishing industry, yet Hull has hundreds of jobs and millions of investments left behind.
The fishing industry has been shamelessly used and is now largely ignored now that Brexit is over. For the hundreds of proud fishing communities all around the coast of these islands, this is unforgivable. They just deserve better.
No matter which side you voted for in the big Brexit referendum, you still need to stand up for those who go into the deep waters and continue to hunt for our food – those who fish the oceans in search of what they called the silver darlings.