Maritime borders have always been difficult to police—and the challenge only increases under the surfaceby Maria Damanaki / June 20, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Twelve things you need to know about Brexit
What impact has the European Union had on both the fishing industry and the dwindling stocks of fish? Last week, UKIP leader Nigel Farage led a flotilla of fishing boats up the River Thames in a protest over EU common fisheries policy.
In reply, “Remain campaigner” Bob Geldof—who took to the waters to challenge the Brexit-backing flotilla—claimed that Britain makes more money than any other EU member from fishing and has the second largest quota for fish in Europe after Denmark.
Fisheries raise fundamental questions about sovereignty, how we share common resources and the future of small, sometimes remote communities. Few people are aware of how EU regulation affects the fishing industry, but many of Britain’s fishermen want to leave. What would Brexit do for us and them?
Maritime borders have always been difficult to police. The challenge only increases under the surface. Mackerel, herring, cod and other species travel from other countries’ waters into Britain’s and back again, without regard for anyone’s sovereignty. This means that to protect British fisheries, we have to find a way to police foreign vessels that are beyond the reach of British law.
This requires international agreement. Before the Common Market, by and large, most vessels fished in their own waters. However, when Britain joined in 1973 there was a risk that French, Spanish and Norwegian boats might invade our waters and destroy the catch—and vice versa. The result was the development of European fisheries policy that aimed to co-ordinate regulation, while granting rights for all EU fishermen to have access to member states’ waters. The first Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) came into force in 1983.
As part of the development of fisheries policy in the 1970s, the sea was re-mapped. Up to 12 miles from a nation’s shores were reserved for that country’s fishermen, and a zone stretching from there to 200 miles from the zone was open for all EU boats to access. Meanwhile, the size of…