Westminster, not the EU, is to blame for the sorry state of UK fishing | Letters

Roger Mainwood, David Walker and John Byrne respond to claims that Brexit will restore the fortunes of the UK’s fishing fleets

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, claims that if Brexit happens we can “take back control of our waters” (Letters, 25 April). He cites the UN convention on the law of the sea (Unclos) as evidence. What the convention says is that “the coastal State, taking into account the best scientific evidence available to it, shall ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over-exploitation. As appropriate, the coastal state and competent international organisations, whether subregional, regional or global, shall cooperate to this end.”

Britain and all EU member states are parties to Unclos, which also says that countries must jointly manage fish stocks that migrate between two or more countries’ waters. Those pesky fish species. More than 100 of the species present in UK waters have an annoying habit of not recognising the UK’s 200-mile coastal zone. So they have to be managed at levels that do not exceed maximum sustainable yield.

There is widespread agreement that the UK should continue to fund, and take advice from, the International Council on the Exploration of the Sea, which is exactly the same advice on the basis of which total allowable catches are agreed at EU level.

Sympathy should indeed lie with the smaller UK fishing communities. The blame, however, should not lie with the EU but with our own government. It is not the EU that decides how to allocate the UK’s quota between vessels but Defra. UK fishing industry revenues are growing again but the profits are going to a small number of larger offshore vessels, often owned by overseas companies. The UK government distributes less than 4% of its quota to inshore fishing vessels. We don’t need Brexit to have a change of policy on this.
Roger Mainwood
Wivenhoe, Essex

• Bertie Armstrong and Steve Peak (Letters, 25 April) take issue with Polly Toynbee to promote their pro-Brexit views but they ignore an earlier article by John Lichfield (Ukip is wrong: British fishing answers to Westminster not Brussels, theguardian.com, 6 April), whose facts seem impossible to refute.
David Walker

• Why has British fishing not bought up quotas from other EU countries? Why do we always seem to be behind the game?
John Byrne
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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