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Britain must take control of fisheries

April 16th, 1997

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 16th April 1997.

You are right in saying that quota hopping (report, April 15) is a distraction from the real calamity.  The suggestion that Britain might “win” concessions on this issue at the Amsterdam Conference raises the question as to what concessions on supremely important issues such as immigration and border controls will be wrung out of a British Prime Minister as a quid pro quo.

The plain fact is that the EU has had stewardship of fishing in the bulk of our national waters since 1973, so the responsibility for over-fishing is entirely theirs.  It is right therefore that we should reclaim control over our waters for the benefit of the fish stocks and of our own fishing industry.

The EU’s objective of reducing catches of threatened species by 30% and our objective of stabilizing our fishing industry can both be met if foreign vessels are progressively excluded from our waters over the next five years to 2002.  Indeed some limited fishing by foreign vessels might be allowable beyond that date, but the key point is that it would be for us to decide.

Clearly transitional arrangements would need to be negotiated with other countries bordering the North Sea and the English Channel, but this would be on the basis of asserting our rights out to two hundred miles or the median line, whichever is closer – as agreed 30 years ago under international law.