At sea: Fisheries minister votes against healthier fish stocks and a fairer catch for British fishermen
Commenting on the UK fisheries minister, George Eustice, who earlier today voted against several amendments to the Fisheries Bill that would have compelled the government to restore fish stocks to a healthy status by 2020 and to redistribute fishing quota from a handful of multi-million-pound fishing companies to low-impacts fishermen, Greenpeace UK’s Head of oceans Will McCallum said:
“Fisheries minister George Eustice is at sea. Michael Gove promised a green Brexit and healthier seas, but it looks like Eustice missed the memo. Today, the government had a unique opportunity to keep the many promises of a brighter future made to British fishermen while also setting a clear target against overfishing. Instead, the fisheries minister chose to defend a broken status quo, where a small cabal of millionaires controls a large chunk of fishing rights whilst thousands of local low-impacts boats are left high and dry. This is a betrayal of Britain’s fishers and the coastal communities that depend on them. Politicians with coastal constituencies must now rally together across party lines to make sure that during the Fisheries Bill’s passage through Parliament ministers tackle this burning injustice by reallocating fishing quota to the vessels that fish more sustainably and provide the biggest return for local communities.”
A recent Greenpeace investigation into distribution of fishing quota across the UK found:
Over a quarter (29%) of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List.
This group also has minority investments in companies and fishing vessel partnerships that hold a further 8% of the country’s fishing quota. This means companies holding over a third (37%) of the UK’s fishing quota are wholly or partly owned by this tiny handful of wealthy families.
Over half (13) of the UK’s 25 largest quota-holders are linked to one of the biggest criminal overfishing scams ever to reach the British courts. These 13 businesses have shareholders, directors, or vessel partners who were convicted (in cases heard between 2011–2012) following the “Operation Trawler” police investigation into industrial-scale landings of illegally over-quota fish (or “black fish”) in Scotland.
Those with the biggest hoards of quota can make millions leasing their fishing quota without casting a net. One company – which holds over half (55%) of Northern Ireland’s quota – recently disposed of its boat and earned £7m in a year from its quota while waiting for a new one.