Fishing farce

A TEST of whether the EU can start operating for Britain's benefit, the stated desire of David Cameron, is whether common sense can prevail on the vexed question of fishing quotas.

One only has to witness the steady decline in trawlers operating out of Yorkshire's harbours to realise that this is a once thriving industry that has been brought to a virtual standstill by the inflexibility of Brussels-based bureaucrats.

Only the EU could devise a policy whereby trawlermen have to throw dead fish back into the sea so they do not exceed quota limits.

Only the EU could fail to put in place measures that would enable fishermen to transfer fish to those vessels with spare capacity.

And only the EU could agree, earlier this month, to reduce the quotas for 2011, thereby leaving the fishing industry in an even more ruinous position. This might be understandable if fish stocks were declining. But they are not. Carefully planned conservation measures, a necessary price in the past, are paying off and it is also in the interests of trawlermen not to jeopardise these efforts.

These are proud men whose boats, in many instances, have passed through the generations, and who are conservationists at heart. Without adequate fish stocks, their industry has no future. That they have withstood the vagaries of the EU for so many years, and for such little financial reward, is testament to their indomitable spirit and a love of the sea.

But, unless the EU can be persuaded to see sense, they will have no future – and it will be because of a failure of political leadership rather than any shortcomings in conservation. This is why Mr Cameron needs to stop the intransigence of the European Union leaving trawlermen high and dry.