• December 24, 2015


We have received a response to our queries to the UK Government over two issues:

Treatment of migrant fishermen employed at sea on trawlers
The operations and damage cause by super trawlers

The reply is set out below;

“20th December 2015

Dear Mr Moffatt

Thank you for your letters of 18 and 20 November about the safety maintenance of fishing vessels and the impact of ‘super trawlers’ on the UK marine environment.

The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 include measures to encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers at sea. Owners must also ensure their crews follow safe working practices and that all equipment on board is properly installed and maintained. Details about the Regulations can be found at: www. gov. uk/guidance/fishing-vessel-health-and-safety. As you suggest, issues relating to the exploitation of workers on fishing vessels would be for the Home Office.

It is something of an over-simplification to think of large fishing vessels as being inherently bad and small vessels as good. Larger fishing vessels can have an important role to play in supplying the EU market with fish products from around the globe. Wherever such vessels operate it is important they do so responsibly, particularly with regard to vulnerable species and marine eco-systems. While we seek to ensure such principles apply in UK and, of course, EU waters, it is also why l have argued forcefully that any Fisheries Partnership Agreements the EU signs with developing countries must respect the following principles:

• EU vessels should only target surplus stocks which the local industry is unable or does not wish to catch;
• the latest scientific advice is taken into account during negotiations to ensure fishing opportunities are set at sustainable levels;
• due consideration is given to human rights issues and the requirements of international law;
• the balance of the cost of these agreements is shifted away from EU tax payers onto those who benefit (vessel owners);
• agreements should be financially beneficial to the EU and the third country in question;
• sufficient controls are in place to ensure funds received by third countries are used in appropriate ways, including to support local economic development; and
• there is demand for the opportunities negotiated.

Domestically, and at EU level, it is just as important that there is the right balance of vessel licensing to exploit the available fishing opportunities. This will ensure a prosperous and sustainable fishing fleet and support vibrant fishing communities throughout UK and EU waters.

To that end, we have sought to ensure the principle is applied that all fishing vessels are appropriately licensed for the activities they carry out. Such licences should specify the size and engine power of the vessel, and fishing operations should also be appropriately constrained by the quotas available to them.

George Eustice MP”
To date comments from the Irish government have been positive over the rights if migrant seafarers and most recently the view expressed by the Dutch Pelagic Freezer trawler Association that it had no problem with onboard observers (if this was an EU wide provision) have been positive.

On the ‘Richter’ scale of responses therefore the UK is the most disappointing to date.

Certainly the ‘health and safety’ link referenced falls well short of guaranteeing minimum standards of pay and it is doubtful if the regulations on minimum hours of work are enforced.

Basically Fisheries Minister Eustice shows little understanding of either the damage to the marine eco-system caused by Super trawlers and a blatant disregard for the well being of migrant workers onboard trawlers

Photograph: Super Trawler ‘Margaris’ in conflict with Greenpeace.
Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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