Brexit could be good for little fishes

Strolling along the quiet fishing quay at Scheveningen, I met an old fisherman who said he hoped Brexit would not happen because then they would not be able to fish in English waters. – He himself had already given up fishing and become a lorry driver instead. The Scheveningen commercial fishing fleet consists of about 8 substantial ships (one of them sailing under a German flag), each of which I measured out as typically 70 to 90 meters long. Only a few weeks before they had taken part in a protest at sea against other fleets who had been catching under-size fish. Their slogan: “give little fishes a second chance”

The North Sea is divided according to the 12 Mile coastal zone which is protected by the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and out of which all foreign fishermen are excluded unless given a special license (very few have this license). Then it is divided by the mid-way line in lieu of the 200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is protected by the United Nations. The continental half of the North Sea is shared by Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France. (

The Dutch fishing industry supports about 600 businesses; employs a crew of 2,000 and is worth about 1 Billion Euro per annum. They mainly fish for Plaice, Sole and Herring. (Herring is as important to the Dutch culture and national identity as is say Grouse or Haggis is to Scotland; they even have a national day to mark the start of the Herring season.) – On the other hand, the British preference is for Haddock and Cod. (Think of how important “Fish & Chips” is to our culture and national identity.)

The eight continental fishing lands get about one third of their catch from the British zone; with the Dutch taking 80% of their Herring, 60% of their Mackerel and 35% of their Plaice from the Western half of the North Sea.  (Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman European Fisheries Alliance: Loosing these sources will hit the Dutch fishing industries hard. One can expect lay-offs, business closures and ships being de-commissioned. (And even with the best will in the world, compensation will be demanded.) – But one can also expect losses on the English side as they lose access to Haddock and Cod which may be in the Eastern Sector.  This can only be good news for the fish as the Herring learn to hide in the West and the Cod learn to hide in the East! – But I cannot imagine any fisherman allowing this situation to last for long. Besides, Dutch Fishermen have been granted Freedom of the City of London in perpetuity for their generous act of feeding Londoners in the havoc that followed the great fire of 1666. This freedom entitles them to land their catch in London for all eternity.