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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Defra and the sausage saga

Northampton Commentary                                      June 29th 2012
There was no Commentary for the Strasbourg week of 11th - 14th June due to my return home early on the Wednesday; reason, sausages! I have been trying to help the Lincolnshire Sausage Association to obtain Geographical Protection status for their product but their application has been turned down. So on Thursday 14th I was in London at Defra arguing the case. The Lincolnshire people have appealed and it is now under review; wait and see.
Following day, a visit to a farm near Uppingham. All in the name of engaging with that important sector of UK life and very informative for me. Quite a busy week.
The following Tuesday was Leicester, talking to the Ambulance people about the new regional system. I have been concerned that response times in Northants have been below national average. The officers I spoke to were confident that the two year old East Midlands Service would improve things. We shall see.
A great deal of time recently has been with the fishermen of Boston. I highlighted their problems in the first of my monthly Lincolnshire Echo columns three months ago. Due to the wretched EU Fisheries Policy, the CFP, up to June 3rd they have had only 3 days work since August. Not having quotas for white fish, except for some sprat quota borrowed from Germany, they are reduced to shell fish. To their great frustration there are 30,000 tons of covckles in the Wash, ready to harvest all that time. Their lack of work is a total loss to them, insurances and finance for their boats still need paying, as well as house keeping.
In addition, across from their moorings is a factory which takes all their cockles for canning, selling to a ready market in Portugal and Spain. So these workers are also out of work while the country loses foreign exchange. We are supposed to be in debt!
After several visits talking to the EIFCA (Eastern Inshore fisheries and Conservation Agency) we had success, noted in a letter in the Boston Standard very generously giving me thanks. Then disaster. Perhaps you caught the TV news in the East, early last week, of a vandal releasing 5000 litres of Pesticide in Peterborough on Sunday evening, 17th June. This found its way into the River Nene and went down stream. The Dept for Food Standards promptly closed fishing in the Wash. If you think that’s appropriate action then know this.
First, when I called the Environment Agency, which advised the Food Standards people, the officer I spoke to knew nothing of it! That was on Wednesday morning as I waited for my flight to Brussels at Birmingham airport. Second call, Wednesday evening with an informed officer, the pesticide had got as far as Wisbech. That’s 25 miles in three days, with another 10 miles to the Wash. As I have previously discovered, the Env Agency are very well versed in river flows, speeds and times of arrival at specific points.
So, the fishermen could have been fishing for at least three days, why stop them early? After all, if the cockles were to be contaminated best to get as much in as possible before that happened. Now that seems to be common sense, but we are dealing here with an agent of the EU which operates the “Precautionary principle”. If it looks dangerous ban it. Then examine it and perhaps allow continuance under a regime of rules, regs and red tape.
And that is why the Boston Fishermen have such a problem, like all the fishermen around our coasts. Just survey the agencies they have to deal with; EIFCA, Natural England, MMO (Maritime Maintenance Organisation), Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency.
And so to last Friday and another trip to Kings Lynn for a bigger meeting of fishermen EIFCA and all. This time it was an allegation of marking the sea bed, fishing have been resumed on Monday of that week. What does it matter if a boat marks the sand or fishing gear cuts a hole, the next tide or two smoothes it over again. But at least they were able to go on fishing this time. My contribution was, I hope, common sense. “If that has happened”, I said, “it is due to a careless fisherman and you can’t punish all for the sake of one or two. Answer, send inspectors out unannounced, without warning, and check out boats at random. Any guilty parties found can then be dealt with”.  I didn’t bother to say that, as a teacher, that happened to me. I had my share of School Inspectors dropping in without notice, usually in the middle of a lesson. No complaint, that’s as it should be and, no, I got no adverse reports. 
By the way, EIFCA takes a serious view of marking the sea bed. A short while ago one fisherman let his boat rest on the sand an left a mark about a yard wide, 10 yards long, I’ve see n the photo. For that he was fined, - £50,000 !! He got away with it because he refused, went to court and found a magistrate with sense who quashed the fine.
 Finally, you may find this speech by Senator Ron Paul of interest,-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rCvfwoRGMg - Ron Paul, Floor Speech, Jun. 19 2012

Derek Clark   MEP                                            Northampton  1st July 2012

Lincolnshire members may well have seen my column in the Lincolnshire Echo. I have a once a month spot, Roger Helmer likewise, in alternate fortnights. My first column three months ago was to highlight the problems of the Boston Fishermen. At the end of a non-Brussels / Strasbourg I think it right to provide some further detail to illustrate the great difficulties they have.
The fishermen of Boston are only allowed to fish by the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Agency (EIFCA). In turn this unelected body is advised by Natural England, with the marine management Organisation (MMO) also putting their oar in. Following EU rules and regs, under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Boston is but a shadow of its former thriving fishery. I have made several journeys to Boston and Kings Lynn trying to help and you may also have seen the letter of thanks to me in the Boston Standard from the Chairman of the Boston Fishermen’s Association
Boston Fishermen have been reduced to shell fish as the quotas for white fish are virtually non-existent for them. True, they got small quota recently for Sprat, but that was by borrowing from Germany. Although there are over 30,000 tons of cockles in the Wash ready to harvest most of the fishermen have only had 3 or 4 days fishing since last August. After much effort the cockle fishery was opened to them from June 7th, on a scheduled basis, day by day. They have an allowance of 2 tonnes per boat per day, which is enough for decent living.
Then a near catastrophe struck on Monday 18th June, cockle fishery closed again. This was due to the vandal who caused 5000 litres of pesticide to run into the River Nene at Peterborough. You may have caught this on Eastern TV for it killed many fish in the river. The Food standards Agency, acting on information



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