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16 April 2014
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FISH STOCKS DWINDLE - THE DECLINE OF THE EAST COAST FISHING FLEET
Herrings The seasonal herring shoals made the industry and their disappearance marked the beginning of North Sea fishing's decline.

After World War II the herring industry declined, until the failure of the seasonal herring shoals marked its end.

The trawlers then headed for Northern waters within the Arctic Circle. Three weeks at sea and three days leave was a common shift pattern.

Rich pickings and survival were the joint aims of these trawlermen, but health and safety procedures were sadly deficient.

The danger of icing and capsize were ever present. Infections were common being caused by knife cuts, frayed hawsers and even fish bones.

'Blood poisoning' was a common complaint, and in the absence of qualified medical help, the loss of fingers was commonplace and loss of life was all too common.

There was a huge investment in large ocean going trawlers fitted out with sonar fish finding technology.

Cod Wars

The first 'Cod war' took place in 1958, when Iceland, extended its coastal fishing limit, from 4 miles, to 12 miles.

The Second Cod War started in 1972 when Iceland extended its coastal non-fishing limit to 50 miles.

It ended with an agreement between the two countries that limited British fishing to restricted areas, within the 50-mile limit.

This agreement was valid for two years and expired on November 13 1975, when the third "Cod War" started.

Between November 1975, and June 1976, the cod brought two NATO allies to the brink of war.

Great Britain and Iceland confronted each other as Iceland proclaimed its authority to 200 miles from its coastline.

British trawlers had their nets cut by Icelandic Coast Guard vessels and there were numerous rammings between Icelandic ships and British trawlers and frigates.

Iceland claimed that it was merely enforcing what would soon be international law.

Disastrous agreement

The USA offered to mediate, but it was NATO intercession that helped to end the conflict.

Iceland and Great Britain came to agreement on June 2 1976. A maximum of 24 British trawlers were allowed inside the 200-mile limit.

The annual cod catch was limited to 50,000 tons.

The agreement led to unemployment for 1,500 fishermen together with 7,500 onshore workers.

Common Fisheries Policy marks the End

By the 1930s, British fishermen bought home 300,000 tonnes of cod annually. EU officials say today there are only 70,000 tonnes of adult cod left in the North Sea.

But ministers insist they have secured a good deal, balancing the needs of fishermen with the demands of conservation.

They say quotas have to be cut by up to 40% to preserve depleting stocks.

Behind this is the fear that the European fishing industry could be wiped out.

UK fishermen blame the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) agreed in Brussels in 1983 for the root of their troubles.

This set up a system of quotas for each member state to conserve depleting fish resources.

It also established a coastal band around the shores of each country reserved for local fishermen.

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