The Manx Nationalist Party - Advocating Republican Independence since 1963

The following submission was made to the Isle of Man Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in response to consultation on  revision of the territorial waters. September  2005

The general underlying thrust of the department's proposals, that we be able to conserve and manage fishing stocks above and beyond that which we are permitted to by the UK under the current Fisheries Management Agreement is supportable but, whilst some of the anachronistic and inequitable elements of the FMA are identified, we wish to express disappointment at the apparent acceptance that the UK government has any rights over our waters. Ultimately, the UK is only acting out of necessity to modify the current position and not, we believe, out of any desire to address inequities. Even as revealed by the document, the UK's "favoured" option is to establish a transferable licence regime so that UK fishermen can acquire and subsequently exploit our fisheries to their own benefit and to our detriment.

Our research has revealed the following facts that support Mec Vannin's long-standing "median-line" policy.

1. The guiding law in this matter is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This recognises the 200 nautical mile limit for

2. As an example, Iceland declared a unilateral 200nM limit in 1973. The only country to seriously dispute this was the UK, which finally had to crumble in the face of international pressure.

3. As an example, the Republic of Ireland claimed its 200nM in 1976 (since over-ridden by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy).

4. As an example, various elements of the former USSR have claimed, and had acknowledged, unilateral 200nM fishing zones since 1990.

5. The European Union Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) fully acknowledges the legal standing of the UNCLOS and takes full advantage of the 200nM allowance whilst allowing an arbritary 12nM "national" fishery, which over-rides previous unilateral claims.

6. The UK is currently in dispute with other nations within the EU, such as Denmark, over national fishing limits beyond the 12nM limit.

7. The UNCLOS recognises median lines as an inhibition to any claimed fisheries within the 200nM range.

8. The Isle of Man is not part of the UK or EU. Protocol Three (of the UK's Act of Accession) does not deal with fisheries. Hence, any claims by the UK or any other member of the European Union over our waters is unsustainable: Our only obligation under Protocol Three is the equal treatment of European

9. Despite this and for reasons that change according to who is being asked, EU directives appear to have been applied to Manx waters for several decades.

10. The Isle of Man's legitimate claim to its rightful fishing territory will only gain international recognition if it is lodged with the UN.

11. The UK is currently at odds with much of the EU over the CFP and intends withdrawing in January 2006. This appears to us to be be the motivation for the current review, at least on the part of the UK.

12. The CFP has apparently failed to protect fish stocks in the European and Manx fisheries and a 12nM limit will not adequately protect fish stocks from over-prosecution under the CFP.

13. The UK's "adoption" of our waters goes back (officially) to at least 1964 when our waters were, without consultation with the Isle of Man, included in with its own waters for the purpose of a treaty (1964 European Fisheries Convention) with several other countries. This established the 12 nM "UK" fishery that included Manx waters.

All the forgoing demonstrates that the continental waters are being carved up by those who choose to claim them under international law and the UK's claim over our waters has no legitimacy in international or even European law.

Irrespective of how the Isle of Man's fisheries are ultimately managed, there will and can be no effective management until we have control over them and the proposals in the DAFF document essentially provide for nothing more than a method for the UK to continue its own ability to prosecute our waters to its own advantage: We can only presume that the eagerness to recognise "historic rights" is to avoid offending a small but vociferous element of UK registered fishermen currently expoiting our waters.

If the government in the Isle of Man continues to accept the legitimacy of the UK's claims, then it stands to commit an enduring disservice to the Manx nation and make, by precedent, our rightful acquisition of our territorial seas (i.e. to the median line) all the more difficult.

When we acquire control over our own waters, the priority must be to conserve and improve fish stocks within the zone. The objective of this must be to provide employment for our own on one hand and provide for future generations on the other. The international Kyoto Agreement should be used as a frame of reference for this.

This means that licensing fishermen to take fish and land them elsewhere is counterproductive. The objective must be to catch, land and process fish within the Isle of Man. This will aid in retaining wealth within our economy and encourage a greater diversity of employment.

Licensing for fishing alone, with no landing requirement, can only serve to further diminish our stocks for a relatively small amount of money with no associated benefits.

Given the increased cost of effectively policing the increased area, penalties for transgression should reflect the economic realities of both the cost of enforcement and the potential financial gains to transgressors who go unpunished.

Reciprocal agreements should only be considered if the Manx fisheries can sustain fishing by non-Manx boats with a like for like, tonne for tonne opportunity for Manx boats to fish when our seasons are closed. Otherwise, stocks should be left untouched until such time as they are stable and Manx fishermen wish to fish them.


Footnote - The Minister, Mr. Phillip Gawne indicated that he did not intend being assertive about Manx rights. As a consequence, the Island ended up with even less than originally propsed by the UK.

Back to Archive Index