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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Fisheries protection

This is really a post that would be far better written by Richard North; I happily admit the complexities of defence procurement strategies are somewhat beyond me. But perhaps commentors with experience can add some light or correct any howlers. 

It seems we are to get our 200 mile economic waters back in a year's time, and with them the right to decide who fishes them and what and how much is caught there. It's also pretty obvious that the UK fishing fleet has been decimated, and it will take time to build new boats and above all to skill new crew in a highly hazardous industry, to upgrade shore facilities including freezing and processing and establish market and inland transport capacity. So it's pretty obvious that we're going to continue to licence, for a suitable fee I hope, at least for some time, both EU and and any other boats to take fish from our waters after 2019. 

The question arises as to how we are to patrol this - and to stop unlicenced boats from poaching our fish. This is traditionally the job of the Fisheries Protection Squadron; and here my first quote from the UK AF commentary blog:
The Fishery Protection Squadron is constantly out at sea around the UK, and has very little, if any time to wander far away from home. A 42 strong crew is embarked to work to a three watches mechanism. Each ship has an additional allocation of personnel used to rotate members of the crew to meet harmony rules. Personnel on the Rivers could be indicatively expected to spend four weeks at sea and two weeks on land, pretty much all year long. The River batch 1 ships each spend a minimum of 275 days out at sea, with maintenance to the vessels intended to ensure the capability of spending up to 320 days at sea. Normally there is a 9 days maintenance period and a longer one of 16 days, each year. 
  Combined, the three ships have to deliver at least 700 days of activity at sea, and Hunt minesweepers are used to complement the Rivers in fishery protection patrol task, but with no fixed target. Back in 2004, some three Hunt vessels could be routinely expected to be involved in supporting Fishery Protection.
This is a good point to introduce the Rivers - River class offshore patrol vessels, built in two variants; the Batch 1, which cost about £60m each, and the Batch 2, at a cost of £120m each, which are currently coming off the slipway. The difference is down to the fact that Batch 2s are being built to warship standards - with systems, magazines etc that can sustain damage and punishment from other warships, whereas the Batch 1s are pure 'constabulary duties'  vessels. More on the Batch 2s from Think Defence HERE

Now this is where the lying, double dealing and manipulation come in. These new Batch 2 vessels are also just about suitable as substitutes for the frigates and corvettes that we don't have, to maintain a global presence. But because of their reduced at-sea capacity, they would need to be forward-based - permanently stationed - in the Caribbean, Gibraltar, Falklands or Bahrain - meaning they would not be available for UK fisheries protection. Yet the MoD seems to be pretending that they could do both tasks at the same time. It's pretty obvious they can't. 

In summary, from next year we'll need a far greater fisheries protection capacity but are building vessels grossly overspecified for FPVs because we need to send them out of the UK. We will not have enough vessels even to maintain our existing FP capacity next year, never mind enhance it. To my simple mind we need more £60m Batch 1s, with a build time of less than a year, that can fly-off UAVs and watch large areas of sea. But we need to place orders now.

Batch 2 River class OPV HMS Forth - just launched and soon to leave for the Falklands ...


Anonymous said...

Take a look at:

Patrol aircraft is the solution (force multiplier), manned and unmanned. The UK could put adequate fisheries patrol aircraft in the air by 31-3-19. There are a number of aircraft conversion companies in the UK that are well able to convert former passenger aircraft, BAe J41 etc, to radar/electro-optic search/patrol duties for a fraction of the cost of a new vessel.
Second, give accelerated depreciation allowances to UK operators (UK flag) of new fishing vessels and equipment. Also government grants for training crews.

Dave_G said...

Why does it have to military at all? Have we ever actually shot at transgressors? (Icelandic boats notwithstanding.....)

ANY suitable boat awarded the Crown rights to act as 'policeman' and having an identifiable coating of paint could be pressed into service.

I have no reason to disbelieve that there aren't such vessels already laid up awaiting charter.

Budgie said...

I have been out, as a child, on a fisheries protection vessel. It was just a converted trawler, no ship armament. Whether the crew had small arms I don't know. Of course looking back it is likely that the crew were ex-RN from WW2, so were unlikely to take any nonsense. It was pre-EU.

We will need better fishery protection so more patrol vessels will be needed. But I also think we can use aircraft more and to better effect. Whichever mix we adopt, one thing is clear: the government is not setting in motion any viable solution. Our civil service have a lot to answer for.

Ed P said...

Once we control our own waters again, a simple declaration that all craft within their limits must carry ID transponders (like aircraft) would ease the load on protection vessels. These show up on radar and tracking them and recording their routes is easy. The few radar blips without IDs could then be investigated - no need to put to sea for the others.

Stephen J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward Spalton said...

I will forward this post and discussion to several friends but especially to Fishing for Leave, IMHO the most clued up ( and most hardworking) fishermen"s campaign. They have a vastly superior scheme for controlling fishing by effort ( days at sea) rather than by the iniquitous quota system with its inbuilt incentives to cheat.

The system is used in the Faeroe Islands but Fishing for Leave have refined it considerably in ways which the Faeroese are minded to adopt. It makes control about as simple as checking a lorry's tachograph and satellite surveillance keeps the required number of patrol boats to a minimum.

The folks I know best in FfL are John Ashworth whose lifetime has been spent designing and producing gear for trawlers and Aaron Brown
a fifth generation Ayrshire fisherman who will be addressing our Campaign for an Independent Britain rally on the afternoon of 14 April
at the Royal Overseas League, Park Place, St James' London. Do come back if you can! Also, you can trust what John or Aaron say,
If they contribute to this correspondence,

Stephen J said...

I haven't read the story about getting our fishing back yet, I find it surprising to say the least as this will be the first mention of one of the most fundamental reasons for leaving the EU... It should be big news.

Anyway, if true, I accept that it will take time for the years of destruction to be put right. I would expect a sort of Docklands type of tax arrangement, whereby skilled people will be encouraged by a low tax regime, back into the business, to give them at least twenty years of profit before politicians insert their sticky fingers again.

As well as that I would expect an edict from government in regard to some of the less than helpful fishing methods employed by various agencies.... e.g. electronic stunning and bottom dredging for "organic" fertiliser, both of which are very damaging.

Of course, you are right Raedwald, we will need some proper defence tools, fast plastic boats. Probably the best way to get them would be to send someone who is competent on a shopping trip to Japan or the US. It would not be wise to choose one of our "remainer" civil servants or anyone as dynamic as our defence sec., A mr. williamson or wilson is it? OK let's just put him in the "gavin" bucket with mr. barwell. For those types would probably come back with a couple of those vessels that other children play with down at Clacton.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Somalis, are getting in on the british child rape game.

Edward Spalton said...

I should have added.
For concise information, go to

Click on "Publications" at the top.

Go to "Pamphlets" and click on "Seizing the Moment" for the most up to
date fisheries publication. The author is John Ashworth - mentioned in my previous post.

You can also check the fisheries section under "Articles" for a considerable series of thoughtful, well-infomred articles.

Raedwald said...

Ed P - we have that already - AIS - and it's compulsory for all fishing vessels over 15m. SOLAS and EU requirement.

Problem is, you can turn it off.

Trawlers can also make innocent passage through UK waters so have a legal right of navigation - as ours do in foreign waters. You actually have to catch them with nets in the water or fish in the hold - which means boarding them by RIB with a party of armed matelots / Royal Marines.

Raedwald said...

Budgie - There seems to be at least a adequate provision of inshore fishery protection vessels - probably like your trawler, able to stay out for maybe a day or two, but with low speed (<10 kts) unsuited for pursuit or response and limited range; the Scottish FPVs are largely of this type. Problem is that the largest Dutch / Spanish trawlers now operating in our waters are much faster, much bigger and much uglier - and would laugh at even a 24m converted trawler.

Plastic boats are fast responders but still need boarding parties - they're not robust enough to play shoulder-barging with 12mm steel plate fishing boats. Anyone who remembers the Hekla or Aegir from the last cod war will know how bruising these things can get ...

TrT said...

Luckily, you don't have to catch every boat, every time.

Even if you catch 1 in 100 boats, 1 in 100 transgressions, its still woefully unprofitable to steal Britains fish, provided the punishment is confiscation of the ship.

Mark The Skint Sailor said...

The quick solution would be to task a couple of reaper drones to maritime reconnaissance partly rebuilding the search capability we lost with the Nimrods.

Then some fast Navy patrol boats to intercept whatever targets were deemed needing a closer look.

Small, fast inshore patrol boats are cheaper than even the Batch 1 River class.

But you're right, successive politicians have believed the force multiplication hype so much they believe ships can be in the same place twice or even three times.

Edward Spalton said...

I very much doubt whether our friends in FfL with their lifetimes' experience at sea have missed anything. We ( Campaign for an Independent Britain) contributed to the cost of their " Bible" for legislators and additional,supplementary notes were added on technicalities.
Of course, suitable robust, patrol and protection vessels will be required but satellite observation makes their deployment
more effective and economical - an important point for MPs. Just as a garage can spot a tampered or replaced odometer, inspectors checking landed catches would have no difficulty in spotting hanky parky of that sort on board and the prospect of a substantial penalty of days to be spent tied up would be rather dissuasive. Of course, there is no system in the world which cannot be fiddled. But it is possible to make it very difficult and less worthwhile. . The removal of the incentive to cheat by the abolition of quotas goes a long way towards that.

Raedwald said...

Edward - as ever your information is invaluable. I'll be in London after Easter - not sure exactly when, but if I'm there for the 14th I'd be glad to take up your kind invitation.

Fish are pretty good at breeding and surviving; they've had a lot of practice. Good fisheries management, and effective enforcement, can give the UK an important and sustainable resource.

I remember how quickly the Dog Whelk population recovered after we stopped using TBT antifouling. The seas are resilient, if we give them a chance.

Edward Spalton said...

My Dear Raedwald,

That would be great. We could have a mardle.
I think that's the Norfolk word for it, isn't it?

I tend to get rather wound up and preoccupied the day of the rally and AGM.

Will anybody come? Will the speakers turn up?
They always have so far - but you never know!

I will be staying nearby on the Friday night and on the Saturday evening

So please let me know your plans a few days before

RAC said...

Agree get the cheaper ones and get plenty of them, it's not like the foreign trawlers are going to be armed. Stick a couple of Oerlikon guns on them that would disable any awkward fish pilferers.
The expensive one in the picture looks beautiful, all apart from that big lump on the sharp end, what on earth is that monstrosity.

Anonymous said...

Ted Heath will be spinning in his grave.


Anonymous said...


Raedwald said...

RAC - I believe it reduces wave drag by causing premature wave breaking - also a handy place on a naval vessel to put the sonar

RAC said...

Anonymous at 20:15, granted that link does make a convincing argument for it, but if I had 120M to spend I'd be happy going a bit slower an buying a bit more juice.

jack ketch said...

We could have a mardle.
_Ed Spalton

Yes...if one cares to sound like a web footed denizen of a village of 200 souls and two surnames....and an over fondness for 'dickies' (ie 'donkeys') or 'mawthers' (young girls).

I've been out all day-in Belgium as it happens , making full use of my (still) right as an EU citizen to purchase my own body weight in tobacco, so I haven't seen the news (except the bit about Cas being right again re border controls). Raed, I have to say that that all sounds rather unlikely, that the EU should suddenly acquiesce or give in to the whinging of Brit fisher folk.But who knows with this shower, all bets are off atm (were they ever on?) and who knows what'red line' the yUK.gove has given up to get it.

Edward Spalton said...

Jack Ketch,
Yes, it would be the sort of area I was driving through years ago. On a gable end there was a very neatly painted, rather official looking sign.
It read

jack ketch said...


Round hereabouts they write "Do yew drive slow, bur"...'to do' being an imperative in Norfolk. Nelson would have commanded 'do you anchor'.

Ed P said...

I must visit a company north of Norwich (Norge?) soon - is it safe without a translator?

jack ketch said...

I must visit a company north of Norwich (Norge?) soon - is it safe without a translator?
Ed P

'Naaaarich' and as long as you aren't a named farm yard animal, a witch or a young female relative, yes it's safe, even the Fenlanders stopped with the cannibalism a couple of centuries (which means 'last month' in Norfolk terms) However BE WARNED: the standard of driving here , north of Norwich as it happens, is sooo bad that visiting Italian tourists pull over, ashen and shaking. And if the car behind you isn't a Norfolk Style boy racer (ie has the Dukes Of Hazard air horn) then the car infront will be doing 10 miles under the speed limit on 60mph roads and he'll keep at 50mph through the 30mph villages.

Further details here:

ukip said...

There is no reason to scrap or sell the batch ones, they have 15/20 years worth of life left in them. The reason the batch twos are being built is because the government signed a TOBA with Bae that we would pay the shipbuilders in Govan even if there was no work for them. The Navy cannot supply crews for both batch ones andbatch twos.

Anonymous said...

Highly descriptive article, I loved that bit. Will there be
a part 2?

Cascadian said...

Well if yUK intended to assert it's sovereignty Raedwald you would be correct, but every move the May govt makes leads me to believe there will be NO Brexit.
If fishery policy was important then ships/ports would be being built, sailors would be recruited and in training, customs facilities constructed and draft regulations in the hands of industry for comment.
Instead NOTHING is happening, telegraphing to the EU yUK's ridiculous "negotiating" position courtesy of May/Davis clown show.
A further review of RN website shows the patrol vessels deployed hither and yon except HMS Tyne which is assigned to fisheries patrol but apparently not at sea, the deception continues, the lies are more obvious.
Will Tyne's crew be eligible to consult Ms DisMay loneliness minister? Her only recent and pitiful contribution to the nation.

Cuffleyburgers said...

Good and timely post Radders, I took the liberty of linking to it from my own post a couple of days back:

jack ketch said...

Ok, so its the Gaurdy and therefore needs to be taken with a pinch of coke but it seems to suggest that yUK.gove is going to sell out the whinging fisherfolk in favour of getting agreement on Ireland (and keeping the DUP on board).

Seth said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment and thrust of this article. We need to get serious about our fisheries protection and the batch 1 River Class are the logical tools for the job.

HMS Severn has been laid up and the MoD is hoping to pay off the remainder of the class. She should be recommissioned and put back into service. HMS Clyde similarly should be redeployed to the Fisheries Protection Squadron when she is replaced by HMS Forth as the Falklands Guard Ship. Consideration should be made to re-fit them for the dedicated FP role rather than the generalist ships they are at the moment.

In any event, a larger, newer fleet will be required, and so a future design should include a stern slipway to launch / recover a RIB as the Border Force Cutters. Any armament should be self defence and "for not with". Helicopter functionality should be into aircraft fuelling to act as a support to helo operations.

I think that the UK's 60% share of the EU landings (EUR 73 bn in 2014 if repatriated to UK ports would generate an adequate sufficiency to maintain useful fleet supported by aviation assets. This would provide the RN with a very useful self-funding training fleet.