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Why the Germans badly need access to UK fishing waters

Political Insider

THIS IS THE FIFTH in a group of articles looking at the possible impact of a post-Brexit redistribution of fishing opportunities in the NE Atlantic –  and looks at Germany. It considers the same questions and uses the same methodologies as the first article, which looked at the Netherlands, and a fuller explanation of these is provided hereby that article.  

The nine species making up the German basket for the tables in this article accounted for 73.7% of Germany’s average annual NE Atlantic landings for the years in question (see Table 1). Like the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland, but unlike France, landings were dominated by low value, high tonnage pelagics – just four species or genera (Herring, Mackerel, Horse Mackerels and Blue Whiting)  accounted for 56% of Germany’s total NE Atlantic  landings. They are also responsible for the bulk of the lost tonnage:  66.2% of the basket losses and 72.6% of the losses projected for All  species (with all the previously mentioned provisos).  

On reaching Table 3, the alert reader will immediately notice that there is a problem with the German data: the sum of landings from the UK EEZ for the nine species being analysed individually exceeded landings for All species in 2009. This problem will be discussed in more detail later on but because of it, at this point, Germany’s overall potential loss of landings will be estimated using the ratio of the total for the basket of nine analysed species to the total for All species. On that basis, Germany is facing the loss of 91.5 kt, or roughly half of its fleet’s landings from the NE Atlantic. 

In proportion to overall landings, this is the most severe haircut of all the fleets analysed so far and the loss is well in excess of total German landings from the UK EEZ. Given how close a shave it faces, surely Germany will be right behind Monsieur Barnier? 

Table 1: German haircut, tonnage 

As with French and Irish landings, this model strips Germany of tonnage as a consequence of the way the EU’s fishing rights in the Norwegian EEZ are secured through reciprocal Norwegian rights that are largely exercised in the UK EEZ. For example, based on average landings for 2010 to 2016, the model is projecting a loss of 8.5 kt of  Cod for Germany, yet Germany only lands 59.6 tonnes of Cod from the UK EEZ; and a loss of 8.8 kt of Saithe, yet Germany only landed 1.4 kt of Saithe from the UK EEZ. 

These two species are just examples, Germany is also modelled to lose more Mackerel, Haddock, Sprat and Sand-eels tonnage than it landed from the UK EEZ. 

So much for tonnage. What about money in the bank? Table 2 repeats Table 1 but replaces kt landed with £m in first sale values[1]. 

Table 2: German haircut, value 

Unlike tonnage,  the greatest loss is accounted for by Cod rather than the pelagics, though, as a group Herring, Mackerel, Horse Mackerel and Blue Whiting (49.3% of the basket’s loss) are roughly on a par with the Cod group and account for the overwhelming bulk of the basket’s loss (98.4%).  

Adjusting in the same way as for tonnage, the German fleet is facing losses in the region of £77.9 m. This is roughly similar to potential Irish losses but the German economy is some eleven times the size of the Irish one. Who will take the bigger hit? On a PPP basis, German GDP was estimated at $4.343 trillion in 2019. At current exchange rates (£1 : $1.31) that is £3.315 trillion. A loss of £77.9  million in first sale values represents 0.002% of German GDP. 

It is often said that the UK fishing industry is a relatively small part of the UK economy and it is sometimes argued that the UK will or should trade its interests for concessions in other areas;  but nowhere in northern Europe is it as small, in relative terms, as it is in Germany. Is the land of Mercs and Beamers really going out on a limb for 0.002% of its GDP and to save Ireland’s and Denmark’s bacon?  

Tables 1 and 2 are based on average annual landings for the period 2010 to 2016 and model how German landings might change as a result of an overall redistribution of fishing opportunities in the NE Atlantic. However, the use of average values, whilst it smooths out swings and  roundabouts, may also conceal trends; and, specifically – since this series of articles is concerned with the mismatch between the fishing opportunities allocated to the UK fleet by the EU under the CFP compared with landings from the UK EEZ – whether EU27 fleets are increasing or decreasing the amounts of fish they land from the UK EEZ. 

The EH99 database holds figures for annual landings in 2003, 2006 and 2009 – 2016 and Table  3 presents annual German landings from the UK EEZ for All species and for the nine individual ones featured in Tables 1 and 2 so that the reader can assess for him- or herself how the situation has been changing over time. 

All the above being said, what the use of averages really conceals in the case of Germany is problems. Read on. 

Table 3, however, is a table of absolute tonnages and it is possible that changes in German landings simply reflect changes in the overall position. Tables 4 and 5 present the percentage shares of German NE Atlantic landings taken from the UK EEZ and the percentage of landings from the UK EEZ taken by the German fleet for the same panel of species. 

Table 3: German landings from the UK EEZ, tonnage 

Table 3 shows German landings from the UK EEZ between 2003 and 2016. The alert reader will notice that there is a problem in 2009. Namely that the sum of the parts is more than the whole. It is possible that this clear glitch in the database is an indicator of a more general problem. There was also a sharp drop in overall landings, paralleled by falls for landings of Herring and Blue Whiting, in 2009, with landings not recovering in full until 2013, plus falls for Mackerel in 2010 and for Horse Mackerel in 2006 and 2009. Rather than reflecting actual falls in landings, might these apparent falls be further symptoms of a more general problem in the underlying database for 2009 and 2010 in particular but also, to a lesser extent, 2011 and 2012? 

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