A LIGHT AHEAD?
Hope could still be on the horizon for the future financial prospects of the Hastings fishing fleet and others like it following a series of meetings around the country. Emma Harwood reports
New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association chair Paul Joy says that all sectors of the industry are now in talks about how to alleviate the potentially catastrophic impact of new legislation – due to be fully introduced in 2019 –which could, combined with being locked into the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for a further 20 months after Britain leaves the Union next year, spell the end of fisheries both large and small.
Speaking to HIP, Mr Joy said he could not be certain about any conclusions yet, but that he remained hopeful that changes could still be made to prevent the legislation – which introduces a landing obligation which will require all fishermen to bring ashore every fish caught and count it against the national quota –from closing down the industry for everyone.
Fishermen in Hastings and around the country took to the water on 8 April in protest against the terms of the Brexit transition deal which means they will not be able to set their own quota until 2021. But Mr Joy stressed that simply protesting was not enough: “We’ve made the point of protest, we’ve shown solidarity, and we’ve allowed people to see what we’re upset about. Now it’s about explaining our concerns. There’s a series of meetings around the country, one in Manchester, another in London next week. Everything’s now changing quite quickly. We hope that things are being done, but I can’t give you any conclusions until we see where we’re going.”
Mr Joy added that in the short term the government could help alleviate the dire financial prospects of small fleets by allocating them a fairer share of the national quota. Currently British fishermen are given a disproportionally small share of the quota compared to their European counterparts. For example Britain’s annual share of the cod quota in the English channel is 155 tonnes while France’s share from the same piece of sea is 1880 tonnes.
If small fishermen want a larger quota they have to lease it from large organisations which are able under law to buy quota. However, he stressed that this would only be a minor improvement.
“The problem lies in the fact that no matter how clever we are with the quota, even if we gave it all to the under ten metre boats, there’s not enough there. We’re an island nation with fishing communities right around the country. We have a massive coastline, yet we’ve got a fishing industry which is bankrupt. We once had 44 vessels here in Hastings and a waiting list to join. Now we’ve got about 12 working boats. Some have got three boats and are having to move from boat to boat to keep quota. The CFP is not something we can stay in and survive.”
Mr Joy says he has written to MP Amber Rudd, requesting her to back the Hastings fleet and oppose the Brexit transition deal, but has yet to receive a clear response.
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