Groups join forces to highlight inshore crisis

Thames demo planned this week

A consortium of southern North Sea and Channel inshore fishing interests led by Greenpeace is set to mount a demonstration in the Thames this week (22 September) and deliver a declaration to the government calling for action to protect inshore fishermen and communities, reports Tim Oliver.

In a joint statement, they say the region faces ‘a state of emergency’ and calls on the UK government to take ‘immediate and urgent action to protect coastal livelihoods and the health of our oceans’.

The group – which includes NUTFA and inshore fishermen’s associations in the regions, as well as Greenpeace and angling interests – is calling for bans on large pelagic and bottom trawlers in the regions to protect inshore fisheries, ecosystems and fishing communities.

It says the UK’s oceans and coastal communities are ‘in crisis’, and claims only one-third of fish populations are in a healthy state.

“Industrial fishing vessels like supertrawlers and fly-shooters have immense catching capacity and are pushing marine ecosystems and fish populations to the brink of collapse, leaving local fishermen with nothing left to catch,” says its statement.

Greenpeace said the government has not properly assessed the environmental impacts of fly-shooting, yet such vessels are licensed to fish in UK waters. It said DEFRA has removed all catch limits for fly-shooters targeting non-quota species for 2021, which fundamentally conflicts with the precautionary objective in the Fisheries Act.

Map showing the area where the group is calling for fly-shooters and pelagic trawlers over 55m to be banned, and offshore MPAs.

NUTFA director Jerry Percy said: “It’s really quite simple – the small-scale coastal fleet that the government has sworn to protect is now forced to watch their present and future livelihoods being destroyed in front of their eyes, firstly by the huge fleet of powerful EU-owned fly-shooters that inexplicably have had all catch limits removed for their target species, and secondly, by massive EU midwater trawlers reducing the resilience of stocks in the Channel, impacting climate change whilst threatening dolphin and porpoise populations.

“Tragically, it appears to be only Greenpeace that has been willing to lend its political and practical weight in defence of our coastal fishermen and communities.”

Chris Thorne, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We’ve been at sea all summer bearing witness to the destruction taking place in the English Channel and nearby waters.

“We’ve worked closely with local fishers, and when you’re on the water with them, it’s very clear – our fishing communities are at breaking point. They won’t survive much longer without urgent action from the government.

“Fishing communities, anglers, charter skippers and environmental groups alike support these measures, which will be an important step towards fully protecting at least 30% of our oceans by 2030. We hope that by coming together to fight for the same thing, our government will finally start taking practical steps towards delivering this goal.

“If these requests are ignored, it’s clear that ministers are siding with the multinational fishing companies who are wrecking our oceans, instead of the local fishers who are the backbone of our coastal communities.”

Ramsgate fisherman John Nichols said the Ramsgate fleet was shrinking. There are now only 18 vessels in Ramsgate, and only about 14 of them are reasonably active or active.

“Ten or 15 years ago, we had twice the number. They’re dropping out, not because they want to drop out, but because the quota and what’s available is such that you struggle to earn an honest living.”

Graham Doswell, a third-generation fisherman in Eastbourne (pictured above), said he had been fishing on the Sussex coast all his working life, and it had been ‘really good’ until the last 10 years or so.

“It’s gradually got harder and harder,” he said. “I think unless something really, really drastic is done, it’s going to be difficult for everybody to carry on making a living.

“We were all keen to get Brexit done, and we were promised everything that would make a difference to us, but unfortunately we were absolutely sold down the river, and none of the promises that were made to us were ever carried out.”

The signatories to the joint statement are the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), Fishing Industry Innovative Supply Hub Newhaven, Eastbourne Fishermen’s Association, Lowestoft Fish Market Alliance, Thanet Fishing Association, Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society, Pesky Fish, Sole of Discretion, Angling Trust, Greenpeace UK and New Economics Foundation.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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