Observer Comment: Government must support fishing communities

AS MPs debate reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, widely branded a failure, it remains to be seen whether help is at hand for the struggling local fishing industry (page five).

Whatever happens with EU policy, it is up to the UK government to decide what proportion of the quota goes to over-10 metre boats, and the under-10 metre boats, which make up the fleet at Hastings.

Currently the large producer organisations hold all the power, and they are likely to put pressure on the Government to try to ensure that it stays that way.

The problem is that the small boats currently get only three per cent of the quota despite making up 70 per cent of the workforce.

The issue of discards, where fish are caught then thrown overboard dead if fishermen have reached their quota for a particular species, continues.

This has been known for some time now, but the need for change is evermore pressing.

There needs to be a radical realignment of quota in order that Hastings’ fishermen begin to get a fairer deal, and are no longer held to ransom by large companies from which they are forced to lease quota - in effect buying back their own fish.

The fishermen have plenty of local support, but the pressure needs to be kept on the Government to support coastal communities.