Double boost for fish campaign

Maria Damanaki, European Union fisheries commissioner
Maria Damanaki, European Union fisheries commissioner

THE Observer’s Fairer Deal For Fishermen campaign is more than halfway toward its target of 3,000 cut-out fish.

In the same week that the European Union fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki announced plans to move towards a possible ban on discards, the Observer’s fish total reached the 1,700 mark.

The word coming out of Brussells in the last few days is that there could be a total ban on throwing back dead fish introduced by 2013.

This would mean local fishermen would no longer face the heart-breaking practice of tossing edible, valuable fish back overboard.

Hastings MP Amber Rudd reacted well to the news, saying: “I am so pleased that the commission has started to see sense and that through the campaigning we have done locally and the media coverage that TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has achieved, that we will see the end to discards.

“Our Hastings and Rye fishermen have been at the forefront of the campaigning and I have been proud to stand alongside them. “Discarding fish into the sea is immoral and it is an absolute scandal that more than 50 per cent of all fish caught are thrown back into the sea dead.” However, the fight is far from won.

Details of the mooted end to discards have yet to be finalised and Hastings fishermen, operating as they do in boats under 10 metres, still face crippling quotas.

In fact, one fear is that the end to discards introduced in isolation will just see boats use up their quotas far more quickly.

The region’s MEP, Sharon Bowles, has joined the Observer’s campaign and is pressing the Government to address the quota problem before more boats are forced out of business.

She said: “The problem is not just the issue of discards but the way in which the UK’s fishing quota is divided.

“Sub-10 metre class fishing boats like those in Hastings are assigned a disproportionately small percentage of the UK’s fishing quota.

“For example, the current system allows under-10 metre class boats to catch 1.5 kg of cod per day. When you consider that one cod can weigh three kg, that is a catch of half a cod per day - not enough to cover the cost of fuel let alone pay the crew.”

The Observer will take its fish petition to Downing Street in the coming weeks and on Wednesday, the newspaper will have a reporter in London to hear the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) give evidence on the impact quotas are having on smaller boats like those here in Hastings.

To back our campaign cut out the fish on page 39 and send it to the listed address.