Fishermen’s fight is taken to Number 10

Amber Rudd, Observer editor-in-chief Keith Ridley and chief reporter Richard Morris
Amber Rudd, Observer editor-in-chief Keith Ridley and chief reporter Richard Morris

THE fight for a fairer deal for local fishermen made its way to the steps of Number 10 this week.

A delegation led by Observer editor-in-chief Keith Ridley delivered more than 3,000 cut-out fish coupons to the Prime Minister’s London home on Monday.

And the message was clear – the people of Hastings want and expect better for the town’s historic fishing fleet.

The Prime Minister himself was busy preparing for a vital Commons debate on military intervention in Libya, but one of his aides was on hand to accept a box full to bursting with cut-out fish.

Conservative MP Amber Rudd helped arrange the trip and joined Mr Ridley and Observer chief reporter Richard Morris in handing over the petition.

Ms Rudd is a member of the DEFRA select committee currently looking at the issue of quota distribution and reiterated her promise to try and get the best deal possible for the under 10 metre class – which includes the boats found here in Hastings and in nearby Rye.

And Mr Ridley hoped the petition would help show the Government the strength of feeling in 1066 Country and encourage a more balanced distribution of permitted catch.

Speaking after delivering the box, he said: “The sheer number of people who have backed our campaign shows just how important the issues of quotas and discards (the practice of throwing back dead fish) are to the people of Hastings.

“Our fishing industry is vital to the town’s identity and economy and generates huge interest in the area.

“Fishermen work long and hard for little reward – the least the Government should be doing is giving them the chance to continue in their profession.”

The Observer is not alone in lobbying Mr Cameron. Local youngster Sharn Lewis spent two hours on Kings Road, St Leonards, collecting signatures to add to the paper’s campaign.

And, having narrowly missed the deadline for Monday’s trip, Sharn will be sending the 500 fish she collected to Downing Street so they can be added to the growing pile.

Elsewhere, news of the Observer’s campaign reached celebrity chef Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall, who himself is waging a war on discards.

After hearing about the movement here in Hastings, Mr Fearnly-Whittingstall contacted the Observer to offer his support.

He said: “I’d like to offer my wholehearted support for the Hastings Observer campaign.

“As many of you may know Hugh’s Fish Fight has been pushing for an end to discard and the ridiculous EU rules that govern it.

“During filming for my Channel 4 series Fish Fight, I spent time in Hastings with Paul Joy and other fishermen proving just how mad the current legislations are.

“I’m right behind the Hastings fleet and wish them the best of luck with their campaign. The Fish Fight marches on and I feel certain we can make a significant and continued impact on the decision-makers in Brussels.”