‘Fishing quota system needs review’ – MP

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MP Amber Rudd called for an independent review of the fishing quota system in a parliamentary debate on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The debate last Thursday (March 15) highlighted the failure of the CFP and the need for reform.

She said: “Perhaps the Minister should consider an independent review of some sort.

“There are so many different interests involved, and so many ways of trying to move the goalposts and achieve one outcome or another, that I am not sure it is possible for one Minister to act as referee.

“The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is friendless. However, it is not just we who say that; it is the fishermen, the environmentalists, to whom it has not been the solution they expected, and now the population at large, to whose attention the issue of discards has been brought.

“Discards are the very manifestation of the failure of the CFP.”

In the 7d area, which includes the fishing fleets at Hastings and Rye, there are 339 under 10-metre boats, and nine over 10-metre boats.

The small boats make up 97 per cent of the fleet yet hold only 30 per cent of the quota.

This makes discards inevitable and local fishermen at times unable to make a living, especially during winter months when the range of fish is extremely limited.

Paul Joy, chairman of the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society, is sceptical of whether the reforms will benefit the small boats of the Hastings and Rye fishing fleet.

The current realignment proposals for fishing quota would see local fishermen receive an additional 42 kilos a month, which only works out at around half a cod a day per boat.

Mr Joy said: “It’s not going to make a lot of difference until there is a significant amount of fish put back into the under-10s pool.”

The only option once the quota is used up is for small boats to lease quota from the big producer organisations, which pushes down profits.

Mr Joy added: “This is an important time for the future management of inshore fisheries.

“We now need to make the perceived ownership of a public resource open and transparent and make sure the fishing rights are in the hands of working fishermen not armchair entrepreneurs simply looking to make profit off the backs of hard-working fishermen.”

Sussex MEP Peter Skinner and Hastings and Rye Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen met with local fishermen in Hastings last week to discuss the future of the local fishing fleet.

Mr Skinner said: “As the Common Fisheries Policy is reformed I will be calling for the prioritisation of coastal communities and traditional livelihoods as well as for an end to the shockingly wasteful practice of discarding dead fish.

“But none of that will matter unless the UK Government grasps the nettle and gives more quota to the small boats.

“The current realignment would only give our boats an extra three tonne of cod; not even enough for each fisherman to have fish and chips. They need more.”

Last year the Observer took its campaign Fairer Deal for Fishermen to the Prime Minister, to demand a larger share of the catch for boats under 10-metres.

It delivered more than 3,000 cut-out fish coupons signed by readers to 10 Downing Street.