MEP joins 1,200 locals backing fish campaign

Sharon Bowles MEP signs her fish
Sharon Bowles MEP signs her fish

MORE than 1,000 people have now backed the Observer’s Fairer Deal For Fishermen campaign – with the region’s Euro MP among those to speak out in support of the local fleet this week.

In less than a month more than 1,200 cut out fish petitions have arrived at the Observer’s Woods House headquarters – with dozens more turning up every day.

And this week Sharon Bowles, the Liberal Democrat Member of European Parliament for the south east took time out of her busy schedule to come to 1066 Country and back our calls for an end to crippling quotas and dead fish being flung back into the sea.

During her visit, the MEP enjoyed a lunch at Webbe’s on Rock-a-Nore, where she was given a taste of the main fish caught both here and in nearby Rye.

Speaking to the Observer afterwards, she said: “The situation cannot be allowed to go on as it is.

“The fishing industry in places like Hastings is very important to the local economy and I have been campaigning for a fairer deal for some five or six years and will continue to do so. The problem is not just the issue of discards (throwing dead fish back) but the whole way in which quotas are controlled.”

She then went on to say that far from being a European Union problem, much of the way the quotas are distributed to the under 10 metre class found in Hastings is the fault of the UK Government and the way smaller boats are often forced to buy up additional quotas.

The Lib Dem said that additional financial burden pushed the price of fish caught by small boats way above that of similar fish landed by the major producers and stocked in supermarkets.

Ms Bowles then urged local people to continue to show their support for the fishermen and signed her very own giant Observer fish to join the fast-mounting pile.

And just a stone’s throw from where Ms Bowles was sampling the best of local fish, volunteers at the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society were stocking up on cut out fish at the Fishermen’s Museum.

Phil Ornsby took delivery of more than 250 blank fish which will now be given to visitors as part of the museum’s Quotes, Questions and Quotas exhibition.

Mr Ornsby said: “We have seen and heard first-hand how difficult things are for the fishermen here and a lot of the people who come and look round are shocked. Hopefully we can help the Observer’s campaign and encourage some to sign the petitions.”

Hastings Borough Council has also joined the Observer and will be stocking piles of cut out fish in the Hastings Information Centre in the town hall.

To join our campaign simply cut out the fish on page 41 and return it to the address underneath.