Anger as Welsh Assembly bids to end historic rights for trawlers –

Anger as Welsh Assembly bids to end historic rights for trawlers Published:  27 August, 2012

A ROW is brewing up between the Welsh Assembly and anglers on one side and a group of fishing boats from Wales and North Devon on the other over historic access rights, also known as “grandfather” rights.

The assembly is proposing to end these “grandfather” right for around eight boats, two of which are from Devon. Now the assembly has been accused of  pandering to a noisy angling lobby in South Wales. This is not the first time that commercial fishermen have experienced outright hostility from anglers. There have been disputes in the North East of England. This time it has swung to Wales and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said the “Welsh Assembly has abandoned any pretensions it may have has to a rational, proportionate, or science-based approach to fisheries policy”. The NFFO is now pressing for an urgent meeting with the Welsh First Minister.

The Federation said in a statement: “By electing to end ‘grandfather’ rights for two North Devon vessels and five or six Welsh boats which have historically fished within the Welsh six-mile limit, the Welsh Assembly has chosen to ignore scientific evidence and gone with a crowed pleasing approach that will jeopardise the economic survival of the boats concerned.

“This is not an auspicious start for fisheries policy within devolved government and the new concordat between fisheries administrations. Our fears that devolution would be used to usher in discriminatory measures under the guise of conservation are now being realised.

“In fact, it would be difficult to find a group of fishermen more committed to conservation than the North Devon Fishermen’s Association. Under its direction a voluntary seasonal closed area to protect skates and rays in the Bristol Channel has been in place since 2005 and after talks with the Belgian fishing industry, the closure is also observed by the Belgian beam trawl fleet. The association has also supported a higher minimum landing size for rays and a range of protective measures for bass including closed nursery areas.

“The fact that the Welsh Assembly has been unable to muster a credible scientific case to exclude the Devon vessels says much about the health of the bass stocks and the sustainable forms of fishing undertaken by the fleet.”

The statement adds: “In the past such discriminatory measures would have been unlikely because the Secretary of State was required to endorse any by-laws and to ensure that their purpose was not discrimination wrapped-up in conservation rhetoric.”