Catchers' delegation meet Minister – Fishupdate.com
Catchers’ delegation meet Minister Published: 30 June, 2006
A DELEGATION of fishermen from the Thames Estuary has been taken to see UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw by the East Anglian MEP Jeffrey Titford of the UK Independence Party. The delegation, made up of representatives from the under 10 metre fishing fleet requested the meeting to outline their concerns to the Minister as many of them say they are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living under present quota arrangements.
Mr Titford said: We had a productive meeting in which a number of key issues were raised. Specific concern was expressed that the present quota arrangements are unsustainable in that too much quota is owned by people who are either not fishing themselves or simply lease their allocation to others. The original rules were badly thought out and have reintroduced old mistakes that should have been ironed out before. Certainly, quota allocated to boats that arent working should be reallocated. The fish quota management system that has developed over the past 30 years has become flawed and distorted in favour of the sector and vested interests.
The Minister indicated that he felt this situation needed addressing but that the law would need to be changed and the forthcoming Marine Bill might be a suitable opportunity.
Mr Titford added: Pleas were also made for a more flexible approach to enforcement of quota allocations. One member of our delegation, Clive Mills, has had his boat out of the water for repairs for a month and, as a result, lost the entire months allocation. Mr Bradshaw was very concerned about this and said he had no objection to the rules being amended to take into account such situations.
In response to a request from the fishermen for a rethink on the six and 12 mile limits, so that they include the Thames Estuary, the MEP said the Minister accepted that the matter needs re-assessing but pointed out that the present arrangements are enshrined in the EUs Common Fisheries Policy and cannot be re-negotiated until the next review in 2010. By an anomaly, the Thames Estuary is not at present included, which allows foreign fishing vessels to fish waters which are well inside the 6 and 12 mile limits.
The Minister also confirmed that preliminary approval had been given for the development of a new container port at Shellhaven. Concerns were expressed by the delegation that the consultants on this project were no longer liaising with local organisations because they were not being paid. Mr Bradshaws officials were unaware of this and promised to resolve this situation, as a matter of urgency.
Commenting after the meeting, Mr Titford said: We were grateful for the courtesy with which we were treated and the genuine concern expressed by the Minister about many of the issues we raised. Within the strict constraints laid down by the EU, we felt that Mr Bradshaw will take firm action to resolve some of the difficulties being experienced by our inshore fishermen. However, it is still quite wrong that a Minister of the Crown has his hands so firmly tied by our membership of the EU. These are our own fishing waters, after all.
Clive Mills who fishes from West Mersea said: We were grateful to the Minister for the opportunity to put our concerns to him. Lets hope he will actually do something about them! I should also express our gratitude to Jeffrey Titford MEP for arranging the meeting. We know that we can rely upon Jeffrey because he understands our business and will always do anything he can to help.
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