Committee to meet to discuss fuel action –

Committee to meet to discuss fuel action Published:  03 June, 2008

John Hermse: We are reaching the point of desperation

A COMMITTEE set up by a wide-ranging group of fishermen’s representatives from Scotland and parts of England will meet tomorrow morning to decide their part in the Europe-wide day of action next Monday to protest against escalating fuel charges.

The group, which met in Inverness last Monday, has not ruled out blockading ports, but the level of action will depend on the meeting’s assessment of what UK fisheries minister Jonathan Shaw had to offer the fishermen at their meeting in London today.

The grouping has also taken a dim view of the suggestion by EC fisheries commissioner Joe Borg, that the current crisis should be seen as an opportunity to re-structure the fleet and reduce the number of boats.

Protests against the effects of the fuel rises have spread throughout Europe.

Fuel prices have doubled in the past year, with fuel costs now accounting for around 50% of the cost of a fishing trip, and it is estimated that 40% of the Scottish fleet is unviable at current fuel price levels.

Action committee spokesman, John Hermse said: “We will meet first thing on Wednesday morning.

“Some of the members will be in contact by phone link and we will discuss the implications of whatever offer Mr Shaw has made to help.

“A Europe-wide day of action is being planned for next week and we will decide what part we have to play in that and how we will fit in with what fishermen in other countries are doing.”

Spanish and Portuguese fishermen have started indefinite strikes and French fishermen have already blockaded a number of ports, disrupting ferries and other maritime traffic.

The Scottish Whitefish Producers Association has ruled out militant action, but the newly-formed action committee, including the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association and the Mallaig and North-west Fishermen’s Association which together form the largest grouping of boats in Scotland, has refused to do so at this stage.

Mr Hermse said: “At this stage, nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out. The committee will decide what action to take.

“We are not advocating blockades at this stage. We will have to wait and see what solutions, if any, the Government is offering the industry.”

Last week, EC fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg said: “We must act now to restructure.

“I remain convinced that there is a future for European fisheries, but only if member states, the sector and the Commission work together to create a smaller, more fuel-efficient fleet that is better matched to fishing possibilities.”

He also made clear that any ‘rescue aid’ would be short-term to allow boats and fleets to restructure or go into liquidation and that the financial assistance would be repayable.

John Hermse said: “The Scottish fleet has already gone through two rounds of decommissioning in 2001 and 2003. We have already restructured.

“We are fishing sustainably, but the problems we face now are not of our own making.

“We need Government help to alleviate the problems caused by fuel prices. We have done everything the Government has asked of us and we are now reaching the point of desperation.”

George MacRae, secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association has also this week given a firm thumbs down to any more fleet cuts, given the decommissioning programmes already carried out. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.