Euro MEP slams UK governement over failure to support fishermen –

Euro MEP slams UK governement over failure to support fishermen Published:  22 April, 2009

Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson

The UK government has been slammed by a Euro MP for failing to support British fishermen in the wake of a promise by the French fisheries minister to provide financial aid and increased quotas for protesting French fishermen.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, who is fisheries spokesman for the Conservatives in the European parliament, said: ‘We have seen the French and other governments subsidise their fishing industry before. Although we fish in the same waters as the French, the UK government refuses to help our fishermen, be it on rising fuel prices last summer or annual fishing quotas.

But every time the French fishermen blockade the Channel ports, the French government caves in to their demands, while we obey the law and as a result get nothing. It is frustrating and deeply unfair.

‘We’ve seen more than 60 per cent of our whitefish fleet scrapped in the last six years because of the catastrophic impact of the Common Fisheries Policy. The horrendous mish-mash of total allowable catches, quotas, restrictions on the days that a fishermen can go to sea, technical restrictions on the gear he can use, limits on his engine size and a plethora of micro-managed rules and regulations dreamed up by Brussels bureaucrats, has driven our fishermen to the verge of bankruptcy. It is time the British government stood up for our industry in the same way the French government stands up for theirs.

‘Although the European Commission is currently examining the French government’s promise of £3.5 million financial aid to fishermen and a renegotiation of France’s fishing quotas, which the French minister Michael Barnier promised last week, it seems likely that it will be approved. The aid package would cover losses suffered by French fishermen who are facing a temporary halt to fishing, by boats nearing the limits of their quotas. The European Commission has confirmed that some aid may be justified from the European Fisheries Fund. In addition, although quotas agreed by the Council of Minister last December cannot be re-negotiated, Michel Barnier has promised to get extra quotas from other EU Member States who will swap unused quota with France. In other words he is prepared to go the extra mile to help his fisheries sector.

‘I am really angry about this. I was in Shetland, Orkney and Stornoway last week talking to Scottish fishermen who are at the end of their tether because of the appalling quota regime agreed last December. But now they see their French counterparts rewarded for blockading the ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk in the Channel last week. The French fishermen’s action cost millions to ferry operators, businesses and massive disruption to travellers but nevertheless has won them a promise of cash and extra quotas. Meanwhile the British government refuses to budge and does nothing to help our beleaguered fishermen. It is outrageous.’