Fishermen to start mass mailing campaign to highlight fuel plight –

Fishermen to start mass mailing campaign to highlight fuel plight Published:  05 June, 2008

Jonathan Shaw’s decision has angered the industry

THE Fishermen’s Fuel Action Group, set up in Inverness 10 days ago will tomorrow start a mass-mailing campaign to the UK Government to highlight the plight of the fleet.

The Group, which claims to represent the largest grouping of boats in Scotland, as well as including parts of England, will take part in the Europe-wide day of action planned for Monday and they warn that some of their members are desperate enough to consider blockading ports, although that would not be condoned by the group.

Group spokesman Ross Skinner said they felt that the Government and to some extent members of the public, were still unaware of the seriousness of the effects escalating fuel prices were having on the industry.

He said that UK fisheries minister, Jonathan Shaw’s refusal to make any concessions had angered the industry.

Mr Skinner said: “We support the Europe-wide campaign. We can’t rule out militancy but we would prefer negotiation. We don’t want to disrupt communities or cause bad feeling.

“I can’t say that some people won’t blockade. Some will do anything to keep their business going. The message we got from Jonathan Shaw was a point-blank ‘no’ and that caused more tension. We don’t condone militant action, but we can’t say what will happen.”

He continued: “The industry should really be considered as a special case.

“We can’t pass on the fuel costs as higher prices to customers. Fish is sold at auction and prices have not increased in the past 10 years and in many cases prices have fallen to the levels of 15 years ago, fuel costs have doubled in the past year and the industry is close to collapse.

“Consumers might think they pay a high price for fish but fishermen get only 20% of that.

“That is split between the vessel’s costs and crew’s wages and some crewmen are now getting as little as £100 a week.

“They can’t live on that, and many are leaving which means some vessels can’t put to see because they have no crew.”

The Group has prepared an information sheet setting out what they see as the most important facts for the Government and public to consider.

The sheet points out that the EU quota system does not work and was based on the wrong information from the start and that the fishing industry has received no subsidy since the subsidy for the herring fleet in the early 1980s.

It also states that over the last eight years the UK fishing fleet has been reduced by 58% in line with EU recommendations.

They are now calling on all UK fishermen, and their supporters to send copies of the fact sheet, which they will make available, to Government departments to disrupt their administrative systems, and to media outlets to help them inform the public.

Mr Skinner continued: “We are the only EU fleet that is sustainable because of the cuts made in the past eight years.

“We are calling for a fixed fuel price across the EU for fishermen.

“The summer is the most productive time for fishing, but markets are being disrupted by action in the French ports and those exporting the catch can’t get it to market.

“Hauliers are refusing to carry freight and we could see nearly 80% of the fleet tied up within a week. Once the winter comes in, no vessel will be viable.”

Another Group member, Duncan MacInnes, secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association said: “We have to speak with a united voice to add our protest to those of the other European fleets.

“If this industry goes under, it is going to cost a lot more for the Government to support people without jobs and the communities that will be affected, than if they had given us some support now to help us survive.

“The French and Spanish industries have received to date more than 250 million Euros each in help towards fuel costs and if we are to receive nothing, there should at least be a single price for fuel for fishing vessels across Europe.

“There is no point in the Government saying they are looking at long-term solutions.

“The problems we face are here right now, and if the Government doesn’t act there won’t be a fishing industry left.” 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.