UK fishermen "struggling" in face of rising fuel prices – Fishupdate.com

UK fishermen “struggling” in face of rising fuel prices Published:  05 May, 2008

Struan Stevenson

A EURO MP has criticised the UK government for refusing to support UK fishermen in the light of ever-rising fuel prices, despite the French and Spanish governments’ moves to subsidise their fishing industries.

Speaking today in the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament, Brussels, Scottish Euro-MP Struan Stevenson said: “Rocketing fuel prices, which have reached record highs of over US$119 per barrel recently, are hitting our UK fishermen hard.

“While the selling price of fish products has remained the same, fuel costs are, on average, a third higher than they were last year.

“While skippers claim they can pay a maximum of 23p per litre of diesel to maintain a viable business, current fuel costs have raised the price to 44p per litre.

“For a medium-sized beam trawler, the fuel costs may therefore be more than a third of its grossing. According to some industry leaders, going out to sea today is causing skippers debt, rather than profit.

“Meanwhile, the French and Spanish governments have reacted to global fuel price rises by subsidising their fishing industry. The UK government, on the other hand, is refusing any form of assistance to fishermen.”

In a deal struck between the French government and industry representatives following a number of protests in Brittany earlier this year, French trawlermen were promised a £230m handout payable over three years.

The money would come from EU funds and a new 2% tax on supermarket fish sales. The deal would see British fishermen pay £765 more to fill a 4,500 litre trawler fuel tank than their French counterparts.

Joe Borg, the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, has criticised the French and Spanish state subsidies and launched a Commission investigation into whether they are compatible with EU state aid rules.

He stressed: “If we were to allow subsidies to be given, then we’re saying that we are going to subsidise this industry permanently. And that is certainly not the way forward.”

However, Mr Stevenson pointed to a recent decision by the European Commission to ignore government aid to French pig farmers under “de minimis” rules, with Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel arguing that small-scale assistance would not distort the single market.

“If they apply the same argument to the French and Spanish fuel subsidy, then we must demand help from the UK government for our beleaguered fishermen,” he commented.

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