UK: Scallopers met for inaugural general meeting – Fishupdate.com

UK: Scallopers met for inaugural general meeting Published:  30 May, 2006

THE inaugural meeting of a new inshore scallopers’ association formed to defend the sector against closure of a key fishing area, was held at Greendale Barton, Woodbury Salterton, on Friday.

Nick Prust, a fisherman who operates two inshore multi-valent under 10metre vessels from the port of Brixham was elected Chairman.

Vice-Chairman is Chris Wason, a fisherman from Lyme Regis who comes from a long line of fisherfolk and whose brothers also fish the rich scallop beds in Lyme Bay. Secretary is Jim Portus, who also is Chief Executive of the South-western Fish Producers’ Organisation.

Those present voted unanimously to form a constitution-based Association to be known as the Southwest Inshore Scallopers Association.

The formation of this grouping has been prompted by the news that English Nature has sent UK Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, a request for him to apply his emergency powers to close a 60 square mile area off Lyme Regis. The area is a very rich scallop fishing ground that is worth in excess of £3 million each year in first-sale landings at Brixham, plus another estimated £1 million for fishermen that land in Weymouth, Exmouth, Teignmouth, Plymouth and Looe.

It is also the habitat of Pink Sea Fans, Ross Corals and Sunset Corals that have been afforded protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended.

More than 60 fishermen from ports all along the south coast, scallop processors from as far away as Fleetwood and a “friendly” fisheries scientist, crammed themselves into the meeting room where there was standing room only, to listen to Colin Penny, a senior Civil Servant of the Fisheries Conservation Division at DEFRA, London. He explained the process initiated by English Nature, which is the government’s own statutory advisory body on marine biodiversity and conservation. The Minister has a duty, he said, to take the matter of environmental impacts seriously, but he must also examine the social and economic consequences of any decision he makes.

According to the new association,what is interesting is that scallop fishing has been conducted sometimes very heavily in this area since the end of the Second World War and yet the marine biodiversity of the seabed puts it today in the top five sites around the UK. The fishermen argue therefore that their activity evidently does more good than harm. They also report that winter storms in these shallow waters stir the seabed and dislodge the benthic organisms every year. It is clear that despite all the human and natural action on the seabed in this area the density and variety of marine life remains relatively constant and healthy. The fishermen say they are determined to fight for the continuation of their livelihoods and more than 70 have now joined the new association, each paying the initial £50 subscription for the first year.

The second guest speaker at the meeting was John Hermse, Chief Executive of the Scallop Association. He expressed his enthusiasm for united action to protect the interests of so many fishermen against the biggest threat to their survival, the “Green lobby”. He congratulated the assembled fishermen on the formation of their new Association and invited affiliation to the Scallop Association, which he assured them is not about only the big producers, but is for the encouragement of better management of all scallop fisheries.

The next stage of the battle will be to lodge with the Minister properly considered objections to the proposed closure.

Mr Portus told Fishupdate that now that there is a formal Association to represent their joint interests they can engage in a dialogue under one banner with the strength that comes with unity of purpose. He pledged to have a “holding” letter on the Minister’s desk for him to read on his return after the Whit weekend.

The Committee of the Association will meet for the first time on Friday June 9 at 7pm at Greendale. Committee members have been appointed to represent all of the ports that stand to lose revenue from a ban and the scallop merchants have requested observer status to add their support at meetings because they stand also to lose so much. The Secretary will circulate to all members the April 2006 English Nature Report into mobile fishing gear activity in Lyme Bay so that they can consider counter-arguments and start gathering their evidence.

Any scalloper or trawlerman who feels that he would like to be part of this new Association can get an application form from the Secretary of the SWISA based at SWFPO Ltd, Westbeer House, 50 Fore Street, Ivybridge, PL21 9AE. Tel 01752690950, fax 01752691126 or e-mail swfpo@btinternet.com

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