FISHING industry leaders are making final preparations in advance of the annual Council of Fisheries Ministers to be held in Brussels next week. (15-17 December).
Jim Portus, the Chief Executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation Ltd will attend with Nick Prust, a Devon fisherman who became the Chairman of SWFPO at its recent AGM.
Portus has already briefed Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, at earlier opportunities in personal meetings and in writing, but says that attending Brussels is vital when crucial decisions would affect SW fishermen badly if things went the wrong way.
He said: ‘Local MP Sarah Wollaston has been exceptionally concerned about the present problems and the future wellbeing of fishermen in the trawling community of Brixham and in the crabbing ports of Salcombe and Kingswear.
‘I have been impressed with how she has listened to the fishermen, researched their issues and raised their predicament with the Fisheries Minister.
‘No stone has been left unturned and Sarah has met face to face with Defra officials and has spoken directly to the most senior scientist at CEFAS, the government fisheries laboratory in Lowestoft.
‘I am very worried for the prospects facing S Devon and Channel fishermen. The fish quotas are very important, but 60 per cent of all English catches are of non-quota species including Scallops, crabs and Bass.
‘Although these stocks are not on quotas, they are subjected to restrictions in one form or another. Scallopers are limited to quite a small number of days at sea, crabbers became limited on time at sea for the first time this year and Bass fishermen have been warned they are facing catch limits to help restore the stock.
‘Quotas of plaice, cod and sole are all likely to be cut quite deeply at the Council of Ministers. It has been estimated that the region could lose as much as £10 million from landing revenues that totalled £80 million last year.
‘Of course I am worried, but I am also determined to ensure decisions on cuts are only made on the basis of really good science.
‘Many stocks are not even assessed at the very basic level, so it is important that governments put funding into fisheries research.
‘Harsh decisions made on scanty information are disingenuous to the fishermen whose livelihoods will be affected.
‘It will not go down well in Brixham, Plymouth, Looe or Newlyn if the Cornish Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, spends a merry Christmas down on the family farm while local fishermen face poverty at his hands.’