GREENPEACE is demanding an investigation into the English fish quota system after it revealed a small holiday type dinghy has permission to catch 1,500 tonnes of fish.
The 16-foot dinghy Nina May, tied up in Exmouth Harbour, is apparently able to catch almost a fifth of the entire fishing quota for south west England, although it rarely puts to sea.
This is because the regulations allow owners of fishing fleets to nominate a single vessel as the licence holder even though it is incapable of catching such large amounts of fish.
The owners say nominating a single vessel is done to avoid falling foul of petty fishing regulations.
Greenpeace believes it exposes something badly wrong at the heart of the entire quota system where more than half the allowable catch is in the hands of a few large companies.
Much of this fish is not landed in Britain, but in European countries such as Holland, the international conservation group points out.
Greenpeace said it carried out its investigation after it heard what it first thought must be an old fishing tale that a small dinghy was able to ‘catch enough fish to sink a battleship’.
During the investigation it came across the case of the Nina May, which it says has assumed ‘semi-legendary’ status among West Country fishermen.
Greenpeace is calling on the government to implement reforms to outlaw such practices. The investigation also named one of the biggest quota owners as a Dutch company which has a British subsidiary office based in Grimsby.
Will McCallum, head of Greenpeace’s oceans campaign, said: ‘For many small businesses struggling to keep afloat, the Nina May is a living symbol of the government’s failure to properly manage and regulate the fishing industry.
‘And it doesn’t seem right that a big fishing company can hoard up all its quota on a dummy vessel so its other trawlers can carry on fishing even if they are caught breaking the rules. The government should look into whether this is a widespread practice.’