West country fishermen put quota case to MPs

UK fishing leaders will try to secure a better deal for 2016 when they meet MPs and Fisheries Minister George Eustice ahead of the annual fisheries debate in the Commons on Thursday.
The Parliament will consider the state of the British industry on December 3, before the Brussels Council of fisheries ministers that this year will be held on December 15.
Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, will again represent west country fishermen. He said attending the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Fisheries, to be held on Wednesday, and then Brussels was vital when crucial decisions are being made that could affect south-west fishermen.
‘Local MPs Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency includes Brixham, Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, and Sheryll Murray, MP for South-East Cornwall, have continued to show their concern about the wellbeing of local fishermen and about the problems they are facing in the near future,’ said Portus. ‘I have been impressed with how each has listened to the fishermen, researched the issues and raised various matters during the past year with the Fisheries Minister.
‘In my final briefing to the Minister and MPs, I will be placing emphasis on a short list of key issues:

  1. The scientific advice for Channel stocks. It is important that the stocks should continue to flourish, but it is important also that cuts to quotas are fully justified. Often the advice is couched in terms of single species exploitation, but for the fishermen earning a living in the English Channel and adjacent regional seas, the important thing for the Minister to bear in mind constantly is that the fisheries are mixed. It is essential that this diversity is recognised as strength to be cherished.
  2. For reasons of stock recovery, beam trawler operators in the Channel ports have been working since 2007 under very strict conditions of limited time at sea and area based restrictions. The latest scientific advice shows that the main stocks they exploit, Dover sole and plaice, have recovered such that the 2016 quotas will be significantly higher than this year’s. It will be important to ensure that the markets are kept strong for higher volumes of these fish passing through the auctions.

‘The new ban on discards, otherwise known as the Landing Obligation, comes into force for certain demersal species on January 1.
‘Trawlermen searching to catch whiting may face some difficulties as for this species the quota increase is likely to be small, yet everything they catch must be landed.
‘I will be pleading that any increase to allow for the landing of discards is distributed to the fishermen concerned and not skimmed off the top for others to benefit.
‘The species that have always given the UK Channel fishermen trouble, cod and haddock, will again cause difficulties. Proposed cuts are in the order of 30 per cent and our fishermen will be forced to keep discarding as they will not have enough quotas.
‘These species do not come under the Landing Obligation in 2016, so discarding will still be legal. It seems such a waste of resource, so I will be pleading to keep any cuts to absolute minimum.

  1. Emergency rules restricting sea bass catches were introduced in 2015, and the EC Commission is proposing to tighten the limits further. I will be making the case that these new limits have barely impacted the bass stock and should not be made any stricter until proper evaluations have been done.