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Underdogs of the sea get EU backing
Lyme Bay fishermen say they are struggling to survive as their campaign for sustainable fisheries receives European support.
Fishermen and West Dorset Greenpeace met with Euro MP Graham Watson and gained his support for their campaign for sustainable fisheries.
Be a Fishermen’s Friend is a campaign to get a fairer deal on fishing quotas for inshore fishermen.
The Lib Dem MEP has become the third member for the South West to pledge his support for a radical reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Watson met with 10 fishermen from Lyme Bay and Greenpeace volunteers delivering 4,000 ‘fish cards’ signed by the Dorset public, urging him to make a stand for sustainable inshore fishermen. Small-scale fishermen claim the UK fishing quota is distributed unfairly – although small boats account for 77 per cent of registered vessels, they have access to only 4 per cent of the quota.
Lyme Regis fisherman Nigel Hill was among those to meet with the MEP.
He said: “We all need a reasonable quota rather than just a minority surviving quota, mainly on Dover sole. The fish quota really is diabolical for this area.
“If you go into a different area literally 50 miles up the coast they can catch two tonnes of sole.
“We are told there isn’t a lot of sole in this area and they want to protect it.
“If they are trying to protect it, why is it that other boats can catch tonnes and we are only allowed 100 kilos?
“We are trying to make a living but they are making it so you can just about survive.
“For us, 100 kilos a month is worth approximately £1,200, but in Poole they are allowed two tonnes a month which is around £20,000.”
Greenpeace campaigner Alicia Craw said: “Many of these fishermen have been fishing sustainably for generations, yet the EU fisheries policy and the UK quota system are heavily stacked against them – they truly are the sea underdogs.”
Mr Watson’s backing comes as the reform process of the Common Fisheries Policy is approaching a crucial stage, with key votes in Brussels and Strasbourg taking place over the next two months.
He said: “Small-scale inshore fishermen have been the lifeblood of these coastal communities for generations, but their livelihoods are now threatened by a system rigged in favour of powerful fishing interests.
“National quota systems should reward those who fish sustainably and look after their patch.”
Steve Rodgers, who has been in the industry since the age of 16, said fishermen are being ‘robbed’ of their fish.
He added: “The fleet of small boats in the Lyme Bay has been in decline for years because of a quota system that is shutting out fishermen like us.”
Greenpeace has produced a short film, The Last Fishermen, to highlight the plight of small-scale fishermen. It can be watched at greenpeac e.org.uk/last-fishermen-film