Fishermen welcome findings on quotas

FISHERMEN in Whitby have welcomed the outcome of a committee investigation that has criticised the Government’s approach to fishing quota.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee inquiry examined the system for managing and allocating quota to the English fishing fleet and found that urgent changes are needed to preserve fishermen’s livelihoods.

Committee chair Anne McIntosh said: “We were shocked to discover that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) does not currently monitor who holds quota in England. Our report recommends that quota should only be held by working fishermen unless the holding of quota by outside interests can be shown to be of clear benefit to fishing communities.”

At present fishing quotas can be held by organisations who have little or no connection to the fishing industry and auctioned, to make a profit.

This practice often puts the quotas out of the reach of independent local fishermen, and the current system has been blamed for the decimation of the Yorkshire coast fishing fleet

James Cole, of the Good Intent III, welcomed the committee’s findings.

“All our quota has always gone to the highest bidder so there’s no chance we can get our hands on it,” he said.

“Quotas should be returned onto the Yorkshire coast for Yorkshire people.

“Before the quota was brought in we had a hundred trawlers on this coast – now all our fish is being caught by Scottish or French boats.

“It’s been outsourced and traded away and that’s why we have lost our industry.”

The committee also drew attention to the fact vessels under 10m should be allowed easier access to fishing quotas, “providing a life-line for those fishing communities most vulnerable to the current rules”, said Miss McIntosh.

Jon Whitton, skipper of the Never Can Tell A, said: “The recommendation is to be applauded but for many businesses it could be too late.

“The high cost of leasing quota for species such as cod has encouraged the discarding of small already-dead cod because their market value is insufficient to cover costs, only by landing the larger more valuable fish can a profit be made.”

Miss McIntosh also spoke about the current discard policy, ahead of reforms to the European Common Fisheries Policy next year, adding: “Discarding is a waste of natural resources and our witnesses were united in wanting to see an end to this unsustainable practice.

“We were encouraged to hear that Defra is already undertaking work to address this problem, but we believe the department could do more.”