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South East Euro MP calls for an end to ‘armchair fishing’

March 1, 2011 12:17 PM

Sharon Bowles MEP, who represents South East England at the European Parliament, has today written to Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon MP, calling on the UK Government to address the problem of UK fishing quota assignment and, in particular, the profiteering of so called 'armchair' fishermen.

Sharon's letter reads:

Dear Mr Benyon,

I am writing to you to express my concern at the state of inshore fishing in my constituency of South East England and, in particular, to call for an end to the practice of 'armchair fishing' whereby surplus quota is leased by big producer organisations, at great cost, to smaller boats which have not been assigned adequate quota.

Coastal fishing towns in the South East are very important to the local economy and in these times of austerity we must of course look to small businesses to lead economic recovery and growth. In this regard, a thriving small fishing fleet will enable other small, local businesses to flourish.

As you know, the problem is not just the issue of discards - the focal point of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight campaign - but the way in which the UK's fishing quota is divided.

Sub-10 metre class fishing boats in places like Hastings, which I visited again last week, are assigned a disproportionately small percentage of the UK's fishing quota and this is having a deeply negative impact on inshore fishing.

For example, the current system allows sub-10 metre class boats to catch 1.5 kg of cod per day. When you consider that one cod can weigh 3 kg, that is a catch of half a cod per day - not enough to cover the cost of fuel let alone pay the crew.

Given that cod once made up 40% - 65% of a fisherman's income in Hastings, the lack of cod quota has left many struggling to make ends meet.

To make matters worse, the financial burden placed on inshore fishermen in the South East has pushed the price of fish caught by small boats way above that of fish landed by big producer organisations. Consequently, many fishmongers and restaurants will not buy locally caught fish.

In addition to CFP reform, which I advocate, I encourage the UK Government to address the problem of disproportionate and unfair assignment of fishing quota so that inshore fishing communities in the South East and the rest of the UK are able to thrive once more.

Sincerely,

Sharon Bowles MEP

Chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee