North Devon’s fishing fleet faces ‘imminent’ destruction because of government mismanagement and the Government must over-ride EU quota limits to save 1000-year-old community, says UKIP Chairman Steve Crowther.
The North Devon fishing fleet could have virtually ceased to exist by Christmas, following a ban on ray and skate fishing imposed suddenly this week by the government’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO). The ban is the result of a failure by the MMO to keep track of fish landings against EU quotas, according to UKIP, who are seeking an urgent meeting with the European Fisheries Commissioner.
“On Friday the MMO suddenly announced that ray and skate fishing – which constitutes more than 70% of North Devon’s catch – had to stop from this Sunday”, said UKIP's Chairman Steve Crowther.
“Apparently, although fishermen have to report landings within 24 hours, the government were two to three months behind in their administration. Having caught up, they now find there’s no quota left nationally, after an abundant take in the Eastern Channel. So, despite the fact that North Devon’s fleet have not fulfilled their meagre quota, they’re banned from fishing and tied up in dock.
“This spells the end for a fishing community based on Appledore which is the oldest in the country, dating back more than 1000 years. Because of a combination of shrinking EU quotas and government incompetence, the industry in North Devon is likely to be gone by Christmas. The businesses based on the Appledore Fish Dock cannot survive without fish. It’s like telling farmers during harvest to stay indoors until next year – without compensation.”
Government Fishing Minister George Eustice must step in and reinstate the historic quota limits that would allow our fleet to survive, says Steve Crowther.
“Ray and skate quotas have been cut by 20% every year since 2009, yet there is no evidence of shortage – in fact, the government itself admits that there are abundant stocks. The same applies to sole, haddock and other species. Spurdogs, which used to be eaten as ‘rock salmon’, are being discarded in large quantities off the Devon coast, as are haddock, because the EU says they can’t be landed.
“Meanwhile large trawlers from Belgium and France continue to net huge amounts of fish off our coast. We will soon have to buy all our own fish from dealers in Europe.
“There is only one option, and no time to lose. George Eustice must now over-ride the artificial EU quotas and save our fishing communities from extinction. If we’re threatened with fines by the EU, he can pay them at government level, or refuse like the French do. Why should we be fined for catching our own fish? Ray quotas should be restored to the level at which they were introduced in 2009, to provide a long-term future for our fishermen.
“If it’s not there to save our industries and communities, what is our Government for?"