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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Fishing In crisis

21/06/13


Richard Benyon M.P.
Minister for Fisheries
DEFRA
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR



Dear Minister

Fragility of South East Fisheries


The inshore fisheries in the South and South East of England are facing an unprecedented set of adverse circumstances. Many vessels are struggling to survive. An extended period of bad weather has made the first half of 2013 a disaster.

2012 was extremely wet and windy; then the first few months of 2013 were very cold, the coldest, in fact, on record. The result has been that abnormally cold seawater temperatures have disrupted the normal reproductive cycles and migration patterns. Shellfisheries and whitefish fisheries have both been badly affected. Vessel grossings are down in some cases by 70% to 80% and fishermen throughout the region are struggling to pay their bills.

The low level of landings has had knock-on consequences for all businesses linked to fishing, including fish merchants, gear suppliers, electronic companies, and diesel suppliers.

You are not of course responsible for the weather. However, in a number of forthcoming decisions which you are responsible for it is extremely important that you take the current fragility of the fleet’s economics into account. Decisions on TACs and quotas, European marine sites and marine conservation zones, licences for dredging operations, and consents for offshore renewable projects all have the potential to topple fishing businesses in the South East beyond the point of no return. The way that the newly agreed ban on discards is implemented could be critical.

We appreciate that there are competing pressures on you when these kind of decisions land on your desk. It does seem to us however that the economic viability of fishing vessels and their vulnerability to the consequences of government decisions is often not given the priority that it deserves.

Against the background of extreme pressure on the South East fleets that I have described above, I would urge you to be sensitive to this extremely precarious situation and to discuss the implications policy with the industry’s representative bodies, each and every time in the coming months that you are called on to make a decision which potentially affects us.
Yours sincerely

Tony Delahunty

Chairman, NFFO South East Committee