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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Fishing industry 'on the precipice’ as key quota talks take place in Brussels

Proposed cuts to the amount of fish the Westcountry fleet can land must be scaled back by 90% or risk pushing the industry “over the precipice”, a leading spokesman has said.

Crunch Brussels talks started today to determine the size of catch permissible for the region across a range of species.

 Fishing leaders have described the proposals to remove as much as 12% of the total annual catch – worth an estimated £10 million to ports in Devon and Cornwall – as potentially devastating.

Fisheries Minister George Eustice dismissed the “apocalyptic” vision of the industry when new quotas kick in next year and has pledged to “deliver a fair deal for our fishermen across the UK”.

The Cornwall MP has insisted he will be pushing at the meeting of EU ministers for quota to be the same level as this year in many cases.

Jim Portus, chief executive of South Western Fish Producer Organisation, is currently at the talks lobbying for a reduction in cuts to key stocks of around 10% of the current recommendations.


Speaking from the Belgian city, Mr Portus told the Western Morning News that cuts in quotas for Dover sole, plaice and angler fish amounting to £3 million would be unsustainable.

“The industry can cope with some cuts but I want them to be minimised so that rather than losing 12% we see something closer to 2%,” he added. “I don’t believe for one minute that we are going to achieve the status quo of opportunities in every stock. “All ministers are going to have to explain to the world the motives behind their decisions in terms of how they match the science and whether it is appropriate to take a graduated approach rather than slipping the industry over the precipice in one year.”

The EU Fisheries Council is set to continue today with a resolution expected sometime in the early hours of tomorrow(Weds). Monkfish, megrim and sole – the most important fish to Devon and Cornwall – face an annual cut of up to 35%. Haddock, which represents 5% of the value of fisheries landed in the region, faces a reduction of up to 40%. The meeting comes as commercial fisheries in North Devon are already reeling from the early closure of skate and ray landings this year, which has resulted in jobs being lost and boats tied up.

Mr Eustice said: “We have a strong track record of leading the pack when it comes to fisheries including securing reforms to the broken Common Fisheries Policy so regional differences are now taken into account in decision making.

“Having heard from different parts of our fleet I will be representing the entirety of UK fisheries to achieve our shared goals of a thriving fishing industry, sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment.”

Paul Trebilcock, of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, said the minister had recognised the “potential implications” of the tabled cuts going ahead. He said: “We have given him the scientific evidence and ammunition – it is now a case of deploying this in a way which improves the proposal.”

Read more from the Western Morning News or on Twitter @WMNNews