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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Efforts to save North Devon fishing future at key meeting

THE future of North Devon's fishing industry hangs in the balance today as the Government is confronted about a new ban on ray fishing. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations is calling for the Government's help in overturning the ban on the landing of small-eyed ray – imposed by the European Commission.

It will meet in Grimsby where fisheries minister George Eustice will be challenged about the ongoing ban, as well as restrictions on the landing of sole and bass.

According to John Balls, chairman of the North Devon Fisherman's Association, the region's fishing industry was in "grave danger" as a result of the ongoing restrictions – with few vessels specialising in white fish left in the region.

Torridge MP calls EU ban on fishing for bass 'insane' Mr Balls, who will be attending today's conference, said: "The small boats, they are just really being punished big time.

"At the moment you have S and P Trawlers working out of South Devon, Steve Taylor has sold one of his boats and is looking to sell the other if he gets the right price.

"That will leave no white fish boats working North Devon at all."

With more than 40% of the fish which comes ashore in North Devon coming from ray species, Mr Balls said the industry had now become unviable for all but the shell-fish trawlers. It comes despite efforts by the North Devon Fisherman's Association to contribute to the contribute to the conservation of rays in the Bristol Channel, which included a tagging scheme to monitor their population. The plea for Government support has been back by Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox, who last month called the restrictions on sea bass fishing "insane".

"We are hoping this meeting will be one step forward," Mr Balls said. "Geoffrey Cox has done a lot for us but we need the support of George Eustice. "Unfortunately it's too late for some. How we are supposed to entice people into the fishing industry? That just isn't going to happen."

Later this month a meeting of the EU fisheries committee will take place, where the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations is hoping to get the ban overturned. Although it will be held behind closed doors, the campaign has received the backing of Ray Finch MEP, who is the UK's only member on the committee.

FISHERMENS STORES

NORTH Devon Council has confirmed despite the crisis in the region's fishing industry, it still expected its new storage building in Ilfracombe to be used. Head of property and technical services, Diana Hill, said: "The fishermen's stores were completed around Christmas time and we have agreed terms for a new lease to the local Fishermen's Association.

"As a result, we have instructed our Legal Services to prepare the appropriate documentation. "At this time and as far as we are aware, the fishermen wish to occupy the new store facility. "We therefore expect the fishermen to move in once the lease has been completed."

The £585,000 fishermen's stores, along with the improved facilities, were provided by North Devon Council and received more than £250,000 in funding the European Fisheries Fund.

Full story from the North Devon Herald & Express
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