Hastings’ fishing fleet is on virtual shutdown.
Fishermen are facing a harsh winter and more financial hardship due to the fishing quota system set by the European Union (EU).
The current quota distribution of fish favours large, factory fishing ships over smaller fishing fleets like the one in Hastings.
Paul Joy, Hastings fisherman and co-chairman of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), said fishermen here were having to dump plaice and skate back in the sea because they have no quota left.
He said: “We have had to go out further to sea to avoid catching plaice. We can fish for cod but there is very little of that at the moment. On Tuesday we only caught enough to fill two small boxes. Unless the cod numbers increase we can’t survive the winter.”
Hastings fishermen are also able to catch sole but this requires the use of the same nets to catch plaice which are in abundance.
Councillor Peter Chowney, Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for regeneration and chairman of the Hastings FLAG (Fisheries Local Action Group), said: “The currently unfair fishing quota distribution favours large, factory fishing ships over local, low impact fishermen. We need fishing that protects our marine environment, contributes to the local economy, and supports coastal communities. The local fishing industry supports hundreds of jobs and has a massive impact on the tourism industry.
“Local fishermen have been up to Westminster to bring this to the attention of the fisheries minister. They asked for an immediate, emergency reallocation of unused quota from the big producer organisations and have requested that when quotas for 2015 are allocated local, low-impact fishermen are first in the queue.
“We need government to permanently re-allocate quota from the 96 per cent that is given to the big producer organisations which account for less than 10 per cent of the fleet, to the under 10-metre boat fishing fleet accounting for 92 per cent of fishing fleet who fish sustainably in the south east.”
Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “I have been leading the campaign for more quota for our fishermen. I have met with Greenpeace too and welcome its support. We have finally reversed the years of decline, but we need to do much more for our fishermen. I will continue to press for a fairer share of quota, and have requested an urgent meeting with the Minister.”
People can help to support the local fishing industry in their request for permanent quota reallocation by emailing George Eustice, UK Fisheries Minister. Visit http://bit.ly/1ub3QXj.