Campaign to save traditional coastal fishing hits Brussels
Westcountry fishermen have launched a manifesto to usher in "once-in-a-decade" reforms of European Union (EU) fishing law and preserve the region's traditional maritime heritage.
Small-scale operators, including two from Devon, joined forces with colleagues around Europe to demand a new fisheries policy that is fairer to coastal operators.
The "unprecedented" gathering claimed there is no future for the industry while power remains concentrated in the hands of "often destructive" big fishing outfits.
Steve Rodgers, from Seaton, and Dave Cuthbert, from Plymouth, visited Brussels as part of a UK delegation to the first European Artisanal Fishermen's Congress.
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The congress was designed to influence ongoing reform of the regulations governing the industry: the EU Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Rodgers said there was "no future for our seas and fishing communities" if the system continued to put quotas, subsidies, and influence into the hands of a few, large-scale fishing operations.
"The majority of UK fishermen, who are small-scale and tend to fish sustainably, are left with barely enough to scrape by," he added.
Despite making up over three quarters of the British fishing fleet, small-scale fishermen claim they only have access to 4% of the UK quota.
The bulk of the allowance, they complain, is controlled by a handful of producers organisations, which tend to represent larger boats, as is the case in other EU countries. The representatives of dozens of local and regional associations of artisanal fishermen, responsible for thousands of fishing sector jobs, adopted a joint declaration over the weekend. They asked for sustainable, artisanal and low-impact fishing to be put at the heart of the new laws.
The declaration will this week be formally handed over to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council Presidency.
Jerry Percy of NUTFA, the national organisation representing hundreds of under-10 metre vessels in the UK, said: "Fishing is a way of life that small-scale fishermen have practised for generation after generation and it is threatened as never before.
"While not being caused by artisanal fishermen, overfishing has had a disproportionate effect on their ability to survive.
"If any boats need to stop fishing, it shouldn't be the small-scale British fishermen."
Mr Cuthbert, another NUTFA member and part of the delegation, added: "Our traditional style of fishing is part of the maritime heritage of coastal communities all along the Devon coast.
"We've come to Brussels to make sure the new fisheries policy helps us preserve it"