Fishermen find unlikely partner in fair deal drive
An unlikely collaboration between environmentalists and fishermen to get a fairer deal for the inshore fleet has won the support of a key South West MEP.
The "Be a Fisherman's Friend" campaign by Greenpeace and the New Under Ten Fishermen's Association (NUTFA) was launched in the summer.
It is aiming to secure a better deal for the inshore fleet which fishes more sustainably but has a tiny proportion of the quotas needed to land fish.
South West Conservative MEP Julie Girling, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, has now added her voice to the campaign which is reaching a crucial phase with key votes on the new Common Fisheries Policy taking place over the next two months.
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"Fishing has been a staple of Plymouth and the south coast's economy and way of life for generations, and I want to make sure it continues to be so," she said.
"This year we have a once-in-a-decade chance to reform the Common Fisheries Policy so that it works for fishermen who fish sustainably and feed back into the local economy.
"We must ensure this opportunity is not wasted and I will be banging the table on behalf of South West fishermen in Brussels."
Veteran Plymouth fisherman Dave Cuthbert – co-chairman of NUTFA – has witnessed the slow decline of the local inshore fleet over recent decades.
"When I first started, a couple of decades ago, there were 40 small vessels catching mackerel, now there are only two of them left," he said.
"The quota system is pushing small boats like ours out of business.
"We used to catch lots of sole, now we are allowed to fish about a box of it a month – you can't run a business on that.
"The whole management system of our fisheries has been cobbled together to serve the needs of big vessels – no wonder small boats get such a rotten deal."
Since its launch in June, the campaign has garnered support from thousands of people in the South West.
"Many of these fishermen have been fishing sustainably for generations, yet the EU fisheries policy and the UK quota system are heavily stacked against them – they truly are the sea underdogs," said Greenpeace campaigner Alicia Craw.
"The next two months will be a make-or-break moment for the future of small-scale fishermen in Plymouth and all along the English coast."