Many European member states currently have significant historic rights to fish in the waters that are six to twelve nautical miles from the UK’s coastline. The MPs are concerned that this is having a serious impact on the marine environment, and further threatens the survival of low impact, coastal fishermen and the fish stocks they depend on.
Many fishermen blame the situation on the former Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), first introduced in the 1970s, designed to manage European fishing fleets and conserve fish stocks. Until the legislation was reformed this year, it was largely regarded as a failure, as it led to the consolidation of fishing quota, power and massive subsidies in the hands of the larger foreign and UK based fishing companies, but with effectively no ability to control their fishing activities.
In the UK, depleted stocks are struggling to recover from over fishing international fisheries scientists estimate that 41 per cent of stocks are still overfished in the Atlantic and surrounding seas.
Consequently fishermen have faced a steady decline in their catches. In 2009 the UK fishing fleet landed the lowest haul since records began.
Twelve MPs, including Amber Rudd, Zac Goldsmith and Laura Sandys, have signed up to a five-step plan aimed at regenerating the UK’s inshore waters, fisheries and coastal communities through quota redistribution; regionalisation of fisheries management and reclaiming coastal waters for small scale fishermen.
The plan was jointly launched by the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) and Greenpeace. They are campaigning for the government to implement the policies in the reformed CFP which reward fishermen who use more selective, low-impact fishing methods, and who maximise social and employment benefits for local communities.
Nina Schrank, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace said: “The new European legislation is designed to reward sustainable fishermen; it’s a golden opportunity that the government must not miss. If implemented properly, it will boost fish stocks, bolster home-grown sustainable fishing and breathe new life into our coastal communities up and down the country. It’s time stop destructive, foreign owned vessels hoovering up fish stocks while lining their pockets with subsidies and the sale of fish caught from our shores. The reform of this legislation was not won easily, now it’s up to the government to turn it into a reality here along the UK’s coasts.”
Jerry Percy, Chief Executive of NUTFA commented: “Once busy and thriving, many coastal fishing communities have crumbled, fishing harbours turned into yacht parks and fishing beaches that are no longer home to fishing boats. This is the reality for much of modern coastal England. But there is hope. Hope in new legislation sensibly implemented, hope in the realisation that smaller scale fishermen are not the problem but a solution to many of the challenges facing us and hope that politicians will recognise the wealth that has been lost, but is there to be regained in terms of jobs, fish stocks and reinvigorated communities.”