Labour claim ‘deeply unfair’ quota system must change if fishing industry is to survive

Labour is calling for more fishing quota to be given to smaller fishing boats after Brexit saying it will provide a fairer deal for Britain’s hard-pressed fishermen. 

The party says that help for small fisheries such as Hastings is missing from the Government’s current Fisheries Bill due to be debated by MPs today. But Labour amendments being tabled this week aim to tip the balance in favour of under ten-metre boat operators.

“The Government says it will take back control of British waters, but is silent on the future of our Hastings fleet and the country’s 4,000 other small boats,” says Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings Peter Chowney.

He points out that while under ten-metre boats represent 80 per cent of Britain’s fishermen, their catch allocation is paltry: accounting for just four per cent of the UK’s total fishing quota, “…and there is little chance this will increase under Tory plans,” he says.

Mr Chowney points out that In contrast, Labour is demanding that quota be reallocated along social and environmental lines: “Help for our local fishery is long overdue. UK fishing quota is allocated by the Government – and has been deeply unfair over many years. This has resulted in Hastings’ fishermen getting insufficient quota to make a living. 

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Peter Chowney: “Help for our local fishery is long overdue.”

“Even though they fish in an environmentally sustainable way, their tiny share of quota makes them economically unsustainable. This commitment by Labour to increase quota for the smaller boats will help our local fishery to survive.”

Across the UK small boats provide the bulk of jobs in the catching sector and contribute to coastal towns from Cornwall to the far north of Scotland, Northern Ireland to Sussex and Kent, while the Dutch-owned trawler, the Cornelis Vrolijk, controls more than a fifth of England’s entire quota allocation, while around two-thirds of the UK’s quota is awarded to three multinational companies.

Luke Pollard, Labour’s Shadow Fisheries Minister, said: “By ignoring the needs of smaller fishing fleets, this Government is betraying British fishing. 

“Michael Gove could take action to redistribute fishing quota now if he wanted to – but he is failing by not delivering quota reallocation in the Fisheries Bill.

“Labour is setting out our vision for Britain to have the most sustainable fisheries in the world. That means a greater focus on ensuring fish stocks are healthy, that there is proper enforcement and a fairer distribution of fishing quota.

“Fishing reform could usher in a huge regeneration of coastal towns but not unless ministers drastically improve the Fisheries Bill.”

Mr Pollard goes on to say that in government Labour would set out a strong, credible and fair plan for the future allocation of new and existing quota by giving more fishing opportunities to small fishing boats, based on new social and environmental criteria.

Labour’s Shadow team that is shadowing ministers in the Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is also consulting on how to boost employment opportunities in ports and processing, and how to incentivise environmentally sustainable fishing methods.

Last week Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “…I’m calling on the Government to ensure that the UK fishing industry’s interests are protected. Britain’s departure from, and new relationship with, the EU represents an opportunity to reform fishing regulations and get a better deal for our hard-working fishermen.

“As the Member of Parliament for a constituency with a long-standing tradition for fishing, I will do all that I can to ensure that the concerns of the local fishing industry are properly heard in Parliament, and that Hastings’ fishermen are not left out in the cold during negotiations with the EU.”

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