Protecting Lowestoft’s Fishermen - “remove our fisheries from control by Brussels”
Reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy will again be under discussion on Monday (19 March) when Fisheries Ministers from across Europe meet in Brussels.
In preparation, the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, appeared before the European Parliament. I been long been active over on behalf of the east coast fishing industry, and engaged with her specifically regarding the issues of discards and quotas and the need to bring fisheries policy back under national control.
Mrs Damanaki conceded that: the CFP had not worked and "there were a lot of mistakes in the past"; that reforms of the policy would be centred around the principles of sustainability, efficiency and coherence; that there would be an end to the practice of 'discards'; and decentralisation of CFP management.
I have always said that the Common Fisheries Policy was bad for our fish and bad for our fishermen. The European Commission has at last begun to recognise this.
I pointed out that the East of England - and particularly Lowestoft - used to have a large and vibrant fishing industry. Sadly this is no longer the case. I spoke of my recent conversations with local fishermen. One told me that he had been involved in fishing for 30 years and now has one of the last 7 boats in Lowestoft. His boat is under 12 m - in fact 97% of the UK fishing fleet is in this category - but they have an allocation of only 4% of the total allowable catch.
Of course they don't want to see stocks decimated or wasted. They want to make a decent living, and they need to have the flexibility to be able to do this. Like the rest of us - the fishermen are outraged by the discards policy - having to throw away more than they are allowed to land.
Clearly, each country's needs and problems are different. I pointed out to the European Commission that the solution to so many problems would be to return control of fisheries to our nations.
I continue to work closely with local MP, Peter Aldous, to ensure a better future for our fishing industry.