EU ban on drift-net fishing would ‘kill’ Norfolk herring industry

Herring caught off Caister by fishermen who have seen the Norfolk whale! Dick Thurlow, Caister fisherman. Herring caught off Caister by fishermen who have seen the Norfolk whale! Dick Thurlow, Caister fisherman.

Saturday, July 19, 2014
9:58 AM

A blanket ban on drift-net fishing would kill off Norfolk’s herring industry - and have a much wider impact on the region, according to a Caister fisherman who has described the EU proposal as ridiculous.

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Herring caught off Caister by fishermen who have seen the Norfolk whale! Dick Thurlow, Caister fisherman.Herring caught off Caister by fishermen who have seen the Norfolk whale! Dick Thurlow, Caister fisherman.

The European Commission believes a universal ban will protect marine mammals, such as sea turtles and dolphins, which can get caught up in nets. The ban, due to come into force in January 2015, is aimed at larger vessels in the Mediterranean, and those flouting the existing ban on drag-netting migratory fisheries.

But Caister fisherman Dick Thurlow said the ruling, if it goes through, will kill Norfolk’s herring heritage.

“The herring industry is never going to be what is was but this will be the end of it,” said Mr Thurlow, who fishes in a small boat off the east Norfolk coast.

“It will mean no more fresh herring caught off Norfolk.

History of herring fishing

Herring fishing in the North Sea off Norfolk has been an industry since Saxon times. The Domesday Book refers to annual herring rents paid by local manors to their lord and in the Middle Ages, Great Yarmouth tried to control access to the herring - much to the upset of fishing fleets in neighbouring Lowestoft.

By the mid-seventeenth century hundreds of boats fished from Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The arrival of the railways in the 1800s boosted the local fleets who sold their catch at markets the UK. The heyday of the herring fishing industry was from 1870 to the start of the First World War. It is said that, at the time, that Yarmouth’s South Quay was so busy it was possible to walk from one side of the harbour to the other across the boats.

By the end of this period Yarmouth had a fleet of over 1,00 herring boats, with hundreds making the trip from Scotland every autumn.

Catches declined during the 20s and 30s, essentially ending the industry’s prosperity but the legacy lives on and can be found throughout town, from exhibitions at Yarmouth’s Time and Tide Museum to the stories still told by locals whose families were once integral to the industry.

“We’re not talking short term, it will kill it completely.”

Mr Thurlow fears an all-out ban would have a knock-on effect too, hitting those who produce kippers and use herring as bait in long line fishing as well as robbing the local fisherman of their livelihoods.

UK group Seafish has called for a re-think on the ban, branding it “unnecessary, heavy handed, disproportionate and inappropriate for UK waters”.

Mr Thurlow agreed, adding: “They are targeting the French and Spanish boats that have three to five miles of gear, with nets that can be in the water for 12 to 24 hours. The problem is in the Mediterranean waters, not here.

“We’re out for a short time and we’ve got maybe 400/500 metres of gear. We patrol up and down the gear all the time.

“We know straight away if anything is caught and, I can honestly say, in my entire life I have caught no more than 10 porpoise and we’ve always let them go, not one has been killed.”

While the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has written to the Commission counselling against a full ban, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) would be tasked with enforcing the EU fisheries regulation if it comes into force.

The ban will start on 1 January 2015 if agreed by EU member states and the European Parliament.

What do you think? Write to EDP letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk giving your full name address and contact details.

14 comments

  • The sooner we are out of the EU, and in control of our own waters, the better.

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    The man on the Clapham Omnibus

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

  • the EU and pelagic trawlers combined are what's killing off the small trawlers, pelagics should be banned from fishing within 20 miles or more from shore. they ruin the seabed and can clear what would be local trawlers full winter quota in a matter of days

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    Nickki Jean

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014

  • Ever heard the expression "Luddite"? The seas are the basis of all life on this planet. Including you. And your family. And their decendants. The reason that there are so few fishermen is because they were historically greedy and underpaid for their catch. They caught so many 'discard' fish, they interfered with the balance of nature and now they are out of a job. How can they possibly blame anyone else for what they did to themselves??

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    Patsy Bottriell-Smith

    Monday, July 21, 2014

  • I don't understand 'V's comment. Quota for the UK in 2014 for Herring is 97,000 tonnes for the Netherlands it is 90,000 tonnes. The 'problem' is to do with inshore fishing restrictions on small vessels. Most herring fishing, both here and on the Continent is done on an industrial scale, where a vessel's net alone cost more than a £million. These pelagic trawls are different from the traditional drift nets used by small longshore boats. Which is where the discussion is at present.

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    Nick

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

  • This rag has given no comparison between the herring fishermen saying this will be the end and say Dutch herring fishermen and what they say. Is this the government quango's 'gold plating' the EU rules, so justifying their existence, so our fishermen go bust, but the Dutch Government ignoring those self same rules seeing as Herring is a part of the staple diet of the Dutch ? How about investigating further Mercury or is that beyond your reporters capabilities ?

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    "V"

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

  • It was the British who fished out herring in the first place due to overfishing! That was our 'Heritage' as you put it. More recently there have undoubtably been more than enough problems with CFP, but control of fish stocks is never going to be about any single nations demands. It is ridiculous to once agin blame the EU for something that at least Europe is trying to get right. After all Herring migration knows nothing of boarders.

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    Nick

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Nick has made some very good points and T Doff points to the silence from our Representatives. Leaving the EU will not safeguard our badly protected coastal waters and would result in other countries fishing in British waters, with impunity.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Ever since the UK was put into the EU, this country has gone to pot! Leave the UK and the traditions of our heritage alone.

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    Kat Perkins

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • come on mr lamb lets hear some thing from you to help the north Norfolk fishermen we are getting fewer each year this is one more nail in our coffins act now for all our sakes or say good bye fresh herrings and good bye inshore fishermen best get on the dole quick

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    cfm

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • @blister. Why would anyone want to vote for a party and its leader who continually lies to the people of this country.

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    sharky

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Fishing regulation is nothing new and in recent years we have seen much reform of the CFP. The bulk of commercial herring fishing today is done by Iceland and Scotland with modern pelagic boats on a vast industrial scale. Inshore local fishing should be exempt in the current situation. Rather than blaming our own regulations, which consist of the EU's CFP which I might remind people was originally negotiated here in the UK by the Thatcher government , we should instead support local fisherman to give a decent case for an exclusion to inshore fishing. It's important to understand that we need cross-cooperation in Europe to maintain fish stocks. Coming from a fishing family I know that fishing has always been a hard headed commercial business and until very recently profit always came before stock conservation. To simply blame the EU for anything and everything only shows a certain lack of knowledge about the subject. Coming out of the EU would do absolutely nothing to assist the fishing industry.

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    Nick

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Time to renegotiate our EU membership and take back some of the powers such as control of our borders that Tony Blair and the last labour government gave up so easily, even if people go back to their traditional parties later everyone who is keen to keep the UK independant should vote Tory at the next election

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    blister

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Has anyone seen or heard any statements about this from our coastal MPs Bellingham, Lamb, Lewis, Aldous and Coffey? I haven't. Maybe now Truss, a Norfolk MP (albeit for the inland SW Norfolk), is in charge at DEFRA, someone from Government might like to tell us what their position on this is?

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    T Doff

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Here we go again! As soon as we're out of the EU the better.

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    rovi

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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