East coast fishing industry hopeful after UK convention exit
- Credit: Archant
East coast fishermen have welcomed the news the government is withdrawing the UK from an arrangement that allows foreign countries to fish in British waters.
The UK will trigger withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, signed in 1964, which currently allows foreign countries to fish within six miles of the coastline. Following withdrawal, it will be pushed back out to 12 miles, giving sole access to British fishermen.
The east coast fishing community has reacted saying the move is 'a step in the right direction' and 'a boost to coastal communities'.
The change means vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands will no longer be able to fish off the UK coastline.
June Mummery, owner of BFP Eastern and vice chairman of Lowestoft Fish Market Alliance (LFMA), said: 'This is absolutely wonderful news and what we have been working so hard for. It's a colossal boost to coastal communities, allowing them to be rejuvenated and revitalised for generations to come.'
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There are currently 500 jobs dependent on fishing in the Waveney area, and Mrs Mummery added: 'The knock-on effect is that the east coast will benefit from hundreds of jobs from engineers, shipbuilders and people processing the fish once caught.'
The convention sits alongside the EU Common Fisheries Policy, which currently allows European countries access between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK.
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But Mrs Mummery said: 'Ultimately we don't want 12 miles, we want it to be 200 miles.'
Paul Lines, chairman of LFMA and skipper of Sea Venture, which fishes out of Great Yarmouth, called the decision 'the first move the government has made for the recovery of our industry'. He added: 'I want to see fishing return to a more community business not the slump and boom of the past.'
However, some members of the industry are sceptical. Andy Roper, chairman of the Greater Wash Fishing Industry Group, said: 'It will be less impactful to North Norfolk fishing as we mainly deal in shellfish. The pressure from foreign vessels has been in regard to white fish such as bass and cod. I don't think it's going to benefit UK fishermen that much as foreign vessels will still be devastating the stock.'
He said: 'There is the illusion we are getting something back but we already dominate the inshore areas.'
Paul Lines, 58, has been campaigning all his life for UK fisheries.
Mr Lines moved to Lowestoft in 1974 and worked for Hobsons, trawling the sea.
He said: 'There were 146 fishing boats out of Lowestoft at that time.'
Today there are 150 fishing boats on the whole east coast.
Along with his son Charles, 22, Mr Lines currently fishes out of Great Yarmouth. He said: 'Historically Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth fishing was run by families, all putting money into the boat. The businesses were more contained and money went back into the local community to build an infrastructure. But it has been exploited by anyone who wants to buy in, businesses run by shareholders who will eventually take their money down the A12. There used to be 60 people work in Yarmouth, now we are the only people who commercially fish out of the port.'
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney: 'I know that this has been in the offing for sometime and it was expected leading up to the serving of Article 50.
'It is very welcome news - by gaining control of territorial waters we will be entering Brexit negotiations from a strong, rather than a weak position.'
'The fact that we have a fisheries bill in the Queen's speech provides a unique opportunity to reset fishing policy and opportunity, in particular for Lowestoft and the East Anglia coast to be revitalised.'
Michael Gove, secretary of state for the environment, said: 'For the first time in more than 50 years we will be able to decide who can access our waters.
'This is an historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union - one which leads to a more competitive, praofitable and sustainable industry for the whole of the UK.'