Ban is ‘Armageddon’

FISHERMEN could be forced out of business because of a ban that stops them catching skate and sole until January, it was warned last night.

Boats under 10m from Suffolk and Essex can no longer catch the fish because this year’s quota of 110 tonnes has already been landed.

The directive has come from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which has responsibility for preparing plans for the English inshore and offshore regions according to the policies set out by the Government, which are dictated by the EU.

But local fishermen last night warned they are now facing increasing hardship.

Dean Fryer, who has been fishing in Aldeburgh for 30 years, said: “It just seems like they don’t care.

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“Usually when these bans are in place we are able to buy a quota and then go out and catch the fish. It costs a lot of money and you have a small margin of profit but it keeps you going. But even that’s been stopped now.

“We will just struggle on and go deeper and deeper into the red. I’m lucky because I don’t have too many overheads but there are those who will find it very difficult. It could be devastating.”

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Mr Fryer said sole made up 70% of the catch at this time of year while skate accounted for 20%.

“We can still fish for sea bass, lobster and crabs but that won’t pay the bills,” he said.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has now urged the Government to seek urgent action to protect the fishing industry.

“It is so important we continue to enable them to fish, they are the lifeblood of our coastal communities,” she said.

John Jowers, an Essex county councillor and fisherman, told the EADT it was now “Armageddon”.

Mr Jowers, a member of the Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries Committee, said: “What’s the point in having all these fisheries committees and this new MMO when there is not even going to be a fishing industry left – its Armageddon.

“There has been gross mismanagement from day-one and the fishermen have been hung out to dry.

“The under-10s are the backbone of the inshore fishing fleet but they are one or two man boats and cannot buy the expensive quotas.”

Meanwhile Wivenhoe fisherman Rodney Bowes said it was “pretty frustrating” having to look as boats from Devon fish the waters off Suffolk and Essex because they were able to afford the quotas.

“It’s like telling a corner shop to shut because Tesco wants to stay open,” he said. “But we have no axe to grind with the fishermen - we just want to make a living.”

A spokesman for the MMO said they were working hard to try and bring in more quotas for fishermen from European member states.

However he said many of these were choosing to hold onto their quotas rather than sell them.

If quotas were not in force it could severely harm conservation and fish stocks, he added.

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