Fishing quotas set to bite

FISHERMEN "hounded" by new rules on catch limits which came into force last night are taking their case to Europe.With their livelihoods threatened by severely reduced quotas for North Sea sole, the men at West Mersea are seeking the help of East of England MEP Geoffrey Van Orden.

FISHERMEN "hounded" by new rules on catch limits which came into force last night are taking their case to Europe.

With their livelihoods threatened by severely reduced quotas for North Sea sole, the men at West Mersea are seeking the help of East of England MEP Geoffrey Van Orden.

They want him to highlight their "nightmare" case with the European Union, which they say is responsible for allowing large foreign vessels to fish in their waters.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday introduced new North Sea sole quotas for the East Anglian fleet because of fears over fish numbers as a result of high landings this year.


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The fishermen claim the move will make it uneconomical for up to 100 boats to operate off the East coast, leaving their owners and workers with no viable income as winter approaches.

One was so "cheesed off" with the situation he did not bother to go out on his trawler on Thursday night.

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Clive Mills, whose two-man boat, Harvester, normally lands around 1,900 kilograms of sole per month with a value of £8,550, will now see his monthly income cut to a tenth with the new 200kg monthly limit.

He said: "It's like being forced to work a one-day week. We've got to have a living, but we're not being allowed to have that.

"I've spent my whole life building up this business and now I can have the whole lot wiped out by a 10 pence biro somewhere.

"For years, the bureaucrats have hounded us with sizes on vessels and quotas – why can't they get it right?

"They don't seem to understand the stress they cause. We're just small fishermen, but they seem to allow large Dutch companies with their new boats under UK flags to enter our waters and take up the fish numbers."

He added he had talked directly to Defra, which had been "sympathetic", and although he was "sceptical" of politicians' support he hoped Mr Van Orden could help.

John Jowers, vice-chairman of the West Mersea Fisherman's Association, said: "Mr Van Orden has already seen the despair of the fishermen up in Lowestoft and I've invited him here.

"We need some kind of smaller regional administration – Brussels is simply to big and too remote to be able to micro-manage."

A spokeswoman for Defra has said the decision to cut quotas had been taken reluctantly and only to safeguard the long-term survival of the fishery.

She said: "Our priority is to keep the fishery open for as long as possible: if there is scope within the quota available to raise the limit without prejudice to this objective, we will of course do so."

No-one at the EU in Brussels, nor Mr Van Orden, could be contacted last night.

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